Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Recapturing the Magic

There have been some pretty seminal comic book runs that I bore witness to firsthand in my 25+ years of comic book reading, things that linger in the memory like Wolfman and Perez on The New Teen Titans or Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire on Justice League or James Robinson and Tony Harris on Starman. Books that were built off a magical combination of right time, right team. It's weird how reflecting back is always done through rose-coloured glasses, and how we remember things perhaps a little differently than they actually happened. For instance, I thought Kevin Maguire illustrated much more of the Justice League International than he did (quite a few fill-ins over his two years on the book).

Years later, either in an attempt to captialize on the notoriety of a particular writer/artist pairing, or in attempts to recapture the magic of a particular creator/character run, the mainstream likes to bring people back together again. For Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire, it was two new Justice League stories earlier this decade, as well as a go at Marvels Defenders with fairly good, if not exactly the same results. I personally found the pairing of Giffen and DeMatteis on Boom Studios' Hero Squared a better attempt at bringing their style of superheroic comedy-drama into the new millenium. There was something about the years of continuity and the shift in DC's architecture that made I Can't Believe It's Not Justice League less poignant... (well that, and at the same time they were raping Sue Dibney and blowing Blue Beetle's brains out). Their particular magic worked better in long form storytelling (as was being set up in Hero Squared before it unceremoniously pulled its own plug).

I have to wonder how often "recapturing the magic" fails in relation to how often it succeeds. Certainly The Dark Knight Strikes Back didn't do any justice to The Dark Knight Returns teaming of Frank Miller and Batman (and it's really a heated debate between admirers and detractors about their reunion on All-Star Batman and Robin). The current pairing of Peter David and Larry Stroman on X-Factor, Marvel's attempt at recapturing the X-Factor glory of the early '90's, has been an abysmal failure. Stroman, whom I was a fan of and was excited to see his return, has disappointed me. He's obviously long out of sequential storytelling practice and his layouts and figure work are downright ugly. I noticed in Marvel's December Solicitations that they've got a previous artist (one of almost a dozen they've had in their 3-year run) Valentine De Landro on the book, whether he's a fill-in or the new "regular" artist, I don't know... either way it's good news, except for maybe poor Mr. Stroman who's perhaps just taking time to find his feet.

I notice that Marv Wolfman is back doing the Vigilante starting in December, which by my accounts is the third Vigilante he's created (Adrian Chase who committed suicide at the end of his 80's series, and a femal Vigilante who appeared in Wolfman's Deathstroke). I have to wonder if there's any magic to even recapture? Like Chris Claremont on the X-Men, Wolfman has been treaded familiar ground well past his prime, his return to Nightwing - the Dick Grayson guise he helped create - was choppy at best. Unlike Chuck Dixon's return to Robin earlier this year, which was strong but notoriously short lived due to some politics within DC. Then there's that least a little bit of hooplah surrounding Todd McFarlane return to Spawn... Jim Shooter on Legion of Super-Heroes (rumoured to be replaced by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen)... Bob Layton on Iron Man: Legacy Of Doom...

There are dozens (if not hundreds) of examples of attempts to "recapture the magic". So Second Printers, are there any that have had you excited only to disappoint, perhaps even tarnish the original magic. Are there any that have actually lived up to your expectations. And are their any that have even surpassed what they did before. Writer/Artist pairings. Creator/Character (or Team) pairings. Hell, even "getting the band back together" classic rosters (like the current The Titans series)?


Woody! said...

My first reaction to this post is that it happened to Mark Waid twice. His recent return to Flash didn't light the world on fire. Also, his reunion with Ron Garney back on Captain America following the Heroes Reborn fiasco wasn't nearly as fantastic as their first time around.

Of the DeMatteis/Giffen remixes, I agree their best post-JLI work is Hero Squared.

ChrisM said...

I think in a lot of instances, some of those writers are just dated. I loved Wolfman's stories back in the day-but compared to the high bar we're accustomed to now? I find a lot of his stories just kind of tedious.

Similarly for Claremont. Back in the day, it was fresh and new..but it hasn't really moved on. I just read New Exiles and have tried a few other recent Claremont titles..and they're NOTHING like what I enjoyed in his early days of the Uncanny X-Men.

Another one is Jim Starlin. I LOVED his Dreadstar, Captain Marvel and Infinity War/Gauntlet books..but good god-I can't stand his DC space opera. Art is okay-but comparing his Hawkman to Geoff Johns?? Sorry.Esp. since all of Starlin's characters tend to talk in the same "voice"..

I've noticed only recently that some authors have been able to get beyond that particular issue. Some of the older guys..Chaykin and Starlin "sound" the same..

Its cool to see them in some ways, but sometimes I wish/hope that they could move onto newer projects.

Graig Kent said...

Those are both good examples.
I wholeheartedly agree that Waid's recent Flash run was totally of the "I want to like it, but it's not that great" caliber. I liked the concept of the Flash Family, but it just didn't come off all that well. And the whole alternate-dimensional dog people back-ups were rather cheesy.

Devon Sanders said...

Claremont and Byrne on JLA.

If this were 1985, this would have killed!

In 2000-whatever-it-was, it was just so much nostalgia porn.

Patrick C said...

I don't know if the Claremont/Byrne JLA arc would have set any era on fire. A vampire named "Crucifer?" Really? REALLY?

David C said...

One that worked: John Ostrander's return to Suicide Squad.

Almost as much fun as the original.

Evan said...

I'm actually enjoying Shooter's current Legion a little more than his original run on the Legion. It's the only example I can think of where it's working for me (oh, I'm full of it, Dixon's brief return to Robin was great too).

PAD's return to X-Factor is fabulous, regardless of the artist (though I couldn't believe how badly Stroman's return was executed. Yuck)

John Trumbull said...

I thought that Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers' return to Batman in Dark Detective was good, but certainly not the instant classic that their 70s run on Detective Comics was.

Waid & Garney's second run on Captain America just never regained the momentum they had the first time around.

Whenever I see Terry Austin ink John Byrne today, I just think they've grown apart, artistically.

Everything Frank Miller has done on Batman since Year One has just been laughable & sad.

On the positive side, it was great to see George Perez return to The Avengers & the JLA. It's still always fun to see Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons work on something together. Alan Davis was good when he came back to Excalibur. Dan Jurgens is doing a bang-up job on Booster Gold right now.

I'd still love to see Mike W. Barr & Alan Davis do some more Batman or Roger Stern & John Romita Jr. back on Spider-Man.