Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ranking the stuff that makes me love comics!

What gets a 30 years old dude obsessed about comic books? At least enough to make him to blog about his favorite character. Well, that's complicated. My bet is that nerd psychology is a very complex topic; one that I'm sure I'm not professionally qualified to discuss. I could research it and post some references and quotes -- but I don't wanna. Instead, I'm going to give you my top reasons for sticking with comics.

It is not really ranked according to a measurable rationale. A lot of simplistic reasons might be ahead of great art just because they came at the right time in my life. I hope you enjoy reading about them:

20. The Venture Bros.
Pure fun for nostalgic adults, showing sad versions of characters from DC, Marvel, Hanna-Barbera, VH1 Classic, pulp fiction and sci-fi films gone hilariously and pathetically wrong. The Venture Bros. made me realize that super beings are not black and white they are probably just losers trying to feel relevant. The characters, normally failures and shadows of what they used to be, go trough their existential crisis surrounded by a surreal remix of everything I watched on TV while growing up. They also save the day now and then, but that's mostly incidental.
Created by Jason Publick, a Tick alumnus, The Venture Bros. is like The Simpsons for geeks; every line is not only loaded with sarcasm and jokes but also a condensed of vintage pop cult references from the 70s and 80s (yes, even more than Famiy Guy).  With so many Venture cosplay already happening in comic conventions, I can't wait to see how are mainsteam comics going to react to to it.
19. Identity Crisis, Hush, Batman/Superman and 52
After Batman: No Man's Land I was bored with DC Comics for a while. Understanding Comics reinfused me with love for comics, but not for DC. Our Worlds at War was so cloying, I gave up. What was Batman going to do next, anyway? Gotham was running out of disasters. But then, out of nowhere, everybody started to talk about the murder of Sue Dibny, and how great the mystery was, so I had to see what the fuss was all about. So I read it, and I loved it. It was a pull back, making the satellite era cool and relevant again. The characters that were most commonly associated with DC were at the front center again. To me, it looked like the actual DC Comics Super Friends facing their own secrets, fears and flaws.
Identity Crisis lead me to follow up with what seemed like a great DC bonanza of awesome stories in the same spirit: Batman/Superman, Hush, For Tomorrow and Formerly Known as the Justice League from before, and then with I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League, Green Lantern: RebirthCountdown, The Dark Knight Strikes Back, All-Star Superman, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Infinite Crisis, 52, Dark Detective, Brad Meltzer and Dwayne McDuffie's Justuce League of America run, Paul Dini's 'tec run, Grant Morrison's Batman run and Final Crisis. (Note that at the same time they were airing Justice League Unlimited). DC was shuffling it's greatest properties with the greatest talent available: Meltzer, Lee, Morales, Miller, Morrison, Dini, McDuffie, Waid, Hughes, Giffen, DeMatteis, Cooke, Johns. Yes, a lot of bad things were happening to some of the best characters: Sue, the Elongated Man, Rocket Red, the Question, Blue Beetle II, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter and the original Ventriloquist died; Wonder Woman and Batman did some questionable things and Captain Atom and Maxwell Lord became villains. However, at the time it seemed to me that they were just making things darker before dawn. The return of Supergirl and other silver age elements seemed to indicate that with Infinite Crisis or Final Crisis
they would reboot DC to make it a brighter place with a reset. That never happened (to his credit, VP Dan DiDio did try, but he was blocked by higher powers); it was done out of time, too little, too late, too half way with Flashpoint and "the new 52" and I ended angry and disappointed, but I had a nice run and that's hard to deny.

18. Supreme
I used to think that, unlike Batman, Superman never really got his quintessential story in comics (maybe they should just adapt the Mario Puzo script and be done with it); that he doesn't have a Year One or The Dark Knight Returns. However, in the mid 00s I had the pleasure of discovering that I was wrong. Well, kinda. We can always squint and pretend that the Supreme stories by Alan Moore are it.
It seems like, at least by the 90s, Moore was a bit sick of torturing heroes with realistic tragedies that challenge their vision of what's right and wrong, so instead of a grim Superman, he made a pastiche of all the previous portrayals of Superman there had been so far.
Supreme is basically like Byrne or Jurgens' Superman facing everything he did under the most notorious writers that came before, mainly Otto Binder. In the story, we get a new Supreme entering reality after a revision; he goes through all the aspects of his past as he fixes loose ends and fights returning villains (part of the fun is trying to identify the DC characters that the supporting characters are supposed to represent). This way, the entire run, along with Judgement Day and other isolated issues, are the ultimate tribute to the process of comic superhero revision. 
17. The Tick
I wish I could say that I know the character through its comics, but I was actually among the wave of fans that met the character through the animated series, which was part of a hype of superheroes in other media. After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, X-men and comics events like the The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Maximum Carnage, there was an era in which superheroes took over Saturday morning cartoons, now with a more serious tone than the series of the syndicated era (Thundercats, He-man, etc.). And The Tick did the exact opposite, showing a metropolis overcrowded with guys in tights so tight that their butt cracks were actually visible, only they were all neurotic, delusional and utterly incompetent and impractical nutjobs. And among them, generic within their own diversity, the Tick, whose name and costume didn't even make sense, was king. He was a nice, overwhelming, bigger than life, blue  block with a Quixote attitude and a really small brain concealed by a really small head.
This cartoon was the first to show me that even humor has a place within superhero comics. Ever since The Tick, I've always been a fan of comedy with superhumans, which is probably why I just fell in love with JLI.

16. Freakazoid!
I can't believe nobody turned this property into an actual comic book! What are you waiting, DC?!
I still remember watching that first episode in shock: It was half Batman: The Animated Series, half Animaniacs, a bit Spider-man, and all surreal. Three of my favorite FoxKids shows in one!
It was fairly obvious from day one, but, eventually, I learned that it was originally about Bruce Timm, the creator of Batman: The Animated Series, pitching a series about a superhero version of the Joker, which then became more like Spider-man (which is why they have an unused Archie-like cast in the early episodes), ended as another Tiny Toons or Animaniacs type of show after he bailed and was then turned into a Monty Python type of thing. The best of the humor was done by Paul Rugg (who voiced Freakazoid) and good friend of the blog, John P. McCann.
It had it all: comedy, action, parodies, a terribly great rogues gallery, excellent art and even Henry Kissinger. What else could a kid want in a show? Laugh with me. Laugh with me!

15. Tim Burton's Batman
The 1989 Batman film directed by Tim Burton caused an epidemic wave of batmania among my generation. I got it and I got it pretty bad. I still remember the first time I saw it. I was siting a hammock with my brother and my cousin. My aunt, a good hearted spoiler by nature, was afraid that it might be too shocking for the three buggers, which is the reason we had to wait for the Betamax (it's a real thing, look it up) to come out. Along with Superman, Batman Returns, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Wayne's World any Star Wars and Back to the Future, it has to be one of the movies I watched the most.
Dark = cool. Although I still watched the wave of reruns of the 60s Batman show and Super Friends that came with the '89 batmania, anyway, but the lesson was pretty clear: the darker, the better. In the eyes of moviegoers, Burton's film lend credibility to superheroes. After it, both Batman and Superman had serious and acclaimed  portrayals outside their original medium. Animation followed the example with Batman: The Animated Series and X-men, both of which inspires a lot of similar series. There were also the Batman film sequels and the similarly dark and serious (for the 90s) TV series of The Flash and Lois and Clark.

14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
As a kid, it was the awesome cartoon about charming turtles that fight other animal mutants lead by a ninja and an alien; as an adult it became an awesome pastiche of vigilante, ninja and sci-fi genres with an over the top B-movie type of title. Reading the original comics, wonderfully redone in the 2003 cartoon, feels like a roller coaster of never ending weird adventures; an aspect that the 80s cartoon never quite capture. Batman, Spider-man and most superheroes tend to fight the same villains in the same settings all the time, the the turtles went from ninjas on rooftops, to robots in the sewers, anthropomorphic triceratops in outer space and demons in medieval times. It doesn't get more surreal than that, which is why I love that the TMNT keep returning since I first watch them as an 8 years old kid.

13. Daredevil and Batman: Year One
I don't now if they are more "realistic", but the serious tone that Frank Miller added to classic vigilantes certainly increased their coolness and the sense of danger that we get from their adventures. Pulp fiction goes greatly with vigilantes. The Batman that I got when I started reading comics in the early 90s was mostly an echo of Year One. I didn't read the real deal (Year One, The Dark Knight Returns) until the late 90s and I just read Daredevil throughout the last decade, which is why I don't rank this higher.
I'm not sure how to describe them, although Miller went over the top with DKR,  these works made superheroes feel solid, grounded and badass; something that is really hard to get from other writers. Besides, without Miller, we wouldn't have so many great stuff: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Burton and Nolan Batman movies, the post-Crisis Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, and, I dare to say, the British invasion and Vertigo.

12. Angry comics of the early 90s.
After the first time they ran Batman: The Animated Series and X-men, somebody from my classroom showed up with the Knightfall and Death of Superman translated trades (none of us understood English back then). They were Batman and Superman, the guys from Super Friends but they were "serious stuff", the "official versions", not for kids anymore (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha); which was really cool and mind blowing for the pack of pre-teenagers taking turns to read it in the class room. Knightfall caught my eye a bit more, with the run against all the villain characters I knew from BTAS and the 60s show. Then there was Maximum Carnage, The Reign of the Supermen, Fatal Attractions, Emerald Twilight and a number of trading card series, describing cool, tragic and really violent events in the lives of DC and Marvel characters, most of them incredibly pumped with skin tight costumes with lots of utility belts and coats. Yes, most of those stories are better forgotten, but all in all, they are what introduced me to comics.

11. Batman
I have to be fair with Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Vincent Price and the rest of those guys. That show was my first impression of DC Comics and the only concept I had of Batman until I first watched the Burton film (when I was 8).
I know it seems really silly now, but to a 5 years old, it looked about as interesting as it gets. And we shouldn't be too harsh on it, if something was proven by Batman: the Brave and the Bold, is that every interpretation of Batman is equally valid. Batman wasn't that different from the comics or even other TV shows of the era and it was even done by some of the finest Hollywood talent of the late 60s!
I sustain that it was a great gateway to DC comics. Bizarre villains with flashy costumes, over the top fight scenes, mortal traps and lots of riddles, what else could a kid want from a live action TV show. I liked Hulk and Wonder Woman as well but, without the colorful antagonists, I used to fall asleep after the first 10 minutes. I for some reason really liked the later when I was 14, though...

10. X-men
The power of "As seen on TV".
18 years ago, this animated series introduced me to the world of comics. As I mentioned before, it came along with a wave of trading cards and comic events that got me hooked on DC and Marvel. Batman: The Animated Series reintroduced me to superheroes, but it was too alienated within its own gorgeous and timeless universe.  X-men, on the other hand, benefited from adapting the vast and wonderful body of X-men stories from the books; consequently, it was more of a middle ground between TV animated series and comics. Its art, continuity, stories and even its season format was a lot like the X-men comics of the time, which is something that was never done before and, now that I think about it, was rarely done afterwards in another series. About every character I saw in that series had an almost identical story in the comics, so, once I fell in love with them, it made a great transition to comics, where I could get even more of that candy.

9. The Dark Knight
I must have seen this one like 5 times in theaters. Batman (1989) was great, but it missed something. I love Michael Keaton's "I'm Batman" Batman, but it wasn't quite the Batman from comics (for starters, he killed). Batman Begins captured the best aspects of the contemporary Batman mythos, but didn't cause much of an impact. Now, The Dark Knight, hat it all. It captured the best aspects from the comics, it had the perfect Batman (well, save for the voice thing), caused a huge deal of an impact and on top of that, gave superhero movies a lot of recognition. Unlike Batman Begins, to me, this sequel not only lived up to Batman: Year One, it as actually better!

8. Bwahaha
I discovered it too late around 1995, but it was so awesome to see DC Comics characters acting almost as if they belonged to a sitcom or The Tick universe (both franchises were created about the same time), that I starting collecting whatever Justice League International (JLI) issue I could throughout the rest of the 90s. Formerly Known as the Justice League (2003) and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League (2005)became my favorite and I completed Justice League Europe eventually after that.
Just like the DC-Vertigo characters make the DC Universe more exiting by having a really serious, surreal and eerie corner; the stories of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis do the same by adding a silly side. While guys like Moore or Miller deconstructed the superhero genre by grounding its world to realism, the JLI team kinda deconstructed it with the funny aspects of reality: our daily life comic situations, incompetency, gossip, vanity, bureaucracy, etc.
Also noteworthy is that when the average hero of the late 80s was pessimistic, violent and snarky, the Justice League, despite their flaws, were kind and, deep down, idealistic. They might joke about it, but in the end, even their sleazeball manipulative boss had a heart of gold. Ralph, Sue, Max, Ted, Michael, Tora, Bea, Guy, J'onn, Karen and Dmitri are some of the best characters DC has ever seen and Giffen and DeMatteis are geniuses for this take. It doesn't matter qhe other writers did with them, I'll always go back to those stories. (By the way, their recent Booster Gold run and Justice League Retroactive: the 90s, rocked just as much).

7. The DC-Vertigo characters.
Pushed by the success of X-men and, mainly, Daredevil, DC Comics responded by hiring some serious writing talent from wherever they came. First Len Wein discovered Alan Moore, then they brought Frank Miller from Marvel (not a Brit, though), and later, after they lost both, they headhunted Jaime Delano, Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison. The body of work these people created, constitutes a dark and very sophisticated corner of the DC Universe.
When I was 20, it seemed to me that comics had nothing to offer. It was just Batman, Superman or Spider-man going over their rogues galleries over and over in adventures that every time seemed more dull to me. But then, I got a series of great tips that lead me to the works of Moore and the guys that followed in: Swamp Thing, SandmanAnimal Man, Doom Patrol, The Books of Magic, DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore, Hellblazer, Shade, etc. Along with the wave of new stories that followed Identity Crisis, these collections allowed me to keep enjoying DC Comics for many years.

6. The New Frontier
Good doesn't mean postmodern and dark. If the guys that can make great contemporary stories with superheroes are few, the ones that can make them also heroic and bright are even fewer. I'd say that Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Dwayne McDuffie (R.I.P.), Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Alan Moore (after the 80s) and Darwyn Cooke are among the few storytellers that insist on the perpetuation of the modern (modern as in "before postmodern") and heroic portrayal that the DC superheroes originally had. Few of them work with the canon of  DC Universe. There's Waid's The Silver Age and Ross' Justice, but to me, Cooke's DC: The New Frontier is the flagship story. It was relevant, multi-layered and captured the true spirit of the DC superheroes.
I actually hoped that after Final Crisis the DC Universe would be rebooted to be more like The New Frontier or the Diniverse.

5. Scott McCloud
I'm telling you, this guy is the messiah of comics! Reading Understanding Comics opened my eyes to the full possibilities of the medium and made me a proud reader. Comics went from just being my guilty pleasure, to a form of art that I follow enthusiastically, "sequencial art".  After years of being fed whatever DC and Marvel put on the shelves, I was finally able to appreciate the greatness of a number of writers and artists: Gaiman, Moore, Spiegelman, Miller, Moebius. And I still have a long way to go; DC has occupied way too much of my time.
Now, the day the mainstream industry realises that they need to do exactly what this guy described in Reinventing Comics, (oh, boy!) the medium will start reaching its potential. We need diversity!

4. Maus
Right after reading Understanding Comics, around 2001, I decided to get on the right path and read a monthly dose of decent comics, and this was on top of my first stack. McCloud couldn't be righter, Maus is pretty much the piece of storytelling that proves that comics can be great. In somebody else's words it is "at one and the same time a novel, a documentary, a memoir, and a comic book." It's the Godfather of comics; few or no movies are as tuching or compelling as this humble story of a Jewish survior of the holocaust, written and narrated by his own son during the last days of his life. Once I started, I wasn't able to drop the book and I think I made averybody in my family read it, ha, ha.
At the same time, it's a homage to the possibilities of comics and its redemption. Its style is quite cartoony (they are all cute animals), which makes a high contrast with the harshnes and realism of the narration. Incidentally, this way it becomes the utter proof that comics and cartoons can be an effective vehicle for trascendency.

3. Super Friends, the pop art of José Luis García López and the Justice League of America. 
When I was a kid, the Super-Powers Collection with José Luis' art was everywhere. In my shirts, in my lunch box, under my pants, everywhere. I knew Batman and Wonder Woman from their live-action shows and Superman from the movies, but then one day I saw this:
It was crazy! They were all there, in one single show (even the Joker!)! I loved it, a show about a team consisting of what, to my 7 years old self, seemed like every popular superhero there was! It was like a super TV crossover, which seemed even more relevant done as a cartoon (cartoons, of course, are more important to kids than boring stuff, like live action or the World events). I also loved the colection of muscled dudes and dudettes in tights.
However, I only caught a couple of episodes before they started with the reruns of regular Super Friends, which was painfully boring to a kid of the Transformers, Ghostbusters and Thundercats era. The ones without the Legion of Doom or even real supervillains were even worse (somehow, even then I was able to tell phony made up villains from the official ones). It got better with Firestorm. And then there it was again:
(Play it, just humor me).
And there it is again, the Joker! (instead of that lousy Riddler). It had Cyborg and his really cool bromance with Firestorm, and impressive episodes line The Fear, The Death of Superman, the one in which Mr. Mxyztlk makes more Bizarro duplicates or that one with the Penguin and Felix Faust stealing Superman's powers! Man! Those were good times to be a kid! And it got better: there was an action figure collection with most of those characters!
Later, when I started reading comics in the early 90s, I was disappointed that a number of things from this show, were not there, like Apache Chief, Samurai, the Justice League roster, even Firestorm was kind of absent. Luckily, I discovered back issues some time later. To me, the perfect image of the DC heroes is still a combination of José Luis' art, the Super Powers Collection and the satellite era of the Justice League of America. To me, DC is this (no, it's not the opening theme again):

2. The Elongated Man & Wife
My weird obsession with this couple doesn't go that far back. Formerly Known as the Justice League and Identity Crisis made me notice the non Plastic Man guy that was always hanging with the league in the big events of the early 90s. I was like "yeah, I remember that guy". I didn't even knew his real name before that - Spanish translations he was known as el Hombre Elástico (Elastic Man). The DeMatteis / Giffen / Maguire made me like the Dibnys and [ïronically] Brad Meltzer made me care about them. Once I realized that the Elongated Man got his powers from a fictional fruit that grows in my native Yucatan, I got really interested and, after reading Showcase Presents: the Elongated Man, it was decided: the Dibnys became my favorite characters. Handled directly by Julius Schwartz, John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox and then Len Wein, they were rooted at the heart of the silver age. As eclectic, eccentric and hedonistic as they are, they are the best examples of emotinal intelligence DC has to offer, which is something I deeply admire. They are honest, goodhearted, creative, generous and, unlike most of the average DC characters, they are not just reactive to to the drama, they are proactive, love what they do and live a plenty life.
See what I mean?

1. Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe
(a.k.a. BTAS and the DCAU)
Can you believe that Bruce Timm was once rejected from DC comics? Yet, somehow, he managed to revolutionize aimation in a series that marries the Batman tradition with a sophisticated retro but fresh style. As far as I'm concerned, Bruce Timm, along with Paul Dini, Eric Radomski, Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, Glen Murakami, Andrea Romano, Darwyn Cooke, Dwayne McDuffie and many others, created an universe that is actually better and more elegant than the regular DC Universe. Superhero cartoons were never taken seriously until this series came. The content of BTAS is not just for kids, but for all ages.
As I said before, Batman: The Animated Series, made me rediscover the DC characters and was my main reason to start collecting the comics; however, I never loved them as much. After the third episode I saw I was officially obessed. For over ten years I only drew imitating the style of Bruce Timm. I made tons of turnarounds trying to adapt classic DC characters to his style. A lot of people still do the same, and even DC decided to change characters like Metallo, Supergirl or the Parasite to look like Timm's designs. I only read comics because they were the best next thing after reruns.
One of the greatest things about the BTAS universe, is that it kept coming back with different angles. First it was Batman: The Animated Series, then, with more Robin it became The Adventures of Batman and Robin, the next series; Superman: The Animated Series, repeated the original formula with a new main character, The New Batman Adventures had Batman leading a team of Gotham Knights (Robin II, Nightwing and Batgirl); Batman Beyond deal with their distant future and Batman's legacy, The Zeta Project expanded that futuristic universe; Static Shock, a series about a teenage hero dealing with juvenile gangs, became linked to this DC animated Universe (DCAU), and finally, they did Justice League, which became Justice League Unlimited and tied all the events and characters of the previous series.
There were also four movies: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-zero, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker; and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
Justice League Unlimited was like going out with a bang. It featured a really large cast that included almost all the DC characters I wanted to see, a lot that I'd have never expected and a bunch that I didn't even know. It was like a child fantasy come true. Like Super Friends, but with better art, better writing and a hundred times more characters.
One of the coolest aspects of the DCAU is that it actually had epilogues, unlike the reguar DC universe, it told the full story of a lot of its protagonists: Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, the Joker, Harley Quinn, Superman, Grodd, John Stewart and Amanda Waller.
All this work was produced in 14 years, and all that time I kept returning and being further introduced to the characters of DC. BTAS could have been a fad, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Ghostbusters before it, but it kepts returning with series lived up to the established quality, so, the DCAU kept me hooked, loving the wonderful world of DC.


  1. Good Lord, that was long.

    20) I lost track of the Venture Brothers after the second season, but it's good stuff.

    19) Identity Crisis was one of the most polarizing comics ever. Each time I finds a review that savages or utterly dismisses it, here comes another one that proclaims it one of the greats. Crazy!

    18) Some folks would argue for Moore's "For the Man who has Everything" and "Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel," but I tend to agree that Superman is still waiting for his DKR. I haven't read "All-Star Superman" though, so that may be it.

    17) I was introduced to Tick through the comics, and I frankly doubt you missed out on anything. The comics were never as good at the surreality, and they were never as funny. They also owed too great and obvious a debt to Ambush Bug and Miller's Daredevil.

    13) The post-Crisis Batman that Miller gets credited with really came out of Mike W. Barr's work on the character, an a-hole perfectionist who didn't not work or play well with others. I'd also lay the British invasion at Alan Moore's feet, as well as Karen Burger's desire to seek out talent outside American fan circles.

    12) I bought more comics in the '90s than any other decade, and some of them were actually good. It's just that there were so many books, the talent got spread thin, so you often have to forgive bad art on good stories or lame off-brand characters treated better than they deserved.

    I'm on board with everything else!

  2. 20. VB. stopped being that funny after the second season, but the pop cult references and the characters kept me addicted.
    19. Id C. is polarizing even within myself. I hate what it did to the history of the DCU and the characters, but I like the story.
    18. Yes, I kinda cheated by not mentioning All-Star Superman, It's not quite the DKR, but it's as close as it gets. I prefer the Donner movies (as cheap as the effects look now).
    17. Well, I guess I'm glad then. I've still have a lot to read. I keep saying that I'll go hardcore following McCloud's advise. I didn't know Ambush bug came before. The cartoon still cracks me with idiot lines like "gravity is a harsh mistress".
    13. I'd love further thoughts on this. Y'see, I love Barr, his Elongated Man was the best, but Year Two missed a lot of cues. Also, are you sure Barr wasn't taking elements from Daredevil (I'm asking -I dunno)? I credit Miller and even Claremont and Byrne because they made the switch before tptb started seeking people with the same kind of talent. Len Wein headhunted Moore.
    12. Don't get me wrong, I'm talking about the stuff that hook me and kept me hooked to comics, not necesarely its quality. Most of them really suck. While I like the stories and characters of Maximum and Death I consider them big packages of so-so stories. Knightfall proposed a good dynamic (the Arkham escape), but the main dish was cheese. Another very negative aspect is that it elevated event crossovers as the main hook of comics instead of real talent. However, some of my favorite character designs were those of around 85 - 95. I hated what they did with the X-men after that. I hate the JLI costumes after Jones and Jurgens took over.

  3. Also, don't forget that Barr and Miller owe a lot to Englehart and he owes to O'Neil.

  4. I'm not sure if Ambush Bug holds up for modern audiences, but if you ever find the Showcase Presents volume on sale, I'd suggest trying it out. He's a lunatic who pesters the heroes of the DC Universe, digs up continuity relics to mock, and breaks the fourth wall with reckless abandon. He's not quite as dense as the Tick, but the influence is obvious.

    Batman and the Outsiders was a total rip-off of the X-Men, but I never caught any Miller influence there. That's where Barr started the dickish Batman we know today, and then added the grim n' gritty affectations contemporaneous to Miller when he took over Detective Comics. Miller was important obviously, but for some reason, everyone overlooks Barr's contributions. The specific flavor of Batman as a know-it-all, hypercritical, antisocial jackass really did come out of Barr. It really stood apart from other interpretations of the time, and was echoed in DKR.

    2000 A.D. was the birthplace of the British invasion. The U.K. and American markets had little use for one another for years, but 2000 A.D. proved the English could produce a successful book with appeal across the pond. Marvel U.K. was dipping into the same talent pool, and the results got DC's attention. Once Alan Moore made a splash stateside, the floodgates opened for guys like John Wagner, Alan Grant, and Jamie Delano in the first wave, followed by the more esoteric Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison and so on. Indie publishers and Marvel's Epic line also had a huge impact on demand for mature readers material, and in that respect Miller played a part, but that came as part of the zeitgeist (rather than the initiation.)

    I didn't care for Knightfall, which seemed like an excessively long and poorly constructed hope on the Death of Superman bandwagon. I think "World Without A Superman" and "Reign of the Superman" hold up well though, and I'm among the few that loved the "Titans Hunt." The '90s permanently destroyed my affection for the X-Titles and much of the Marvel Universe as a whole, but I do think the decade is so maligned that good material gets discounted.

  5. I'll try to check Ambush Bug.

    Funny that Batman as a jerk started in a team book (I didn't know). In the satellite JLA he was the smart detective-guy, a role that Ralph took over (at least that's what Conway said), in JL #1, he's completely another guy, more in tone with year one and, I asume, Outsiders. In the 90s, I used to think that Morrison created that side of Batman. In Panic in the Sky, the first superhero crowd story I read with Batman on it, he looked about as useless as a hat in an orgy.

    I think Miller was probably hired to do his Daredevil thing with Batman, following the path established by O'Neil -> Englehart -> Barr. As I understand it, Conway tried to continue Englehart's tone as well, but didn't really add more dark.

    I've never read 2000 AD, but I did notice that it's in the resume of all of them.
    I think that was the jumping platform, however, I have the impression that DC would have never cared about them without Miller and Claremont proving that sophisticated writing goes with classic super heroes first.

    I liked the whole Arkham inmate attacks thing of Knightfall. For me it beats the hell of what they do in an average Loeb run.