Bringing the chickens home to roost, part one

A few weeks ago i posted about branching out to another platform.  At the time, just after college graduation, i was flush with excitement from earning a degree in journalism with a mind towards proliferation.

Since then, the idea of separating the topic of one of my great loves (comic books) to another space niggled in my mind.  Also, there is significantly more freedom here to do whatever i want with a post.  Quite a few other sites place restrictions and limitations on what you can include and, in D&D speak, i’m chaotic neutral and cramping my personal freedom just ain’t my bag.  Therefore, i decided to reel it back here to The Long Shot.  Thanks to the too-easy access of new comics via mobile app and their digital offerings, i’ve got a little collection started and it’s growing along nicely. When it comes to comics, i’ve been out of the game for a while doing a lot more reading about comics and a lot less reading of comics.

Therefore

It seems to me that spitting out reviews of individual issues isn’t breaking any new ground; there’s literally thousands of sources out there for that sort of thing.  Plus, i have a hard time deciding whether or not i like a book based on a single issue.  That being said, i’ll give a book three issues before i decide to stick around or move on.  There’s always limited series and specific story arcs to explore, too, and those are worth taking a look at the big picture.

Anyway, since i’m going to be bringing all my chickens home to roost, i’d like to figuratively do just that by publishing the handful of reviews here that are floating around out there.

Here’s one of them:

Mike Allred gives fans everything that is awesome about comic books

The other night, after an extra long day of work, I planned to head home, greedily gobble up the latest episode of Hannibal and hit the hay before another overtime-filled day threatened to encroach on my MMO and television binge-watching schemes.

Instead, I never made it past the ritual checking of Internet media – social and otherwise- that includes Facebook (for important stuff like Castle Age), the reader and my site stats on WordPress, my beloved Flipboard futurist technology feed, and Twitter for the witty and wonderful banter.

Thanks to that last one, I wound up with a midnight cup of coffee listening to a fascinating interview over at inkstuds.org that found its author on the road for a series of interviews with comic book creators, in this case one of the very best out there – Mike Allred. And I’m not just using hyperbole there either. In the pantheon of comic artists and writers, I place the pop artist right up there with the likes of Kirby, Ditko, Lee, Moore, Morrison, Steranko, Romita, Eisner or anybody else you can name.

Allred at work during Lucca Comics & Games 2010, an annual convention held in Lucca, Italy.

Allred at work during Lucca Comics & Games 2010, an annual convention held in Lucca, Italy.

Naturally, the best thing I could think of to occupy my time while listening to the nearly two hour conversation was to bust out my Samsung Galaxy Tab and indulge in some Allred greatness. So while host Robin McConnell spoke with Mike and his wife and colorist Laura about not only his great love of comics that like any great interview revealed so much more about his life and philosophy, I got lost in the colorful worlds that the sweet couple had created time and time again.

My first experience with Allred’s work was during my senior year in high school when my weekly trip to the comic shop resulted in discovering the first issue of Dark Horse Comics’ Madman, Allred’s seminal creation. Having grown up on a steady diet of my older brother’s collection of primarily mainstream books likeAvengers, Detective Comics and Spider-Man, picking up oddball outliers from indie publishers wasn’t necessarily my habit. But something about that image of Frank Einstein – the titular character’s “real” name, tearing through the page firing his toy disc gun for the “Swingin’ 1st Issue” of the World’s Snappiest Comic Magazine struck a chord with the 90’s alternative kid and i snapped it up posthaste.

Mike Allred talking about the existential origins of Madman, the different genres of comic books and the ubiquitous nature of good books.

Man, i was positively hooked for life after reading that comic. It was plainly evident that this guy knew what he was doing when it came to creating comics, giving us a character that was fun, likable and just as capable with action-adventure as he was with humor, plus a healthy dose of existential crises…and just for good measure a sweet love story with his girlfriend Joe. In later years, with the proliferation of the Internet allowing fans of pretty much anything to see behind the curtain, i discovered the quasi-biographical nature of Madman and how Allred uses his most famous creation to explore his own questions about life, the universe and his place in it, and also how the relationship between Frank and Joe is at least partially informed by his own real-life marriage. In fact, there’s a terrific side-by-side set of images on my personal blog that gives you a good idea how closely related the two couples are to each other.

Since that time, Allred has gone on to produce several popular, successful and/or downright ginchy comic series like The Atomics and the sublime Red Rocket 7 – one of the very best comic stories of all time, even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life. Bringing together his love of music, cosmic odyssey, and sci-fi adventure, the seven issue limited series is a true masterpiece of pop and sequential art storytelling.

In more recent years, Allred has been featured on a number of high-profile projects from the Big Two publishers – Marvel and DC – that have afforded him a chance to put his talented mark on some of the most iconic characters in comics history. That’s where I found myself while listening to his interview the other night.

To start my voracious, late night comic book marathon I finished off reading FF, the 16-issue Marvel NOW! run he collaborated on with Matt Fraction and later his own brother Lee Allred, their take on the Fantastic Four or, as they’re calling themselves these days, the Future Foundation. The series, which put a new team together led my Ant-Man Scott Lang (who will be portrayed on the big screen by Paul Rudd in the 2015 Edgar Wright-helmed film), was essentially a celebration of FF history. Included in the run was just a stream of delightful nods to the past, including throwbacks like Dragon Man, Kree Sentry-459, the Inhumans, Impossible Man, Annihilus and one of my faves Kang the Conquerer that led to a pathos-infused mano-e-mano battle between Lang and the FF’s arch-foe Dr. Doom.

For a palate cleanser, I switched universes to check out Batman 66, part of this years’ 75th anniversary celebration of the Caped Crusader. This series, a digitally released first comic, brings the beloved Batman show of the 60s to the pages of comics for the first time. This month in May, the book features a whopping 19 variant covers by Allred, whose amazing ability to capture the look of real life people through his incredible line work is the perfect choice for portraying Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar and more in the fun, silly world so lovingly remembered by so many.

Lastly, my comic book binge included Silver Surfer Infinite, another offering by the Marvel NOW! rebrand. Surfer has always been one of my absolute favorite comic characters and, as I tweeted back when I first read about Allred working on the book, putting those two together is the greatest no-duh moment in comic book history. Ever the most philosophical, existential mainstream superhero, I could not wait to see how Allred handled him along with writer Dan Slott, and I was not surprised to find out the answer was “exceptionally fantastic.” So far, there are only two issues in the can for this series, and I hope it continues for at least as long as FF did. I won’t say forever, because I’ve gotten to the point in my comic book fandom where I prefer self-contained story arcs, but I hope it’s at least 12 issues long.

I just remembered, he’s also done some work on Daredevil, another of my favorite characters. Guess I’d better go fire up the tablet and get reading.

Maybe after that Mike and Laura will tackle Mister Miracle and Big Barda, at which point I think the cosmic gods of comic books will have answered every one of my prayers.

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One thought on “Bringing the chickens home to roost, part one

  1. Pingback: Digital Pull List: multi-week roundup | The Long Shot

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