the celebrities of the comic book world are exciting to me for so many reasons, but inspiring to me for only one: their names are built on talent. writers and artists, for the most part not trying to step up to the spotlight, but just do what they love to do: tell stories in one of the most engaging undiscovered forms of media: comics.
"alan moore knows the score..." –from pop will eat itself’s "can u dig it?"
ALAN MOORE is an english writer known for countless pages of engaging prose, and this magic man has devoted himself to the comic medium in a way that very few creators could ever imitate or duplicate. having done enormous amounts of work in britain on the 2000 a.d. line of pulp comics, moore started working for american comics giant DC transforming their gothic monster "swamp thing" into a character far more advanced and three-dimensional than ever before. then moore and artist dave gibbons, along with american writer/artist frank miller, introduced books that helped launch the age of comic book celebrity:
miller wrote and drew a dark alternative batman tale called THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
moore and gibbons produced a 12 issue limited series that changed the way that comics were perceived. its name? WATCHMEN.
now it’s safe to say that true heads were hip to the old school creators, and they had their favorites, stan lee, jack kirby, steve ditko, don heck, gil kane, curt swan, julius schwartz, bob kane, jack cole, will eisner, roy thomas, steve gerber, denny o’ neill, neal adams...the pioneers truly were, stretching the boundaries of what comics could be year after year. but for the most part, it was mostly about the characters.
suddenly, people wanted to know what the next alan moore project was. or what frank miller was doing next. the characters would always have their fans, but now their chroniclers became a more prominent factor. talent was being treated like talent. comics had surpassed being merely for kids (although god bless the youthful enthusiasm that goes into all forms of comicdom), and so the new generation in the industry started achieving the status of a martin scorsese, a quentin tarantino, hell; maybe even a rob zombie. writer neil gaiman has been back and forth between prose, comics, bbc tv and movies, and he’s friends with tori amos. marvel comics editor-in-chief joe quesada who came to prominence as an artist on marvel’s DAREDEVIL, recently showed up in kevin smith’s latest flick. and kevin smith himself has written comics for both marvel and dc. SPAWN creator todd mcfarlane became so famous and wealthy from comics that he bought mark mcguire’s famous home run ball. so who are some names for the uninitiated to watch for? everyone has their opinions on who to watch, much like everyone in hollywood loves to take bets on who the next 20 million dollar player will be. these are a few of my picks, based solely on love and respect, not units sold.
ALEX ROSS is a gifted artist whose most noted work has involved ross painting entire comics, providing such lush detail that the panels look like photographs. he rose to fame doing a book for marvel comics aptly titled MARVELS, a 30 year story set in the marvel universe as told through the eyes of a photographer, and he also painted a book for competitor DC called KINGDOM COME, an epic imaginary tale involvong all of the major players in the DC universe. ross has plenty of gorgeous prints, posters, and statues of his work, but his work in comics is some of the most engaging storytelling you’re gonna see.
LOS BROS. HERNANDEZ! gilbert and jaime have been writing and drawing their characters from LOVE AND ROCKETS for almost 20 years. no real superheroes among the lot, but plenty of magical realism, punk rock, space ships, old school wrestlers, epic stories, haunting characters, and two compelling art styles, both in black and white, that evoke classic cinema as much as anything else. i’d compare these guys to gabriel garcia marquez, raymond carver, salinger, and will eisner when it comes to literary firepower. i know that either of these two would write exemplary prose fiction; it is to our advantage that they choose comics as their first love.
GARTH ENNIS is one of the most demented writers ever to grace the pages of a comic, but also one of the most gifted. if anybody is the quentin tarantino of comics it’d be ennis. nah, scratch that. he’s more like the howard hawks of comics. his characters cuss like r.lee ermey in full metal jacket, fight like the wild bunch, drink like clint eastwood in any movie before he became a mayor, and fuck like last tango in paris. and after all the bullets have been fired and the bodies have been cleared away, true love always prevails. ennis got his groove on writing sixty issues of PREACHER for the adult imprint VERTIGO, and lately he’s been seen adding sick hilarious brillant twists to marvel’s characters Punisher and Nick Fury. i promise you, you will never be bored with garth ennis...
SAM HENDERSON is like the tex avery of comics, to me, but a lot funnier and as underground as they get...he may be what some call "not that good of an artist", but they’re wrong, ‘cause he is good. he’s distilled a classic comic and cartoon sensibility down to its roots, and then turned it on its ear, poked its eye out, made its butt fall off, and dropped an anvil on its head. sam henderson publishes a book called MAGIC WHISTLE that has made me laugh out loud as much as any comedy record or simpsons episode ever has...and that’s saying a lot. you might even find some of his collected works, HUMOR CAN BE FUNNY or THE MAGIC WHISTLE BLOWS, at your local virgin megastore.
now these are just a few names, and if i wrote this for a comic-based publication, i’d be bombarded with "you forgot about"s and "how could you leave out"s and every one of those opinions would be right, too.
but to me, comics have always been about a marriage of literature and cinema, and they’ve not even begun to tell their best stories.
one good turn deserves another turn of the page
and i burn through pages
like a human torch or a man with heat vision
i envision fantastic situations four times over
i dream of a gothic looking sandman
and a galactic man eating planets
i make plans to keep classics illustrated
i wave banners cuz i’m gamma radiated
i’m a daredevil using four hyper-senses i’m a
doomsday demi-god with a hunger for thunderous destruction
i thunderclap like shazam i blow up like human bombs
u won’t find wonder women at amazon dot com
i snap jokers necks like the dark knight remix
i’m a garth ennis preacher tale not for the squeamish
and i’m screamin’ with wolverine adrenaline rages
turning pages turning pages turning pages