Thursday, November 10, 2011

Darick Robertson Donnerstag

Well, it´s just that " Darick Robertson appreciating Thursday " has not the same alliteration in it otherwise I would have gone with that. Today it´s Mr. Robertson birthday so I wanted to put the spotlight one of my favorite artists and the different series he worked on.

And being such an old fart that I am we´ll have to use the " way back timemachine " for that. I´m not that old that I read his first professional work the mythic SPACE BEAVER series so I guess the first I saw of his artwork was on JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE. It was just a short part and all I remember from it is that it had the story with Power Girl´s famous coconut bikini and that I sorely missed somebody with a knack for drawing hot women like Bart Sears from the pages.

Aside from DC Darick also worked for Marvel on the odd issues of X - FACTOR and more importantly NEW WARRIORS and WOLVERINE. One of the latter ones was a Wolverine story involving Jubilee ( who still had a pretty small cupsize back then ) and Terror, a contract killer who could obtain certain abilities by adding bodyparts of other people. Preferable dead ones.

Like for instance if he changed his hands for the hands of a pianist he could play the piano. Weird, I know but that has always been my taste in comics : superheroes mixed with horror and a bit of the bizarre. The art on TERROR INC was done by Jorge Zaffino who also did some PUNISHER stuff like the storyline that crossed over Frank Castle and NAM or the ASSASINS GUILD graphic novel.

Back then I had pretty strict criterias for what I considered a good artist and most of the series I´m reading Today wouldn´t have made the cut because of artists like Mike Allred, Paul Grist, Steve Rude or Darwyn Cooke. Now I´m a big fan of their work but I had to cultivate my comic reading taste till reaching that point.

So it´s kind of a miracle that I read most of Jorge Zaffino´s stuff. I guess I was REALLY into all that horror stuff at that time period.

While HORROR INC had an interesting premise and tickled MY horror bone it didn´t catch on with too many comic readers and as the commercial success didn´t match expectations the originally planned 15 issue run was ended with the unlucky 13 but not before Terror could pay Wolverine a return visit - like they so often did back then. Although now that I think of it they still do that from time to time.

We´ll also pay Frank Castle and Wolverine a retun visit a bit later but coming back to Darick Robertson he was just about to start his first big thing where he went from an artist who I tolerated in my books to an artist that slowly made his way to the top of my reading pile.

In THOR 412 old Goldilocks got into a brawl with the f - ing Juggernaut ( beyotch ! ) and was bailed out at a very critical moment by Marvel´s newest Teen Team that was christened as THE NEW WARRIORS by Thor himself. And you know that if Thor picks your team name you better stick with it unless you want to be hit by a thunderbolt where the sun doesn´t shine.

The New Warriors pretty soon got their own title written by Fabian Nicieza and art by the - back then - up and coming superstar Mark Bagley. The team consisted of Speedball who was in his pre - Civil War jokester phase , Nova who was going by Kid Nova and changed his red costume for the now familiar blue one, Firestar and Marvel Boy who would later on become Avengers in training, Namorita who already was a hot babe and a character called Nightrasher who would lead to thousand of inapropriate jokes.

I got the first two or three issues but because they didn´t make a big impression on me I would have passed on the entire series if it hadn´t been for the cheapest marketing ploy in comics.

Yes, that´s right. I fell for the old " guest - starring THE PUNISHER " schtick. Which turned up not so bad in the long run since Mr. Bagley´s art had improved a great deal since the first issues and I not only stayed for the Punisher issues but also till the FOREVER YESTERDAY trilogy. The story pitted the Warriors against their first archnemesis The Sphinx in an alternate reality that had the familiar Marvel heroes although in ethnically more diverse versions. As a big fan of parallel worlds, alternate realities and doppelgangers from other dimension it was the perfect story to get me hooked and before I knew it this was one of my favorite books.

Fabian Nicieza ( whose name I still have to look up to amke sure to write it correctly ) really knows how to make characters interesting and in the first 25 - issue storyarc all the characters got their fair share of screentime. And I think in this series Namorita became an interesting character since over the course of the series she not only changed her one piece swimsuit for a two piece bikini

but she also got a forced haircut ( with cruxification at the same price ) by the villain Sea Urchin who she defeated in the rematch and even became team leader of the New Warriors.

All in all it wasn´t an easy time for her. First she got beaten up by Neo Nazis in the NAMOR series, then she learned she wasn´t really Namor´s cousin but a clone and then got the beatdown by sea Urchin. Man, I don´t think the writers didn´t like her that much since they later on gave her blue skin,

transformed her into some kind of fishwoman and finally blew her skyhigh during the Stamford Incident that sparked the CIVIL WAR. Of course, being a comic book character death is not final and a time displaced version of Namorita has already been seen in REALM OF KINGS and THE THANOS INPERATIVE. With time being kind of wibbly - wobbly, timey - wimey she may already be back.

By the way, back when I did my first COMICBABE BATTLE post I thought this costume might be a bit risky.

But it seems Marvel itself put Namorita in a similar one as far back as March 1978.

Coming back to the New Warriors, this was before the time when artists only stayed a few issues on any given title with six the highest number for a possible trade paperback, so the benchmark number for when an artist would leave a title was issue 12 or issue 25. Which meant for regular artists doing a book for one or two years and for artists like Joe Madureiras or J. Scott Campbell 10 to 15 years.

But staying serious, issues 12 or issue 25 was the point where you had to decide if you would stick with the book through a new creative team or not. Since in the case of NEW WARRIORS Fabian Nicieza stayed with the book ( he wrote all issues up to issue 52 ) I decided to take a chance on this new artist called Darick Robertson whose art I might have seen before somewhere.

The writing reached the level of quality few other teen team books like NEW MUTANTS or TEEN TITANS achieved especially with stories like Marvel Boy ( now going by the name of JUSTICE ) facing charges for killing his abusive father with his powers and the relationship between Nova and Namorita.

Artwise Darick Robertson started slowly with good, solid art on his first issues but started to take of with the beginning of the FORCES OF DARKNESS, FORCES OF LIGHT storyline.

Not only was he beginning to evolve a very unique artstyle with dynamic storytelling, in this three parter that guest - starred Darkhawk, Dagger and Spider - Man he began to experiment with the layout in interesting ways.

Darick Robertson stayed with the title till issue 50, the finale of the TIME AND TIME AGAIN story in which the New Warriors had to lay the smack down on - Sphinx - who would have thought that in a story about time they had to fight their time travelling nemesis ?

About issue 40 or so I was thinking about leaving the title but since 45 was part of a crossover with X - FORCE ( which wasn´t that difficult to manage for Fabian Nicieza since he wrote both series ), a teen team book I was also reading I decided to tough it out till the big 50th issue.

And that basically was it for me and NEW WARRIORS. Marvel tried another series but since it was entirely dependent on artist Steve Scott´s distinctive style the whole thing crashed and burned in the worst possible way when it took him longer and longer to finish his issues until he finally bailed.

There also was another series where they had their own tv show ( which ultimately led to the Stamford incident ) but since it was drawn by Scottie Young I never bothered to check it out. I didn´t return to NEW WARRIORS until CIVIL WAR when Jubilee developed an incredible rack, quite possibly due to a second mutation as some speculated.

Now coming back to X - FORCE, that was another book on my pull list that was a teen team book of which I apparently read quite a bunch during that time. The writing was done by Fabian Nicieza, like I said, and in the art departement Greg Capullo was rocking the title.

This was long before Greg became a better Todd McFarlane artist then Todd McFarlane himself when all his creative juices were flowing and he was at the top of the game. He was fresh of QUASAR, a title that he put on the map and which helped him gain a kind of new superstar status at Marvel. Man, I really wish they would do a trade with this run since this is one of Marvel´s best runs. Mark Gruenwald really hit it out of the ballpark and he even managed to include appearances of pre - crisis Barry Allen and NEW UNIVERSE characters like the STAR BRAND and DP7.

Now X - FORCE was more of a military kind of drill team instead of the NEW WARRIORS which was more like a family. Which should be no surprise if you keep in mind Cable´s military background. It also put Cannonball from New Mutants in a leadership role, one of the very few instances where he wasn´t underused. In the EXECUTIONER´S SONG story, that crossed over between all x - titles as most of the stories did, I remember Cyclops empasizing how important it was not to underestimate Cannonball. Not only was he trained by Charles Xavier and so knew all of the X - Men´s tactics,

he also was tutored by mutant terrorist Magneto when he was headmaster of the Charles Xavier School for Gifted Students and on top of that received military training by Cable who was a specialist in guerilla tactics.

It´s one of the rare moments when Cannonball got some well deserved respect. And speaking about military training there were a lot of team books that more resembled a fighting unit and in Marvel´s x - books that meant three things. First : teleportation, a lot of teleportation. All the villains had teleporters on the team or teleportation technology to escape in the nick of time and if the heroes didn´t have some means to teleport they couldn´t follow them. Teleportation is a topic to which we will also return later on.

The second thing fighting team books meant was time travel in all its aspects like team leaders from an alternate timeline like Cable, villains from another alternate timeline who were the twin of the team leader from an alternative reality like Stryfe and babies from our timeline who could grow up to be one or the other. Although I won´t get into detail as who this baby might be since I´ve already spoilered enough.

And the third and final thing that was an absolute must on those team books was weird accessories like pouches, lots of pouches, even pouches for the puches. Just ask Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee, they based their whole career - or at least big part of it - on the ability to add lots of pouches to a dress. I´m just surprised that Jim Lee didn´t put those pouches on the designs for DC´s new 52 heroes. Or maybe he did and Cully Hamner erased them all. But back in 1993 mutants had to have pouches. And guns. Let´s not forget the guns, the bigger the better.

As for Darick Robertson, after NEW WARRIORS he did THE NIGHT MAN for Malibu, some issues of mutant books like EXCALIBUR and SPIDER - MAN stuff at Marvel and he returned to the Justice League franchise with JUSTICE LEAGUE : A MIDSUMMER´S NIGHTMARE. It was in the following year that Darick Robertson should start working on one of the two titles he would be associated with from then on forward : TRANSMETROPOLITAN.

And with that we have reached the end of the first part of the Darick Robertson retrospective as it´s once again at least one hour past my bedtime. I thought I could wrap this up in one post, especially keeping in mind that I prepared all the stuff for this post the last two days. And maybe I would have if I had stayed on Darick Robertson but as always I drifted a bit away from the main topic into unexpected territory. And I slept a lot this afternoon because.....well, I´ll talk more about the reasons for that Tomorrow or I´ll never get this post finished.

Before closing I just wanted to mention that Today Vanessa Angel also celebrates her 45th anniversary so this could also have been an entirely different post. Vanessa is best known for playing the sexy russian spy in the god - awful SPIES LIKE US, in fact it´s the only scene that makes the movie almost bearable.

She also played Kelly Le Brock´s part of artificial lifeform Lisa in the tv series WEIRD SCIENCE. Yup, like the EC comic.

So happy anniversary Vanessa.

Since I have already mentioned the NIGHT MAN comic series I couldn´t end this post without a clip form the tv series. Here´s the first part of episode 1 and I have to admit up until now I have never watched it so don´t ask me if it´s any good.

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