Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Classicos DC - The brave and the bold - part 1

I still haven't finished my report of the comic convention from hell but I wanted to write about the comics I have read as long as they're still in my memory. Not all of them but for more than a week I have been wanting to write about Classicos DC - The Brave and the Bold.

And since I have already collected all the pictures I'm going to need for the post and I just finished reading the last volume today there's no better time for this than now. Especially since I have finally access to the laptop even if it's only for one hour. So here's the first part of the review.

There have been many incarnations of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD apart from the actual one ( besides the actual team up book, and the original there was one starring Green Arrow and Butcher and one starring Flash and Green Lantern ) but today I want to speak about the spanish edition of PLANETA DeAGOSTINI.

Planeta is the company that has the rights for DC comics in Spain although it's mostly known for it's plethora of collections of books, magazines or any other collectibles from Dinosaurs to miniature ships coming in weekly parts. Classicos DC is a line that presents DC stuff that is either new or that is difficult to find in spanish comic shops. Classicos DC BATMAN The brave and the Bold is in black and white but not all collections under the Classicos DC line are - KAMANDI is black and white but others like TEEN TITANS or Walt Simonson's fantastic ORION are in color. Don't ask me why some get color and others don't.

I'm just glad that they printed the ORION collection in color since it gave me the chance to read this modern masterpiece by Walter Simonson even if the binding is not that good. It seems that Walt Simonson is best when he writes about gods or godlike beings since he's one of the few comic writers who understands that writing superheroes is writing the big comic opera.

Now while Planeta's Brave and the Bold collection is in black and white it's in the pocket book format. Again there are spanish comic collections in black and white that have the same format as the DC SHOWCASE collections like the one for CAPTAIN MARVEL but I have no idea why some titles get the big format and some get the small format. I bought the first volume of Brave and the Bold while I was at the comic convention from hell. On the last day of the convention I still had some money left that I wanted to spend on the DEATHNOTE replica notebook but somehow forgot. So instead of that I invested it in as many volumes of BIBLIOTEKA MARVEL with John Romita Jr. that I could find ( 5 volumes of X - Men and 1 of Iron Man )and in the first Classicos DC BATMAN - The brave and the bold. I missed my chance to ensure that all my enemies die in screaming agony but at least I got to read really good comics. Which is everything you need on your tombstone : At least I read some really good comics.

Now with a price tag of 14,95 Euros for each 300 plus pages volume you might say : " Hey, that's almost as much as the DC SHOWCASE books. Why not go directly to the original versions if the only difference is the size ? "

Well, that's because that's not the only difference. The Classicos DC line ( as the Biblioteka Marvel line ) not only offers a lot of comic bang for your buck but it has always two introductions and one text at the end giving you more details about the comics you are going to read.

Especially in the Biblioteka Marvel editions the editorial is doing a terrific job of writing interesting pieces about the comics of each volume, the artists and editors that have created it, the historical context, the history of the characters and so on and so on.

And that's something that I miss with the ESSENTIAL and SHOWCASE collections. Another point - at least for the Biblioteka Marvel line - is that with a price tag of around 5 Euros you can decide if you buy one volume, three or more depending on how much money you have. Not an argument with the Brave and the Bold. No, the most important thing for me was that the spanish edition collects ONLY the Jim Aparo issues ( with a few exceptions by superstar artists ) which is what I'm interested in. So I don't have to buy a comic that has all the other stuff - I get all the Jim Aparo stuff in one neat package.

Maybe I have already mentioned it but I'm a big fan of the late Jim Aparo. I always liked his style and for me his version of the Batman is the one that counts. To this day I cringe whenever I see a Batman with those short ears and without the yellow emblem because to me that's not how he is supposed to look. So when the first issue of the DC SHOWCASE editions of The Brave and the Bold came out I looked for it in my comic shop but there was not enough Jim Aparo in it for my taste so I didn't buy it. I have said it before and I will say it again : DC needs to give Jim Aparo his own collection. The man has done a ton of stuff for them and it's a shame that not even after his death they can give him a bit of respect.

And with that I mean a bit more than a PHANTOM STRANGER SHOWCASE here and a SPECTRE collection there. But back to the Brave and the Bold. Since I prefer to write about comics I have read I'm writing about volumes 1, 4 and 5 of the collection. I have not bought volumes 2 and 3 because of the horrible quality of the printing. One downside of having worked in a printing company for almost ten years is that I'm unable to buy comics with bad printing and printing errors. Especially if the comic contains errors that I know are there because of laziness. One of my mottos in life has always been : It doesn't matter which job you have as long as you do it right. So when I see a comic with poor printing and it's evident that the guy at the six color speedmaster or whatever machine they used just was to lazy to look after the water I just can't spend money on it.

Now in the volumes 4 and 5 there are one or two stories that are printed really awful. All the lines are blurry, the words are smudged and it's almost impossible to read. But in the volumes 2 and 3 almost all the stories are like that. If we would have printed a comic like this in my old printing company we would have thrown the whole edition in the trash. We wouldn't have had the courage to show this to any client. Nobody would have paid us for producing this crap. Like I said before working in a printing company I might have bought it but now I just can't. Especially when I don't have that much money to begin with and the prices for comics are increasing.

So that was the negative part of the review.

Being a fan of Jim Aparo it's interesting to see him evolve along the lines of The Brave and the Bold going from a capable artist to finding his definite style that should become his trademark for years to come. Especially his early work is much more detailed altough I also like his later slick artwork which you can see even better without the heavy technicolor coloring of the times. One of the things that I as an inker like about the ESSENTIAL and SHOWCASE editions is that you can study the inks really good. There are even some instances like the ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA collection where the black and white edition is even better than the color version.

I know that there are comic readers out there who don't read black and white comics but that's their loss. A friend of me doesn't watch movies that are in black and white - period. I think he made an exception with SIN CITY but in that case he argued that there are colors like red, yellow or blue in the movie. But he still doesn't watch black and white movies. Which for me is stupid if you really love movies because you miss such classics like HAUNTED HOUSE, CASABLANCA, HIGH NOON, CITIZEN CANE, PSYCHO or Dr. CALIGARY. Not only have these films had a big influence on the whole movie industries but as a comic artist you can learn a lot from watching them. Not only about how to make a captivating narrative and how to structure your sequences but especially in the old black and white movies you can learn a lot about using shadows and how to contrast black and white on your page. So my tip for all aspiring comic artists out there is : watch more black and white movies. But don't copy them. As the motto of the Three Musketeers says : adapt, adopt and improve.

And that's all for the first part. Strange how things sometimes start with a review of a comic and end up with tips about how to make comics. Next time I will have more time on the laptop so maybe I can wrap this up in the second installment.

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