Thursday, October 02, 2008

Classicos DC - The brave and the bold - part 2

The first part of this review ( which I have rewritten a little today ) was a bit over the place.

Which you have already come to expect since this blog has never been your run - of - the - mill comic review blog. I tend to go off on a rant whenever it hits me but I like to think that my social and comic book commentary is interesting reading material. Because I tend to write my postings in real time and I write them like I would have a conversation with good friends ( if I had any ) talking about this and that commenting on the weird and interesting things from my perspective. That's what makes a blog interesting : the different experiences and viewpoints people have. Nowadays many people start writing a blog without having an idea what they are going to write about. They start a blog and suddenly realize that they have to produce new material on a frequent basis and they freak out.

Now I don't want to sound like the guru of internet blogging - because quite frankly I'm still learning the ropes - but for me it was never a question what my blog was going to be about. I was already finished with posting comments on message boards where nobody really reads your stuff and you already know the answers to your postings before they are written. I was already writing one whole year in the Elfenbeinturm messageboards about comics which had turned from an interested dialogue into a solemn monologue. So making my own blog and let the whole world profit from my musings about comic stuff just was the next logical step in the process of total world domination for me.

And I very seldom have a problem with finding a topic to write about. I was always one of those guys who you have to stop once I start to talk or write about something I'm passionate about like comics. My problem is that most times I want to write about three or four things at once and I don't have the time or access to a computer. Or the computer doesn't work which happens really often. It's weird how much we as a society have come to depend on something that we didn't need twenty years ago and what is now indespensable. Or can you imagine your day to day life without a computer ? I think that the computers are already preparing the next secret invasion.......skynet is already infiltrating your home. Let's face it : these machines hate us. And the feeling is mutual.

But before we enter too deeply into this subject let's focus on what this post is all about : The brave and the Bold and the awesomeness of Jim Aparo.

Now that we have gotten all the clutter ( and hopefully all the rants ) out of the way we can come to the real stuff. The Brave and the Bold was a team up book that at first had various super heroes as co - stars but at the time when the comics in the collection by Planeta were published Batman was the fixed main character whom all the other DC characters shared pages with. I think this was in part because of the new popularity of Batman thanks to Neal Adams resurrection of the original midnight detective. Team up books are always more fun to read for the fans because you get two heroes for the price of one ( in one story even five ! ) and the interaction of different characters has it's own dynamic. And for the comic companies this is the opportunity to showcase ( pardon the pun ) the lesser known characters and bring one or two readers over to other collections. So everybody wins.

In the pages of the first volume the guest list reads as a who's who of DC comics : Robin ( 2x ), Green Arrow ( 2x ), Green Lantern, Black Canary ( 2x ), Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, Sgt. Rock, the Demon, Wildcat, Mr. Miracle, the Metal Men and even the Joker.

A few years ago some of the more obscure characters in this collection like Metamorpho, Deadman or the Phantom Stranger may have appeared strange to the reader but ever since INFINITE CRISIS DC has been resurrecting their third stringers and putting them in the spotlight like in the new Wonder Woman series by the Dodsons that had Diana adapt the outfit of the 70s Wonder Woman. To some readers of this day and age the characters may be brand new but to somebody who has been reading comics for more than 3o years they are like old friends.

Ahh, nostalgia. At this point we have to speak about nostalgia because right about now most of the young comic readers will probably think that the main reason why people buy and read collections like this is out of nostalgia and that it's boring for them to read this material. And I have to say that nostalgia has something to do with it. With todays grim and gritty and ultra realistic comics it's just good to go back to the classics. To a time where comics were different. And with that I don't mean campy or simplistic. No, right from the first story you realize that the way of making the comics back then was different. And it took me a bit to realize what it was : everything in the comic serves to tell the story. From the narrative to the dialogue to the art. Everything is geared to give the reader all the information he needs and making his reading experience as easy as possible.

Which doesn't mean that these issues talk down to the reader or offer boring stories. Most of them concentrate on the master detective aspect of Batman challenging the reader to participate in exciting " who dunnit " mysteries. And while it doesn't offer the flashy art and hip layout that's so vogue today it's pages are so rock solid that you could put them into any comic book tutorial.

So when I talk about a feeling of nostalgia I'm refering to this feeling of excellent comic craftsmanship and not to comics I only like because I have read them before. I'm refering to a DC universe of times past where Batman is human and bleeds, and is not the megaentity that never fails that Morrison turned him into and he can even appreciate a funny situation even when he's not with the Giffen League ( or to be more precise the Giffen and DeMatteis League ). Indeed, for someone who is new to the pre - crisis DC universe there are many things that he can discover.

In the pages of the first volume you can find Robin giving Black Canary a lecture because her hair is more important to her than a mission from Batman ( women in comics at that time are sometimes funny ), Batman adapting an Oracle - like persona because of a serious heart injury in the same story, Batman ordering someone to crush the Teen Titans with a bulldozer, Batman assaulting a gang with a rifle ( relax, it only fires blanks ) and most peculiar Batman's infamous Bat sense .

Some scenes like Batman taking a stroll in broad daylight and checking out Gotham City's hot massitas ( remember that he was still a playboy back then ) or a Batman that cracks a smile or even a joke once in a while may be strange or even ridiculous to some new readers but it's just the way things were. That's not saying that all was nice and everyone was friends with everybody. There are still grisly murders, life and death situations and evil sick villains. And even the heroes themselves are not really one - dimensional arguing with one another or even fighting against one other. Heck, Deadman almost let's Batman die to score with a hot woman.

It's the common consensus that today's stories are much more sophisticated but what I see is that they are also cluttered with a lot of unnecessary stuff and unimportant baggage. A lot of noise and not much substance. Rereading some of the stories in this collection ( some were new to me ) I got the impression that the stories were stripped down to the bare essentials which is why most of them are classics. Because you can still read them in ten years without knowing too much about the characters. That's one thing today's supposedly more advanced comics lack : they are not accessible. And that's one of the reason why the BATMAN ADVENTURES series was such a hit.

While everything was turned upside down with a psychopatic cybercop replacement Batman for a Bruce Wayne who had a broken back in the regular series everything was as it was supposed to be in the animated series. Jim Gordon was the police comissioner of Gotham City, his daughter was Batgirl, Dick Grayson was Robin and Bruce Wayne was Batman. You didn't need a scorecard or an introduction.

Another thing most of today's comics lack is a really well written story. And with that I don't mean good storytelling. No, there are a lot of comics out today that have good or above average storytelling. What I mean is the narration. Because of most new writers fear of expositionary dialogue or storytelling redundancies in the caption boxes comics have lost a literary quality that positioned them more on the side of a novel than mere entertainment for kids. And the comic world is that much poorer for it.

Which doesn't mean that I hate today's comics. God, nothing's more exciting than reading comics today because you have access to the best comics of more than six decades. And series like Green Lantern, Action Comics or Hulk are right now more exciting than in the last few years.

No, I'm not dissing today's comics. I just want to say that even old stories are new for someone who hasn't read them before and for some they are a portal to Yesterday and for some they can provide a look to an exciting Elseworld were characters you know are different and strange.

So I'm giving Planeta's edition of The Brave and Bold one and a half thumb up. It would have been two thumbs up if volumes 2 and 3 were printed as good as the other volumes - which is the reason why the internet will never substitute real comic shops. Only by going to the comic shop yourself and checking out the comics in real life you can see such things like bad printing. Without a real comic shop to frequent I never would have bought the DEADGIRL miniseries because the online sample pages looked just horrible. So my advice for today is : support your local comic shop. And yes, a lot of people say : " Comics were better when I was young. " but sometimes they are right. Some comics WERE better when I was young........which is also a good title for a comic blog. If you want to use it you know where to send the royalties.

And that's all for the second part. Wait a minute......second part ? Yes, that's right. Even with everything I have written in this long post there are still things I haven't covered like the hidden easter eggs. We have just covered the first volume and we have only just begun.

Tune in tomorrow, same bat- time, same bat-channel.

As you may have noticed I have added a counter to my two blogs. I'm trying to make this blog the best blog possible and to get some sponsors you have to have a counter. This month was the first one that the counter worked without troubles so I thought that I could find out how many readers I have per month. Well, it turns out that my two blogs had the same numbers of visitors and pagecounts for the last three days. Which means that because I have added the same HTML for both counters the counter has been adding the numbers for my two blogs. I have already fixed the problem ( which you may have noticed if you have visited my other blog ) but now I have to wait for another month till I get reliable numbers. Live and learn.

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