Friday 10 December 2010

Let's not compare salaries or number of sexual partners before we met - these are numbers that will make you sad

Taking a leaf from Colin's blog, ten (well, two of the ten, the others to follow tomorrow) great comic books (according to me) off the top of my head, no embarrassment or shame allowed, merely qualification:

1 - Power Pack #5
- this issue is probably the first time I recall empathising with a female character, and in the traditionally male domain of the superhero comic book of all places. It's an 'epilogue' issue that comes after the origin story and pretty much just pins the button on a few characters with laudable brevity and subtext because... well, I imagine because even now you don't get many comics characters whose whole deal is that puberty is hitting at a really really bad time, and this was 1984...

Even now I have an enduring and unashamed love of Power Pack that probably comes from the fact that until quite late in the day I didn't cotton onto it being a superhero comic, as it's more an example of dark urban fantasy than spandex adventure romp, particularly those issues that crossed over with X-Men event Inferno and painted Marvel NYC as hell on earth long before the demons show up, or the issue that features an extended sequence rendered in what looks like woodcut where, through telepathy, a young boy experiences the slow death by poisoning of a baby dolphin shortly before the rest of the dolphin family follow suit.

I'm probably making this sound horribly grim, and admittedly in places it could be, but it was a largely enthusiastic and joyful comic which broke from a lot of already-tired superheroic tropes in emphasizing a strong familial bond even in the midst of the 'divorce is king' mentality that dominated genre fiction in the 1980s in an attempt to capture a zeitgeist or be mature or whatever that was about. I suppose liked the idea of a functioning family having adventures because it seemed to better define the idea of comics and superheroes as escapist fantasies rather than a slightly glum mirror held up to our own lives - "next issue: Grandpa dies and stays dead. That's life kids!"

2 - Zoids 30-31
Grant Morrison needs to eat just like the rest of us, and to feed himself in the mid-80s he took up the task of chronicling every other episode of Marvel UK's other big 1980s robot wars comic Zoids, which had the misfortune to face a battle with the far more popular Transformers and died a quiet death in a corner somewhere. It was still a great take on the toy line that took the grim premise of robot machines built to fight in arenas outlasting the race that spawned them and then fighting each other to the bitter end in the irradiated crater that used to be a thriving technologically advanced race's homeworld and then for some reason thought this was not grim enough for 8 year old boys.

Now the Zoids were also a galactic blight, and the last survivor of one of the races that they paid an unfriendly visit has come to Zoidstar, the Zoids' last outpost (and original homeworld) and rather suicidally brings an offer of peace to the biggest, baddest, angriest metal bastard he can find.

Needless to say, this 2-part tale does not end well for the cast members that are not called Zoidzilla and it's a bit glum and all very 1980s, but there's heart in the midst of it in how faith and hope are seen to be enduring and universal qualities, and it's nice to see the proto-talent of Morrison stretch its legs with a blunt run around themes he would later revisit in the likes of Invisibles with less economy and more swearing in Northern accents.

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