I get asked questions so random that a group of ninja specops guys would need years to find the secret nazi machine necessary to decode the code that would unlock the rhyme and reason behind the questions. In any event, the questions occasionally provide a nice break from mocking sundry fat people (if you think my commentary on Capes is a bit stiff, wait until I start in on Rulon Gardner) and this has proven to be a highly entertaining exercise, at least for me. In any event, my comic book heyday likely predated most or all of your collective comic book experience- I started reading comics a great deal in the 5th grade, when I had the ability to ride my bike to places that sold them. At that point, it was a weird time in comics- the Comics Code was still in effect, but both Marvel and DC were paying less attention to it. For those of you who are blissfully unaware of the comic book industry's self-censorship period, allow me to explain- in the 1950s, comic books were getting far too awesome for Christians. As such, people in American states who thought that the banjo was an acceptable medium by which they could convey a musical message started burning comics, apparently in an effort to promote the illiteracy for which the Bible Belt is so famous. After watching massive piles of comics get burned by psychotic hillbillies, the comic book industry decided they'd just censor themselves, and really went balls-out with it. The rules they set forth, as summarized by the good people at Wikipedia, were the prohibition of
"the presentation of "policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions ... in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority." But it added the requirements that "in every instance good shall triumph over evil" and discouraged "instances of law enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal's activities." Specific restrictions were placed on the portrayal of kidnapping and concealed weapons. Depictions of "excessive violence" were forbidden, as were "lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations." Vampires, werewolves, ghouls and zombies could not be portrayed. In addition, comics could not use the words "horror" or "terror" in their titles. The use of the word "crime" was subject to numerous restrictions. Where the previous code had condemned the publication of "sexy, wanton comics," the CCA was much more precise: depictions of "sex perversion", "sexual abnormalities", and "illicit sex relations" as well as seduction, rape, sadism, and masochism were specifically forbidden. In words echoing the Hollywood Production Code, love stories were enjoined to emphasize the "sanctity of marriage" and those portraying scenes of passion were advised to avoid stimulating "lower and baser emotions."In other words, if it was cool, anti-authority, scary, bloody, or in any way badass, it was disallowed. that left very little for anyone with an imagination and a love of excitement to work with. By the mid-Eighties, however, comic book companies were starting to take risks, and even the odious DC comics got gritty for about five minutes. By the early nineties, comics were understandably at the height of their non-golden age popularity, and a number of Marvel's titles were revamped with the most popular artists at the helm (basically, the guys who went on to form Image) to push popularity even higher. they got a little big for their britches, however, and started putting out multiple versions of the same issue with slightly different covers to capitalize on the fact that people were at that point collecting comics as an investment. that, of course, backfired, and the glut of comics on the market, combined with declining quality as comics were rushed to print, caused a crash of the industry that left Marvel bankrupt. At that point, my interest in comics flagged for a while, and I've only periodically gotten back into them when interesting artists or story lines emerge. In short, most of you guys will likely have never heard of the shit I'm about to recommend, and you may well fall asleep as I nerd it up hardcore.
Though this has nothing whatsoever to do with comics, it's hilarious:
Who are your favorite comic characters and why?
Before I get started on what my favorites are, I need to address Wizard's top 200 comic book characters, 2008. For those of you who got laid in high school and had more friends than you could count on a single hand as a youth, Wizard is a magazine devoted to the world of comic books, and as such is pretty much the final word in comics. As such, this list comes as something of a surprise, as it's incontrovertibly wrong, in almost every regard, past the first seven entries. This list could probably suck more, but it'd be hard to do. I'll just give you guys the top twenty, as it's long as fuck and consistently horrible, especially as the numbers get higher. There are "heroes" on this list so obscure they make the random references of Dennis Miller seem downright banal by comparison, and most of the list appears to just be filler. Nevertheless, here's their top 20:
1. Wolverine- Granted.
2. Batman- Granted.
3. Spider-Man- Granted.
4. Superman- Granted. I've always found Superman to be the least compelling superhero on Earth, but for people without a scintilla of backbone, I'm sure the magical Superman empowers them. Somehow. For those of you who are unaware, Superman was inspired by a book I love entitled Gladiator. The protagonist in Gladiator is a complex character, hardly invincible, certainly not a Boy Scout, and more of a Juggernaut-style bad guy gone good than a dithering bitch-style Superman. Whereas early on in the comic Superman echoed Gladiator's darker, more philosophical tone, and Superman had only the abilities of the Hulk with a greater intellect, we all know that Superman later became more of a god than a super-strong humanoid. A very whiny, uncompelling, unquestioning, vapid, soulless god. As such, the original incarnation would have made for a far more interesting character. Instead, we're given a goody-two-shoes bitch who has every power under the sun and only serves as a cautionary tale against letting downtrodden pussies write for comic book companies.
5. The Joker- Absolutely.
6. Rorschach- I'm not a 100% on the Watchmen bandwagon, but Rorshach's a character worth paying some attention due to the dialogue in the Watchmen comic. Were he a real person I would meet on the street, I'd bounce his head off every hard object I could find and toss his body off an overpass, because moralistic psychos are hardly what the world needs more of. Nevertheless, his general brand of insanity does lend itself nicely to the page.
7. Captain America- Frankly, I've never liked Cap, but he's an American icon and pretty integral to Marvel. I'll let it slide, but I'll go on record saying the only more boring character in the top ten is Superman, and not by much.
8. Hellboy- Debatable. Mike Mignola is perhaps one of my least favorite artists, however, so my opinion is biased. I lump Mignola into the same camp of heavy-handed, overhyped, painfully simplistic, imaginationless artists as John Romita Jr., Sal Buscema Sr., and Steve Dillon, which for me made Mignola's books completely unreadable. I'll accept it in the top ten, however, as it's an Image comic, the movies were decent, and my personal bias against his particular brand of shitty artwork colored my opinion of the writing.
9. Magneto- A bizarre choice and generally shit. If Magneto had ever been written correctly, every human on Earth would be dead and the X-Men comics would basically be mutant hentai. I have no problem with that, either.
10. John Constantine- WHAT THE FUCK? Constantine was well-written, granted, but it was barely a comic book- it was an illustrated novel. Constantine has as much right to be in the top twenty list of comic book characters as Oscar Pistorius has for being "Boyfriend of the Year 2013". Moreover, the movie managed to place an American golem in the role of caustic-witted, chronically overtired, and occasionally hilarious Brit John Constantine, which shows how much respect the world at large has for his character.
11. The Thing- Sweet jesus christ. Let's get this straight- the Fantastic Four are, without question, the worst pack of do-nothing, shit-powered, useless, whiny, badly-drawn fucktards in comic book history. The Thing was perhaps the worst of the bunch- he was a semi-literate juggernaut who should have been wrecking shop 24-7, yet was bound by the strictures of his lame-assed superhero quartet to do nothing more than give Sick Of It All a badass song title. When he could have been a perfect amalgam of the Hulk and the Punisher, he was instead a weepy, rock-faced, shitbird in the single worst comic book not named "Dazzler" of all time.
12. Snake-Eyes- Definitely.
13. Kitty Pryde- How in the fuck did she make the list? In a group of individuals whose powers range from teleportation to invincibility to shooting earthquakes out of your hands to an unimpenitrable arm-plated body on a Soviet super-soldier, the emotional broad who can turn to vapor when shit gets real is at the top of the list? Christ almighty, even fucking Jubilee was a more compelling character than goddamned Shadowcat- at least that broad could set shit on fire and was somewhat punk rock. If I were to rank the X-Men from first to last, Kitty Pryde wouldn't make the top twenty of that list, and would likely find herself at the end of a long list of shitty, lazy comic book characters that include... Dazzler.
14. Jesse Custer- Preacher might have been drawn by the same spastic who later went on to make Frank Castle look like a half-starved hobo, but Jesse Custer is badass nonetheless.
15. Wonder Woman- Had the original incarnation simply kept getting ramped up ad infinitum until modern WW comics were nothing but femdom torture porn, I'd be on board. As they're not, fuck WW in her unused asshole.
16. Lex Luthor- Meh.
17. Morpheus- Sandman sucked, Gaiman is awful, and everyone at Wizard should be sad.
18. Doctor Doom- Should have been WAY higher on the list.
19. The Hulk- Granted.
20. Miracleman- Never heard of him. I researched him to discover that he's a Captain Marvel (i.e. Superman) knockoff, and thus sucks even harder than Superman.
Apparently, the Red Skull was based on actual events.
My top ten? Glad you asked, as it's a damn sight better than the shite Wizard has given us.
1. Wolverine- Short, ultra-violent, bloodthirsty, and generally irascible, he's the ultimate anti-hero.
2. Batman- Basically, Batman at his best is Wolverine without the claws. At his worst, he's your average shitty DC character, which is to say, your average DC character. DC has done more to create bland, useless, almost laughably bad comic book characters than NAMBLA has done to cause fecal incontinence in our nation's youth. In fact, were NAMBLA to artfully smear the feces from the anuses of their young boy lovers across a page, they'd likely match the artistic quality of your typical DC book prior to the hiring of the entire Image artist stable to restore some semblance of artistic credibility to the publisher.
3. Lobo- Like the other two, he's a asshole who'll kill anything in the galaxy that's not a space dolphin, though he'll do it with far more fervor and hilarity. At some point, DC will get off its ass and make an "R rated" Lobo movie that will either go down in history as the greatest film ever made or Green Lantern 2, which would put it at the other end of the awesomeness spectrum.
4. The Joker- Not much needs to be said about the Joker- he's the ultimate villain and one of the very few things DC's ever done right. Equal parts insanity and sadism, the Joker's only real failing is that he was in the DC universe rather than Marvel, which meant that he'd never be used to his full capability.
5. Dr. Doom- Given that he's the main villain for the odious Fantastic Four franchise, you'd think I'd avoid Dr. Doom like he was the little-known fifth member of the tragically useless "Fantastic" Four. Doom, however, is a super-genius king-scientist-magician with delusions he could expand his tiny kingdom into worldwide domination. He's every Eastern European despot who's ever lived, only less successful at spreading his particular brand of evil over the Earth than Russia's current beady-eyed death dealer, Vladimir Putin. Had Dr. Doom ever been capable of being wedged into a Todd McFarlane-penciled Spiderman comic, he'd be ten times as popular as the Joker at this point, and would be as quotable as he was awesome at not doing much of anything worth talking about in any Marvel comic, ever.
6. Venom- As a kid, I bought the Secret Wars comics off a kid who used to sit at the back of my schoolbus- a kid I thought was a total badass. I was, of course, eight years old, and about as well-qualified to identify a badass as Christina Aguilera's tone-deaf ass is capable of identifying a talented singer. Nevertheless, I was able to see the advent of the black Spiderman costume as it happened, and was incredibly psyched to see that badass garb make its way back into the comics four years later, even after Peter Parker killed his black suit harder than an eight year old at a track meet. For those of you who don't get how cool the debut of the black suit for Spidey was, it'd be like seeing an affable but homely Will Ferrell return for another season of Saturday Night Live looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, all the while managing to be even funnier than he had been initially. It'd be like Slayer following up Reign in Blood with Pantera's Mouth for War. In short, it was the coolest fucking thing that could happen in the life of a 6th grader. Venom never disappointed either, showing up under Todd McFarlane's pencil as a jacked, slobbering, juiced-up, psychotic Spiderman clone. Fucking awesome.
7. Pitt- Pitt is perhaps not-terribly-well-known, but is a super-sweet Image series created by the best artist to ever draw the Hulk- Dale Keown. Like other image comics, the story never made any fucking sense, the issues were always delivered late, and everything but the art was phoned in harder than Robert DeNiro's lines in the lates Fokkers sequel, but the splash pages were fucking epic. Pitt was a badass alien who protected a kid named Timmy from something or other- the plot never mattered for shit. Pitt beat and gored everyone who got close to the kid in the book, and the art kicked fucking ass. Like Marius Pudzianowski in the cage, it was all aggression and no technique, and it fucking worked. Ten thumbs up for Pitt.
To be fair, Jim Lee could make Kenny G look fucking cool.
9. The Stalkers- Alright, it's not one character, but this comic is definitely the best comic of which you've never heard. Set in a dystopic future and drawn (with the exceptional couple-page horror show perpetrated by Val Mayerik) by one of my favorite artists of all time, Mark Texeira, and written by the guy who went on to give SciFi fans nerdgasms with the Battlestar Galactica TV show. the series only lasted a year, but it was a badass year filled with vigilante, privatized paramilitary police battling very well-spoken domestic terrorists. If you can find these books, pick them up- they're fucking amazing.
10. Red Skull- A Nazi terrorist with the coolest henchman of all time, Crossbones. The Red Skull managed to make Captain America comics tolerable, which is a hell of a feat.
WAKE UP MOTHERFUCKERS! Sofia Jaramillo demands your attention.
Who are your favorite artists and writers?
Frankly, I never really gave two shits who was writing the comics, provided the art was good. I was never really a fan of Chris Claremont and generally tried to avoid shit he wrote, but other than that the writer was a non-issue for me. My favorite artists are, in no particular order:
Mark Texeira- Tex, as he was known, became my favorite artist when he started drawing Punisher War Journal in the 90s. His art was far more dynamic and gritty than anything else in comics at the time, and I stuck with him even after he started drawing Black Panther, who is perhaps my least favorite comic book character. He's not working in the industry now, to my knowledge, but his stuff is worth grabbing if you can find it.
Philip Tan- I found Philip Tan after having purchased every book I could find drawn by Frank Teran. I was looking for further artistic inspiration, and googled "artists like Frank Teran", and out popped Tan. Unfortunately, the story lines Tan's drawn have usually sucked, but his art is pretty fucking awesome.
Frank Teran- Frank Teran is, as I discovered after looking for similar artists, one of the most reviled artists in the comic book industry, apparently because the people bitching never had a chance to have their eyes raped by the hacks who learned to draw by badly copying Rob Liefeld's work, which was of course a terrible copy of Jim Lee's stuff. Teran's stuff was gritty and often grotesque, and was as such right up my alley. he now maintains a blog with sketches and works in the gaming industry making art for video games, as I understand it, but if you ever find his work in Punisher, grab it- the art's fucking amazing.
Simon Bisley- Biz is another oft-maligned for being too fucking awesome artist, best known perhaps for his work in 2000 AD. I got into Biz because he did the art for three of the first issues of Verotik (Glenn Danzig's defunct, yet infuckingcredible comic book line)- Death Dealer, Satanika, and Jaguar God. All three of those books were incredibly drawn, ultra-violent, and contained a fair amount of sex, which is all any growing boy needs. His stuff seems to be heavily influenced by the inimitable Frank Frazetta and drugs, and that combo's working swimmingly for him.
Todd McFarlane- The man who revolutionized comic book art and saved Spiderman from becoming the joke that Superman is. Not much needs to be said about McFarlane- he changed the way Spiderman was drawn by making him far more dynamic and interesting, invented Spawn, gave us the fairly badass Spawn movie and the only movie in which John Leguizamo was even slightly tolerable, popularized my personal favorite style of comic art (overwrought, over-inked, dark, grotesque, and basically awesome), co-founded Image, and founded the coolest toymaker in history. Todd McFarlane also gave the world Greg Capullo, who went from copying the styles of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld to copying McFarlane, and their work (as you can see above) is completely indistinguishable. Frankly, that's a good thing, because Mcfarlane's stuff kicks ass.
Ben Templesmith- Templesmith's famous for being the artist half of the Templesmith-Niles team that brought the world the gritty and often incomprehensible vampire series 30 Days of Night, and the movie of the same name. 30 Days is to Twilight what Re-Penetrator is to Warm Bodies- violent, dark, and not safe for work. Though Templesmith would suck as an artist on a traditional superhero book, he's great for stuff that can be a lot weird and occasionally terrible.
Jim Lee- Lee did for the X-Men what Liefeld did for X-Force and McFarlane did for Spiderman- he took a book with flagging sales but an amazing pedigree and completely revitalized it. Though most of his splash pages consisted of people standing in impossible poses, frowning and clenching their fists, he inspired a lot of great (and even more godawful) artists to enter the field. After throwing in the towel at Image, Lee reentered the big two to do for Batman what he'd already done for the X-Men, and Batman's comics were worth looking at again.
On a side note, one cool thing about the image founders- Lee, Liefeld, Larson, Portacio, and McFarlane, is that they all lifted at work when they worked at Image. I don't think they kept up with it, and I don't recall reading anything about awesome gym-going exploits, but I thought it was cool they had that as part of their corporate culture, given the fact that they made their money off heavily muscled bodies.
What are your favorite comic story arcs?
Lobo: "Highway To Hell"- What could be better than a mini-series written by Anthrax's Scott Ian? A comic book miniseries starring Lobo, drawn by Sam Keith (whose style is very similar to Biz's), written by Scott Ian. In it, Lobo travels to hell to beat the shit out of Satan (who appears as a little girl in a party dress) because Satan killed a space dolphin. there's nothing more to tell you about the plot- that's it. Lobo kills a shitload of demons and beats the brakes off Satan to avenge the death of one of his beloved space dolphins and to prove, once more, that he's the baddest motherfucker in the galaxy.
Punisher #94-95- Like most of the series I love, this is just an all-out brawl with awesome art. Frank Teran pens this all-out brawl pitting the Punisher and a huge, scarred mob enforcer named Grisham against a warehouse full of underground pit-fighting deathmatch enthusiasts. Over-hated and under-rated, these are the two best issues of any Punisher comic, ever.
Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious and Batman/Lobo Elseworlds- In the former (drawn by Sam Keith), Batman and Lobo end up on the same interstellar cruiser, kidnapped, and team up to fuck up some baddies. In the latter (drawn by Simon Bisley), Lobo gets hired by the Joker to take out Batman, and the two go head to head. Again, good art, good old-fashioned rassoodock ultra-violence with no appy polly-loggies, and badass characters.
Secret Wars- This was my favorite mini-series growing up. It's basically a full-tilt war between all of the Marvel heroes and all of the Marvel villains, and it can pretty much serve as an encyclopedia for the whole Marvel roster in the mid-80's. Plus, you get to see the advent of Spider Man's black costume, which is awesome. Witness the birth of Venom!
Good looking out on the Noopept suggestion- that stuff is the shit. As I have finals looming, do you have any other suggestions for stuff that might help?
First, let me preface this with a rejoinder to the parties who have speculated that I receive some sort of sponsorship from supplement companies- that is utterly fucking retarded. I recommend shit from multiple different companies, none of whom give me anything more than a hearty "fuck you" for doing so. Does anyone actually think a company wants me as their public face? If so, they're likely guitarists in Syndrome of a Down. They're also likely fans of Rant's blog, as retardation and yoga seem to rule the day there.
Synedrex- Though this stuff is technically a fat burner, it has a bunch of the stuff a growing brain needs, including stuff that goes great with Noopept. Namely, it contains Sulbutiamine (which improves memory, lowers inhibitions, and reduces depression) and 1,3 Dimethylamylamine (DMAA), which increases alertness.
CTD Labs Adralin- This product is the balls. CTD created it to be an over-the-counter replacement for Ritalin, and as such it's the best companion for Noopept money can buy. I like the inclusion of Vinpocetine and L-Huperzine A as well- those are two little additions that could provide a nice boost.
Two you cannot get in supplement stores but can get online:
Aniracetam- This is another member of the racetam family that seems to improve perception, both visual and aural. I add it to my noopept daily.
Oxiracetam- Another racetam, use of this one in studies "lead to higher scores in tests for logical performance, attention, concentration, memory and spatial orientation" (Wikipedia). This is another one I add to my daily stack.
There you have it. The guys badgering me about comics can now chill their tits, and the rest of you can look at the tits and chill.