Comic Store In Your Future: Were Comics From The Past Better?

In the past days of my youth, as a kid, I took for granted what an impact comics would make on my life. The escapism, the wonderment, and the enjoyment afforded me by reading a comic were great. Rom #1 from Marvel made a big impact on me, much more than the action figure that the comic was based on. Rom 1 came out in 1979. I would recreate one of the pages in Rom in a drawing for school. One of my earliest memories. Molten Man vs. Spider-Man made me a Spider-Man and Molten Man fan for life. The Grey Gargoyle fighting the Avengers in Avengers #190 was so cool to this former youngster. Batman and Catwoman vs. Catwoman in Batman #324 have always stayed with me. For whatever reason, the team-up series Marvel Two In One was the title I was able to read the most at the grocery store. B#ack in the days when kids could be left at the magazine rack while their moms grocery shopped. I enjoyed the adventures of Ben Grimm, the ever-loveable Thing, at Project Pegasus. I first met the Justice Society of America characters, along with the New Gods, in Justice League of America #183. That issue made me a lifelong fan of all the characters.

G.I. Joe was the action figures I played with as a kid. The Marvel Comics series gave the figures more story and, at the time, was great reading. Mike Zeck's covers added to the enjoyment. Larry Hama managed to make Snake Eyes so cool. Snake Eyes couldn't say a word, yet everyone knew he was cool as heck.

The original 80s Marvel Transformers comic series did the same for the action figure line; they made the figures come to life more. Spider-Man even appeared in an issue of Transformers.

Recently DC announced an eighty-page Death of Superman 30th anniversary special due out this year to celebrate the anniversary. The people responsible for the Death of Superman storyline are involved in the one-shot. Dan Jurgens, Brett Breeding, Roger Stern, Butch Guice, Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, Jerry Ordway, and Tom Grummett. The announcement made me go down memory lane big time. The Death of Superman storyline was a big deal when it first came out. I still remember the beating the Justice League went through fighting Doomsday, along with the death of Superman and the funeral.

Seeing the Ivan Reis page for the 30th anniversary special with all the characters from The Death of Superman era blew my mind. So many characters that DC seems to have forgotten about that used to be characters I enjoyed reading about. L.E.G.I.O.N., Guardian, Gangbuster, J.S.A., the original Legion of Superheroes, and more bring back great memories. Seeing Red Star and Phantasma from the classic Titans Hunt story arc is a blast for me. The Titans Hunt and Who is Wonder Girl story arcs are my favorite Titans stories.

Thirty years ago. Whew, I feel old. Happy, though old.

The good news is these days, it easier to contact and have a chance to have a commission done by an artist. Imagine a time before the internet. Greg LaRogue is an artist whose work I enjoy the heck out of. His Web of Spider-Man, Legion of Superheroes, and Flash artwork made the characters that much cooler to me. Thanks to the internet, contacting Greg LaRogue about maybe drawing a commission is much easier than hoping to see him at a convention and getting one.

Comic Store In Your Future Were Comics: From The Past Better Than Now?
Greg LaRocque artwork. Past comic credits include Marvel Team-Up.

Others are thrilled to see old-school talent back working on the DC one-shot. Bleeding Cool wrote about the upcoming 30th-anniversary special. The Death Of Superman, Again, This Time With Doombreaker. The comments left on the Bleeding Cool story show enthusiasm. Over seventy comments on that article alone!

Over the years, the comic industry has changed. When I was young, I remember older comic collectors claiming that comics were better back in their "good old days." Even as a kid, I wondered if I would ever think the same when I got older. That time arrived a while ago. Over the years, I wondered if the quality of comics has lowered. I even previously wrote, asking if comics were better in the past.

There are still plenty of recent comics that I enjoy, and I look forward to upcoming ones. I enjoyed the heck out of Doomsday Clock. I enjoyed the same writer and artist team on Geiger, and I look forward to their work on Junkyard Joe. The creative team is Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, both of whom have been in the comic industry for decades. Hot new talent seems to be rare in this day and age. The cover art seems to be the focus over interior art now. Often when I order comics, the cover art is what moves the sales needle the most. Skottie Young covers here often and easily outsell all the other covers of the same issue, and then if the next issue does not have a Skottie Young cover, sales plummet on it. DC, over the years, has expanded the number of variant covers offered on their comics per issue.

The comic market has changed a lot over the years. First issues are plentiful when what seems a long time ago, they were rare. Decades ago, there was a time when comic publishers were reluctant to have an actual first issue. Green Lantern, when it was canceled back in 1972 with issue 89, came back as issue 90 in 1976 instead of a new first issue because DC at the time thought that would be better for sales. Now a comic may "end" and come back with a first issue the same year it ended.

Comics use a lot more gimmicks. Currently, foil covers are used, renumbering is used, and it often is confusing; in a crowded marketplace, publishers want their comics to stand out.

I would love to see a new hot writer and/or artist that the next generation of comic readers can call their "own," so to speak—lots of comics available, just not a lot of talent that can sell a book.

Even past titles are being reused. Venom: Lethal Protector, the limited series originally published back in 1995, is being used again this year. DC's Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths is, of course, heavily influenced by Crisis of Infinite Earths, which initially came out in 1985. I enjoy comic history and comic continuity. I just wonder if new ideas and cool new characters are a thing of the past.

Now to once more go back to my rocking chair on my porch waiting for my copy of the Death of Superman 30th Anniversary one shot and shout at kids to get off my lawn and leave with this question. Are comics' best days in the past or in the future?

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About Rod Lamberti

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