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Ask Chris #1: Favorite Artists, the Legion and The Battle of the Hated Characters

Here at ComicsAlliance, we value our readership and are always open to what the masses of Internet readers have to say. That’s why we’ve given Senior Writer Chris Sims the punishment pleasure of stepping into the grand tradition of the Answer Man as he responds to your reader questions!

Q: Red Tornado vs. Wonder Man… who wins? Clemfold

A: For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, Clemfold is referring to my deep, long-standing hatred of these two characters, and putting me in the spot of deciding who I hate the least. But really, when you get right down to it, that’s pretty simple.My hatred for Wonder Man is completely irrational. I actually haven’t read too many stories with him–in fact, I think the only thing I’ve read that featured him anywhere near prominently was the Busiek/Perez “Avengers” run–but there’s something about him that just set me off from the first time I laid eyes on the character. Intellectually, I have nothing against the character at all, and I’m sure he’s perfectly fine for other people, but on a purely emotional level, I hate his stupid name, I hate his stupid ionic powers, I hate his stupid sunglasses, and I really hate his stupid, stupid, safari jacket. In short, Wonder Man is stupid and I hate him, but there is no reason whatsoever for me to come to this conclusion, other than the pure joy I felt reading this panel of “Incredible Hercules”:

Red Tornado, on the other hand, is just terrible, and there’s plenty of reasons to support that. Mainly, it just comes down to the fact that he’s a super-hero robot who cries all the time.

And that’s not something new that happened in the “Identity Crisis” to “Cry For Justice” era in which pretty much the entire DC Universe spent their time weeping, either: Red Tornado’s crybaby status was built into his character way back in his first appearances in “Justice League,” where he’d spend all his time moping about how, as a refugee from Earth-2, he had no place in the Universe, only stopping the waterworks long enough to show up to fights, where he is invariably completely ineffective. Heck, the guy even punches Hitler–normally a surefire way to be awesome–and yet he still spends the rest of the issue whining about it. He’s awful.

So while neither one really warrants the depth of the fan-hate I’ve got for them, Wonder Man certainly deserves it a lot less, even if his jacket is seriously the stupidest thing ever. Wonder Man wins!

Q: Aside from your loyal crew of unpaid slaves, who is your favorite artist? Rusty_Shackles

A: The easy answer here is, of course, Jack Kirby, but Kirby’s so legendary and influential that he almost just doesn’t count anymore. Beyond him, though, picking a single favorite out of all the artists I like is darn near impossible. As far as all-time favorites, the answer that immediately springs to mind is long-time Batman artist, the late, great Jim Aparo:

It probably doesn’t hurt that one of the first comics I ever read as a kid was “The Untold Legend of the Batman,” which featured Aparo drawing the page above, but his work on the Batman titles I read growing up is a large part of why I still love Batman today. Not only does he draw the best Batman–tall, lean and muscular, a trimmed down version of the Neal Adams take that contrasts with the stockier, Frank Miller-inspired version that a lot of artists went with in the wake of “Dark Knight Returns,”–and pull neat tricks like the way he comes out of this formless shadow underneath his cape, but there’s an impact to the way he draws violence that very few artists can pull off. You can see it in the page above with the way he draws motion lines around the guy Batman’s hitting–he’s hitting them so hard that they’re shaking from the little explosions of impact. And really, anyone can draw Batman punching someone, but Aparo had him slapping dudes with his huge hands, which is just awesome. Batman will straight up slap you, and it will look like you will never walk again.

Plus, he co-created the KGBeast, and the KGBeast is awesome.

As far as artists who are currently alive and working today, I could spend all day listing them off–Cameron Stewart, Tom Fowler, Darwyn Cooke, Kevin Maguire, Chris Sprouse, Kyle Baker, Paul Grist, Cliff Chiang, J.H. Williams, the team of Adrian Alphona and Christina Strain, and so on–and not even come close to a full list of my favorites, but again, there are a couple who come to mind almost immediately. First, Marcos Martin, who, along with Javier Pulido, is drawing some of the best art the Spider-Man comics have ever seen, and following in the footsteps of Steve Ditko and the two Johns Romita, that’s saying something:

The way he combines his clean figure work with innovative page layouts gives every page he does an incredible sense of motion that’s unmatched in comics, and while he and Pulido look just as good on Batman and Captain America, Spider-Man as a character really benefits from it.

And second is Amanda Connor, especially under colorist Paul Mounts. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while–ever since the short-lived “Gate Crasher” for the equally short-lived Black Bull Entertainment, if memory serves–but reading through “Power Girl,” I realized that she not only has some of the best and most expressive faces in the industry and some incredibly dynamic action…

…the fact that she’s able to pull off something that good on a monthly basis should be an inspiration to artists everywhere.

Q: Going to ECCC on Saturday…what Legion comics should I be looking for? Other than Great Darkness Saga and the Showcases. Atog554

A: The thing
about the Legion of Super-Heroes is that it’s such a strange, insular comic that it’s hard to pick an easy jumping-on point. The fact that the stories take place a thousand years in the future means that they rarely tie in to whatever else is going on in the DC Universe, with stories evolving along on a parallel but completely isolated path. Plus, there’s the matter of the reboots, which were all done by people who absolutely love the book, which means that there’s a 50-year history where even the stuff that doesn’t count still counts. It’s a complicated book, but as a devout and devoted fan, I think it’s totally worth it.

That said, I think you’re already on the right track: The Showcases are pure fun–and I’m of the mind that if you want to really love the Legion, you pretty much just have to bite the bullet and start at the beginning–and the Great Darkness Saga is not only commonly regarded as the best Legion story ever, it’s also one of the few that actually does play with other stuff in the DCU, making it at least a little more accessible than most.

Beyond those, the best place to jump on that I can think of would be with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s “Legion Lost” saga, which led to “Legion Worlds” and in turn to a new ongoing series with the reasonably simple title “Legion.” While it was coming out, it was hailed by critics as a great revitalization of the title that was able to hook new readers. If you’re a fan of any of the stuff Abnett and Lanning have been doing with the “Cosmic Marvel” books like “Annihilation” and “Nova,” (and you should be, as those are fantastic comics), then you’ll probably get a kick out of ‘em. Keep in mind, though, that their run actually starts a little bit before “Legion Lost” #1, with the last three issues of the post-Zero Hour “Legion of Super-Heroes” and “Legionnaires” books.

And speaking of the post-Zero Hour “Reboot Legion,” I’ve actually been reading through the Tom Peyer/Tom McCraw/Lee Moder run–the one that immediately precedes Abnett and Lanning’s–lately, and I’ve got to say, those are solid, entertaining comics. However, the fact that they use the ensemble cast to play the long game with storylines that alternate between two titles and last years, while awesome, makes it a little harder to put together in a single weekend at a convention.

And it’s even more difficult because–aside from $50 hardcover Archive editions which can be a turn-off to the casual reader–the vast majority of Legion stories have never been collected in trade paperback. Even the Great Darkness Saga, the arguable highlight of a fifty-year history, is currently out of print, and despite critical praise and hooks for new readers in defined arcs, none of the Abnett/Lanning stuff has ever been collected. I doubt my dream of getting a big set of Showcase editions for the post-Zero Hour ’90s books will ever happen, but hopefully the launch of a new Legion series this year will get some interest in putting that stuff together.

And now, a few quick hits:

Q: Who wins in a fight? Ursa Major or Punisher? DavidGallaher

A: Ursa Major might be a giant talking communist bear, but he’s still a bear, and we all know how the Punisher deals with those.

Q: Do the new Street Fighter IV characters stand any chance against Dan Hibiki? Protoculture27

A: No one stands a chance against the raging hurricane of fury that is Dan Hibiki.

Q: What is the plot of the ideal Batman/Detroit Metal City crossover? dwolkin

A: Batman mistakes Krauser’s lyrics about rape and murder for a musical confession and travels to Japan to stop him, only to discover that the Music Meister–rechristening himself the Metal Meister–is behind a rash of brainwashed metalheads. Thus, Batman and the Emperor of Hell have to team up to out-metal the Meister. DC, call me.

Q: What comics would you recommend for someone with no previous experience with comics and no time for 40+ years of history? StoopidTallKid

A: Aside from the usual Vertigo Big Guns (“Preacher,” “Y: the Last Man,” “Sandman” and “Fables”), itt really depends on what you’re into. My go-to recommendations would be “Scott Pilgrim,” “Yotsuba&!,” and if you’re into super-heroes at all, “All-Star Superman” and “Invincible” are both great things to start on, and you really can’t go wrong with “Batman: Year One.”

Q: Dream Batman Writer/Artist combo? Sean_Hollenhors

A: Chris Sims and Rusty Shackles, of course.

That’s all we’ve got for this week, but if you’d like to have your question answered on ComicsAlliance, tag it on twitter with “#askchris” or send us an email with “Ask Chris” in the subject line!

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