Comics in the 1980’s

I’ve been scouring the internet for video or film footage for a while now, and every now and them, in amongst the ‘geek’ videos telling you how great <insert shite Marvel/DC comic here> while desperately hoping for that big TV deal you’ll get a gem. This is one of those gems.

This is a compilation of stock footage from the 1980’s, though some may well be 1970’s with the Neal Adams footage, and it’s a joyful flood of nostalgia as these days of comics are gone now to be replaced by a more corporate version. Enjoy this look into the past…

RIP Russ Cochran

If you’re a casual comics fan the name Russ Cochran will never grace the same ‘geek’ documentaries or films that lay homage to Stan Lee or Robert Downey Jr, but Cochran is quite possibly one of the most important figures in comics who sadly died this week.

Cochran’s massive contribution is carefully caretaking, and releasing the work of EC Comics in formats which do the work justice. The giant hardback box-sets are the easy sign a comics fan is not just an historian but a lover of some of the best comics ever made.

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Cochran was a comics fan who loved EC Comics, as well as the work of Carl Barks who started the entire idea of releasing comics in carefully curated editions with serious academic as well as artistic intent to preserve them for current and future generations.

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These editions were, and still are, massively expensive but Cochran also released EC reprints in a variety of formats more affordable to the average fan.

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Cochran’s contribution to comics as a medium and its fandom is immeasurable. These comics will teach you storytelling, design, scripting, everything and they’re great but for many in the 70’s and 80’s these were how people learned their first steps into the industry.

My dream is that before I die to have a full set of EC’s comics. I’ve got around a shelfload, with the Mad books being some of the most well-read comics I own. Thanks to Cochran making these things available maybe one day I will.

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World

Jack Kirby was a genius, and his run of Fantastic Four is still one of the greatest runs of any sort of comics.

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After Kirby left Marvel for DC, the prospect of Kirby creating a world from scratch was thought to be the sales coup of the century, but for a variety of reasons, his ‘Fourth World’ failed to set sales figures alight at the time. As an aside, if any superhero comic had those sales figures today they’d be the best selling titles of any publisher.

Those four titles, Jimmy Olsen, Mister Miracle, The Forever People and The New Gods, dropped enough concepts and characters to supply a creator or a publisher, a lifetime, but this was just a few years of Kirby’s life which is astonishing. There’s a lot out there describing what happened but this video is the clearest, most concise explanation of the story of Kirby’s Fourth World…

How many pages of comics did Jack Kirby draw?

Today most mainstream comics artists struggle with a monthly schedule, but back in the day, people like Jack Kirby would draw pages a day, especially in the early days of Marvel. So lets have a wee look at who did draw pages in huge numbers…

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Kirby drew nearly 18,000 pages of comic art but he’s topped by John Buscema who was also one of those artists who’d just work and work, but they’re all topped by Curt Swan who again, drew and seemed to draw Superman for a century. Swan was again, solid and reliable and looking through that list is looking at a list of artists who (mostly) hit their deadlines, put out in many cases splendid work, and could draw comics, not pin-up pages.

As Todd McFarlane has said, some artists today are too busy drawing pin-ups while failing to put the work in to build up a body of work that will stand the test of time and fashion. Even someone as painfully dull as Don Heck carved his place in comics history and will be remembered in 100 years while <insert hot artist this week> will maybe hit a footnote.

A lesson then for upcoming artists is to put the work in. Because if you don’t in 30 years time you’ll still be hacking out pin-ups while the other person who did do the graft is doing half the work for twice the money.

The surprising wisdom of Todd McFarlane

If there’s one artist which defined the superstar artist of the early 90’s and of Image Comics especially it is Todd McFarlane. Creator of Spawn, which is now the longest-running independent comic in the USA, McFarlane has been in the industry for nearly 40 and frankly, doesn’t need to be working on a monthly comic anymore but he is because he clearly loves comics.

McFarlane is also deeply controversial, and amazingly to him, still relevant and he’s got a point. There are no superstar artists of his scale in the American comics business right now, which makes his comments on the industry vitally important if you’re a young artist wanting to be the next McFarlane.

I hesitate to call this video on Cartoonist Kayfabe an interview as at times it crosses into being a lecture which is much more interesting. So sit down with a pen and paper, take notes and enjoy…

Stan Lee is stealing credit from the grave

Stan Lee has a certain reputation among a section of comic fans in that, basically, he nicked credit where he could for decades refusing to give creators the credit they deserved. Lee started creating a certain myth for himself back in the 60’s and it more or less stuck with much of the general public til his death.

So considering how controversial creative ownership is with Lee, you’d think a comic that came out today, in February 2020 would get it right?

Nah.

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Stan Lee had nothing to do with the creation of Captain America. That was a Joe Simon and Jack Kirby creation which is easily discovered if one has access to the internet, but whoever put that credit together is either so stupid you wonder how they can walk without shitting themselves, or they did it deliberately. Either isn’t good.

But this is only a multinational professional publishing company we’re talking about…

 

Watch this Blade Runner convention reel from 1982

Blade Runner is one of my favourite films. Even if the UK poster is one of the worst posters you’ll ever see.

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In the early 80’s fandom was nothing like the organised beast it is today. Film companies knew enough back then though that keeping fans informed and happy would, hopefully, result in box office gold. Early efforts consisted of a few clips and some posters, maybe even an actor from the film would turn up and sell the film hard.

In 1982 I was a wee boy at one of Glasgow’s then annual science fiction conventions, Faircon, and one of the unsuspected highlights was a promotion by the film company for Blade Runner.  They gave away posters and badges, which are all now sadly lost throughout the years and yes, they’d be worth silly money now but the real highlight was a promo reel for the film which looked amazing.

I haven’t seen or even thought about it for nearly 40 years when looking at YouTube after the death of Syd Mead. It really is a great bit of archive not to mention it brings back al the nostalgia of being stupidly young and watching this all those decades ago.