Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Importance of Influence: Me and my "funny books"

Continuing the influences train, let's go ahead and go a little deeper into mine. For Mark, it was the '70s; for me, it was comic books. As it's already known at this point, I've been a comic book head for years and they've had a profound influence on me in a multitude of ways, specifically creatively. In many ways, despite how many fans there are of it and how much farther it's reaching, the medium itself still doesn't seem like it's utilized to its fullest potential. But moving back to to the topic at hand, the influence that comics has had on me creatively. Don't get me wrong, my influences go beyond just comics, but I'll just stick with them for this entry. Their influence goes back a long ways actually, so let's start at the beginning...

1) Spider-Man
When I was a kid, all of my friends' comic book heroes were always Batman, Superman or Wolverine. It was always about the coolest gadgets, powers or biggest badasses. But for me, it was always about understanding and relatability. He was THE kid superhero, the one that was out there doing the right thing despite what it cost him and often still had to deal with day-to-day troubles on top of everything else. That resonated with me a lot, even at a young age. He was the first comic book character I literally couldn't get enough of and because of the variety of his adventures and how many were in already in print by then, I had plenty to partake of. There are some I prefer more than others, but it's the one that's never REALLY let me down. And I was inspired by the character's overall resilience from a printing and personal standpoint.

2) Hulk
Now, this guy... he and I have been through a lot over the years. My favorite stories are still the ones that take place during Peter David's runs on the book as well as the stories featuring the "Joe Fix-It" personality. He was a vast departure from the Hulk I'd known up until then, that and the Gray Hulk just always struck me as more interesting considering the fact that he was the "real" original Hulk. But it became something else later, as the character himself became more complex and the subject of psychology came more into play in his development, it showed me how important psychology and personality in general are in developing characters.

3) The Avengers
This particular assembly always resonated in one fashion or another from the moment I started reading comics. There have been periods during the team's publishing history that I've definitely not enjoyed, but there are others that have absolutely shined! It was one of the first serious examples that I had seen of a team that may have been well-oiled in some incarnations but were barely staying on track in others. The Fantastic Four were specifically written as a family and the Justice League always had this kind of extended family kind of vibe to it, but the Avengers were different to me. They were a team that didn't necessarily always get along, but proved that it was about getting the job done. Oh sure, there were rosters that were like family, but that wasn't centerstage, it all came down to doing the job. They weren't a family, they were an office, a group of people brought together to fulfill a function. Interpersonal dynamics always played a role but at the end of the day, it was about moving past that and protecting the Earth and doing what they had to do to do it. In fact, it was the remixing of the team, the storyline "Dissassembled" and the subsequent reissued series "The New Avengers" that revived my desire to actually want to create comics and cemented Brian Michael Bendis as one of my all-time favorite writers.

4) The Authority
While this is another superhero team, they're on this list for a very different reason. The Authority was a different kind of team. Formed out of the ashes of Wildstorm Comics' "Stormwatch", they were a group that saw a better world and what needed to be done to bring it forth. They were extraordinary, but truly "human", human beings that wanted to bring about the better world that they felt the Earth could be, but also falling short in the realization that they were still humans and didn't know what we needed as much as they thought they did. It was a series about extraordinary people attempting to do the impossible and what happens after. Powerful stuff in a lot of ways.

5) Marvel Comics

This one I can actually keep fairly short. I've been a marvel-head most of my life for one reason: they showed me that "Superpeople are still just people". That counts for way more than anything else in my mind.

Now, of course, this is just one piece in the pie-chart of my influences, but I'll leave you to chew on this one for now.   ;)


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