Friday, February 03, 2006

Fear Agent: Rick Remender GO!

If comics sales were a simple offshoot of the obsessions of bloggers, every comic shop would only sell three types of books.
A) Titles related to Infinite Crisis
B) Titles related to House of M
C) Books written by Grant Morrison.

I don’t generally go in for big crossovers, but the third category, the Grant Morrison books, are right up my alley. Seven Soldiers and All-Star Superman are interesting experiments in the superhero form. Both ‘events’ show different avenues of building on comic book history without being slavishly tied to it. A third book, Fear Agent, does much the same thing. I’ve struggling to find an interesting reason that Fear Agent isn’t near the top of the list of the 400 bestselling comics. Obviously, there are the three strikes of the current market: 1) creator ownership, 2) No shared universe/not Marvel-DC, and 3) the waiting-for-the-trade phenomenon. All three of these mountains are huge, but none of them is necessarily insurmountable…

Think about this…Invincible went from being merely an interesting book in the launch of Image’s sketchy superhero line, but went on to become one of the few properties to successfully cross-over with Spider-man. Spider-Man!

In the search for ideas, writers have strip-mined the history (and histories) of Marvel over and over. The same thing can be said for DC. So while ASS is a refreshing modern take that revisits silver-age Supes, it has been done before. And while the Seven soldiers has been busy dragging buckets of inspiration from the wells of DC’s past, (cosmic Kirby madness, golden age team ups, the lite-horror era of the 70s, innumerable 80 sleeper titles) at the end of the day, it is a part of the mainstream machine, and not a strange new beast altogether.

Fear Agent is about as pure of a comic as I can imagine, and it gets its inspiration from a rarer, stranger, and riskier source. EC science fiction. While EC gets a lot of credit for inspiring the adult-level-comics boom, that is possibly the most limiting way of viewing its legacy. Honestly, I have to say that EC seems more responsible for the way it rocked its readers socks off, whether they were kids, adolescents, or nerdy adults. Obviously, it has to do with storytelling innovation (After all, this is the first place where Harvey Kurtzman showed his drawing chops. Harvey Kurtzman, as close to Eisner’s equal as anyone gets!) Obviously, it also had to do with the art. EC had a great roster of artists: Joe Orlando, Dean Kamen, Johnny Craig, Graham Ingels, John and Marie Severin, Bill Elder, Al Williamson, Kurtzman, George Evans, Bernard Krigstein, Jack Davis, Al Feldstein, and Wally Wood. If you wanna know what kinda line-up makes the comic art critic drool, that was it. But the question of what truly made EC great is nothing if not a damnably frustrating one. After all, EC is still respected, even within the narrower subsets of the comicbook culture. After all, Charlton and Warren had their share of stellar artists, but are mostly regarded as intriguing footnotes in the history of the medium. But rather than continue to act like the typical blogger (affected, arty and over-ambitious) I’m going to leave the question up in the air.

What made EC great? Easy.

In a secret meeting in the fields of Conecticut, where they were first abducted by their Venusian overlords, staff belonging to the tiny EC outfit made a deal with the devil. In exchange for the national security of the United States of America, the towering brains of the second solar ring offered them genius. The true nature of this exchange can never be revealed, but in essence, it boils down to one word. Gleepnort. What was that made EC products so special? Gleepnort. Does Fear Agent contain this valuable substance?

By the truckload.


Blogger redlib said...

Nice blog- In the Comic Blog Legion soon! Cake, Comics, Hornby, love them all.

11:45 AM  
Blogger surlyh said...

Followed the link from Rick Remender's forum.

Not to get too technical, but Harvey Kurtzman worked elsewhere before EC. His Hey Look! strips in MAD were reprints.

EC was, however, the company that gave Harvey his head on the war books and Mad, where he made his lasting mark on comics.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

That's a great review M.

As Remender commented himself, you have your own voice and an intelligent take on things.


9:24 AM  

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