Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Marvel vs. DC: 70's Style

As I've mentioned, I'm currently reading Essential Tomb of Dracula vol 1. What I don't think I've revealed thus far is that I'm also working my way through Essential Defenders vol. 1.

I, a lifelong DC fan, am expanding my comicbook horizons, and sampling a brick-sized portion of Mighty Marvel in the 70s.

And it is blowing my mind.

I mean, were the Marvel writers in the 70s being paid by the pound or something? Each character feels the unrelenting desire to verbalize every single aspect of their thoughts and actions, using as many words as humanly possible! It's actually kind of exhausting to read. I read these books in bed before I hit the sack at night, and I rarely get through more than an issue before I conk out.

It's not that I dislike the writing style, it's just such a complete adjustment to someone whose primary Classic Comic Experience consists of Shooter-era LSH reprints. Where Lightning Lad might thought-balloon:

"*Sob* Maybe they're right! Maybe I am a menace to everyone around me! *Choke"

Hawkeye would say:

"Great ginger beer! Can those big-headed browbeaters have a point? Could I, Hawkeye, the sureshooting archer with the deadeye aim, be a menace to everyone I love? It can't be true, can it?! But why not? I've never really felt comfortable among these flatdomed uptights. Maybe it's time I, Hawkeye, masterful marvel of mirth and marksmanship, took my ever-lovin' quiver and made a quick fade!"

These Marvel heroes have some incredible lung capacity. And they must talk faster than the Flash himself. I've seen heroes go through whole character arcs during the time it takes to close their finger around a trigger. I'm not kidding.

Keep in mind, this is not even taking into account the fact that the Marvel Universe has a significantly higher population of characters who speak with serious affectations. In these two Essential volumes alone you have a veritable Who's Who of the worst verbal offenders: Sub-Mariner, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, Dracula... hell, they even stick a little Thor in there just to remind you of the original fancy-talker!

And then there's the Hulk. I think I just don't get the Hulk. He's been a fan favorite for like 40 years, but reading his dialogue throughout his various "dumb Hulk" periods makes me cringe. Here's a fun game: whenever you're reading a "dumb Hulk" story, pretend all dialogue is being spoken by Super Baby. Just change all instances of "Hulk" (because 'Ol Green Skin loves himself some third person) to "Me" and see if it fits. Because it will.

And your mind will be blown.

What I like about these 70s Marvel comics (because clearly it's not the dialogue) is the bats**t crazy, anything-could-happen plots. The Defenders fight a fuzzy monster with a steel dome on his head. Hey, that's a little weird, but not too weird, right? Yeah, well that fuzzy monster is hosting a children's show a la Barney in order to mind-control all of the viewing children into returning with him to his home planet.

'the f**k?

It's completely awesome in its sheer lunacy. You just can't read something like that without gaining a certain measure of respect for the creative team. Especially because, unlike modern comics, there is no *wink* to the reader. This book treats the Space Barney Menace as if it were as deadly as a heart attack, and shame on the foolish reader who disagrees. I admire that.

And I admire Marvel in the 70s, when it seems there was no concept too far out there to try, if only for a month or two. I hear the next volume of Defenders is even more bananas, especially once Steve Gerber comes on board. I don't even want to think about what that could possibly entail.

I have visions of giant lactating space-oysters who need Valkyrie's metal chest-plate to signal their spaceship in order to attack Atlantis.

And just like that, I'm sold.


Blogger Michileen Martin said...

The Defenders is probably my favorite seventies Marvel mag, and yeah, the weirdness factor goes through the roof once Gerber comes on board. The Headmen, the Bozos, Plantman as an actual threat, and of course there's the Elf with the gun. It really went downhill after Gerber, I thought.

A lot of hardcore Defenders fans disagree with me, but I thought the comic hit rock-bottom when Dematteis came on board, precisely because he abandoned the weirder elements and tried to be more serious. That's why I was so surprised that he was involved with the current uber-funny series.

12:34 AM  
Blogger ARGOTT said...

Hahaha. As a person who started out very young on Marvel's weird style, your post was initially alarming to me. But you pretty much convinced me of the validity of your observations by the end. In retrospect, I READ my DC comics -- Superman, Green Lantern, etc. -- cover to cover, while I often skimmed the text of Marvel books while looked at the pictures.

I don't have a real preference for either company anymore, though I wish they would tone down their over-arching, grim plots a little. The older comics are a lot more fun to read.

7:31 AM  

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