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“…FLYING Bicycles Don’t LEAVE Treadmarks!” COMICS! Sometimes Justice Wears A Unitard!

John Kane

Look, I’ll level with you. Here in the UK it’s far  too hot to write intros. It’s so hot I just stepped in my own face. So this is your lot.
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Ho! Ho! It am Bizarro Gary Groth! Or is it? Read on to find out as we explore the magical world of old super hero comics!

GREEN LANTERN: SECTOR 2814 Volume One
Art By Dave Gibbons
Inked by Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo
Written by Len Wein
Coloured by Anthony Tollin
Letterd by Dave Gibbons and Ben Oda
Collection and series covers by Dave Gibbons
Collects Green Lantern #172-176,178 – 181 (1984)
Green Lantern created by Gil Kane and John Broome
DC Comics, $16.99 (2012)

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For me, and never forget it’s me that matters the mostest, the most successful Green Lantern comics are those which don’t stray too far from the original concept. That of a none too bright man clad in a domino mask and a swim suit who, armed with a magic wishing ring, polices space on the behalf of some blue dudes whose lack of vertical stature is compensated for by the girth of their craniums. These issues I’m telling you about hew pretty closely to that but have a definite Earth based bent. Which is fair enough, so did the old stuff. Particularly when Hal Jordan became an insurance investigator which is the kind of sexy shit kids love. What we have here is that strange pre-Watchmen style where the old timey thrills are wrassling with new wavey soap operatics to queasy but not unentertaining effect.

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Carol looks really, er, into that doesn’t she? In a “private moments” kind of way?

Most of the soapy suds are provided by Hal Jordan splashing about in a big bath of ultimatums pouring ceaselessly out of the fleshy faucet of Carol Ferris’ face. Herein Ms Ferris is enjoyably portrayed as capable and independent and yet psychotically needy and emotionally demanding. It’s an endearing mix; one unlikely to cause ructions in the gender politicised readers of today. Look, Len Wein’s , and indeed that of contemporaneous Comics, portrayal of women is excusable, or at least understandable, since at this point in history men and women were ruthlessly segregated on separate landmasses, replicating by binary fission. Or maybe, and I’m just throwing this out there, characterisation in genre comics has always been a bit weird with plot tending to dictate the personality of a character at any given moment. Which tendency unfortunately flares bright with an unpleasant light in the case of ladies because there isn’t usually much more to them than the surface. The blokes have all the powers and action for the most part and as a consequence the behavioural inconsistencies pass mostly unnoticed in the case of the testicularly endowed. Men, I’m talking about men there. Of course I will say that characterisation is much better in modern genre comics because I should never underestimate the appeal of wishful thinking.

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But sometimes a mere newspaper can tip the balance of WAR!

Fret not, capes and scrapes fans! There’s plenty of goofy nonsense going on when people aren’t talking about their feelings or shouting in boardrooms. Everything in the book feels like it takes part in the context of the wider DCU. There’s even a touching sequence where Hal seeks advice from all of his super hero pals about whether to remain an emerald avenger or to chuck it in for the sake of his love, Carol. Naturally Superman offers to solve his chum’s problem by snapping Carol’s neck like a dry twig.  The pivot around which a lot of this more colourful stuff spins turns out to be The Monitor. Isn’t he the guy from Crisis On Infinite Earths? Shockingly I have never read COIE, so was under the impression that The Monitor was some Darkseid level dude, but here he’s just floating about space in his satellite HQ facilitating meetings between criminals, by telephone! Just a glorified switchboard operator with a knack for obscuring his features behind scenery. (Why? Would I recognise him? “OMG! It’s Terry from two doors down!”) Despite his reduced circumstances Monny has, apparently, the sense to equip his satellite lair with Sybil Danning in a pink pantsuit.

Other villains include The Javelin, who is hilariously bad, his one saving grace being that his presence causes the Worst Pun In The World to be unleashed on a cover. It’s “Beware The Javelin, My Son!” Give it a second…Oh, he’s also German with an accent so he is intendink to be havink der last laff. Bad accents I’m talking about there. But the bad accents get better, or worse, because there’s also a russet maned lassie whose cadences are pure County Claremount, so they are, to be sure, to be sure, BEJABBERS! And then there’s The Demolition Team who are just brazenly daft in concept. Others crop up but ,you know ,you might want some surprises suffice to say they are all outlandishly entertaining and absurd. Now, I don’t mind that myself as all this is the kind of ludicrous stuff I class as “fun” (Eeew!), but I am aware that certain sectors of today’s readership demand rather more seriousness and maturity which is why Geoff Johns exists. That’s sarcasm there. Cheap, but effective I find.

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What does Dave Gibbons never do? Short change ya! Look at all that hectic business going on!

But what of the reason I bought this book in the first place? What of dashing Dave Gibbons? Well, he’s Dave Gibbons so that’s pretty much perfect for the needs of my eyes. He’s got that lovely Wallace wood by way of C C Beck thing going on. He discretely balances realism and cartooning basically, and you may think his work errs toward s the generic. Then you may realise just how many blonde Caucasian men in their early thirties he has to draw here and you may reconsider and instead may marvel at the fact that he makes each one distinct. Sure, Gibbons’ ladies can be a bit frumpy tending towards the matronly both in width of hip and wadrobe choice, but they do look like people rather than tit support systems. There’s plenty of slobberknockery in here and Gibbons’ action is never unclear and his storytelling is efficient and engaging even when confined to the boardroom; the charnel house of my attention. However, reading this book it becomes apparent that grace isn’t really in Gibbons’ artistic arsenal. Usually this is not really an issue but any Green Lantern artist is up against The Gil Kane. Which is probably a bit unfair, because anyone suffers against that. Kane could make a man straining at stool appear elegant and lithe never mind a masked idiot soaring through the air like it were water. Nevertheless there is always something stilted about the body language in Gibbons’ characters . There isn’t so much a sense of motion occurring but of motion being captured. But it’s catching that motion, or seeming to, that makes you Gil Kane. Dave Gibbons may not be Gil Kane but he is Dave Gibbons and that’s a whole lot more than most other artists.

I enjoyed this book but then I have a high tolerance for daft action hi-jinks layered in with endearingly clumsy interpersonal conflicts. Particularly if they are illustrated by a well-honed machine like Dave Gibbons. Which is why I thought this was GOOD!

I’ll fight any man jack who denies that Green Lantern by Dave Gibbons is - COMICS!!!

9 Responses to “ “…FLYING Bicycles Don’t LEAVE Treadmarks!” COMICS! Sometimes Justice Wears A Unitard! ”

  1. Your descriptions of Gibbons’ artistic pedigree and flaw brought on a realization of my idea of his pedigree. It’s not Wood in there, it’s SWAN!!!!!
    I have always thought his work was lovely, yet stilted and somehow generic, but I never pinned it to a predecessor until reading your assertions. I think so much better when I have someone to disagree with!
    He’s a Swannian! Now bow before my wisdom!
    Thanks, I couldn’t have done it without your input!

  2. I’m looking forward to the second and third volumes. Steve Englehart’s run from 188-200 are my all-time favorite Green Lantern comics.

  3. Alright, I’m just thick. What’s the pun, please?

  4. It’s a play on “Beware the Jabberwock, My Son”.

  5. @Seth Hollander: If all it takes to help people is me being wrong I’m gonna be helping a whole lotta people! My excuse is I’ve just read that Fantagraphics EC Wallace Wood book and now I see Wood everywhere!

    @DanielT: I share your anticipation, but in my case it’s because I ain’t read ‘em. I better like ‘em, huh, or you’ll be slapping my sarky ass down!

    @d: Hey, don’t beat yourself up, guy! It’s a tricky one! It’s the World’s Worst Pun but also The World’s Best Pun because the Best/Worst puns make you smack your forehead when you gettem. And that’s a head slapper if ever there was one!

    @Roger Langridge: Well, I guess all that research you did for your VERY GOOD! series SNARKED! (now available in 3 TPBs from better retailers everywhere) finally paid off, huh? Finally!

    Thanks everyone, y’all have only good times now y’hear?

  6. Whenever the third volume comes out you’re gonna need to get the Crisis on Infinite Earths trade too because many of the issues leading up to 200 tie in. Actually, those GL issues are textbook examples of how to tie in to a major crossover correctly.

  7. Just finished this last night. Didn’t grab me till the not the Wrecking Crew team showed up and it seemed like Wein and Gibbons hit a groove there on out. Looking forward to the Englehart stuff in future volumes. Green Lantern comics are always stupid but can be really enjoyably stupid like here.

  8. I was going to point out how well Englehart tied GL into Crisis, only to find that DanielT had beat me to it. Textbook indeed, DanielT. Textbook indeed.

  9. Well, DanielT, Daniel and Troy Wilson, I have to say I was just going to call it quits with Vol.2. But your concerted enthusuiasm for the Englehart stuff has quite piqued my interest. We’ll see. You never know your luck in a raffle!

    Cheers!

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