In his usual immodest humor, Bakshi once claimed to be the biggest ripped off cartoonist ever. Is he? Debatable, but he is most certainly a cartoonist, and a great one at that. Why? He makes cartoons, an absurd, non linear, surreal creation, something not inherently associated with animation in modern times. In an era where people think classic animation is the old Transformers, Bakshi, a decidedly New York animator from the truly classic cartoon studio Terrrytoons, must seem like a living dinosaur. He worked with full animation, tore up or ignored model sheets, and simply drew what was in his head. It may make complete sense only to him, but he does take the viewer on a wild ride. This is true even when he and one other animator work on a cartoon (or two). Think about this; the following two cartoons are made by a handful of people, yet are more entertaining than almost all TV shows or features made by armies of (admittedly bored) computer monkeys. And if you like this, check out his films: Coonskin and Wizards may change not only your animation perspective, but your view of the world. I know they did for me.
The whole episode is fine, but as much as I occasionally enjoy the work of Judas Priest and Van Halen (and their influence is undeniable) it's the music of Iron Maiden that really does it for me. Did I say music? I meant everything about Iron Maiden, the music, the albums covers, the songs, the vocals, guitars, drums, the bass (Steve Harris is the best metal bassist ever)--everything. Perfect band at perfect time too.So watch from 11:00-26:02. It's some of the best documentary footage ever, craftily edited and eye opening. It destroys all the lies and bullshit about Maiden, in reality they are not Judas Priest imitators (more evil in fact) their paying is highly skilled yet raw and emotional, and Eddie and their gestures are cartoony and vaudevillian and over the top, but it works perfectly. Everything is readable and, more importunely, fun. This why they are a band with fans around the world. Just watch this hugely enjoyable fifteen minutes, which also includes Neal Kay,Geoff Barton, and the music scene they help foster and Iron Maiden typify: The NWOBHM. Remember, 11:00-26:02 The rest is just how bands like Zeppelin were killing rock(and how!).
[Above Image by Steve Ditko, one of many featured monster artists, all else by Jack Kirby]
And now for something completely different. Well, not really. It's just that I've lavished words upon an talented writer, so I consider it appropriate to say something about an impeccable artist: Jack Kirby. More known for his dynamic superheroes, this former animator turned legend also did some great monster stories reprinted here. Be sure to note that while a majority of them are on . . . Never Reprinted Page, there are also many other great covers and stories hidden elsewhere.
And now for a bit of humble pie. When I first saw Kirby, I didn't like him. At that point all I knew was the "pretty, realistic" formula set up by Disney, and any deviation--and Kirby does so wildly--I snubbed my nose at. I guess I did so to give myself a sense of superiority, which as wrongly deserved. In recent years, thanks to the words of Jim Smith and others, as well as personnel mind expansion, I have come to see what a great, innovative, cartoony and manly artist Kirby was and is. So I ask, can you forgive me my youthful indiscretion, King? Will ya?
In my last post, I extolled the virtues of Steve Gerber, the artist's writer. I kept it brief because I don't believe any amount of words can do him justice, you simply have to see his work for yourself. One such example is his contribution to the Marvel Magazine "A Nightmare on Elm Street"(incidentally some of the best work ever was produced in the black and white series', including Tomb of Dracula Magazine and Savage Sword of Conan. This is something the industry should really bring back; nice pulpy B&W comics for adults).
Unlike Man-thing this is decidedly not a cartoony yet surreal adventure, rather a psychological horror driven work. But since Gerber fills it with such great character detail(though film continuity be damned) and acute observation of human nature it's still a great read. This is essentially what makes a writer good or great, is his work a pleasure to read? The answer here is, decidedly, Yes. Of course this is a comic book, and it can't be great one without great art. For their part Rich Buckler and Tony DeZuniga do solid, frame-able work. But it really excels with the exquisite details by Alfredo Alcala, who keeps the lines of the former(s) but makes the art distinctively his. Work like this is why Alcala is one of my favorite artists. And let not forget those great covers by Joe Jusko!
With all this talent these stories read as the definitive take on Kruger, not only in comics but in all media(with the possible exception of part 3, the Dream Warriors).But don't take my word for it, see for yourself.
(Be sure to read everything in the page, including the excellent Sam Keith pin-ups, to--on the other hand--the sad reason this excellent series was canceled after a mere two issues).
John, Great post, you hit the nail right on the head concerning superheroes and what Lee did to make them interesting. I will also agree that many writers today are too uptight about fantasy characters, trying to be respectable rather than fun. Happily however, there is a medium. And his name is Steve Gerber. Gerber happens to be one of my favorite writers ever, and for specific reasons. First off, he is an incredible idea man who comes up with interesting concepts that fit and appeal to artists. He never talks down to them, quite the opposite in fact. This is why he has worked with some of the best artists ever (Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, and Val Mayerick). He also never talks down to the audience, trusting they will be more than capable of understanding his stories.
But most important (to me) he is ambitious enough to work in realistic situations but professional enough to maintain the ingredients that make a good comic book interesting. The character Man-thing is a perfect example; in the series he broached the Vietnam war, the search for immortally, and racism. And yet he still gave what plenty of what us guys love, over the top violence. Man-thing smashed and bashed quite a bit, even more than the hulk at times. The series is also a prime example of Gerber’s intellectual surrealism, similar to the stuff exhibited by the Fleischers.The point being that you can have your pie and eat it, it just takes a good deal of talent. That and love of the medium and recognizing it for what it is, which Gerber has, and many unfortunately don’t.
[All artwork above by Mike Ploog, who with Gerber created some of the best (and fun) comics of all time.]