January 13, 1998
by Chuck Miller
I said some pretty harsh things about Marvel last time, and while I'm not exactly ready to eat my words, I will admit that some of the "Heroes Return" stuff I've seen so far doesn't totally suck. FANTASTIC FOUR, written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Alan Davis. Davis is still as good as ever; you might remember his work on BATMAN and MIRACLEMAN in the mid-80's. Lobdell is a decent writer. At least he has a sense of humor, and some of his gags are actually funny, unlike the sad attempts at levity that we saw during "Heroes Reborn." He doesn't always hit the mark, but the interplay between the Human Torch and the Thing brought more than a few chuckles.
The main problem I have is Franklin Richards, the 30-year-old toddler son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman (he was born in '67 or '68 I think, but he's still a pre-schooler. I realize comic book folks age more slowly than we do, but he ought to be at least 14 by now -- the same age as Beavis and Butt-Head: "Uh-huh- huh-huh. Hey, dad, does EVERYTHING stretch? Why is Uncle Ben called the THING? Uh-huh-huh-huh!). He is constantly spouting these sickly sweet little "Family Circus" style sentiments, like, "Not only do I got the funnest house in the whole world to live, but I got the greatest mommy and daddy in the world, too." GIVE US A BREAK!! I mean, show me a four-year-old who can articulate any sentiments beyond "Gimme the candy." Other than that, this title looks okay. CAPTAIN AMERICA, by Mark Wald, Ron Garney and Bob Wiacek. This will probably be the big winner of the bunch. Marvel had the good sense to re-acquire the creative team who were doing such a good job on this comic before it got "Reborn." It wasn't broke, but they tried to fix it anyhow. Now they've come to their senses. Thank God.
As I write this, IRON MAN and THE AVENGERS have yet to show up on the stands. I have hopes for them, too. Not high apple pie in the sky hopes, but hopes.
My buddy Captain Comics, a/k/a Andrew Smith, who writes a syndicated comics column for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, recently did a Thanksgiving list of things he's happy about. I thought that was a good idea, so here is my own rather belated one. Or my new year's list, whichever you prefer. JIM APARO. I am glad Jim Aparo still draws the occasional Batman story. He is one of my all-time favorite Bat-artists and I have very fond memories of his early-70's work on BRAVE AND THE BOLD and THE SPECTRE. Keep at it, Jim. There aren't too many of the old-timers left, and it's good to know you're still there. Especially since the passing of Curt Swan. THE ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN. Here's something else good that Marvel did. A big paperback reprint book featuring all of Spider-Man's early adventures -- about 20 comic books worth of stories -- for only $12.95! Sure, it's in black and white and on cheap paper, but what the hey? It's Lee-Ditko Spider-Man, and it's affordable, unlike some of those exorbitantly-priced hardback reprint volumes DC puts out. I don't know if Marvel plans to do any more of these, but they should. (I believe I have seen one devoted to the X-Men.)
KING OF THE HILL. It isn't a comic book, but it's cartoon, which is similar, and it's funny as hell.
JUDGE DREDD. Although he is no longer being published by anyone in America, my favorite 22nd century lawman is still going strong in Great Bitman. If the only thing you know about this character is the egregious Stallone movie, you don't know nothin'. On the stands this month is "Predator vs. Judge Dredd," from Dark Horse, a three-issue limited series. It's nothing spectacular, rather a ho-hum tale as Dredd goes, but it's nice to see his scowling face on America comic racks, if only temporarily. Also, Virgin Books (a U.K. company) is doing a series of Dredd's novels. They are difficult to find in this country, but Barnes & Noble has a few. THE SUPERMAN/BATMAN ADVENTURES on the WB network. This is the way superhero cartoons always should have been and never were. If "Superfriends" had been this good, my generation would have turned out a whole lot better, I guarantee.
If you have any comments, trivia questions or favorite comics and you'd like to see mentioned, write to me c/o the Harbinger!