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Liefeldian Thigh Pouches
December 2, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

"...they essentially published years of comics for the sole purpose of saying 'Fine, that's how you want it? Here you go. Enjoy.' They made a character out of pure sarcasm, and he had his own ongoing series for a hundred issues."
Chris Sims on Azrael.
posted by griphus (28 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
It was the 90s, most comics went crazy then. The 90s was sort of like our version of the 70s, with pouches and guns and foil covers instead of disco.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:10 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is also how Lobo happened.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Uh, so we're not talking Smurfs?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2011


This is also how Lobo happened.

Meh. DC has always had a gritty edge to it ever since Denny Oneil decided to leave the silliness of the silver age behind. If anything, Wolverine and the Punisher were over-the-top responses to what was going on over at DC, and both were running ahead of cynical and ultraviolent stuff from the indie imprints, European imports and the self-publishers.

Lobo has more to do with Sandman and TDKR, where DC let one of its more brilliant minds off the leash. The Keith Giffen Lobo mini-series was insanely good.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:44 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm not saying Lobo hasn't been in some great comics, but it's a matter of record that he was created as a parody of Wolverine and it took Giffen completely by surprise when that same fandom embraced him wholeheartedly.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:47 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Azrael stories, but even as a kid I understood them as a meaningful contrast to the real Batman, who as Sims says was always present and always planned to return. A commenter brings up the death of Superman and the four "Supermen" who succeeded him. None of these guys was ever going to replace him, and it was always implied he'd be coming back. But that doesn't mean they couldn't have meaningful story arcs, interesting powers, and produce good comics. I thought the four supermen stories came together wonderfully and were immensely creative - not quite so much with Azrael, but they're in the same basket in a way. I doubt the people doing Azrael were doing it spitefully, but I think it really was intended to show that "Liefeldian" wasn't what Batman was about.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


What, did somebody-- no? I just -- oh, nevermind.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:54 PM on December 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


I agree with his argument that they never intended for him to be permanent, but I do think the "sarcasm" angle is probably not there.

I also think he conflates "new archetype is born; see subsequent iterations" with "particular thing is successful; let's copy it to death". What I mean is that it seems to me that with Doom, Street Fighter 2, and GTA, we weren't just looking at streams of imitators trying to replicate the success of a particular thing (although that definitely happened), but actually kind of groundbreaking things that naturally spawned generations of people exploring the territory these games made exciting, whereas his LOTR/Dungeon Siege example seems more along the lines of what he's meaning to suggest.

I guess what I mean is that some things we can loosely call imitations are artistically motivated and some are commercially motivated and I don't like seeing the artistic ones lumped in with the commercial junk. Of course most things are a combination and few things are strictly one or the other, and I recognize that.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:01 PM on December 2, 2011


Batman Jones
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:01 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed Azrael stories, but even as a kid I understood them as a meaningful contrast to the real Batman, who as Sims says was always present and always planned to return. A commenter brings up the death of Superman and the four "Supermen" who succeeded him. None of these guys was ever going to replace him, and it was always implied he'd be coming back. But that doesn't mean they couldn't have meaningful story arcs, interesting powers, and produce good comics. I thought the four supermen stories came together wonderfully and were immensely creative - not quite so much with Azrael, but they're in the same basket in a way. I doubt the people doing Azrael were doing it spitefully, but I think it really was intended to show that "Liefeldian" wasn't what Batman was about.

This.
posted by kafziel at 1:02 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chris Sims is on a roll these days. Via Boing Boing, here's another piece of his that actually made me interested in Scooby Doo for the first time in my life.
posted by Naberius at 1:23 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man that Scooby Doo piece is great. I don't remember how it relates to the primary thrust of that article, buy my brother and I loved A Pup Named Scooby Doo. I think it was sort of that time's version of the My Little Pony, if I correctly understand the MLP phenomena as being ostensibly or primarily a kids' show but with tons of little weird nods that make it enjoyable as an (ostensible) adult.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:59 PM on December 2, 2011


If anyone wants to suggest any more Chris Sims highlights, please do so.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2011


Well, there is always Emboar is a pig that is on fire that is also a professional wrestler.
posted by rewil at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2011




Is it just me or is the '90s the one decade you can't go home again to in comics? I can read ridiculous Silver Age stories. I can slog through really flat Golden Age art. And I can find fantastic runs of comics in pretty much any other decade. But I cannot read stuff from the '90s, even if it's from a great writer and a great artist. The art & colors just look so awful. That image of Azrael is everything I hate about '90s art: it's stupid, the background is colored exclusively from Pantone's Dog Barf™ pallette, it's got that Janice Chiang italicized letter style and just . . .well, just what the fuck? Why?
posted by yerfatma at 2:41 PM on December 2, 2011


Sandman? From Hell? The Invisibles? Eddie Campbell's Graffiti Kitchen?

But yeah, in general I agree with you. And certainly both Sandman and The Invisibles have their share of terrible art.
posted by twirlip at 3:12 PM on December 2, 2011


It's not remotely scientific, but every time I go back to Morrison's JLA or the No Man's Land mega-arc, there's always a period of acclimation while I get used to these awesome books having such flat-looking art.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:16 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chris Sims is on a roll these days. Via Boing Boing, here's another piece of his that actually made me interested in Scooby Doo for the first time in my life.

It was FPP'd just five days ago. The thread's still warm.

Back in the 90s, I despised comic books. I come to see now that this was mostly due to growing up in an age where they mostly sucked. The publishers actively pushed people like me away with their hyper-pandering, badly-drawn, ill-thought-out over muscled, pouch-laden, super-angsty quasi-heroes.

At the time there was no internet so I couldn't get the necessary background information to see that the things I hated about them were all zeitgeist, comics borne upon a certain foul-smelling wind that was blowing through the culture at the time, and comics companies' willingness to chase a small obsessive audience with disposable income at the expense of wider relevance.

In the long run, trends like this either die out, to be thought of by others as an example of how stupid those people were back in (insert decade here), or increasingly marginalize themselves into an incomprehensible little subculture locked off from the understanding of others.

It pleases me greatly to consider what we'll all think of orange-and-teal action movies in twenty years.
posted by JHarris at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2011


Chris Sims is all right, but I disagree that it's as simple a matter as that DC definitely intended to bring Bruce Wayne back all along, or that AzBat was some sort of intended lesson to the fans about being careful what they wished for. Just as the seeds for Kal-El's resurrection post-Doomsday were there all along, or that Diana was still around (and still superheroing) when Artemis of Bana-Mighdall was wearing her costume, DC kept Bruce around while Jean-Paul was wearing a variation of the batsuit because they were hedging their bets, plain and simple. They'd never really replaced the central trinity with new characters the way that they'd done with Green Lantern, the Flash, Hawkman (sort of) or the Atom in the Silver Age, so they kept the originals in the wings while they gave the new kids a shot. They totally would have put Bruce, Diana and Clark out to pasture if the Nu-X-Treeem versions had worked out.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:21 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watchmen and bad readers are to blame for Cable, Azrael, Deadpool (before he was funny) and Rob Liefield's entire career. Just imagine the scene, little Johnny comic book reader checks out Watchmen. The whole thing pretty much sails over his head, except that one total badass, Rorshach. The guy never gave in, and he was willing to kill or die for what was right. Nevermind the whole 'insane, deeply unpleasant low-life' part, he was... HARDCORE. That's what little Johnny liked, and that's what we all got for the next ten years. Big guys with big guns (and pouches... lots of pouches), and anatomically impossible women standing right behind them, a little to the left, eternally posing.

I'm convinced there is a sociological/historical/literary study just begging to be written on the unintended effect Watchmen had on comics, and how books like Kingdome Come and others like it managed, after many years in the HARDCORE wasteland, to bring us back to where we are, a second silver age (Morrison's Justice League, for example), but one with a hell of a lot of tarnish.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:49 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I cannot read stuff from the '90s, even if it's from a great writer and a great artist.

Not even stuff like Kurt Busiek & Pat Oliffe on Untold Tales of Spider-Man or James Robinson's run on Starman?

And if you want an uber-Image series and creator, there's always Savage Dragon and Erik Larsen. The one series by an Image founder that's still going strong and still written and drawn by himself, it may at this point actually be the longest uninterrupted run on a superhero title by any writer/artist.

posted by MartinWisse at 7:24 AM on December 3, 2011


Ghidorah, I think that you have to blame Frank Miller and The Dark Knight Returns for the Liefeld 90s. The most Liefeldian character in Watchmen is the Comedian, who appears only in flashback and is portrayed as deeply unpleasant; on the other hand, Batman in TDKR is thoroughly Liefeldian, and IIRC he even has thigh pouches in the first chapter.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:55 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem in Watchmen isn't Comedian, it's Rorshach. He's supposed to be clearly disturbed but many, many readers considered him the hero of the piece, murders and all.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:02 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem in Watchmen is the whole notion of heroes and villains that the reader brings to the story. Rorshach is a deeply disturbed individual. Rorshach is also an unyielding defender of the truth. "Hero? Villain? You decide!"
posted by SPrintF at 8:55 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Halloween Jack, I know what you mean about TDKR, but even that, I think, can get traced back to Watchmen. Morrison really threw the insanity of costumed vigilantes (it would be wrong to say heroes or adventurers) in the reader's face. As others have said, Rorshach is, unfortunately the one character that a lot of people fixated on from Watchmen. Readers were trained to believe that the hero never gives up, no matter what. When Rorshach dies, he's completing the most hallowed tenet of hero-dom. What the bad reader misses is that Dan, for accepting what has happened, and allowing the truth to never be revealed, is sacrificing himself to save the day as well. (not that Dan is all that heroic, either).

Kingdom Come, on the other hand, bluntly addresses the insanity of the hyper-violent hero, with Superman admonishing the group of Metas at the bar for drinking and violence, saying heroes don't act like that. Of course, it also goes on to show how impossible it is to return to Golden age ideals in a modern world, as pretty much everything Superman does or tries to do ends in failure.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:09 PM on December 3, 2011


Sandman? From Hell? The Invisibles? Eddie Campbell's Graffiti Kitchen?

Not even stuff like Kurt Busiek & Pat Oliffe on Untold Tales of Spider-Man or James Robinson's run on Starman?


Yeah, you got me. That's what I get for talking in absolutes. Guess I should have qualified it with big-name titles, but even then it sounds like I'd need to caveat it further (somehow I'd never heard of "Untold Tales of Spider-Man", will check it out).
posted by yerfatma at 8:07 AM on December 7, 2011


Morrison?
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:22 PM on December 7, 2011


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