Once More the Engine of Her Thoughts Began...
March 18, 2008 5:50 AM   Subscribe

For over the past year, John Seavey has been reading through Marvel's Essentials and DC's Showcase Presents reprints in order to examine the title comic's storytelling engine. From classic characters to barely-footnotes, much of the bedrock of Silver Age heroes are represented in the column's archives.

A storytelling engine is here described as the status-quo (characters, both good and bad; setting; mood and tone; etc) that helps to provide comic writers with story ideas. This was much more important in the Silver Age from where the Essentials and Showcase reprints get the bulk of their material. Back then comics were more episodic, self-contained, and often had two or three stories in a single issue, so writers really needed all the help they could get to churn the tales out! Of course, prevailing wisdom at the time suggested that the entire readership turned over every two years, so there was little need for things like continuity or logic, but there was a big need for a stable engine that could help produce new (or gently used) stories week after week.

And because I find blogspots tagging hard to search through, I provide links to individual comic titles for you, dear reader!

Adam Strange
Brave and the Bold
Captain America
Challengers of the Unknown
Classic X-Men
Doctor Strange
Ghost Rider
Green Arrow
Green Lantern
House of Mystery
Howard the Duck
Iron Man
Jonah Hex
Martian Manhunter
Marvel Horror
Marvel Saga
Marvel Super Villain Team-Up
Marvel Team-Up
Marvel Two In One
Ms. Marvel
Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe
Phantom Stranger
Power Man and Iron Fist
Savage Dragon
Silver Surfer
Spider-Man (Part One) (Part Two) (Part Three)
Superman Family
Teen Titans
The Atom
The Avengers
The Defenders
The Elongated Man
The Fantastic Four
The Haunted Tank
Tomb of Dracula
Uncanny X-Men (Part One) (Part Two)
Werewolf By Night
Wonder Woman
World's Finest
posted by robocop is bleeding (18 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

There goes my has-to-be-productive week. I will blame St. Patrick.
posted by yerfatma at 6:29 AM on March 18, 2008

I was going to say, "Good post," RIB, but *WOW* when I peaked inside the thread and saw all the links....great job!

The writing is above par and pretty entertaining for fans. If it were a book? I'd buy it.

In fact, I just spent my morning reading up on several of my favorites.

Best of web fanboyfilter
posted by humannaire at 6:29 AM on March 18, 2008

This is great, if it wasn't for this whole job thing, I could kill a few hours with this. Thanks for the post!
posted by marxchivist at 6:41 AM on March 18, 2008

{coffee, croissants, comic books, and crap music....it's going to be a great day}
posted by humannaire at 6:45 AM on March 18, 2008

posted by gerryblog at 7:48 AM on March 18, 2008

What's this "crisis" the commenters keep talking about?
posted by Grod at 8:33 AM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crisis on Infinite Earths
posted by blue_beetle at 8:43 AM on March 18, 2008

I've clicked through a few of these, and the author frequently doesn't discuss the plot formulas of these books. His Green Lantern entry, eg, only mentions that the ring could do anything in those days, and that it had a vulnerability to yellow which the writers sometimes flubbed. All this is true, but doesn't really discuss what GL actually did with the ring from story to story.

If comics history is your thing, I'd suggest checking out Scott Tipton's Comics 101. He goes through a character's history in pretty good detail, giving a sense of the different eras of a book, and adaptations into other media.
posted by factory123 at 8:44 AM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crisis on Infinite Earths was a giant DC cross-over designed to reboot and restart a lot of the DC continuity. So a slew of DC characters had their storytelling engines revamped and re-revamped and unvamped only to be later revamped.

What I am trying to say is that there was a lot of vamping.

Since then, any big DC cross-over event that tries to alter continuity is a Crisis event. Witness the recent Infinite Crisis where Superboy Prime punches reality so hard that Robin came back to life.

And they said Silver Age comics were insane!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:44 AM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

In DC 1,000,000 the 853rd Century Superman punched his way through 833 centuries worth of time. I believe Robin stayed dead.
posted by BeReasonable at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Holy moly, what a great list of links! I was going to mention Scott Tipton, but see that I've already been beaten to that link. Great post!
posted by banannafish at 10:32 AM on March 18, 2008

Nifty, thanks.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:10 PM on March 18, 2008

The DC Showcase series is a great gift to humanity. If only they'd done it 25 years ago, instead of pretending that the Silver Age didn't exist, and pushing their crap Crisis on Infinite Earths. John Seavey's comments are all pretty interesting. The DC Silver Age had its problems (as Seavey points out, Green Lantern's infinitely labile powers), but it was charming children's literature. Too bad Marvel had to come along and ruin everything.
posted by Faze at 4:28 PM on March 18, 2008

In his How to Save Marvel posts, Seavey pretty much points to a return to the Silver Age, content-wise, for the comicbook companies. That is, write comics for kids again. What do kids today care about the Civil War "power and responsibility makes for troubling choices" stories? They want to see Captain America punch the Rhino through a wall.

Heck, I want to see Captain America punch the Rhino through a wall. If its the wall of a helicarrier and Rhino then freefalls into a passing tugboat and sinks it, all the better.

I'm about halfway through a remaindered copy of Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled Over the Marvel Comics Empire--And Both Lost. While that book focuses on the completely insane fiscal state of Marvel in the 90s, it would be interesting to see the business timeline juxtaposed with the major storylines of the period.

Speaking of which does the LIFE OF REILLY saga exist anywhere in the intarwebs anymore? The link from Mefi is dead.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:35 AM on March 19, 2008

Ah, okay. Here it is. Looks like one of the authors got a book deal and is in the process of fleshing out the story.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:43 AM on March 19, 2008

LoR's in a .zip here. Includes images.
posted by Eideteker at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2008

I don't much miss reading comics, but gosh do I seem to spend a lot of time reading about them.
posted by Eideteker at 3:15 PM on March 21, 2008

oh oh oh and [this is very very good and will probably change the way I write... FOREVER!]
posted by Eideteker at 3:24 PM on March 21, 2008

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