At first, I was agin' it! But then, when I really looked, I was won over quickly.
I'm talking about the man, the writer, the sensation!Ed Brubaker!
One of those fairy-tale success stories of an obscure cartoonist (that means someone who does all the writing and the artwork) who worked his way up, through diligence and hard work, to become one of the premier writers in comics today.
As my own interests lay firmly, well, all over the place, I was aware of some of his break-through writing such as Scene of the Crime
both, not incidentally, published by Vertigo.
However, at that time, his style of writing struck me as wordy, with long drawn-out interior monologues by largely loser protagonists.
Not surprising, I assume, his first (or one of the first anyway) cartooning works is called Lowlife
Looking back, I can only say that his mindset at the time of Brubaker's writing those earlier works was far removed from what I looked for in comics.
However, clearly (and luckily, as it turns out) I was in the minority in not being convinced by Brubaker's talent, as he has developed his writing skills immensely.
After the No Man's Land
Batman-event, he took over the flagship Batman
title, and along with then Detective Comics
writer Greg Rucka
, started up the seriously underrated first selection for this entry:Gotham Central
Take the following: we all love cop shows.
The tough and gritty world, crime and law constantly in opposition, a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of conflicts. And on top of that, not every cop is a good cop.
It makes for some of the most interesting stories, if done right, with good characters, strong mysteries and a healthy dose of realism.
And that's what one-ups this title. It has ALL those elements, but against a back-drop all us comic-book geeks simply love: the insane town of Gotham City.
Not only is this the stomping grounds of some of the best freaks in comic-dom (the Joker, Penguin, Scarecrow, Catwoman: check my archives for a check-up on that gorgeous lady, ALSO by Ed Brubaker!) and not only does Batman skulk in the shadows over there, the city is simply ridden with crime.
The city loves crime. (as an aside, you should do yourself a favour and read Batman: City of Crime
by David Lapham & Ramon Bacchs
. You'll see what I mean about Gotham's love for crime.)
Yes, it (or rather, she) loves crime. But not just any crime.
This is Gotham City! She takes no satisfaction in a burglary if it's not being handled by the Riddler.
Why bother taking someone hostage if the Joker's not involved?
and to tackle this kind of wrong-doing, there's Gotham Central. It knows the score, it has the man (and woman!) power, all of them hand-picked by the legendary commissioner Jim Gordon
Hell, they even have the Bat-signal, but that does not mean they like having the Bat
meddling in all their cases.
An amazing series that does a remarkable job of combining the street-level realism of police work with the complete insanity of "super"-villains, and still making it work like Swiss clock-work.
I haven't said anything about the artistry of Michael Lark
His dark lines and hard-working storytelling complete the book like no other artist ever would have. Honestly, this is as much his book as it is Brubaker's or Rucka's.
Also on my recent Brubaker reading list (actually even from before I read GC, but that's beside the point):Captain America
I know: most people will go "huh? The idiot dressed in an American Flag? How could they ever do a decent story about that guy?" and I used to be one of them.
However, a good long time ago, Mark Waid
and Ron Garney
did a run on that title that was hailed by literally everyone. It sold abysmally, got cancelled to be replaced by a series too horrible to mention (two words: Rob. Liefeld.) and some time later the two were put back together for a little while. Eventually (as happened so often in those days) Waid
left Marvel in anger.
All this to tell you though: everyone was right. Mark Waid wrote a great character and made me care about him, even though I knew next to nothing about Steve Rogers
Sure, he's some WWII suer-soldier, the only one to receive the super-soldier serum, he fought the war, but was presumed dead by the end, only to apparently have been in suspended animation for 20/30/40 years (depending on when his 'second life' begins). A founding member of the Avengers
, he's considered the soul of America.
On top of that, as I learned, he's also a first-class soldier with a keen mind and a righteous sense of justice. And most of all, he's a man out of time, which is the "edge" I think Cap has over guys like Superman or most other superheroes. He's the ultimate in old-fashioned, but in a good way. He's what America used to be, wanted to be and sometimes tries to be.
He embodies all the potential so many of us fail to achieve, but still aspire to.
And what makes his stories so appealing (despite the perhaps goofy suit) is that his kind of justice, his ideals and ideas don't seem hypocrite, dated though they may be.Ed Brubaker
takes all those elements and, on top of ALL of that, he mixes in plenty of action, spy games, intrigue and gorgeous art. Steve Epting
takes his own style to another level, attaining a kind of realism akin to Greg Land
but perhaps with just a little more story-telling sensibilities.
So don't think of Cap as an idiot in a flag.
Cap = smart!
Be seeing you