Friday, December 10, 2010

1985: A very good year for comic books

(Published December 11, PDI-Super)

By Oliver M. Pulumbarit


(This week, Super travels back in time to show you what our pages would have looked like if we had been around in 1985, when the Inquirer was first born. Forget that it's 2010, forget your mobile phone (nobody's texting you - it's 1985!), forget Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus and find out what was hot in 1985.)

Welcome to the last few weeks of 1985! What an exciting year it’s been for comic books and comic book readers.

The art form continues to provide escapism and, in some cases, reflections of the times. It’s now being taken more seriously by nonfans, and is being appreciated by a growing number of geeks, from the “Choose Your Own Adventure”-reading set to the more mature devotees of Heavy Metal magazine.

Local comic anthologies or komiks and some magazines offer a weekly respite from real-world concerns with its comedy, adventure and romance serials; publications like “Wakasan,” “Funny Komiks” and “Liwayway” are among a multitude of successful titles available almost everywhere.

American comics continue to amaze Filipino readers, who get their reading fix via a few specialty shops in Greenhills and Makati, and various bookstores and supermarkets that sell more random selections. In these increasingly troubling and unstable times, you lose yourself in these wondrous, imaginative worlds faster than you can say “Snap elections!”

Readers introduced to the DC and Marvel universes years back and are currently following their favorite iconic heroes will attest that 1985 has been a very good year for fans of costumed crimefighters.

The recently concluded epic “Crisis on Infinite Earths” by Marv Wolfman and George Perez fixed decades of continuity problems and replaced the DC Multiverse with a single, definitive reality. Some of the title’s most shocking casualties include popular heroes Supergirl and the Flash, who died heroically in issues 7 and 8, respectively.

Marvel had a less earth-shaking event, but Jim Shooter and Steve Leialoha’s “Secret Wars II” intriguingly chronicled the omnipotent Beyonder’s eventful journey, from trying to fit in with humans (and superhumans) to getting fed up with them. The character made his presence felt in a number of tie-ins, his fights with the new Phoenix (a.k.a. Rachel Summers) and Marvel’s cosmic entities among the more memorable super-conflicts.

Speaking of the Phoenix force, there’s a third mutant book out now! “X-Factor” stars the original X-Men, including Jean Grey, revealed as someone separate from the deceased original Phoenix. Fans are stoked and waiting for the eventual meeting between the team and erstwhile allies from the “Uncanny X-Men” book, which now has reformed arch-foe Magneto as a regular character.

One of the year’s most unique superhero stories is “X-Men: Heroes for Hope,” Marvel’s version of “We Are the World.” This single-issue benefit book brought together creators like Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Alan Moore, Jim Starlin, Louise Simonson and John Buscema, among many others. The X-Men find themselves attacked by an ancient psychic creature from Africa, and in the course of hunting for their adversary, the mutant heroes help out relief efforts by feeding people in the famine-stricken region.

The aforementioned Moore, by the way, gave horror fans a thrilling year with his reinvention of the muck-monster Swamp Thing. In the unforgettable “Swamp Thing Annual # 2,” the titular character rescued the wrongly condemned Abigail Arcane from hell with help from some of DC’s enigmatic mystical beings. Let’s hope the writer is given more characters to revamp, and tells more disturbing, mind-blowing tales.

Let’s get prescient for a minute and ponder the state of comic books two decades or so from today:

Perhaps comic books will inspire big, respectable and faithful movie or TV adaptations, and will spawn sought-after merchandise like fully articulated action figures and more visually striking video games. Maybe journalists and writers from other media like television and films can become lauded comic book authors. Maybe school libraries will consider comics a legit form of literature, too.

Perhaps there will be openly gay and lesbian heroes (and villains), as well as more racially diverse superhero teams. Comic books will probably be really expensive by then, but they should be printed on better paper, and colored more precisely and vividly.

Maybe by that time, technology will allow comics to be read on portable computers, or will allow fans to talk about them and their creators. Maybe there will be independent, alternative Filipino comic books that offer fresh new stories, and also a new wave of Filipino artists illustrating American comic books, like in the ’70s and ’80s.

We can only imagine what the future might bring for comic books. Things have gotten serious and periodically bleak lately because of real-life local and global upheavals, but comic books will definitely remain a source of entertainment, and center on the glorious and otherworldly exploits of men, women, robots, funny animals and what-have-you.

So if you’re giving in to your godchildren’s demands by getting them Voltron toys or She-Ra dolls, make sure you give them a good comic book or three as well. Introduce them to worlds worth sharing, and stories worth remembering.

Ah, 1985, a pretty amazing year for comic books, heralding bigger, better and more fantastic things ahead.


Gregory Plantamura said...

Do you think Swamp Thing is a contender for Best Continuing Series in the 1985 Jack Kirby Awards? Or perhaps Best Writer? Or at least Best Single Issue?

OLIVER said...

I think so, Gregory! :)