Today we're going to try something a tad bit different. Tim Seeley and I like comics from the '90s. Really, we do. Everything from "Sleepwalker" and "Darkhawk" to David/Keown "Hulk" and Michelinie/Larsen "Spider-Man" to "Youngblood" and "Prime." We're those guys. So we figured we'd do a spoof of The Basement Tapes and chat about it a little. Next week, I'm going to spoof Larsen's column, you PUSSIES, so be on the lookout for that. Oh, and I've got some pages from "Marvel Team-Up" #16 that I'm slipping your way. Make sure you check that book out. Now, without further delay-- here goes!
ROBERT KIRKMAN: So, Tim Seeley, former artist of "G.I. Joe" and current artist on "Forgotten Realms" for Devil's Due and writer/creator of "Hack/Slash" also for DD, I wanted to chat with you about the '90s. You and I are the same age, we both grew up on comics of the late '80s early '90s. We have fond memories of "Darkhawk," "Sleepwalker," "New Warriors" and all the others. Those were our comics and we loved every minute of it. Yet, it seems in this day and age, those comics are laughed at, looked down on, and not considered worthy additions to the history of comics, Marvel Comics specifically. I don't think that's right. What do you think?
TIM SEELEY: 'Taint right at all! Yeah, I find myself coming to the defense of these characters at least once a week on message boards...mostly message boards which I've promised myself I would no longer hop on just to defend Darkhawk or Speedball. But, I can't help it , man. The love is too strong. I 've put a lot of energy into trying to figure out why people think they're lame. I mean...Speedball has glowing ball things all over. He bounces. That's cool. Sleepwalker can warp stuff with his eyes. That's cool. Any theories, Robert?
RK: I commented on this a little in "Marvel Team-Up" #14 (on sale early November), but I'll lay it out a little clearer here. I think the older characters get a pass and the newer characters are under heavy, heavy scrutiny. I mean... the first guy (or one of the first) Superman is a guy with superpowers called "super" man. Spider-Man is a guy with Spider-powers called "Spider" man. We love these guys, and yeah, they're great. But if the costume was just as cool, Fly-Man would be as popular today if he had been created instead of Spider-Man. I mean, if everything was the same except the name. Fly-Man would be in multi-million dollar movies. And yet, if I came out with a book tomorrow called Fly-Man he'd be considered lame. I'll admit, Darkhawk isn't the best name ever, but it's far from the worst.
TS: Yeah...that's true. Today is all about the "post-modern," so something simple, and direct like Superman, or Mr. Fantastic would just come across sounding lame today...I mean, if you came out with a book called "Fantastic Man," you'd just get lotsa snickers. But, consider a book like "Sandman." That name isn't too much better than Sleepwalker or Darkhawk...but, it came out around the same time, and people have fonder memories of that lil' goth boy than they generally do about Night Thrasher. I mean, obviously, Sandman was a bit better written, technically...but, what is it about that title that gave it a pass? Y'know, or Witchblade, which is a far stupider name?
RK: It's like Switchblade-- but with a broom and a black cat! Yeah, I get what you're saying. You bring up an interesting point. Something else people say about our favorite old books: People say they were crap, that they were written terribly. I don't think anyone has bagged on the art (and I hate for this to be about Darkhawk and Sleepwalker specifically because I'm talking about '90s books in general, even Spider-Man of the time) and Bret Blevins and Mike Manley were doing great work at the time. Blevins especially was turning in solid gold on Sleepwalker. But the writing, that always gets shit on. And again, I look back at books from the '60s and '70s... the classics, and I don't really think there's much of a difference. Were the early issues of Spider-Man really less silly than the first seven or so issues of Sleepwalker? Maybe it's that the average reader was getting older around the early '90s... maybe that's why nobody cuts these, or the books from early Image, any slack.
TS: Yeah...Now I'm distracted by the image of Witchblade on a broom. Top Cow should get right on that. Well, sometimes I wonder if it has to do with the fact that DH, Sleepy, and New Warriors also came out during a "glut" time...and by "glut" I mean, comics were sellin' like crazy. I think, looking back, people associate that time with being "anything'll sell, even if it sucks sour frong ass." The belief was that you could smear poo on a Cracker and it'd be a 300,000 copy seller. So, "Poo-on-a-Cracker Man," even if it were really well written and entertaining, has a stigma. I dunno...I stand by "New Warriors" being one of the best series, ever...I mean, at least until issue #25. And, "Sleepwalker" wasn't high art, but I'd say it was as good as just about any other comic at the time...and, it was a damn good idea too.
RK: So other good books are punished because everyone from lawyers to plumbers were buying forty or more copies of "The Death Of Superman?" Is this really just a case of people hating what was popular? I don't think it's that. But yeah, even if the comics weren't the most sophisticated comics in the world, you still have to at least admit that these are cool characters. I mean, sure Night Thrasher is called Night Thrasher and he rides a skate board... that's goofy. But... I mean... isn't the damn Silver Surfer goofy, too? I mean, how did they know what a surfboard looked like in space? It makes no sense. Sleepwalker is the most original superhero concept invented since the '60s. I mean, really everyone else is a variation on four themes. Alien from another planet. Mutant, or someone born with powers. Hit by or bitten by radioactive something. Or built or found object that give them power. It's those four concepts, right? Sleepwalker is about a guy who goes to sleep and an alien comes out of his head and fights crime. That's just cool.
TS: Haha..Yeah, the four concept rule is true...they're the four "Origins" in the Marvel RPG from the '90s I think ...(A game in which I played Darkhawk, actually. Darkforce Blast!) So, here's the big question: are you and I the only ones who still like these characters? You're gonna have them in MTU (so jealous is Tim!). Could they be introduced to a new audience and thrive? The truth is, at one time, they were big sellers. But, they also dwindled until you and I were the last ones buying copies. Could they realistically have another moment in the sun? Or are they as much a product of the early '90s as Hypercolor shirts?
I've also noticed a trend, where people like the characters that started out about the time they were still a wide-eyed munchkin just gettin' into comics. My friend Mike Norton likes Power-Man and Moon Knight a lot more than I do. And, I don't think Alex Ross will paint anything unless it's from the Superfriends cartoon. Are you and I just victims of "Wide Eyed Munchkin" syndrome?!
RK: I think that's a big part of it. Those were the books coming out when we started up on this crazy addiction that is comics. Could these comics come back-- who knows? We'll see how my "Team-Up" arc sells (issue 15-18 shipping December-March). I think they could if done right and if the right creative team were involved, someone who not only had a love for the characters, but was also really damn good and had a bit of popularity behind them (I.E. not me). I wonder if maybe the stigma attached to these characters being a bit lame had doomed them from ever making a comeback. I tell you what, though, I'd buy a Hypercolor shirt in a minute!
TS: Well, I tell you what, I think you'd be the guy to bring these back. I'm gonna buy four damn copies of those "Marvel Team Ups." Hopefully, people will pick them up, cuz y'know, that Wolverine-Girl is in it, or whatever. But, they'll find themselves going.."Wow..Sleepwalker is the cat's pajamas. And, this Terror Inc. guy is nifty. If Robert Kirkman writes a new Darkhawk book, I'll buy it until a zombie apocalypse destroys the Earth!" Of course, you'll have to call me up to draw it, cuz I have to believe there isn't alot of artists who love DH more than me. haha. On the other hand, if you can get Michael Turner to do it, and sell 100,000 Darkhawk books, I'll live!
RK: Well, as much as this wasn't meant to just be an advertisement for the upcoming "Marvel Team-Up" arc "LEAGUE OF LOSERS" (a name I chose with much affection) I guess that's a good way to bring this all home. I'm not even remotely arrogant enough to think that my little "Marvel Team-Up" arc will be able to bring these great characters back from thier slump. But my arc is going to be a respectful tribute to the potential in these (and all) over-looked characters, so just maybe someone reading the book now will be inspired enough to dig up some back issues and fall in love with these characters just like we did. I just hope that after all these years these characters still hold up to the test of time-- BUY MY BOOKS.