Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Doc Savage Fail

A couple of weeks ago, DC published the first issue of a new Doc Savage series by writer Paul Malmont and artist Howard Porter. It was Malmont's first comics work, his previous writing credits being the novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. Porter on the other hand is a well known comics pro who has worked on both Flash and Grant Morrison's Justice League.
So - how was the first issue received by the critics? Not so well it seems...

From IGN:
Doc Savage falls flat on his face in the debut of his first DC ongoing.... I'll leave all subsequent issues of this new ongoing on the stands next to all the other poorly crafted comics I'm not buying. 4.3 out of 10.

From Broken Frontier: overall sub-par offering that fails to live up to the exotic perils and strange adventures that so typified the pulp era.

The one common theme in the bad reviews is Porter's art.

From ComicBookResources:
Worse is the art of Porter, which is wildly inconsistent throughout the issue. One of Savage’s associates, Remy, is meant to be so ugly that it causes one of the boys to react in disgust, but Remy’s face doesn’t look any uglier than the faces of the other characters. Eyes move around faces at random, heads change shape, and limbs grow and shrink from panel to panel. Porter has always been an artist that can be counted on for energy, but his art here is flat with awkward poses and unclear storytelling.

My thought on the art is similar to what the guys at iFanboy and The Comic Book Page podcasts said - what appeared on the cover is what the interior of the book should have looked like.

If you are pitching a comic to fans of a character (and I'm guessing that's the logic here right?) and there is a well established look for this character, then isn't it a misstep to not use that look and feel? Judging by the reviews, I'd say the answer is "yes."

Judge for yourself (panels from issue 1)

Note: the anatomy in the panel below isn't as bad as it is in the rest of the comic. The action just seems awkward. Are those flames coming from Docs fingers? What exactly is igniting? It may be the colorists fault.

In summation - I think Porter works well with a writer like Grant Morrison, whose stories already have a quasi surreal element to them, or for a larger than life cast of characters like the Flash's Rogues Gallery, but for a comic that was supposed to harken back to a pulp era - or at least trade on that appeal -I don't think this was a good match. This was not a great way to start the series.

I predict this new Doc Savage gets cancelled in less than a year.

- Jim


Reno said...

I have to agree. Howard Porter's art doesn't fit here. I liked the old DC series better with the Kuberts on art. Rags Morales' art was a better fit for the First Wave title (and even there I was annoyed by Commissioner Dolan's characterization).

RKB said...

I agree with your prediction, this title is doomed to end in a year or less -maybe 10 issues, maybe 9.
Porter's art doesn't fit at all, was Darryl Banks not available or interested?
I like Doc Savage but cross-over's with Batman isn't going to get it done, and neither is some Nouveau Noir/ Recycled Pulp approach.
You can't prize toss away what makes Doc Savage (and other pulp characters) who they are by 'updating/re-imagining' them and expect people who like those characters to buy them just based on the name alone.

Luke H. said...

Disappointing. How was the Justice, Inc backup? I think that was written by Jason Starr who is a pretty good current crime writer. I don't know why DC is bothering with this initiative as you know it's not going to last; why not leave these characters to publishers that will rally cherish and embrace them as centerpieces of their lines?

cash_gorman said...

The artwork didn't bother me. I thought Porter did a decent job of straddling the line of a character that is supposed to be a superhero in everything but a costume. The parts that didn't ring true were all in the writing and much of that dictated by Azzarello's First Wave bible.

The Avenger was a complete screw-up.

RKB, the publishers and creators don't understand that concept. It's why Dynamite (and the ScyFy channel) think their approach to the Phantom is just ducky and why DC has gone that route with the pulp heroes and the Red Circle line. DC doesn't understand why the new Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Atom, Aquaman didn't succeed, that it's starting the title with a built in handicap.

JimShelley said...

@Reno - yeah, Rags or the Kuberts would been an excellent choice!

JimShelley said...

@RKB - you know what would have been cool - a Doc Savage series by someone with better art, but in a Digital/Zuda format.

Still, considering that a lot of the fans of Doc are old school guys, maybe going digital would turn them off...

JimShelley said...

@Luke -to be honest, I was unable to buy a copy of this comic as it was sold out here in Columbia, but from every review I read, the Avenger story was the highlight of the comic, but that is in comparison to the Doc story, so it's hard to judge by that. I'll say this - the art was amazing from what I saw - fitting the tone of the character much better.

cash_gorman said...

There's also the fact that the writer of First Wave had no intention to drawing in the few old guys that were fans of Doc Savage. Even before the first issue came out, he was totally dismissal of any built in fans of the character, the actual stories and was proud of the fact that the old fans would be turned off by his book. Well, he succeeded in one regard. After giving this and First Wave a try, I told my store not to pull any from the line for me.

And, how is a limited series like First Wave (or any series for that matter) late by the second issue?

JimShelley said...

@Cash - I agree with you about Firestorm and company. I think it's funny in an era when the top selling DC book is one helmed by a revived Silver Age version of a hero, that we still see DC willing to kill off characters so easily (Arsenal/Speed died recently did he not? Or is that upcoming)

Here's what I think would have been the better play with Doc Savage - simply have a writer adapt one of the existing Doc novels into comics format - much in the same way that Dark Horse (and originally Marvel) adapted the Conan stories.

I think a Hardcover illustrated version of The Land of Terror or Fortress of Solitude would have been a better appeal to the old fans.

Chris Nye said...

I cringe at today's approach to comics. Absolutely cringe.

Joe said...

....and, not to be too pedantic or anything, but Doc ain't blond. And he's not a Hulk, either. I've tolerated Porter's art in the past, but I just can't, this time. As a long-time Doc Savage fan, I've waited decades for someone to get it right, and have finally given up on comics succeeding. Dave Stevens was the only artist who got it right, and he couldn't even use Doc's name in the Rocketeer.
You're not going to appeal to fans of the character by doing a bad job depicting the character and you're not going to win new readers by doing a bad job, period. DC tried with doc, before and it fell flat, but at least they got his hair color right, that time.


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