Monday, June 15, 2009

Old Black Terror Vs New Black Terror

Black Terror by Dynamite ComicsWhat to do with Public Domain characters? That's the big debate over here at Flashback Universe. I suspect if Pierre had his way, we'd be cranking out new issues of Catman or the GA Daredevil.

And while I really dig those characters as well, I think you have to bring more to the table than just more stories with old characters. Dynamite seems to be giving it a go with their Project Superpowers spinoffs (The Death-Defying 'Devil and The Black Terror)

I'd be curious to know if any fans of the current Project Superpowers series are Golden Age comics fans as well? Do people who like to read the adventures of the new versions seek out the Golden Age stories? If you are a regular here on Monday, let me know what you think of the new stories Dynamite is putting out.

Today, I present two issues of the original Black Terror series:

Black Terror

[ Black Terror 11 ]

Black Terror 12

[ Black Terror 12 ]

Hope you enjoy them!

- Jim


cash_gorman said...

I was a GA fan before projects like SUPERPOWERS.

Frankly, I prefer the way Roy Thomas did it with THE INVADERS and ALL-STAR SQUADRON. While he made some changes to characters and continuity, most of his mindset was what could be kept and folded into the continuity as opposed to looking to what he could change.

Read a half dozen of issues of those two titles and then books like SUPERPOWERS and THE TWELVE and you'll see a world of difference. Not only in how characters were being presented, but how they were introduced, the intermingling of new threats with villains from the 40s.

Whereas JMS and Krueger seem completely incapable of writing a single character in-character, having to change their costumes, powers, etc. What was for Roy the exception, has become the rule for today's writers.

SUPERPOWERS seems to be plotted along the lines of shows like HEROES and LOST. There's an over-arcing storyline somewhere in all the garbage, but each storyline is really about only showing glimpses and teases of it and side-stepping all around the main story issues as well as keeping the various characters' motivations obscured to the point that one wonders whether any of this was really thought out in any real detail.

Whereas THE TWELVE is plotted along the lines of a soap-opera, it's all about characters talking and revelations and reactions to things, but all the action really happens off panel. Such as the first issue where we are introduced to the characters by their liberating a city and then going through a German bunker, with a character narrating, talking about each one and their powers but without them actually doing anything more exciting than walking across empty rooms and down staircases. IT'S A COMIC BOOK! THERE IS NO FX BUDGET, YOU DON'T HAVE TO HIRE SOMEONE TO CHOREOGRAPH THE FIGHT SCENE OR PAY FOR STUNTMEN! Sure, there are wonderful scenes, full of angst and drama. But, ONE LIFE TO LIVE makes for a terrible action movie.

What needs to be brought to the table is simply good stories. Will it sell? That's something else and almost impossible to predict. But, I think the characters should be treated as if you were using any historical or real person. This is true of any comic book whether it's the Black Terror or Spawn. If you aren't writing your own character, then you need to look at the historical record as to who and what the character is and the story should reflect that. Sure, you'll have to make some changes due to inconsistencies (such as the Black Terror's powers) and what we know now about science, society and such vs what we knew then. But, the character is as valid a character for today as Batman, Superman, Spiderman, etc. But SUPERPOWERS and the minis are about selling their over-arcing storyline of an alternate universe and not really about valid character driven superhero stories with just enough story hook to bring you back for the next installment until it just peters out.

RKB said...

Yeah, how about asking Golden Age fans if they like these new takes on old characters. ;)
Joe Casey can't write the Real Daredevil. I don't want to see Curly all grown up. I wanted to see an updating of Daredevil and the little wise guys, like DC did with Batman and Robin without that earth 2 nonsense. Take the themes of the old then teleport'em into the now. Don't know about Black Terror, I'm almost afraid to look. ;)
I don't think the current creators have enough respect for the source material. DD updated origin: his parents were killed by pygmie's in Australia when he was a baby, pygmie's raised him, and he fought the chief who killed his parents. Kid DD won and took his costume from the pygmy chief he defeated in DD #18. Then DD killed the evil uncle who set up his parents murder. Grant Morrison could kick ass with that, Casey and the retro gang couldn't.

Anonymous said...

In my world, this "Superpowers" trademark grab does not exist. The creators have no respect for the characters. They have no respect for actual fans of the Golden Age. They are only interested in grinding out $$$.

I vote with my dollars and I give more respect, credit, and $upport to Erik Larsen for his recent efforts.

trey said...

So what do paper-thin, poorly conceived characters from half a century ago have over paper-thi, poorly conceived characters from today or 15 years ago?

An exuberant innocence, perhaps?

Otherwise, I'm not sure what makes Black Terror, Daredevil, or the vagabond (ok, maybe the vagabond) more worthy of retreading than Cable, Deadpool, Cold Blood, or any of the characters crowding the Ultraverse or Comic's Greatest World.

I'm all for nostalgia, but I think a healthy, thriving medium needs more than that.

So yes, I'm a fan of the GA, but not to the same degree Golden Age revisitation.

Jim Shelley said...

@cash_gorman - yeah, I'm in complete agreement. JMS treats The Twelve like it's a movie proposal that just happens to be in comic form. While I'm enjoying the dialogue between characters, both Pierre and I thought the whole, *Let's make them all darker!* thing is getting played as well.

Jim Shelley said...

@RKB - I think you nailed it when you said *Take the themes of the old then teleport'em into the now.* - I really think that's the key. One of the reason I wince everytime I see DC try a new Shazam/Captain Marvel comic is because they almost invariably botch it. The Jeff Smith Monster Society was just plain boring - for both me AND my daughter.
I understand wanting to pander to the modern audiences, but at some point, those audiences need to be served something different to read. What's weird is that I discovered the Golden Age comics through the Jules Fieffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes, and I enjoyed the stories quite a bit. Were they as good as the Marvel Team-Ups I was reading at the time? Not really, but they were so different that they fascinated me. Seems to me it's been a long time since I heard someone say a new comic fascinated them.

Jim Shelley said...

@Anonymous - Yeah, that Larsen Next Issue Project was cool wasn't it?!

Jim Shelley said...

@Trey - I think you are right, which is why revivals of these characters almost always fail to live up to reader expectations.
I think some of the appeal of the Golden Age/Public Domain heroes is that because they have spent the last 40 years on ice so to speak, they don't have all the baggage so many of the modern heroes have.
Also, do you remember Division 13 from Comics Greatest World? That was an awesome comic that sort of recaptured the beauty of the old FF, Doom Patrol and Challengers of the Unknown. I'm sorry that one never got a followup.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Project Superpowers because not only did it introduce me to the Golden Age public domain heroes, but also I enjoy seeing Ross and company's takes on the characters. That is the awesome thing about these characters they can be interpreted in a multitude of ways and if you do not like one version your free to create your own.

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