Thursday, November 30, 2006

Big Bang Comics #12

Big Bang Comics #12 (vol. 2), July 1997, Image Comics
writers: Gary Carlson & Chris Ecker
artists: Bill Fugate, Joe Cooper, Billy Hodge, David Zimmerman, Mark Lewis, Patrick Tuller, Jeff Weigel, Chris Ecker, Jim Brozman, Shawn Van Briesen

Have you ever had one of those days that might as well have never happened? I had three separate appointments today, one personal and two for work, all of which were postponed until tomorrow. Not that I didn’t have a to-do list for the first Friday of December or anything. Oh, to paraphrase Hootie and his Blowfish, “Time, why do you punish me?”

Speaking of time-based troubles, after such a disappointing day, I sought refuge in a potentially fluffy read, so I found Big Bang Comics #12, guest starring one of my favorite characters of all time, Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. In this multi-chapter adventure, a campy group of ‘60s supervillains summons Dragon and outfits him with a “time bomb” that propels the fin-headed hero through a proverbial Quantum Leap-like journey through the time-stream. On one level, this story presents an interesting dilemma for a muscle-bound brute like Dragon, as his greatest challenge can’t just get punched to get solved, and as the issue ends, we watch the finned one lose his composure in a rare moment of unadulterated panic – something many heroes refuse to exhibit, no matter how character-advancing it may be. I thought I had a bad day . . .

Of course, on a more prominent level, Big Bang #12, like the series as a whole, I presume, explores and utilizes the scope of comic book history to tell a compelling modern tale. During his time-travels, Dragon meets Ultiman, the Knight Watchman, Dr. Weird, and the members of the Round Table of America (all thinly veiled derivatives of much more popular source material) at various incarnations in their careers. Some pages are illustrated with the clustered fervor of an old Kane/Finger Batman layout, while some emulate a Neil Adams roughness ripped right out of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, a definitive look for the ‘70s, I reckon. For a black and white comic book, the visuals are consistently compelling, compensating the lack of color for varying styles every few pages, keeping the reader on his toes. These guys did their homework.

Trying to emulate past styles and trends to tell a well-rounded contemporary tale isn’t a new concept. Marvel’s first The Sentry mini-series often utilized mimicked images from the House of Idea’s graphic history, and speaking of Erik Larsen, some of the latest issues of The Savage Dragon have had pages drafted to appear as if they’d been “ripped” from certain characters’ checkered pasts. Normally, I would wonder if this device is a step backward in the artistic department of the medium, yet, if the implementation serves to streamline a genre or a concept altogether, to revisit the foundation to build another floor in the structure, I don’t think the idea constitutes the “swipe” problem many creators have claimed lately. For so long, publishers obviously sought to ignore or eradicate their understandably campy pasts; it’s about time someone embraced those old days and welcomed them back to the undercurrent of everything comics are, and are becoming.

So, today is almost over, yet for me, today has yet to begin. I needed a big bang to really get things rolling. Further, the first of December commemorates the sixth month of the A Comic A Day challenge, and when we ring in the New Year thirty days later, we’ll be halfway to our annual mark. I don’t need the Dragon to tell me – time flies when you’re having fun.


Anonymous said...

Hey I came across your blog looking for something else. I really appreciated your take on Big Bang #12. It was one of my favorite chunks of art I did for Big Bang. My homage to Neal Adams in that issue was just complete fun.

I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write about it.

Shawn Van Briesen

Anonymous said...

My wife told me that she found your blog on the web and told me about it. I had a real blast inking the Dr. Weird story for that issue and it was also my favorite Big Bang work. Thanks a lot for the comments.

Patrick Tuller