Saturday, April 22, 2017

Talking Comics With Grey Gordon

1. What was your introduction to the comic book world, how old where you, and what drew you to comic books as an artistic medium? It would be hard to pinpoint an exact entry point. I grew up in the 90s, so comic books were ubiquitous by that point. We'd reached sort of the peak saturation point of comic books as a mainstream medium. I mean, Rob Liefeld was in a damn Levi's commercial. Also, Rob Liefeld-woof. So yeah, I guess they were just something I always enjoyed. I grew up in a family of relative nerds. I legitimately don't remember a time when Star Wars, Star Trek and old superhero flicks weren't on the TV, and my parents were into LOTR and Dune and whatnot, so comics were just a natural extension of those interests. 2. When you started diving into comic books at a young age, what where the first few series you started collecting? I didn't really start collecting in earnest until my teen years. As a kid, it was a lot of reading shit at the store while my mom bought groceries or buying whatever single issues I could get my hands on. We were pretty broke growing up. Not destitute on the streets by any means, and there was always food on the table, but there just wasn't a ton of money to spend on frivolous things. That said, I mentioned Liefeld earlier, and that was some of the first stuff I remember actively reading. If you're not familiar, Rob Liefeld was one of the dudes who eventually went off to start Image, but he was initially a hotshot artist working for Marvel on titles like New Mutants and X-Force. His shit was everywhere, so other than Silver Age books I inherited, his were some of the first I remember reading. That said, I quickly moved away from that and into DC and what they were doing with Batman at the time. Marvel's obsession with pouches and swords and lasers just didn't appeal to me like it did to a lot of kids. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go pick up a copy of X-Force from that era and you'll get it. So, I guess Batman was my first super deep bond with a particular comic book character. As basic as it may sound, he remains my favorite to this day. 3. What was it about Batman that caught your attention? Do you have a favorite villain or story arc? I really loved that he didn't have any superpowers, for one. There was something really awe inspiring about a dude who was just so determined to fulfill his vision that he threw every fiber of himself into that process. I also didn't know it at the time, but I've suffered from pretty serious depression since childhood, so I always tended to gravitate towards things with a grimmer aesthetic. Cliche, I realize, but true nonetheless. I think I would be a fool to not acknowledge Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns as the single best Batman comic of all time, and I think most would agree with me. However, I personally have a soft spot for an early 90s arc called Knightfall. That was the one that pulled me away from Marvel at the time and fully into Batman and DC. The short version is that Batman gets his back broken by a now iconic hyper strong criminal mastermind named Bane. With him out of action, another dude named Jean-Paul Valley steps in to assume the mantle during Bruce Wayne's absence, and without getting into the convoluted backstory, his previous training and affiliations basically propelled him down a hyper violent path and he donned this gnarly fucking new bat suit with metal claws and shit. That's probably still my favorite Batman Run outside of the Dark Knight Returns. Some honorable mentions are Hush, The Killing Joke, and the more recent Batman Eternal, but that's barely scratching the surface. 4. Being a big Batman fan, what are your thoughts on the movie adaptations and tv shows? Any time you're adapting source material for a different format, it can get dodgy. By and large, I think many of the on screen adaptations of Batman have been missing something or are outright awful, but there are some excellent ones as well. I think Batman The Animated Series is by far the best non-comic interpretation of Batman. I also like the Tim Burton movies for what they are. Nicholson's joker is incredible. Forever and Batman and Robin are unspeakable disasters, but worth a rewatch for the comedic value. The first two Nolan ones are good films, but missing a lot. The last one is fucking abysmal. Truthfully, I think Ben Affleck is the best Batman we've seen on the big screen, but it was sadly in one of the worst superhero movies in recent memory, and it doesn't look like DC's films are going to get much better any time soon. I'm just hoping with the massive resurgence of interest in superhero films, we'll actually get a DC cinematic universe in the next 20 years that doesn't suck.

Part of Grey's collection
5. Speaking about the recent resurgence of interest in super hero films, do you feel like Hollywood is making a quick cash grab on these franchises? Every one seems to be set up to introduce the next character. Do you think the quality of content is suffering? Well, I mean, the film industry is just that-an industry. Not to be too cynical, but at the end of the day, it's all a cash grab for the studios involved. I don't really care, though. I'm aware of that fact and it doesn't bother me. Some people are complaining of over saturation, but I don't really get that perspective. We're finally at a point where comic book films are technologically feasible. I get to see the worlds and the characters that inhabit them realized on screen in an unprecedented way. As a pathological escapist, there's nothing I could want more. Of course you're going to have studios rushing to get in the game and making bad movies, but for every awful film, there's a great one. Marvel/Disney has been absolutely knocking it out of the park for nearly a decade. Also, for me, even a bad superhero flick is enjoyable on some level. Any time I'm not spending with loved ones is pretty much consumed with video games, comics, movies, television and D&D. Give me more content with which to ignore reality. Sure, some of it will suck, but plenty is bound to stick. I'm all for it. Keep it coming. 6. If you browse any comic forum or comments section on a movie trailer, you'll see hoards of fans foaming at the mouth because the director or writer changes an aspect of the story or trait of a character. When it comes to the execution of bringing a comic book character to the big screen, do you think that the director/writer should stick to the books, or do you think a certain level of artistic freedom should be allowed? I definitely don't feel anyone should feel obligated to stick to the books in terms of plot points. While I love seeing familiar arcs explored on screen, more open ended adaptations can also lead to incredible results. Watch Legion for a great example of that. Inversely, it can also lead to a show like Gotham, which we won't speak of any further. All that said, I do think the characters should be recognizable and at least somewhat true to the source material. At the end of the day, I'm going to see characters that I've grown to love and understand over the years, so I don't want to see some totally backwards representation of them. Henry Cavill's Superman in the new movies is a perfect example of this. He's broody, pouty, grim and essentially everything Superman isn't. If it weren't for the big S on his chest, he'd be unrecognizable as Superman. So, I guess it's just a matter of striking that balance between creative vision and respecting the source material. 7. When it comes to comic books, what do you like the most about them: the art work, dialogue, or is it something else? As I kind of touched on in the last question, I'm a serial escapist. I always have been. That's the primary appeal of comics for me. There's something incredibly mesmerizing about being able to get totally immersed in a fantasy world. The sad truth is that real life is often heartbreaking, and I just don't want to think about it more than I have to. That's probably self-centered and cynical, but it is what it is. Beyond that, I think it takes a combination of great art, plot and writing to make a truly timeless comic. For me, the pieces all have to fall in to place, but quality doesn't take a specific form. It runs the gamut from campy to extremely somber. Like anything, it's all about how effectively you can execute your vision. 8. Where are some of your favorite places for finding comics? With the rise of the internet and sites like eBay, specialty stores like comic and collector shops are starting to get pushed to the side. What are your thoughts on the shift? On one hand, accessibility and convenience are nice, but I really enjoy the small local comic book shop. Mom and pop spots like that were what I cut my teeth on. I actually used to work at a local one called Discount Comic Book Service that's about to close their physical location and I'm really bummed about it. I understand the mechanisms that have caused the shift and I accept its inevitability, but it does bum me out. I try not to get caught up in "good old days" thinking, but it's tough sometimes. I'm not sure where the fuck I fit in this world. 9. Obviously you have a soft spot for the super hero side of comics, but do you have any other favorites outside of that genre? What drew you to superheroes in the first place? There's tons of good stuff outside of the more traditional superhero comics. It's cliche now, but when Walking Dead first started coming out I was super stoked on it. Vertigo was doing a really rad sub-imprint from 2008-2011 called Vertigo Crime, and there were some really dope titles in that. Garth Ennis' non-superhero stuff like Preacher and Hellblazer is phenomenal. I could go on, but in short, I definitely like stuff outside of just superhero books. What drew me to more traditional superhero comics in the first place is something I've kind of touched on. Again, I think if boils down to escapism and fantasy. Like any kid, I loved imagining myself as in those roles. It's such a departure from the mundane drudgery of daily life. Don't get me wrong, I like my life, but that doesn't keep me from spending most of my work day fantasizing about being a member of the New Mutants. 10. Superheroes and other comic characters have been used to promote different products, raise support for war efforts, and comfort children in hospitals, while comics themselves where pretty much the first medium to allow direct marketing to children through add space throughout the comic. What role do you think these characters play in shaping our society, culture, and consumer habits? At this point, they probably have very little to do with consumer habits. As you pointed out, there was a time when comic books more actively marketed specific products to kids, and while I'm sure it influenced purchasing habits, I also don't think it accomplished anything in that realm that advertising couldn't have accomplished via a different format. Concerning their cultural impact, I think it would be hard to overstate how influential they have been on the modern pop culture landscape. There's the obvious film boom going on right now, but there was a time when the airwaves were also filled with superhero cartoons. Beyond influencing just youth culture, the tropes, catchphrases and characters of those books have become iconic in a way few things are. Superman is recognized almost universally. You would be hard pressed to find someone in the Western world who isn't familiar with him. That's quite a claim. I won't expound further, simply because this is a topic that could easily fill a book. In fact, there is a wealth of literature regarding the cultural and social impact of comics, and much of it is very interesting.

Follow Grey on Twitter : @greyxgordon Check out his newest project:

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