Some from third hand information from the fab Wait, What? Podcast over on Savage Critics . Discussing the death of the Human Torch leads to a discussion of The Thing’s death from about…2004? I think that’s when. Anyway they’re talking about an interview that then series writer Mark Waid did (with one of the Twomorrows publications I believe) about that story and the in-story fact that nobody was even acknowledging The Thing as dead, nor was Waid or Marvel, because and I paraphrase, “pretending otherwise was an insult to the audience.” Which is correct! That is right, it is Mr. Waid. That storyline which ends with them rescuing The Thing from Jack Kirby Heaven (I have some sort of joke about it being Jewish Heaven too but I don’t have it ironed out and really it is going to play to like 1 person I know but I like to make him laugh.)
Before I continue any further, I want to acknowledge Plok over at A Trout in the Milk, we chained off e-mails the week of the “event” and it helped me hammer some stuff out.
In a lot of ways this feels like the true death-knell, for me, of the Fantastic Four and the idea that the Marvel verve of old will never return. The scene of Johnny Storm’s death is so borrowed from every movie where one guy faces an army to swelling strings of self-sacrificing bravery that it becomes a parody of that sort of moment. The “widescreen” layout of this re-enforces this which was probably the point but it works counter-intuitively for me.
How I have grown to hate the “Widescreen” style of comics. Used best by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch in their run of The Authority. That’s because the nature of the stories was to put the superhero story on crank and blast it to 10 or whatever that crazy sharp decibel that Sleigh Bells plays on. It was a stylistic choice that made sense for that series…and then was taken out by The Ultimates and every other Marvel book for six issue storyarcs and beaten to death with a stick dripping blood in the Romita Jr. fashion.
I’ve been reading Essential Avengers Vol.1 . Kirby is remembered artistically for his late 60’s and 70’s work which was bigger and splashier but that motherfucker ruled the 9-panel grid too. His early 60’s work is always coupled with Stan Lee and the creation of the characters but never much discussed on their artistic prowess in the way his big pop work is. That stuff, the Avengers stuff those first 8 issues, had so much motion in its compacted form. Avengers #4 has Captain America return, a space alien that turns out to be Medusa (which has nothing to do with anything) and the Sub-Mariner. Three stories and issues of material by modern standards jammed into one mega story but never felt overstuffed because the momentum was fabulous. It holds together because you’re flipping the pages, the characters are 100 percent invested, everything is invested, and goddamn it you can believe in it because it is so damn sure of its self.
The climax itself is such an obviously cut thing. Leaving before the scene is over, the big back door. On the one hand it’s a good thing to put there and in recognizing it the validity of the Torch’s return is already in place…on the other hand it is sooooo obvious that it is distracting.
It also seems to me that for a long while Marvel books have been afraid to be Marvel Comic Books. That is what the cinematic approach has done. You know what the Human Torch’s death would’ve been like when Marvel Entertainment was Marvel Comics?
An above and beyond true HEROIC moment, the purest sort of exclamatory win and triumph that every one of us that’s ever read a Stan Lee comic book has seen and could, goshdarnit, write ourselves. A hero soliloquies about being down and how we’re all down once in awhile and that at those moments we must fight our hardest. And he fights and fights and dies but takes all those fuckers down with him. God, when is the last time a Hero soliloquied? In thought balloons or out loud to no one but themselves? You wanna read the good version of the Human Torch’s death? Read that Walter Simonson issue of Thor where The Executioner dies. Amazing.
You know what has been lost in the “Cinematic” style? The real sweep of comics. Superhero comics, let’s be fair. Because they can be more action packed, romantic, sweeping, sad, funny, thrilling, Shakespeare and Norse Myth, trashy, stupid, disposable and that one thing you can’t live without all at once in less space and more time with every literary option pretty much on the fucking table. And you comic book making guys are just gonna do movies?
-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011