Monday, July 28, 2008

SDCC08: That 70s Comics Panel

Friday's "That 70s Comics" panel was hosted by Mark Evanier, and the panel consisted of Jim Starlin, Joe Staton, Mike Grell, Mike W. Barr, Bernie Wrightson, and Len Wein. This only covers those aspects of the panel that reference the Legion, which was not a huge amount.

One early topic of the panel was mentors - who were they and how did they help. Grell's was Joe Orlando, who gave not only art tips but mentoring advice. The guys on the panel were the new guys back in the 70s, really just the second generation of comics creators.

Grell said that when he first broke into comics, he found that even then the Legion fans were the most loyal audience, even though they were young. That was a good thing - Legion fans tend to stay involved forever. He gets a little disappointed, though, when some 40-year-old comes up to him with something he did that appeared when the guy was a kid, and says "this is the best thing you ever did," as if to say that everything done since then is crap.

Evanier told a Curt Swan story. Someone came up to him at a convention and asked if any of the characters were sleeping togther. Swan wouldn't confirm this for the guy. When he walked away, he told Evanier that he actually hated working on the Legion because the group was too big, he couldn't tell his Saturn Boy from his Matter-Eater Girl (that's a direct quote).

Starlin discussed the story of S/LSH 250-251, which had been scheduled for a 96 page (or thereabouts) one-shot. Then when those went away, the book got chopped down to two regular sized issues. He hated the result so much that he used the name Steve Apollo. He said that he "loathes" that job.

Joe Staton mentioned his blunders while doing the Legion, including that he could never get Matter-Eater's or any other Legionnaire's boots right, he kept putting them on the wrong feet.


Greybird said...

[Grell] gets a little disappointed, though, when some 40-year-old comes up to him with something he did that appeared when the guy was a kid, and says "This is the best thing you ever did," as if to say that everything done since then is crap.

Well, such a fan is not saying that. He's saying that this is the best, from his perspective and by his standards. He's not necessarily dismissing the rest as "crap."

Why can't some fan believe that a particular work of an artist is most resonant or effective or personally appealing? Or a time, or a style, or a character?

I wonder what he'd have said to this 49-year-old if he'd gotten praise in person about Dawnstar. "What, you thought 'The Longbow Hunters' was crap?" No, because I didn't read it. Yet. Would I be inclined to buy it and do so now?

And would this kind of dismissal have extended to his declining, say, a paid Dawnstar sketch commission? (Or am I just too cynical? Eh. Probably.)

I'm more than a little disappointed in Mike Grell.

Michael said...

There's a big difference between saying "this thing from 1978 is my favorite thing out of all the things you've ever done" and "this thing from 1978 is the best thing you ever did": the implication is that if it's the best ever, then everything else before and since doesn't measure up.

He had been in the business for less than five years at the time he created Dawnstar, and he's been in the business for 36 years now. By saying "best ever" you dismiss Warlord, Starslayer, Jon Sable, Shaman's Tears, Iron Man, his commercial work, and pretty much his entire career.

Greybird said...

Well, I think he ought to realize (and, to be fair, he probably does) that for most people, saying "the best thing" in such a setting is, in practice, noting "my favorite thing." It's a common shorthand.

Perhaps he's expecting greater verbal precision than most con-goers are likely to have the stamina to provide {rueful smile}

In the same way, I know (or am fairly sure) that in your saying "you dismiss," the "you" is nonspecific, and you're substituting this for the more precise "one would be dismissing." Again, that's a quite common condensation.

Still, I don't quite agree with your generalization. Not everyone approaching a Grell at a convention knows about his whole artistic corpus. Should they be expected to?

I, for one, have never read a lot of his work. Would that mean I shouldn't emote to him over what has especially moved me? (Assuming I'm not tongue-tied in the first place?) Not at all.

I'm just surprised at Grell, if he hasn't realized by now that such imprecise verbal conversions are quite common. Especially with only a few seconds of contact.

Michael said...

No, you're misunderstanding again. Artists (hell, people in general) don't like to be told that their best work is behind them, especially when the implication is that their best work was at the beginning of their career.

You're making too much of this and I don't have the time or energy to argue any further. If you think that Dawnstar was your favorite of all the things he's done (or even the best thing he ever did), whether you're familiar with his body of work, then great, whatever works for you.

Greybird said...

Sorry about that, and I didn't mean to unduly divert your time or energy. Especially from these detailed and truly welcomed SDCC reports.

What's said can fail to communicate one's meaning, especially with an emotion blended into it, even one such as admiration. Most of us should remember that more often than we do — I know that I should, anyway.