Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Continuity Comics Part One

Karaoke night is going all sorts of downhill.
Neal Adams is going to leave behind him a fairly complicated legacy.

On the one hand - and just to begin with - Adams completely revolutionized the look of comics. Realistically rendered and more reminiscent of advertising art than cartooning, it’s arguable that the entire ouvre of “issue” stories (Green Arrow/Green Lantern being not the least of which) would never have been possible without Adams having changed the game. It’s not only a matter of his being the hand which illustrated Denny O’Neil’s ground-breaking, socially conscious story arc, but that tackling such an ambitious target would have been unthinkable without the gravitas lent by Adam’s previous work on other more traditional books.

In addition, Adams has been a tireless advocate for creator’s rights – his ceaseless efforts were undoubtedly pivotal in acquiring recompense for Siegel and Shuster from the DC offices, to name only the most public example. He’s put pen to page for at least a dozen timeless classics of the industry, and has been at the center of an ever-burgeoning font of young, new creators for more than the last thirty-plus years. All gold star stuff, to be sure.

On the other hand, he’s helped Stan Lee develop those puzzling hockey-playing superheroes, gave us Skateman, and has devoted a surprising amount of time and energy to some ding-dang theory about how the Earth is made of expanding funny-foam and that’s the reason your bedsheets never stay tucked in. (In a true moment of “What exactly is in this for him, again?”, he’s gone so far as to create an animated tutorial over expanding Earth theory, so … enjoy that, I guess).

The good obviously far outweighs the bad, but this is comics fandom and comics fandom loves to eat their own. Take for example how many so-called admirers and fans of Watchmen spit pure venom at Alan Moore because he kept them from having a stuffed Rorschach to sleep with at night. Also note how quickly they turn on creators who have the audacity to take their employers to court over ownership of intellectual property, how they sneer at every writer who fails to kowtow to continuity, and everything ever said by every comic book blog on the internet since all time forever – particularly this one.

In the “Against” column of Adams’ career, we can add Continuity Comics.

This is honestly what passes for "award-winning
dialogue" in a Continuity book.
Emerging from Adams’ Continuity Associates – the studio he founded with Charlton and DC Comics editor and illustrator Dick Giordano, and which launched the careers of dozens of “Crusty Bunkers” (Continuity associates and employees, including Walt Simonson, Terry Austin, Howard Chaykin and more) – Continuity was admittedly ground-breaking in terms of improving the lot of creators’ rights. Then again, so was Atlas-Seaboard, and that’s damning company for any dinner party.

Continuity managed to hold a complicated and tumultuous flight path for ten years, debuting in 1984 and kicking up dust with a stuttering two-point landing a decade later. In the interim, they were a company typified by some absurd shipping delays (One of their earliest, maddest titles – Armor – shipped thirteen issues in SEVEN YEARS), unrivaled gore and flamboyant T&A, and an editorial policy-cum-inhouse advertising scheme apparently overseen by a hyperactive thirteen year old with a word processor, a palette of Jolt cola and a fourth-grade literacy level.

The company’s house style, for better or worse, was a strict emulation of Adams’ own style – the process included Adams himself editing, adding to and correcting pages by hand, so that practically every book enjoyed his direct intervention. This put the comics grandmaster’s guiding hand on the rudders – and I’m speaking strictly non-sexually, here – of Mike Deodato, Bart Sears, Esteban Maroto and a passel of other quality draftsmen. Unfortunately, all of this prime comic capability too often ended up hidden swamped under scripts left soaking wet with rambling nonsense and behind gimmick covers – bagged, carded, heat-sensitive, chromed and "indestructible", in turn.

More on that in subsequent articles but, for now, here’s a rundown of some of the Continuity regulars…

Well, this is a sensitive portrayal.
Not in a particular rush to win any awards for a sensitive portrayal of mental illness, the ‘superhero’ Crazyman (more of an in-the-field operative for a troubleshooting private corporation, as a matter of fact) is actually unfortunate lunatic Danny Brody. Unable to manage his emotional extremes, Brody occasionally flips out into violent, uncontrolled rages – and freed of the concerns of physical trauma, he taps into a well of seemingly inhuman strength and a terrific resistance to pain. I pause here so you may add your own Charlie Sheen joke.

Brody’s corporate handlers drop him into troubled hotspots under flimsy pretenses – it’s in this manner that you get a throwback portrayal of a corrupt African dictator in Crazyman’s 1992 debut issue, a caricature some twenty years past its expiration date - and wait for him to flip out on the bad guys.

It’s crass stuff and like I say - there’s no accolades from the Mental Health Provider community waiting in the wings, unless “accolades” means “truncheons”. Somewhere amidst Brody’s constant screaming, arm-flailing and subsequent spasms of mewling regret, you’ll find a tortured Prisoner homage and a recurring gag about ripping a woman’s eye out of the socket. The same woman, and the same eye, in fact, each time. Oh, and is it worth mentioning that she’s his friend and partner, and would be probably a love interest if most Continuity comics weren’t chaste in the most objectionably adolescent manner possible? It probably is.

It’s hard not to wonder if Crazyman was inspired at all by Mike Baron’s The Badger, a nonetheless-gonzo yet more skillfully managed book when it came to balancing the line between wacky superhero action and the legitimate pathos of the psychologically afflicted. But then again, Crazyman’s such a tortuous read that it might actually have been inspired by a forty year stretch in a Chinese jail.

There's our guy!
On the other side of the spectrum from Crazyman’s undisciplined, premium-grade spazzing-out, there’s Joe Majurac – MEGALITH! Megalith is pretty much the dumbest name in comics, especially when you realize he could’ve been called “Menhir” or “Ziggurat”, which are pretty damn cool … by comparison. However, I guess they don’t have “Mega” in the name and I sort of suspect he was either named on the principle of how everything in the late Eighties and Nineties had to be “EXTREME” or alternatively “It’s like a monlith … BUT A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER!”

Young Joe is a hard-working, hard-studying farmboy who – like the 6th century wrestler Milo of Crotos – lifts a newborn calf every day of its life until he’s able to lift an entire steer. This comes in handy if you want to be a server at Golden Corral.

I hope he's only
LIFTING that thing.
Eyeing him as a potential Olympic athlete, a shadowy organization lures him away from his family to a hidden German castle where, after years of oppressive training, they try to sell him to another country for THEIR Olympic team! The dirty sneaks! But ho, look out, Joe has conveniently mastered some weird phony-baloney thing called the “Mind-Body Link” and that means something something super-powers and he escapes. Yay.

I actually have a real soft spot for Megalith, even if he did spend an inordinate amount of time in his early appearances hanging out with those jackoffs Armor and Silver Streak.

“Samuree” is apparently Japanese for “Man this thing rides up”.

An orphaned American girl who ends up on an isolated island of Japanese martial arts experts when the USAF transport plane carrying her explodes or something, Samuree is a testament to the old saying that if a woman wants to compete in a man’s world, she’s got to do everything a man can do but in Eighties’ power-suit shoulder pads and a vinyl thong. Just like Ginger Rogers.

Samuree predates just about every other gratuitously hot ninja babe who populated comics in the late Eighties and beyond (although she’s preceded by Elektra, who arguably started the whole bizness), and unfortunately it’s difficult to discuss her outside of that. The interior of Samuree’s books were crotch shot after buttshot after copious flashes of hot (underage, I might wanna add) skin, and the interior of Samuree herself was damn near on display what with the most serious cameltoes in comics.

There’s also the small matter of the name – Samuree is not a real word, I didn’t have to tell you that, you already know there’s no such thing as a female samurai. AND I have to mention that she’s not even a samurai anyway, she’s a ninja, which means her name probably should have been Ninjette, or to keep it properly thematic Ninjeree, which frankly doesn’t sound like a superhero at all but more like a place where ninja parents take their ninja kids for ninja playdates.

Next up in Continuity Comics Part TwoMore character summaries, the absolutely insane in-house ad strategy from Continuity and something about this dumb garbage:


Michael said...

Yes, please! More, thank you!

Kazekage said...

Oh dear God, I had that Prisoner homage issue of Crazyman, and no, I am not proud.

"Tortured" is putting it kindly. Compartively speaking, Rob Liefeld doing a Prisoner homage would have been light and airy by comparison.

I hope the utterly nightmarish clusterfuck that was Valeria/Spawn gets covered. It was Deathmate before Deathmate. Well, except Deathmate actually came out.

Stergios Botzakis said...

I also had a soft spot for Megalith, I have to admit, but I'm looking forward to what you have to say about the strange collection of characters that showed up in Toyboy.

I'm so glad you're back here on G&F!

Cool Stuff in Paris said...

In that very last image, does that cut-off green logo say "Shithawk?"

Calamity Jon said...

It does not say "ShitHawk", but it certainly implies it.

Bram said...

Oh, somewhere back in the long boxes at the 'rents, I've got a bizarre selection of Continuity stuff: most of Ms. Mystic and Urth 4, that Prisoner Crazyman homage, other things I can't even recall. And only just read -- a couple weeks ago -- that Bucky O'Hare graphic novel recently picked up in a bargain bin.

May only ever dig those out every decade or so, but damned if I'm ever getting rid of 'em.


As always your work always brightens my day. You have a wonderful, humorous prose style...

John said...

"Karaoke night"! I love it!

Wooly Rupert said...

So it was basically Image before Image. Distinctive visual style, lousy writer.

Prankster said...

Man, this site has been on fire lately!

"The good obviously far outweighs the bad, but this is comics fandom and comics fandom loves to eat their own. Take for example how many so-called admirers and fans of Watchmen spit pure venom at Alan Moore because he kept them from having a stuffed Rorschach to sleep with at night. Also note how quickly they turn on creators who have the audacity to take their employers to court over ownership of intellectual property, how they sneer at every writer who fails to kowtow to continuity..."

Oh God, so &$%#ing true. All of it. The way comic fans are so quick to side with massive corporations against the creators when they demand their due is particularly depressing.

Don't know about the comic, but I've always thought "Megalith" is a cool word...

Mr. Preece said...

Neal Adams is a great artist (and very good writer) who could be a really good art director and probably a decent "story arc" editor (he's quite good with ideas). But as a real editor who gets down into the nitty gritty, he's not so good.

I wanted to love Continuity's Comics, but the writing was not what it needed to be. In 2014 we will see a return of Continuity Comics. I will jump in with both feet, but I do hope Neal Adams hires a real editor. This time around, the dialogue's gonna have to be a whole lot better.

Unknown said...

All those comics were garbage. Cost me thousands! Nobody bought the gimmick covers, every one was a stupid idea, one after the other.

libra113 said...

I remember getting a random issue of Urth4. I don't remember what it was about or anything I remember the cover to this day. So much so I just got online and ordered not only the entire run of Urth 4 but Earth 4 and some Urth/Earth 4 crossover entitled Doomsday clock. I know it's going to be awful but the walk down a hazy road of memory lane should be worth the 20 dollars (shipping included) I dropped.

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