Friday, September 1, 2017

TPBs that need to be: Roy Thomas Edition

Roy Thomas was very young at the same time as very successful in the world of comics.  For a very brief second or two spent at DC, before going to Marvel full time, he was an under 25 years old comic book fan with an enormous love for the medium, and a vast knowledge of the characters of both major publishers.

Thomas quickly became Editor in Chief to Stan Lee's role as Publisher, and there was a certain dynamism between the two.  Thomas was considered the main writer for the character Conan, and used his knowledge of the history of the characters of Marvel to establish teams of the past, such as the Invaders, Liberty Legion and more.  His work was that of a fan favorite, and he was prolific.

Thomas stepped down from the EiC position and was eventually replaced by Jim Shooter, who seemed very much a pharaoh who sought to erase all memory of the previous pharaoh.  Roy Thomas eventually found the cold relationship too much to remain at Marvel, and he began a run at DC Comics that saw him taking over the golden age characters he had long desired to write.  If he was somewhat seen as being too concerned about the iron tight continuity he believed necessary, he was also counted upon to do just that.  DC united the various alternate earths and comic worlds and Roy Thomas kept busy rewriting the new history of DC, and he tried to keep the golden age characters relevant.

The following offerings suggest only that these should be done, but with such a prolific and well considered writer, much of his work is already in TPB form.  As such, it is possible that these are not his best series, because they've been done, but these works do deserve to be collected.

CONAN THE ADVENTURER came about as an attempt to reboot and reintroduce the character to an audience who had not begun reading the long running original series.  Rafael Kayanan OBVIOUSLY loved the subject, his highly detailed stylistically pleasing work was a fine accompaniment to Thomas's comfortable and fun writing style.

ANTHEM's themes and setting harkens back to the ideas of The Invaders and The Justice Society, but is different in one very important way.  This world's heroes are not fighting alongside the soldiers of the Allies, they are trying to recover and renew a defeated and invaded America.  It is an alternate version of history with superheros and fantasy elements, and it captures, shows or tries to show the heroic ideal fighting for the life of the country.  I include this because I love the idea.  And the writing is good, for what is there.  But the art?  I really wish the series could be reconsidered with new art because it was very different issue to issue, and however various panels were, it was not a congealed work.  So, while I'd like a tpb of this, I'd like a new edition with better art.  Yeah yeah, I can hear you all out there saying gee, it is easy spending other people's money and time.  Big deal.  I deserve it.

CAPTAIN THUNDER AND BLUE BOLT are a father son team, that is both different than any other comic duo, and reminiscent of the best of comic hero teams.  But this had generational angst, settings of real life, and actually, quite nice art and story telling.  A B level work, nothing perfect but it is completely entertaining and smart.  (Another work that has been reprinted in TPB form Alter Ego was an equally clever use of the format and reality, to the point that the writer Roy Thomas did comic style dialogue for certain situations while the non heroic comic moments used what could be described as a more mature real sounding, perhaps adult voice speaking.  Captain Thunder is less mature than Alter Ego, but both are good).

THE SAGA OF THE SUB-MARINER runs from the very beginning of Marvel's history, and ends at the present.  Prince Namor the Sub-mariner was an anti hero most of the time, and various writers have attempted their own interpretation of why he was so naughty on occasions.  But few approach this level of awesome.  Thomas is a comic historian, and this book evokes every era of the character and reminds us why we love Namor.  The Rich Buckler art was among the best of his career, and this series was a complete and absolute joy.

ARAK: Son of Thunder was a cross cultural character who was not created with stereotypes in mind.  I liked it a lot for what it was, even if it wasn't perfect, the writing was good, and the art was great.  I think this series needed to be as violent as the story demanded.  So, I think it could have been a lot better, and I am not complaining, it was the era still of comics being seen as for general audiences. 

THE SAGA OF THE ORIGINAL HUMAN TORCH  This series is very much like the aforementioned Saga of the Sub-mariner, but with a less wide focus.  It remains, however a fine work, with excellent art.  I really think it should be paired with the Sub-mariner book in a larger tpb, but two series tpbs is fine too.  The Original Human Torch was awesome, intelligently done from the beginning, and is a very heroic figure, however much his recent use is clich√©.  

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