Thursday, February 12, 2009

Creator Corner - Robert Kirkman

I was discussing the origins of Image Comics with a buddy the other night. In the early 90s several of the top Marvel artists like Todd McFarlane and Rob Leifeld quit Marvel en mass and formed their own comic company called Image. It was a way for them to shake up the old establishment and the industry dominated by Marvel and DC comics - the big two. Darkhorse Comics as well as Valiant were smaller competitors but the big two held the majority share in the comic market. Image was a way for these creators to earn more money for their work but it also gave them something I think was more valuable - creative freedom. Being family companies the big two followed the COMICS CODE which was put into place in the 1950s to keep gratuitous sex and violence out of comics. Image operated outside of that code and therefore could explore other areas of storytelling that were not so kid friendly. So now its about ten years later and Robert Kirkman comes along with his zombie comic THE WALKING DEAD. He is free to tell his story with all the violence and harsh language that just seem appropriate for a tale of survivors in a post-zombie apocalypse. I downloaded the entire series from the start this week to see what all the hype was about and I am happy to say that once again I have found me a gem. Kirkman created what is probably the best superhero comic of the past decade, INVINCIBLE which has an ear to what made the original Spider-man such a joy to read in the 1960s. You have a young superhero who is unsure of his powers but learns on the job so to speak. You add to that a compelling back-story (his father is Earth's greatest hero AND an alien sent to prepare Earth for invasion by his home planet - kinda the anti-Superman) and plenty of unusual friends and foes and you got yourself a excellent franchise. I especially like that he has managed to keep the same artist (Ottley) throughout the run so there is real continuity issue to issue. Walking Dead is like that also with the art of Charlie Adlard. The characters Kirkman writes are real and believable and you can see yourself in every one of them should you find yourself in their predicament. His writing seems fresh and effortless. You never know from issue to issue of WALKING DEAD who will live and who will die and its that uncertainty that propels the story forward. I loves me my zombie movies for the same reason. Once you get attached to a character you run the risk of them being taken away from you in an instant. This series has many moments like that and although I have only read the first twenty issues (of 55) so far, I am hooked. Like so many other series I believe this one is best read in blocks of issues not month to month. Not knowing what is gonna happen next month would drive me crazy. So I am trying to ration these out like I did with my viewing of THE WIRE. Looking for a comic that transcends the genre without a cape in sight? THE WALKING DEAD is the one for you. Oh, and if you still need your superheroes check out INVINCIBLE.

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