Saturday, August 9, 2008

Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe Vol.II's_Who_02.jpg/300px-Who's_Who_02.jpg

Ed contacted me to be a part of the blog a couple of weeks ago, and I've had a hell of a time deciding what my first post would be. What is the definitive comics memory for me? What was the moment that I fell in love with the medium?

A few really early memories jumped to mind: Reading Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 sick with the flu soon after my 10th birthday, an old DC Digest Justice Society of America I got at the grocery store with my mom as a really young kid.

Or maybe some of the books I started reading around 10-12 (which in hindsight I was probably too young to be buying, but thank god no one stopped me) that really blew my mind and started to open me up to the possibilities of comics: American Flagg, Timothy Truman's Scout, Swamp Thing?

All of these are key memories, and books, for me, but when it comes right down to it DC's Who's Whos were really the books that turned me into a super fan...and particularly a fan of comic art.

Vol.II was the first one I got. i got it at a little gas station/corner store when I was nine. I'm sure my Mom was with me, probably driving me back from an early Saturday morning hockey game. Why I picked this was had SO MANY SUPERHEROES on the cover (the stunning George Perez cover was also my first exposure to him, and he would quickly become my childhood art hero).

I got the book home and poured over all these bizarre characters I'd never seen before...where did they all come from? I had no idea there were so many heroes and villians out there beyond Supes, and Batman and the Joker....Azreal? Balloon Buster? Bat Lash? Black Bison!? I was in awe.

And then there was that cutaway drawing of The Batcave...I studied this thing like a long lost map to buried treasure! Who knew the Batcave opened into an underground stream giving the Bat Boat easy access to Gotham Harbor? Well, now I did.

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I soon after found Vol.III, and then it became a monthly ritual. My Mom would drive me around Essex County, where I grew up, looking for the next issue. This was the first time I actually became a regular collector of a monthly book. And, it was the first time I sought out an actual comic book shop looking for the elusive Vol.1, (with a great Perez Aquaman on front) which I had missed out on.

In addition to opening my mind to the vastness and wonder of the DC Universe, and to comic collecting in general, Who's Who was truly on of the cornerstone events in my life because it led to the realization that different artists actaully drew comic books. Actual people, with different styles were behind these things I loved. Because, Who's Who is not just a showcase of all the characters, it was a showcase of all of the leading cartoonists of the silver and bronze age of comics. There in those pages were dozens of original pieces by Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Dave Gibbons, George Perez, Murphy Anderson, Curt Swan, Carmine Infantino. Hell, the Hernendez Brothers even contributed!

I studied the different artists and ther styles, quickly developed favorites, and least favorites. I copied different entries in the styles of the artist.

I remember my Mom and Dad would sit and go through the books with me. They would cover the artist credit at the bottom of the page with there finger and I would tell them which artist drew each page. I got them all right and they couldn't believe it, because to their untrained eye, all those drawings just looked the same, but I knew the lines on a Joe Kubert bicep, or the feathery brush strokes of Jerry Ordway, like I knew my own short I fell in love with drawing comics, a love affair that grows stronger each day, even now.

By Jeff Lemire
Author of Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse from Top Shelf and the upcoming Graphic Novel The Nobody from DC/Vertigo.


Ed Piskor said...

Hey Jeff. This was a good choice for a first entry. It makes sense that this would be so influential. Eventually I need to do a post about the 1991 series of Marvel Universe cards which inspired me in the same sort of way.

I'd love to hear your American Flagg story.

tomN! said...

I had a similar experience with the Marvel Book of the Dead which I found at a local drugstore. Later I tracked down the various different Who's Who and Marvel Universe books that listed all the characters. I learned a lot about drawing from copying the artwork in books like these when I was young.