Drawing It Out
There’s nothing like a change in artists that can ruin a good title. Whenever an artist leaves a book, or needs a fill-in, the damage can be irreplaceable. But what about when an legendary artist returns to comics, and their current stuff isn’t up to what they used to bring to the table? All one needs to do to find the answer to this question is look at the new comic release rack.
In recent years there’s been a major influx in the amount of legendary artists returning to the big two companies. Major names like Art Adams, Alan Davis, Walt Simonson, Neal Adams and more have come back to comics in a big way, but the sad fact is that much of the work these guys are putting out currently pales in comparison to their stuff from the 70’s and 80’s. In fact, in many ways it tarnishes their legacy, causing many fans to wonder what the big deal was about them in the first place.
Let’s take Neal Adams, for example. Back in the 70’s he was THE Batman artist. Teamed with his Green Lantern/Green Arrow writer Denny O’Neill, he has produced some of the most widely known Batman issues of all time. His work is legendary and has influenced artists for decades to come. After many years, he decided to take a break.
Then Batman: Odyssey happened.
The Neal Adams written and drawn series was, quite simply, a complete mess, to the point where there was barely any continuity between panels, let alone issues. Before you shout out “but his real talent is being able to draw” take a look at some of the pages from Odyssey and compare them to his work in the 70’s. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I’ve not seen a single person buy the series (except for the 1st issue), so there’s only one way DC is still published it: because he’s Neal Adams, and no one tells him “no” anymore (this probably also explains his atrocious The First X-Men, with mullet Magneto on the first issue cover).
Unfortunately, this trend isn’t ending soon. Just looking at Walt Simonson’s covers were enough for me to drop Indestructible Hulk, which was heartbreaking because I’ve loved that book since it’s relaunch, but I just can’t look at Simonson’s art for three months. I was burned before on Avengers, and I don’t want it to tarnish my images of his legendary run on Thor. Same goes for John Romita, Jr. on Captain America, who is a shell of the artist he once was. Where is the same guy who drew that incredible fight between Wolverine and Silver Samurai in Uncanny X-Men? I’d even settle for the JRJR of the Peter Parker, Spider-Man days of my youth, or even from the JMS run. .
It’s always hard when a legend returns to the comics field, just ask Chris Claremont, who’s return to the X-Men world fizzled out twice in the 2000’s (remember X-Men Forever?). Of late, the only artist who really maintained the same level of quality from his glory days is Alan Davis, who’s currently drawing Wolverine with writer Paul Cornell. But he’s an exception to the rule. Perhaps it’s the fact that art has changed since they were drawing superheroes, or they’re just not able to produce art like they used to, but it’s clear that these legendary artists need to think long and hard before deciding to return to the comic book world.