The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 180 | Newfound Glory

Leaving Proof 180 | Newfound Glory
Published on Friday, April 12, 2013 by
On today’s Leaving Proof, we take stock of Image Comics’ recently-concluded Glory revival. ALSO: Some brief musings on Rob Liefeld’s impact on superhero comics, thoughts on G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and more!
Cover image from Glory #34 (cover-dated April 2013).

Cover image from Glory #34 (cover-dated April 2013).

Last week, Image Comics shipped Glory #34, the final issue in the company’s year-long revival of the comics series featuring the eponymous, Rob Liefeld-created Wonder Woman pastiche. By, the way, if the issue numbering looks off, that’s because it picks up from where the original series numbering ended in 1997, but new readers need not be overly familiar with the book’s prior incarnation to get up to speed with this current one.

Image Comics’ PR department has been making available for Comixverse staffers digital review copies of Glory since the new series was launched last year, but it was only quite recently that I started reading them. I held vague memories of the book’s protagonist from the mid-1990s as just another scantily-clad, wasp-waisted, bullet-breasted superheroine from Liefeld’s Extreme Studios and concluded, quite prematurely as it turned out, that the latest series by writer Joe Keatinge and artist Ross Campbell wouldn’t do anything for me and that my time and energy would be better spent reading and writing up Image’s other titles. However, two things convinced me to give the series a second look. The first was starting Christy Blanch’s Gender Through Comic Books course last week—if nothing else, I surmised, Keatinge and Campbell’s work on the character could possibly provide some contemporary perspective on how much (or how little) portrayals of super-powered women in comics outside of Marvel and DC have changed over the past two decades. The second thing was that the pervasive and consistently positive reader buzz around the book that had been building over the past few months had genuinely piqued my interest in the title.

Glory, then and now: (Left) An early Glory appearance in Brigade #19 (cover-dated April 1995); (Right) the cover to the 2nd printing of last year's Glory #23.

Glory, then and now: (Left) An early Glory appearance in Brigade #19 (cover-dated April 1995); (Right) the cover to the 2nd printing of last year’s Glory #23.

So it happened that I spent the past weekend reading through Keatinge and Campbell’s run. What I found was a largely self-contained work that succeeds for the most part despite the burden of disjointed past continuity that can be slightly mitigated with some quick research and forum-browsing online by those unfamiliar with the canon of the Extreme Studios/Awesome Entertainment superhero universe. There’s a plot that has Glory—and by extension, her allies and her adopted home of Earth—caught up in an inter-dimensional war for survival, but it’s really there just to serve as the framework for the exploration of the book’s interesting cast of characters and an examination of the themes of family, sacrifice, intrinsic self-determination, and learning to let go of the past. Keatinge’s use of the POV character of Riley Barnes, a journalism major with an almost obsessive fascination with Glory, provides the narrative with a sense of both levity and awe, keeping the whole affair from becoming a clinical, by-the-numbers superhero(ine) deconstruction project or alternatively, becoming a needless and unintentional parody of both the original Glory and the Wonder Woman tropes that informed the character’s creation.

The introduction of Riley Barnes injected levity and heart in Glory.

The introduction of Riley Barnes injected levity, wonder, and heart in Glory.

There’s a lot of crazy, balls-to-the-wall, “widescreen” action in between the quieter character development moments, of course, masterfully rendered by Campbell and given excellent texture and mood by color artist Owen Gieni (all pages in the gallery below were taken from Glory #33).

Also worth noting is Campbell’s radical redesign of Glory, ditching the character’s collection of cleavage-baring, deep v-neck one-piece swimsuits, barely-there miniskirts, and too-small corsets for a more practical set of body armor and giving her a hulking, muscular physique and a battle-scarred visage that are more appropriate for a 500+ year-old alien hybrid warrior from another dimension. Sure, it’s a look that is no less realistic compared to the original in many ways, but to me at least, it makes infinitely more sense in terms of the book’s internal logic and I don’t feel like I’m looking at a design drawn from a 13 year-old boy’s raging hormone-fueled sexual fantasy. (Just as important are Campbell’s depictions of the the other female members of the cast. A wide range of facial structures and body types are represented in the art, and none of them are drawn with the ridiculously pneumatic bosoms and interchangeable, vacant faces we’ve come to expect of the portrayals of women in most superhero comics.)

Ross Campbell's re-design of Glory. During the series' earlier issues, Glory appeared like a highly muscled, oversized, female human (left) but as the series progressed and the character began to grow into her abilities, she began to take on more alien physical attributes (center). Note Glory's comparative height and bulk compared to the human cast (right). [Click to view in larger size]

Ross Campbell’s re-design of Glory. During the series’ earlier issues, Glory was depicted as a highly muscled, oversized, female human (left) but as the series progressed and the character began to grow into her abilities, Campbell began to illustrate her with even more bulk and additional alien physical attributes like pale, bluish-white skin (center). Note Glory’s comparative height and bulk compared to the human cast (right). [Click to view in larger size]

In a December interview with Comics Alliance, Joe Keatinge stated the original intent was for his and Campbell’s run on Glory to last some 70 issues. For various reasons, that was truncated to 12 issues, leading to an abrupt climax and dénouement to what was by all indications another* successful re-tooling of an old Extreme Studios property that many observers, myself included, had wrongly dismissed as dreck better relegated to the pop culture dustbin housing 1990s entertainment artifacts that haven’t exactly aged well into the 21st century. I can only speculate as to where else the creative team would have taken the characters and what directions their narrative would have branched into, but at least this way, they’ve been allowed to close out their story and wrap the major threads primarily on their own terms, despite the somewhat unexpected abbreviation of their run. Glory is a worthwhile read, and should be sought out by those interested in both an excellently-realized, sci-fi-tinged revamp of a fringe super-character and a thoughtful interpretation of the tropes associated with Wonder Woman and comics’ other superpowered female warriors.

* Prophet, relaunched last year with Brandon Graham at the helm, was one of my favorite science-fiction comics of 2012).

Reconsidering Rob Liefeld’s contributions to superhero comics

The enthusiasm with which critics and readers alike have welcomed the recent revamps of Liefeld creations like Glory and Prophet have me wondering whether it’s time to recalibrate my evaluation of the much-maligned artist’s contributions to the superhero comics genre. For many readers, Rob Liefeld has become (or has always been) something of a walking punchline, infamous for his apparently poor understanding of perspective and anatomy and in recent years, his public Twitter meltdowns and rants and rumors of bad business practices and a coke habit.

Fans occasionally forget that Alan Moore had an extended run penning the adventures of Rob Liefeld's Supreme.

Multiple Kirby, Eagle, Harvey, and Eisner Award-winner Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) had an extended run penning Extreme Studios’ Supreme.

Of course, it’s not like Liefeld had much to do with either Keatinge and Campbell’s Glory or Graham’s Prophet apart from making the properties available for work-for-hire projects and letting the creative teams work with almost a similar level of creative freedom as that on comparable creator-owned titles. Still, a number of his character creations—unabashedly derivative as they are—have found well-regarded expression in print at the hands of comics professionals like Keatinge, Campbell, Graham, and even Joe Kelly (on the first Deadpool series), Gail Simone (on the first Deadpool series and its quasi-sequel series Agent X), Darko Macan/Igor Kordey (on Cable and its quasi-sequel series Soldier X), and Alan Moore (on Supreme). And it can be argued that Deadpool, Liefeld’s transparent take-off of DC’s Deathstroke, is the only Marvel character created in the post-1970s era to achieve the kind of popularity usually associated with the publisher’s iconic properties from the Silver Age and early Bronze Age of comics—certainly no Marvel character of note introduced after, say, the Punisher in 1974 can be accurately claimed to have been featured as the lead or co-lead in multiple, concurrent ongoing titles and been placed prominently in a major studio film, direct-to-video animated releases, and multiple triple-A video games (a dedicated Deadpool video game is scheduled for release later this year, as a matter of fact). Liefeld’s Youngblood character designs might have been little more than a neon-colored update of DC’s Teen Titans, but I think it’s worth noting that his notion of a team of media and marketing-savvy celebrity superheroes presaged Pete Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix, J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars, Todd Nauck’s Wildguard, and other comics that have since explored the intersection of media, celebrity, and superheroics.

Prophet, then and now: (Left) Prophet #2, originally released in late 1993; (Right) the cover to the 2nd printing of last year's Prophet #21. Brandon Graham and his collaborators have successfully turned Prophet into a surreal science-fiction comic that is one of the most consistently interesting and best-looking reads on the shelves.

Prophet, then and now: (Left) Prophet #2, originally released in late 1993; (Right) the cover to the 2nd printing of last year’s Prophet #21. (As with the Glory revamp, the series numbering started from where the original book ended.) Brandon Graham and his collaborators have successfully turned Prophet into a surreal science-fiction comic that is one of the most consistently interesting and best-looking reads on the shelves.

In all likelihood, Liefeld will probably go down in comics history as a controversial and polarizing figure because of his brash public persona and the seemingly outsized success his idiosyncratic (to be polite) art style and character design sensibility garnered during his commercial prime. But in any discussion of his career, it is important not to forget that many of his creations did and do resonate with readers and comics creators alike, and as Keatinge and Campbell most recently proved, when paired with honed talent, even what seem like his more uninspired original designs and unremarkable concepts can lead to some pretty good comics.

Some quick thoughts on G.I. Joe: Retaliation

I saw G.I. Joe: Retaliation at the cinema last week at the insistence of my older brother. I had no plans of seeing it originally, as the early reviews (not to mention last year’s rescheduling fiasco) weren’t exactly painting it out to be a diversion worthy of the time and money. But we rarely get to do anything fun together these days so it was as good an excuse as any to spend some downtime bonding.

I didn’t find it to be a very good film, and I haven’t really made up my mind if I liked it any more or less than its predecessor, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which I was likewise quite lukewarm to.

Oh, it’s not all bad. The extended mountain fight scene with the ninjas was genuinely thrilling to watch on a big screen and Jonathan Pryce was very entertaining as he hammed it up as Zartan/the US president. And I did a little internal “squee!” when I saw RZA as the Arashikage Clan’s Blind Master. But the screenplay is a steaming mess of plot holes, inconsistencies, ill-advised cross-cutting, and clichés, and I almost felt sorry for director Jon Chu having to work with it.

I guess my biggest beef with the film as a lifelong fan* of all things G.I. Joe is that the portrayal of the protagonists in the film as vigilantes working outside the law and motivated primarily by the desire to exact revenge clashes with a very fundamental aspect of how I’ve always seen the characters, and how original G.I. Joe comics and filecard scribe Larry Hama has written the property’s supporting fiction. Talking about superheroes, vigilantism, and G.I. Joe, Hama mentioned in an interview with the Comixverse that

I’ve always felt more comfortable with [heroes operating with a] legal mandate. There’s something vaguely (or not-so-vaguely) fascistic about vigilantism.

* How big of a G.I. Joe fan am I? Big enough that I spent almost two years researching and writing a modern treatment of G.I. Joe incorporating recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan and actual military unit deployment schedules. I abandoned the project when I came to the realization that trying to force a favorite from my childhood to “grow up” was something that didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. If any Hasbro or IDW Publishing execs out there are reading this and like the treatment however, my e-mail link is at the end of the article : )

Running a bit late…

I’m running a bit late with my work for the Comixverse this week, so the Friday News Round-up will be up much later in the day, in all likelihood late afternoon/early evening on Friday, Pacific time. Here’s a rare video of the intro for the aborted 1990s Youngblood animated series to tide you over in the meantime:

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