Walt Simonson, God of Epics

Apologies for not posting anything recently.  I have what appears to be an aggravated nerve in my jaw, and it isn’t making life very pleasant.  If the 30 minute bouts of searing pain weren’t enough, there’s also the fact that I’m not eating much and wasn’t getting much sleep.  But I’ve been taking some medication which have dampened, if not completely suppressed, the problem, and have an appointment with a specialist to take a look.  Hopefully, everything will get back on track soon.  In the meantime, I just wanted everyone to know that while some of the wind has been taken out of my sails, I’m still here and kicking.  I haven’t forgotten about that Mack Megaton short story either.

So enough about my pain.  I’m not here to bum you out.  I’m here, as always, to enlighten and entertain.

Recently, I bought the second volume of Marvel Visionaries: Walt Simonson’s Thor.  Thor was the first official superhero comic I ever bought on a regular basis.  He remains one of my favorite characters, even if modern comics haven’t really held my attention.  And it’s safe to say that Simonson is one of the biggest influences on my writing, which is strange when you consider that I am not considered by many to be a heroic fantasy writer.

But Simonson’s run on Thor is a masterwork of epic storytelling, a fantastic battle of incredible forces, of high fantasy, of melodrama, heart, and solid characterization.  It’s also great fun.  Admittedly, I’m probably biased, but I love these stories because they are just so sincere in their design, so unapologetic in their bold adventure.

Yet Simonson’s run never really gets the mainstream praise it deserves.  Probably because it’s not “literary” like Sandman or “mature” like Preacher.  Simonson’s Thor is just a damn good comic book that juggles multiple plot threads, dozens of characters, and an epic quality that is too easy to take for granted.  Yet his craftsmanship is second-to-none, and everything counts here.  Simonson never seems out to impress you with how complicated he can make things or how far to the edge he can go.  He’s there to tell a great story and bring you along for the ride.

Simonson’s Thor is from a different era, I suppose.  Perhaps it’s even a bit old-fashioned in that way.  But it’s entertaining and fun, and full of grand moments.  The villains and heroes are larger than life.  Thor doesn’t wrestle with existential dilemmas, with his own motivations.  He’s a good guy out to beat up bad guys.  And the bad guys tend to be obviously bad.  Not in the uninteresting “I’m going to rape and mutilate because I’m evil” way, but in the “let’s blow up the universe” manner that is so rare to find in comics these days.

It’s cartoonish, but that isn’t always a bad thing.  And underneath it all, there are still relationships going on, character arcs, personal triumphs and tragedies.  Just because the first story arc climaxes with all of Asgardians fighting an endless tide of demons in New York City while Thor, Loki, and Odin face off against Surtur at the gates of Asgard, that doesn’t necessarily make it childish or silly.

I know I’m from a different era, and that any criticism of modern comic books I might have will be from that perspective.  But I really miss it when superheroes were about fighting bad guys and not about serial killers with ray guns.  I like that nobody says “bitch” in Simonson’s Thor or that, even when a character dies, his death is usually melodramatic and free of gore.  Simonson’s Thor is a comic that is eminently readable to anyone, and that’s just not something you see much anymore.

I’m not suggesting that all comics need to revert to this style.  Or even any of them should.  Different eras.  But it’s just a shame that, when comic book superhero fans look back on the masters, they tend to overlook Thor which is as worthy of praise as just about any other comic book out there, including Sandman, Fables, or what have you.

So if you happen to like what I write and want to read stuff that inspired me, you might just want to check out Marvel Visionaries Walt Simonson Thor because you might just see where I come from.  And while it probably won’t make you laugh as much, it will define awesome in a whole new way.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 31, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    hope you feel better soon. are you going to put out a collection of your short stories someday?

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