Friday, January 14, 2011

Ian Burns Reviews Strange Tales II At The Comics Journal

In his review of the recent issues of Marvel's Strange Tales II over on The Comics Journal blog, Ian Burns writes this about my own story from issue #3:
Benjamin Mara’s[sic] “U.S. Agent vs. The Terror-Saur!!” in which U.S. Agent rides a rocket bike to Terrorstan with a scantily clad female reporter to fight a half-human, half- velociraptor with a nuke on its back is … unorthodox … even in relation to its fellow strange tales.
It's funny because I see my story as completely consistent with the superhero orthodoxy. But I often get the response that my drawing is weird, when I see it as being completely normal. See Burns' full review here.


Ian said...

Hey Benjamin,

I wish I would've dedicated more of the article to your story, to be honest. It was just such a good issue I had to pick and choose.

First off, the "unorthodox" comment wasn't a description of your art, which I didn't make clear. Although the color palette you use is certainly different than most superhero comics (I'm thinking of the strong yellow).

In my mind, your strip was energetic and no-bullshit which, compared to modern superhero comics is pretty unique. I mean, they're full of bullshit: panels that are a waste of space, pretentious subjects etc.

All in all, as a reader in general it was one of my favorites.

And I apologize about misspelling your name. That was unfortunate and has been corrected.

Unknown said...

Hey Ian,

Glad you dug my story. Thanks so much for including a mention of it in your article. There were a ton of good, weird stories in the recent Strange Tales volume, so I definitely appreciate the nod.

Your choice of the word "unorthodox" to describe my story is certainly accurate and I took it as a high compliment. I'm used to my art work being described as different, which always amuses me, since I'm trying so hard to draw in the most generic, mainstream way I can.

My goal with the U.S.Agent story was to write a superhero story the way I'd like to see superhero comic books be written. I absolutely think mainstream writers do not make the most out of the 20 to 24 pages they have to fill and thus short change their readers (no wonder sales continue to decline!). There are pages of superhero books I've read where I've thought, "they took six pages to communicate something when only four panels were needed." I absolutely agree there are too many unnecessary panels in superhero books these days.

I definitely agree with you about the waste of space and it was my intention to pack the four pages I had for the U.S.Agent story with as much content as possible.

And, yes, superhero comics are full of unimaginative, self-important subject matter. The mainstream comic stories seem to resist what makes superheroes awesome: power, strength, confidence, capability, etc. Instead we get superheroes who are mentally weak, riddled with self-doubt, unable to handle their lives with dignity or class. I suppose these choices are an effort to make superheroes relatable, human, realistic or characters of depth. And I hate that writers think they must put superheroes in depressing situations in order to give their stories weight. I'm willing to concede there are exceptions to my claims.

Superheroes are supposed to be characters we want to fantasize about being, not people who we would be embarrassed to know. I wanted to write a superhero story about a character who, while being a self-absorbed prick, was also super confident, unafraid of the judgment of others, never doubting his purpose or his instincts.

If my story is "unorthodox" as compared to mainstream superhero comic books, then I have achieved my goal. But I'd like to hope my story follows the orthodoxy I perceive made superhero comic books of the past so successful.

Ian said...

Couldn't agree more. The only writer who seems to agree with us is Morrison who is, as a result, the only mainstream writer I continue to follow.