guest post by Joe Keatinge
When I was a kid I never thought about comics the way I do now.
Yes, they’re equally on my mind as they were then in terms of consistency. Comics took up the vast majority of my thought processes. They still do. However, how I absorbed and understood them has changed so dramatically. A lot of that is age. Some of it is circumstance.
Like a lot of people, I came up loving superhero comics. Like a lot of kids, my ability to purchase them was entirely due to the allowance and rides to the comic shop afforded to me by my parents. I was usually only able to buy a comic or two at a time. I was never there on a weekly basis. My consumption until I was old enough to earn my own money or haul myself around was very limited for a good chunk of my life. So, I bought whatever superhero comics I could. I just looked at the others.
The experience was vastly different.
For instance, HELL YEAH colorist Jason Lewis also re-masters classic Marvel Comics. When I recently I saw his take on the cover of Spectacular Spider-Man #148 I instantly remembered something I had long forgotten.
When I was younger I took images like this for what they presented on a literal level. As much as I’ve tried, I cannot recall to you what happened in this issue. In fact, it’s very possible I never read it. I do remember the cover convincing me that this was the issue where Spider-Man died, came back and was resurrected as a zombie. It made me think that Spider-Man would spend the rest of his adventures as a creature of the undead.
I know now that would most likely never happen. Spider-Man is one of Marvel Entertainment’s most predominant IPs, a multi-billion dollar franchise covering not just comics, but movies, animated series, toys, video games and just about anything else you could sell to consumers of any age.
I didn’t know that then. For the longest time the unsaid, but well enforced rules of superhero comics from places like Marvel and DC didn’t exist for me. I didn’t know better due not only to age, but how many comics I had read and my frequency in getting more.
I remember when “the rules” slapped me in the face to the point of defeat.
I bought this from the now sadly defunct Superior Comics in Santa Monica, CA. Like I said before, I had to make sure my few dollars were spent well and as I recall I had just enough money for only one comic. I needed my dollars to go far and this featured not only the Fantastic Four apparently dead, but also Skrulls, the Mole Man, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, The Hulk, a crazy looking monster and apparently the kitchen sink! All drawn in an art style that blew my young mind away. This is what I had to buy.
I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s my belief the spoilers statue of limitations expires well after twenty-two years so I’ll tell you this issue involved a Skrull invading the Four Freedoms Plaza, disguising herself as different friends of the FF, using some hand device to apparently kill them all, then once more disguising herself as Sue Storm and forming a new Fantastic Four to ‘find their killer’. This new Fantastic Four was comprised of my four favorite Marvel characters at the time. I remember being legitimately confused why the book’s cover claimed it was the ‘world’s goofiest comic magazine.’ I actually thought it was a misprint as this was serious stuff! The landscape of the Marvel universe had been forever altered within one issue! I couldn’t believe it! Best of all, since I wasn’t all too familiar with either the Fantastic Four or the frequency of creative teams changing over, I thought Walt Simonson and Art Adams would be on the ‘New Fantastic Four’ forever!
A few months later I finally got my next Fantastic Four comic, albeit several issues after #347. I was incredibly heart broken to see the status quo was restored. The Fantastic Four were, in fact, not dead. Furthermore, what I considered the greatest team of all-time was now disbanded. I became pretty jaded with comics after this, but continued to happily consume them. I began to understand there were rules here. Characters can never change too much. Covers weren’t literal. Villains never died forever. Heck, nobody really did.
Then there was 1992.
It was only a year or so before that I also understood comic books were made by individual human beings. They weren’t just born in a comic store like some sort of magic tomes generated from the ether. The first time was in Amazing Spider-Man #349, the Erik Larsen illustrated issue about Doctor Doom and Black Fox. His art style was so wildly different from the Spider-Man art I was used to that I took noticed. I then followed him through whatever he would do and quickly found what seemed to be similarly unique artists, like Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio.
In 1992 that string of names jumped ship and formed Image Comics and again, I didn’t exactly get what was going on. For all intents and purposes they were just more comics published by the collective putting out Marvel and DC books. I didn’t quite distinguish lines just yet.
Then I read those books.
It was almost traumatic in how much they altered my perception of comics. Youngblood’s Psi-Fire wasn’t noble at all, he was outright lethal. Superheroes weren’t supposed to kill! Not long after the Violator tore Spawn’s heart from out of his chest. That was too graphic for superhero comics. Shadowhawk broke backs. Savage Dragon outright killed his greatest nemesis, Overlord.
Yeah, that was one cover which was completely literal.
Dude bought it big time.
For the first time since I found out the effects of Fantastic Four #347 were limited, I discovered they didn’t need to be. Yes, Marvel and DC Comics had rules. Image Comics didn’t. Superhero comics didn’t have to. In fact, you could do absolutely anything you wanted to do. The genre didn’t have limits. Its potential was, and still is, infinite.
It’s this mentality of superhero comics as infinite potential that made me inspired to write my own comics. While I certainly do have a desire to work in those other publisher’s respective sandboxes, the desire to build my own is what drives me. It’s this drive percolating for almost twenty years that resulted in Andre Szymanowicz and I to co-create our own Image Comics ongoing superhero series, HELL YEAH.
HELL YEAH is a super-comic how I saw them as a kid and later on how I saw it as possible through Image. Main characters will die, both good guys and bad guys. In fact, quite honestly, the good guys aren’t that that good and the good guys aren’t always that bad. We’re doing them the way we want to see them presented, not necessarily how they came to be before or even since. I’m even tempted to turn a main character into a zombie and have them end up that way the entire run. We’ll see.
In any case, the impossible is possible now.
Just the way I want it.
Joe Keatinge is the writer of the all-new GLORY series due out in February, and Hell Yeah, on sale in March.