Monday, April 18, 2011

Warriors away!

An old fact that I recently found in the deepest corner of the Wardrobe of Secret Shame – I was once physically aroused by a copy of New Warriors #1.

It wasn’t the creations – although both Nita and Firestar were smokin’ hot – or the creators, it was something about the shape of that comic and the colours, and the glossy cover, and the way the staples were spaced.

It was partly the material, there was something new and fresh and exciting about the team of Marvel misfits that teamed up. Each bringing some odd personal history, each leading off to a secret back-story that I knew nothing about. The mystery was slightly intoxicating.

But it was just the whole package. The whole thing that had me falling in love with comic books all over again.

When I was 15, I was at one of those points in life when I really thought I should give up comics. Most of us go through it at some stage – some vague idea that maybe comics ARE just for kids, and it’s time to box them up and put them away.

It’s a weird post-adolescent idea, that you should give up something you enjoy that does no harm. It’s bizarre to think that I could give up an entertainment that I thoroughly appreciate, just because you’re convinced everybody will think you’re a weirdo, but it made perfect sense to me when I was 15-years-old.

After all, there were important things like girls and booze and a career to think about, not childish things like the effects of various colours of Kryptonite. I got into this funk half a dozen times during my teenage years, and always got over it, usually thanks to the unbridled thrill-power of classic-period 2000ad.

But I was serious this time – or as serious as any 15-year-old gets – and I was really definitely absolutely seriously thinking about giving them up this time. I was genuinely considering going cold turkey on a medium that I’d enjoyed all my life, because I really thought that was what you were supposed to do.

And then I bought the first issue of New Warriors from a local dairy. I hadn’t quite kicked the habit, and was always open for something new, so when I saw it in the store, I knew I had to have it.

And then I took it home, and I couldn’t stop reading the damn thing. I couldn’t stop gazing at that perfectly average cover. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

I loved it. I loved the slick art and the dialogue that tried a bit too hard and these lame-arse characters and the whole damn package. And one night, sitting on my bed, looking at this comic with an embarrassing amount of affection, I realised I was never, ever going to give these things up.


The first two years of New Warriors had a number of effects on me – it made me a Bagley fan for life, and left me with a staggering amount of affection for Speedball (which coalesced into actual fury when I saw what Marvel did with the character over the past decade.)

New Warriors was also the first series where I was able to get in on the ground floor. I was just as fascinated by Marvel’s other titles at the time, such as John Byrne’s Namor and Jim Valentino’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but I missed the first few crucial issues.

Distribution was always a matter of blind luck in those days, but I managed to mostly collect New Warriors from #1 with only a little difficulty. (It only took me six years to find a copy of #10, where the Warriors battled the Hellions, shortly before the semi-villainous teens were cruelly killed off. It took me more than 20 years to find Camelot 3000 #2.)

Other stuff like X-Men and Avengers and Fantastic Four were far too historical, there was no chance of ever collecting an entire series, although my best mate is making a commendable and life-long stab at getting all of the Uncanny X-Men since 1986, and still has 150 issues to go....

So, in the weirdest way, New Warriors felt like my comic book. It was bright and slick and motored along at a decent pace, revitalising old characters with a surprising amount of charm.

In those first two years, it kept up standards of bright art and fast-moving stories. There was a sweet little bit of alternate reality a good five years before age of Apocalypse came along, the occasional guest appearance by the Fantastic Four and the Punisher and Namor and some truly unexpected twists and turns.

A well-established status quo came apart very early on, with one character off to jail for murdering his father. Surprisingly, he was actually guilty as hell, giving the storyline some genuine weight.

But the team stayed together and It all wrapped up nicely beneath the cardboard cover of #25. It wasn’t quite the same after that, with a young Darick Robertson giving it all he had in the art, which wasn’t quite as shiny as Bagley, who was off to devote his full attention to Spider-Man.

I’ve read all of Bagley’s comics since then with unbridled happiness. His line is still stark and jagged, but it’s still slicker than a slick thing in Slicktember, and I can always appreciate that. Fabien Niceza’s work was – unfortunately – never quite as satisfying, with his style tragically involved in a hit and run with the X-Men juggernaut in the 1990s.

I stopped getting New Warriors somewhere around #45, when a rotating band of guest artists made the New warriors look like everybody else, and I was never really tempted by any of the half-arsed resurgences of the team.

I was personally miffed when the New Warriors became shorthand for gross superhero incompetence in the wake of Civil War, but so what? I still got those first two years worth.

With all due neutrality, New Warriors #1 is not a good comic, but if the 15-year-old me didn’t fall hard for it, he might never have been tempted by all the good stuff that was coming down the line. Vertigo comics were on the way to kick my arse, and if I had never stuck with comics, I might never have read any Dan clowes, or Peter Bagge, or Los bros Hernandez, or Adrian Tomine, or Charles burns, or Seth, or anything like that.

I dug out that old copy of New Warriors #1 the other day, and it’s looking a bit tarnished. The bottom left corner is a bit tattered, Al Williamson’s inks are terribly 1980s and all those mysterious plot movements are old and resolved.

But there is still enough of that old infatuation to merit another read. New Warriors #1 might be a faded old dame, but she is still sexy as hell.

1 comment:

Chris Gumprich said...

Wow. I could have written this post. Fifteen years old when it came out, loved it in spite of its goofiness. Started to slip with #26. Bored with it soon after. Dropped it just before the X-Force crossover.

Heck, I enjoyed it so much it took me years to figure out the double entendre behind the name "Night Thrasher".