Friday, February 14, 2020
Two things I learned from Violator vs Badrock
Violator vs Badrock was a three-issue comic published in 1995 by Image, just before they gave Rob Liefeld the boot. It was written by Alan Moore and pencilled by Brian Denham, and it is not - in any way, shape or form - a memorable comic book.
But even though I haven't read that comic in a decade or two, it has a weirdly special place in my personal history of collecting comic books, because it taught me two very important things:
1. I really didn't need to be a completest
Like all good young comic dorks in the early nineties, I devoured everything Moore wrote, and that worked out pretty well, because his comics were almost always pretty fucking good. They were thoughtful, and a terrific example of craft, and full of innovative action and dialogue and a raging sense of justice, and sometimes they were emotionally crushing.
Violator vs Badrock was none of these things, and was the first time I ever realised that I didn't have to get absolutely everything the writer did, because sometimes he was as human as the rest of us, and just did it for the paycheck,
Now I don't have a complete set of anything by a specific comic creator. I still have my favourites - and Moore is definitely still on that list - but everybody has their off day, and not everything is as essential as it looks. You don't have to get everything, but everything is not worth getting.
2. Art is more important than words
It took me a few years to realise I need good art to properly enjoy a comic, and that this can make up for any kind of deficiencies in the script. Who cares when it looks good?
But for a long time, I was script over anything, following writers instead of artists, and convinced the creator who starts with the initial blankness of the page was the most important part of the process. After all, I would follow quite a few writers from project to project, but just a handful of artists were good enough that I would take a look at any comic they did.
But then there was this comic, where the art was - to put it as charitably as possible - juvenile and amateurish, with female breasts that didn't obey any laws of physics, and it started me thinking that maybe the art actually matters after all.
Now it's reached a stage where I can't deal with bad art, no matter how good the script is, and find that companies like Avatar put out comics by writers I enjoy, but will never red because the art is so repulsive. (I still keep imagining how much I would have liked Providence if had an artist capable of mood or style or anything other than flat, thin exactness.)
You can learn anything from the very worst comics, even if it's showing you how to do it all wrong, and even the dumbest boobfest like Violator vs Badrock can tell you something, or show you the way to go.