Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pull The Trigger: Why Walt Simonson Rocketh

The artist/writer Walt Simonson has long been a fan favorite. He made a name for himself by turning around the usually dull Marvel comic Thor, producing one of the great comic runs ever.

His "Thor, the Thunder Frog" story is a personal favorite. Turning the Norse God of Thunder into a frog was clever. Then came...oh man...

Let's just say it was a Bold New Direction. Heh.

My own collection has two much-beloved Simonson runs: his late eighties hitch on Fantastic Four, and his recent series Orion. Rereading both, it hit me why I love this guy.

He pulls the trigger.

Comics, like all serial fiction, depend on sustained tension. Frequently, they resort to plots that leave the reader hanging. They love foreboding.

Walt doesn’t.

In the FF run, Walt brought back the (okay, mostly forgotten) plot seed of The Dreaming Celestial. Long story short: Jack Kirby created a pantheon of unknowable “Space Gods” for his late seventies series The Eternals. These giant doofuses, the Celestials, showed up on Earth from time to time for unknown reasons. One of them, again for reasons unknown, was imprisoned by his brothers in the mountains of California and put in a neverending sleep. The implication was that the Dreaming Celestial was dangerous beyond belief, and that someday he would awaken! Ooooh…scary!

The Dreaming Celestial was introduced in the late seventies. The Celestials were referenced many times since then, with the Dreamer as the ever-present threat that loomed but never did much.

Walt woke him up.

The resulting story was a riot.

Better still came in Orion. The title character was the apostate son of the evil god Darkseid.* Hanging over both characters was the prophesy that one day Orion and Darkseid would fight “in the fire-pits of Apokolips” and that the son would kill the father. Drama, drama.

Walt held that fight in issue #5. Issue number five. The series ran for twenty more ass-kicking issues, and never lost steam.

God bless that man.

Walter understands that the elephant in the room sometimes needs to be fed a peanut. You can almost hear him:

“G’wan and fulfill the foreboding prophesy! You can always make another one later. Don’t leave the story seeds fallow on the ground! Use ‘em! Don’t be afraid! Live a little!”

He’s a great writer/artist for other reasons as well, but to me, he’ll always be The Man With the Stones to Pull the Trigger. Which won’t look good on a business card, but hey.

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*Yes, Walt likes to truck in gods. Like the Celestials, these are Kirby characters. With dumbass names. Don’t get me started on the Fourth World names. Scott Free? Big Barda? Vermin Vundabar? Vermin Vundabar? Vermin Vundabar? Ye gods.

4 Comments:

  • Aw, so harsh on the Kirby names! You don't like . . . Vykin the Black?

    Good point on Walt. I wasn't sure what to do with him growing up, other then wish I had that cool dinosaur signature, but the storyline in Thor with the Executioner sacrificing himself to, etc.? Brilliant.

    By Blogger gorjus, at 2:44 PM  

  • I still remember seeing my first Walt Simonson art - Robocop vs. Terminator- and being both repulsed and facinated with the odd angularity. When I saw his Fantastic Four, however, I became a big fan. I'm surprised Marvel has never repinted the Simonson issues, as they are far superior to anything that has come since (possibly excepting the better Waid & Weringo issues).

    By Anonymous Mike Loughlin, at 8:45 AM  

  • Wooord up. Simonson wasn't afraid to Drop Some Science on our punk asses - I remember during his Thor run, every issue he would briefly cut to some fire giants or something forging Surtur's world-ending sword, teasing us with the coming comic book apocalypse with his big "DOOOM" sound effects... Every issue he teased us with that damn sword, and then - the big payoff! Ragnarok, Odin dies, Surtur walks the cosmos again, wielding the sword of doom - it was fantastic! Even as a youngster, I remember thinking "Man, if Claremont was writing this comic we would NEVER resolve this subplot; they'd be forging that damn sword for years, and then they'd forget about it."

    Simonson rules, aye.

    By Blogger David Campbell, at 1:08 PM  

  • By Blogger dfadf, at 3:41 AM  

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