Blah Blah Blog – The Good Stuff

A post from my defunct Marvel blog of years past, part of a series examining good comic books I had a hand in.

The Good Stuff

April 28, 2007 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

Another day, another Good Comic I Had A Hand In. Today it’s AVENGERS v3 #22, the climax of the “Ultron Unlimited” storyline by Kurt Busiek and George Perez.

Sometimes an issue just clicks. By this point, the AVENGERS team had done close to two years worth of stories–some of them good and some of them misfires to one extent or another. And we’d embarked on “Ultron Unlimited” in a deliberate attempt to ramp up the stakes, to answer all of those fans who said that the run up to this point had felt too safe, or too small. But on this issue, everything just plain worked–and I knew it even before the book went to press.

I remember how exciting it was when, earlier, Kurt and I latched onto the idea that Ultron had the brain patterns of Hank Pym, in the same way that the Vision had Wonder Man’s brain patterns. That reveal was low-hanging fruit, something that seems so obvious in retrospect, that explains so much about what drives Ultron and why he’s such a personal foe for Hank, but nobody’d ever connected the dots before.

I love that all of the big guns get a cool moment as the Avengers do battle with the thousand Ultrons, particularly Iron Man, who’d often been overshadowed by Thor or Cap or one of the others in the fight sequences. We dreamed up a nice Iron Man-specific attack for him. And I also loved it when we hit on the notion of the Scarlet Witch using her hex power, and it having a detrimental effect on the Avengers’ efforts, especially after so many issues where she’d saved the day. We’d always heard that her hex-power was uncontrollable, but had never really seen it this way, and it was an excellent way to raise the stakes at a crucial moment. And having Justice bring in Antarctic Vibranium, the Anti-Metal, to destabilize Ultron’s adamantium form (and establishing that it would work on adamantium) was also a good bit, coming straight out of Marvel history, and reinforcing the particular strengths that Vance Astrovik brought to the group.

The moment where the tattered Avengers confront the true Ultron won us “Best Moment of the Year” in the Wizard fan awards.

Other, smaller stuff: I remember we got some particularly lousy color separations on this issue. This was back in the day where our colorists weren’t working on computer to create their own separations, but would instead create a color guide, sort of like a miniature painting on a copy of the original art, for the separators to use as a guide. This meant that even the best colorists were largely at the mercy of hourly wage-slave technicians–you never knew quite what you were going to get back, and this issue suffered in the coloring as a result (particularly the double-page spread with the thousand Ultrons swarming the Avengers.)

The monochromatic color scheme on the cover was suggested by then-Marvel editor Rubin Diaz. He happened to come by the office when we were looking at the piece, and opined that it would look cool if we did it all in reds with the exception of the central Ultron figure. That was a good call.

More later.

Tom B

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4 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – The Good Stuff

  1. Ouch. “Wage-slaves”. Much of your audience could be categorized as the same. Including me. It’s like when NPR crows about their compelling “drive way moments”, and I know what They mean, but I dont have a driveway.

    Rubin Diaz made good calls on DC’s “JLA”, too. I hope he’s doing well, wherever he is.

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    1. The color separations weren’t the fault of the “wage slaves” doing the seps — they were just doing what their employer told them to, and they needed the job — but they weren’t in the hands of someone with an actual creative vision, who could see that vision through and be part of a collaborative whole.

      For instance, the separation company had three tiers of separators, which they felt increased efficiency and saved time. The first tier did the first-draft seps. The second tier did first-wave corrections. The third tier did second-wave corrections.

      The company was proud of this, but the effect of it was that the tier doing the first-draft seps never got told what they were doing wrong. And the second tier, who theoretically corrected what the first tier got wrong, never got told what they, in turn, were doing wrong. So the same mistakes got made every single issue, and every set of color core had to go through all three tiers, because nobody ever learned.

      Any one of those color separators, if they’d been able to act like an artisan rather than a drudge, could have learned and improved, so each issue didn’t need three or more rounds of correction. Some of them may be working as excellent colorists today.

      But in the no-improvement factory setting they were in, they were never allowed to be more than drudges, and it was insanely frustrating. For us, trying to make each issue and good as it could be, for Tom Smith, seeing his color work get mangled, and likely for the actual separators, too.

      But their bosses thought it was a great system.

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      1. Very classist. So once again, we see it’s the fault of greedy, for-profit motives that are to blame. “Drudges” (sounds derogatory) were caught in the middle. I’m glad coloring is more direct now, & in the hands (under the control) of the artists.

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  2. I don’t think I’ve loved an single Avengers arc more. Heck, I think it’s even Busiek’s best Big Two work. It’s stuck with me so much, I even paraphrased Thor yesterday, telling someone ‘I would have words with thee’…

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