November 14, 2013
It's times like these that I sometimes turn towards less escapist fare in my comic reading. Much of it is due to much of the drek published by the major companies (although thankfully, Comic Related, Zone 4, and the occasional blog visitor keep me awash in good, independent work), but much of it is just that I want something that relates to how I'm feeling - simply one of many anonymous people trying to get by.
Ironically, I've also been rereading my many issues of Crossfire, written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Dan Spiegle, published by Eclipse in the early 80s. (There is a now out-of-print trade paperback). And yes, you can accuse me of being nostalgic, but those issues resonate with me in a slightly different way than they did as a teenager.
The premise is simple: Jay Endicott is a bailbondsman, helping those out of trouble. One day, he comes across the suit of Crossfire, an infamous thief-for-hire. (Imagine a less sociopathic Raffles in tights, and that's a pretty good approximation). Deciding that he can use the suit to help others in distress, Jay Endicott adopts the identity of Crossfire, and consequences ensue). As a teenager, having such a street-level view of costumed adventuring seemed like a smart turn of action movie cliches; as an older gent, there's a nice Raymond Chandler-esque tone to Evanier's writing. Focusing on small scale people and gently moving portraits, Evanier manages to write complex ideas with simple strokes. There's something about focusing on those simply struggling to survive that gives the tales a greater emotional power. Unlike Watchmen, Crossfire handles "realism" in comics by coloring the stories with down-to-earth touches rather than weaving in the fantastic....and that makes each issue a gem.
Spiegel's art....well, I am a huge fan of Dan Spiegel's art. In our current age of flash and wow, there's a nice, slightly rugged quality to his work. Pal Ron once remarked that Speigel drew many Western comics in the 1950s, and I will have to seek those out. (And blame Evanier and Spiegel's Blackhawk revival for DC in the 1980s for hooking me into Spiegel's art). Quite simply - and I'll take full responsibility for mangling this metaphor - Spiegel's art is much like Spencer Tracy's acting: it looks simple, but it's deceptively rich and worth poring over.
Maybe my particular age and situation has me overidentifying with Jay Endicott - an essentially noble character (and nice guy) who finds himself trundling through with everyone else. (It's no spoiler that, throughout the course of the series, Endicott ends up losing the costume and simply wearing the mask with clothes). Reading this so soon after seeing Rocky Balboa, there's a great affirmation of the idea that it's not about "the big win" so much as the little victories that make life worth living.