TV Land hasn’t had the best of luck when it comes to original programming. There is their awards show, where they honor series of the past. And then there’s stuff like I Pity The Fool, where Mr. T serves as a motivational speaker in the way only Mr. T can. (Seriously find these episodes, this show was awesome! And tell me where you found it because I want a copy!) ALF was also given a talk show. Neither show did very well.
Then came Hot In Cleveland, a sitcom that uses actors and actresses from old shows as stars and guest stars. (I wonder what effect Betty White’s “Snickers” success had for the show? Personally, I think Valerie Bertinelli is still hot, whether she’s in Cleveland or not. ) These people are still talented and there is an audience for the classic sitcom formula. Of course, this could be considered a sitcom version of Sex In The City, and their new show, Happily Divorced, is about a couple who divorces, but still lives together, when the husband realizes he’s gay. So we’re not exactly talking family friendly entertainment here. But my point is that both the format and the performers who would normally be ignored by today’s Hollywood have still “got it” and it’s nice to see them getting work.
Now you may be asking why this is under the “comic spotlight” category and what a couple of sitcoms have to do with comics?
Starting this week (unless I missed something), DC Comics is beginning a series of one-shots called “Retroactive”. The plan is to bring back famed writers of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, pair them with artists for that period (or a reasonable facsimile if the legend has sadly passed on), and create a story set in DC Universe as it existed back then. Names like Gerry Conway, Dennis O’Neil, Marv Wolfman, and others will return to characters and time periods they helped make famous. Additionally, the comic will include a reprint of a classic tale by that team that may or may not connect to new story. They’re one-shots, not a collective narrative, so you can just grab your favorite hero and period and enjoy the story on its own.
My point? Why stop there?
We comic fans who do a lot of exploring for writers and artists of our youth or even an old comic/reprint we’ve come across have heard the stories about how these legendary creators haven’t been able to find work. Some have moved on to television, but some aren’t in entertainment at all because the editors usually like to break out the new, flashy guys. To a point, as I know of plenty of writers and artists who never get their day in the sun unless their webcomic or independent production caught their attention. (Insert Zuda rant here as well.)
But what about these comic writers of old who still have the storytelling skills they once had, or the artists who can still get a character’s look down? (Admittedly this may not be all of them; I’m talking about the ones that are still tops in the field.) If you want to see if they were ever legends, just go through the Friday Night Fights category and Best of FNF and see some of their best work. Most of them can still pull it off, and I’m hoping that Retroactive proves that point.
Again I ask, why stop there? Like the two TV Land sitcoms, why not continue this, if not DC, then another publisher who could benefit from having someone of Cary Bates‘ caliber writing something for them? Moonstone, for example, picked up Sy Barry to draw covers for the first issue of Phantom: Ghost Who Walks, as he used to draw the newspaper strip. Bluewater will be putting out a comic this week starring Adam West, who isn’t a comic creator but certain has his ties to comics, having played Batman in both live-action and animated productions. Bob Budiansky, the guy who practically created the Transformers Universe, got to revisit the original animated movie and give it a proper adaptation. (One of three TF stories he didn’t write for Marvel before passing the torch to Simon Furman.) Sadly, he hasn’t done any Transformers work since. They should at least give him an “Evolutions” story to do or a Spotlight.
If DC bringing old creators back to the time they made famous is just a publicity stunt, they must think it will work. (It would be nice to see DC make a POSITIVE publicity stunt for a change, wouldn’t it? No, I’m letting Lian Harper go. Or Alex DeWitt. Or…this could actually get to long, let’s get back on subject.) This will bring old fans back, although I doubt it will keep them since I don’t think the current writers and artists are learning from the past or their predecessors, who keep getting it in the back every time the universe reboots, like the upcoming “DC New Universe”. (Again, not learning from the mistakes of Crisis On Infinite Earths.) I’m not even talking about the current characters or universe. Since DC has brought back the Multiverse, have one with the classic characters, maybe make “Retroactive” a roundtable anthology like the old “Showcase” title, or something like Wednesday’s Comics but in the normal comic book format? I understand that age may make it hard keeping up with a monthly schedule (although there are a few younger creators currently in the game that still can’t), so this or a bi-monthly could be an alternative.
I and many fans might even accept a smaller publisher giving these talented professionals a series of their own, which may or may not be analogues of DC or Marvel characters. I’d be interested to see who would continue doing things in the style of that period and who would try to modernize their techniques while keeping their unique style.
Somebody needs to make this happen. Who among you wouldn’t be on board with this?