September 13th, 2007

The Zombie

"Who does this guy think he is?"

September 12 -, leaving my cheery annual 9/11 pontification behind us, let's get back to the subject at hand; Crusty Bunker!  As I was thinking about the 1972 "era" from which Crusty came, it occurred to me that it was just about half-way between the dawn of the comic book industry and now.  How appropriate.  In the story of Crusty Bunker, there is the resonance and remains of the Golden Age way of making comics, as well as the fledgling foundations and artistic influences that led to the comics of today.  Sure, it could be argued that these artists, the hands of Bunker, would have made their marks anyway, and that many other groups or teams of artists worked under similar pseudonyms (The Tribe comes to mind), but I think that the wide range of talents, experience, and ages of The Crusty Bunkers makes their collaborations truly unique, and ultimately important.  Also, it can not be over-stated that the 1970's were a time of wild change in the comics biz, much of it led by (or at least demanded by) the Captain of The Crusty Bunkers, Neal Adams.  Mr. Adams may be one of the most complicated figures in comics history.  An undisputed artistic genius, his other contributions included furthering artists' rights in the business, even brow-beating DC into giving honorarium royalties to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  He was pretty relentless, earning a reputation for being "full of himself" in an industry accustomed to subservient introverts who were just happy to have work.  More than one publisher walked away from a meeting with Mr. Adams, saying "Who does this guy think he is?"  And that's a good question.  Who did he think he was?  Who was this cartoonist who presumed to tell grizzled New York City businessmen how things should be done?  Where did he get off demanding anything in a business where comics artists were considered to be a dime a dozen (which, coincidentally, was just about their per-page rate)?  The answers to these questions can be found even within the inventive creation of Crusty Bunker himself; Neal Adams knew how to produce comics that sold.  He was professional, consistent, fast, timely, and popular.  He also knew how to pass many of those qualities on to others.  Love him or hate him or both, nearly all former Crusty Bunkers admit to the strong influence that Mr. Adams had on their careers.  They would, by and large, also eventually be known for most of those same comics-selling qualities.  Of course, some of The Bunkers were already well established cartoonists, like Jack Abel and Russ Heath, so the "influence" went both ways.  Not only did these "old timers" have an impact on the young artists who were hanging around or working at Continuity Associates, they may have influenced Mr. Adams' activism in regards to artists' rights.  The Crusty Bunker team came into being as a solution to a specific problem, but it was also emblematic of the times.  As a symbol, then, if not a direct factor, Crusty Bunker may be the "artist" who best represents the transition from the first thirty-five years of the comic book business to the most recent thirty-five years.  More tomorrow, but first I have a quick "announcement" to make; for some reason, my expected participation in the annual PdC Museum's Fort Crawford Cannons and Redcoats event (which presents educational events based on The War of 1812), has been canceled...or, more appropriately, was never scheduled, apparently.  I guess wires crossed somewhere.  I'm greatly disappointed, and really hurt, that this has happened, especially when a simple phone call to me would have solved the problem, but, in the long run, I guess it's not that big of a deal.  My portion of the event is...or, was...a day-long, continuously rotating class about political cartooning during the war.  It's actually quite hard work, presenting a "lesson" to over five-hundred grade school students in groups of about forty to fifty at a time.  Not only do...did...I not get paid for this effort, I actually spent my own money on the supplies, to the tune of about thirty dollars annually...and, this year, I even bought myself a period costume!  Like I said, in the long run, I may be better off, now having a free day, thirty extra bucks, and a year to recharge my creative battery (my "lesson," given so many times over the years, did become kind of stale to me), but I enjoyed the event, and really enjoyed the kids.  I'm going to truly miss being involved, but I guess that there's always next year, right?  Here's your "Crusty Bunker" of The Day - Rich Buckler!