TOP 5 BIOGRAPHICAL COMICS I WANT TO READ
Marvel Comics The Untold Story
So my first choice is a bit of a cheat. It is the very simply sounding method of adapting Sean Howe’s excellent history of the Marvel Bull Pen into a comic. I just love stories from back in the day. If anyone has read the brilliant novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay my favourite parts of that are when it is in a creative environment.
Sure you could do a straight forward book to comic adaptation or you could expand it even further. There are so many areas the book doesn’t touch upon. Any era you pick would be a great story to tell. The creators behind the characters are just as colourful and the names roll of the tongue just as much. I mean theres Stan and Jack, Fabulous Flo Steinberg, Romita, Ditko, Starlin, Gerber, Englehart I mean endless names. The biggest problem doing the story in the comics format is that you presume it would be published by Marvel themselves. They will leave out the confrontation, being more interested in painting the bull pen as a fun almost magical place. All the fans want is more juicy details on the Shooter era and Claremont and Byrne knocking heads on X-Men to name a few. Essentially this would be the Mad Men of comic books. Imagine how cool it would be to see some of the creators who the story would center on coming back to supply interior art and covers for the issues! We are in a golden age of comic book characters making it to the big screen so it is a perfect time to get all nostalgic and take a look back. Back to the stories and the faces behind the characters we all love today. Everyone who has ever read a Marvel comic has at least one memory of reading the Bull Pen. So I think this series would be a great success. As fans we want to read about office hi-jinks, office friendships and romances, office tension. Anything with the word office in front of it it would seem. We want to know all the little details behind the creators that made reading comics so much fun. Where they ate, what music they worked too, part time jobs, everything! If this doesn’t get made it would be a big empty chasm on the landscape of Marvel Comics. You know who would be great for this project? Ed Piskor!
The story behind the man who it is said has the most famous home video in the world. Zapruder is kind of the the counter argument for Warhol’s ‘Everybody is famous for fifteen minutes’. You can not talk about the JFK assassination without mention of the Zapruder film. The great option of telling Zapruder’s story is you can do a fresh take on the JFK story which has been done to death. Of course you keep that fateful day in Dallas for the big second act. But before that there are so many pieces that go into building a picture of the man behind the camera. Firstly Zapruder lived the American dream. Part of am immigrant family that moved from Russia to the United States in 1920. He studied English at night school and found a job in the clothing manufacturing business. It was this line of work that led to him moving to Dallas. He worked for Nardis in the Dal-Tex Building directly opposite the Texas School Book Depository. Its the little details that will add to the depth of this story. For instance on the morning of the motorcade Zapruder had decided not to record the event after saying he would all week. Luckily another quick change of plan sealed the fate of history.
Also he suffered from vertigo and was unstable in the position he took up the film the event. He had to have his secretary keep him steady. The bulk of the story and the most interesting parts then come from after the fatal shot. It picks up pace when he meets Harry McCormick of the Dallas Morning News who was a friend of Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrells. A talented writer could weave in a conspiracy as to how many copies of his film were made and where they ended up. Then he was interviewed for TV and contacted by Life magazine. He sold his film to them the very next day for a $150,000. That night he had a nightmare where he saw Life magazine advertising “See The Presidents Head Explode.” A percentage of the money he made from selling the film he donated to the family of Officer J.D. Tippit. The focus of the narrative would then move to the evidence he gave to the Warren Commission. I wonder what his family life and circle of friends was like after? Did they have Kennedy video parties? Did he put it on at Christmas? For me the story ends when Life sell the rights back to Zapruder for the lowly price of $1. As for the title I would call it 313. This is the frame in the film containing the fatal shot to Kennedy. The same frame he wanted removed from the deal with Life.
With female superheroes becoming more and more common place in comics nowadays it would be perfect to showcase the story of a true female war hero. World War II stories still sell and capture peoples interest. So it would be a good opportunity to put a fresh take on that popularity by telling the story of female pioneer during war time. Pavlichenko was a sniper for The Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division. One of 2000 female snipers in the Russian army. Of which only 200 survived the conflict. When she volunteered in June 1941 at the age of 24 she refused to be a nurse and instead wanted to join up with the infantry. She went on to become the most successful female sniper of all time, credited with 309 confirmed kills in World War II. The way her career panned out allows for the story to take up a dual narrative.
Firstly you tell the story of her time on the front line which was only actually a year from June 1941 to June 1942 when she was wounded by mortar fire. In this time apart from racking up over 300 confirmed kills Pavlichenko also by August of 41 she was promoted to Senior Sergeant after being cited for 1000 kills. By May 42 she was a Lieutenant. She fought for nearly three months in Odessa and eight months at Sevastopol. After her injury she was invited on a publicity tour of America, Canada and United Kingdom. On this tour she met Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, talk to the media and took donations for the Red Army. Before the end of the war she returned to the Red Army to take up a position as an instructor. This serves as a good parallel to her youth when she took up shooting at her local gun club in Kiev. I think one key and interesting aspect to touch on would be that among her 309 kills 36 of them were snipers. I imagine in the sniper world getting the scalp of another sniper is both key in terms of increasing chances of victory and saving more lives in the process, but also a moment of personal pride. I think throughout the story all 36 of these kills should be represented in some way. It could be a panel, a page. Just art work it doesn’t need dialogue or narration for everyone but they have to be in there. As for the title that is easy. It comes from her nom de guerre Lady Death.
It might seem controversial of me to put someone twice sentenced to stretches in prison so high on my list. The troubles of Mike Tyson in and outside the ring are well documented so this would be a purely sporting biography. I want to tell the story about the training, hard work and dedication that led to Iron Mike becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion. A good short prologue to start would be after his mothers funeral. At the age of 16 his future manager and trainer Cus D’Amato was assigned his legal guardian. Two years later in March 1985 he had his first professional fight, defeating Hector Mercedes by first round TKO. Another important part to touch on would be the death of D’Amato between his first professional fight and his first televised fight less than a year later. What I found amazing that in his first year as a professional alone he had 15 fights! That is unheard of! Those early years were a juggernaut of success. We can get the back story to the media hype building around him as his journey gained momentum. Boxing has always lent itself to movies and novels so why should comics be left out. Read about the hard training that went into developing his style of strength, amazing hand speed and a solid defence.
D’Amato was a trainer in the Peek-a-boo style which Tyson used to devastating affect. An often used technique would be a right hook to the body followed by a right uppercut to the chin. Does the title Right Hook, Right Uppercut work? Even if it doesn’t work as a title it certainly worked for Tyson he beat three of his opponents with this technique! I am no good at picking artists for projects, I’ll just say the first name that comes into my head. But you need someone who can capture the Tyson’s style. They need to capture explosive moments like his knockout of Marvis Frazier just 30 seconds into the bout! In November of 1986 he had his first title fight for the WBC belt. Winning in the second round by TKO he became the youngest heavyweight in boxing history. The following year he added the WBA titles defeating James Smith and the IBF title from Tony Tucker. You could interweave cracks in the make up of Tyson appearing which will lead to the eventual bad days. But I would still have the positives front and center. The story would culminate in June 1998. The setting Trump Plaza Atlantic City, New Jersey. Michael Spinks vs Mike Tyson. Here you could pay homage to the classic comic Superman vs Muhammed Ali as anyone who was anyone in the 80’s was in attendance. Ali and Trump as mentioned, Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Oprah, Stallone and Chuck Norris. The fight was billed as ‘Once and For All’ so it supplies the title of the comic in the process. The fight showcases Tyson at his commanding best dismantling Spinks in just 91 seconds. With that killer blow Iron Mike became the undisputed champion and our story can fade to black.
Manic Street Preachers
Clearly I am just indulging myself with my number one pick. Normally I would give into popular demand and put my favourite choice in last place. But this time my blog, my rules. Manic Street Preachers are the most important rock band in British history. Often dubbed ‘Britain’s Last Political Rock Band’ more people need to know their story. From small Welsh mining town to topping the charts during ‘Brit Pop’ it is a journey filled with ambition, adversity, controversy and despair. I would actually love a go at writing this myself. My only problem with telling this story is I would have trouble knowing where and when to stop. The story begins in the mining town of Blackwood, Wales during Thatchers Britain. Four friends James, Nicky, Richey and Sean drawn together by circumstance they formed a strong bond over their shared sense of being outsiders and love of music. Throughout their career they always had the feeling of ‘its us four against the world.’ This was a philosophy that was forged in this younger years. Drinking coffee in the window of their favourite cafe, listening to records and reading NME on James and Sean’s bunk bed, going to record shops, going to gigs. Being in a band was the next logical step on this trajectory. They started making demo tapes and sending them off to London to people they read about in magazines. The done the local pubs and clubs scene mostly with gigs ending in brawls after one or two songs. Long story short the hard work and belief in themselves paid off. Their first album ‘Generation Terrorists’ debuted in 1992 to mix response.
The band still retained their philosophy and joked their plan was to make an album, sell 16 million copies then split up. A key touch pole in the story would be the incident where Richey carved the words ‘4Real’ on his arm after he thought music journalist wasn’t take the band seriously. As I mentioned I have often thought about drafting a Manics biographical comic myself but I only really no the key milestones to get to the juicy truths I assumed I would have to meet them! I thought a clever way around this would be to do montages and collages accompanied by lyrics from the back catalogue. This fits in well with their story too as Nicky and Richey would often do collages whilst working on an album. Also my next bright idea is to gloss over the difficult second album and get to 1993’s ‘The Holy Bible’. An album that for many is the pinnacle of Manic Street Preachers. What works even better for the graphic novel is it has the best back story to accompany it. Whilst the second album was recorded in rural England in a mock tudor mansion ‘The Holy Bible’ was recorded in a run down building in the middle of the local red light district. The setting and the mood let itself to the outcome of the album. A dark, bleak affair with song themes ranging from abortion, racism and the holocaust. Upon its release it wasn’t a success but garnered critical acclaim years later. However it was believed the band could crack America with their third album. Fun fact they recorded a theme that went unused for the Judge Dredd movie. During the tour for ‘The Holy Bible’ and for sometime before Richey hadn’t been himself. He had bouts of depression, self harming and was in and out of the priory. This leads into two more major plot points. Firstly the gigs the banded performed at The Astoria in December 1994.
Three sold out nights culminated in the band trashing their equipment, more importantly it was the last time they would perform as a foursome. On February 1st 1995 Richey disappeared. He and James were booked into a hotel due to fly to America to get the promotion going for the US release of ‘The Holy Bible’. Richey’s car was found by the Severn Bridge a well known suicide spot. To this day the exact details of that day are unknown. Legally he is presumed dead, though his family still look for any clues. This tragic event gives the story another opportunity to leap forward. The band met up for a rehearsal some months after the events of February 1st. They believed they had a germ of a decent song and wanted to keep the band going in the event Richey returned. That song went on to be ‘A Design For Life’ the bands most iconic song ever. It built music media hype and ushered them into a new era. The song prompted a new album and commercial success. They won two Brit awards in 1996. They supported Oasis who were the biggest band of the time. Many will argue the commercial success went against the early ethos of the band, but it justified their hard work. That is where I would choose to end the story. Triumphant in the face of adversary as they take to the stage to perform ‘A Design For Life’ for the first time whilst never forgeeting the memory of their friend and Brother Richey.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
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