Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lovable Ol' Hacks : Fabian Nicieza

Thanks to Alan David Doane for the inspiration for the title of tonight's rant. Now, I'd like to point out that for the purposes of this post, I don't mean "hack" in a purely derogatory sense. What we are talking about are the writers who do solid journeymen storytelling work. The people who don't redefine the genre or necessarily go out to write bold new visionary works (and let's face it, most of them fail when they try it), but the guys and gals who understand the craft of serialized storytelling in the comic medium. I've been fairly ambivalent about corporate superhero property comics, but if more of the writers who handled these properties put in the basic level of craftsmanship necessary to get a new reader into the medium and hook'em into the hobby, it might be a bit more tolerable. Tonight, I'll be talking about my favorite one, Fabian Nicieza.

Fabian was probably the first writer whom I actually saw in the credit box as a young comic reader. Yeah, I don't understand how that works either. And say what you will, as a writer, he earned his chops in the comicbook world, and he played it out very far; he made the New Warriors from scratch, which begat his long affiliation as writing half the X-Comics at Marvel after Claremont and the Image guys took off. But it was his writing elsewhere that drew a lot of attention from me as a kid. I remember reading some piece of Marvel promotional propaganda where he wrote his "Two issues rule"; If you aren't being entertained by a comic series for two issues in a row, stop buying it. I think I was twelve when I read that and it stunned me: a MARVEL writer is telling me there's a time when I should get off comics? Really? Wow! Ever since I've applied that rule pretty rigidly. This probably goes a long way to explaining why I don't buy any more from Marvel: I mean, when was the last time that any given two sequential issues even started a story anymore?

In recent years, Fabian's output has been hit and miss: His Thunderbolts was usually passable, but it excelled when it focused on the characters you knew he had developed some complex characterization for, sometimes even exceeding the development started by Kurt Busiek. For me, the character work he did with Hawkeye, Zemo, Songbird, and Atlas still really stand out for me. Each of those characters in his work had a singular and unique voice to me, and each was a part in what I felt was the larger story Nicieza was trying to tell about the nature of power and heroism, and how nature and nurture effected the path you took.

Fabian's strongest skill, I think is that he respects and tries to bring out the best in the characters he's given. No character, no matter how obscure, would be used as cannon fodder for his stories. In fact, he's shown a remarkable gift for writing a compelling narrative with just about any assemblage of random bottom-tier characters (see his New Warriors run, and then his Thunderbolts run, especially the end there where he was using frikkin' Plantman and the Gypsy Moth. Seriously, the Gypsy Moth?). DC could probably give him a team consisting of Gypsy, Flying Fox, Wild Dog, B'wana Beast, Nightblade, and Lady Quark and turn it into a crackerjack series. In fact, I think DC should offer him that series right now.

So, here's to you Fabian Nicieza, there's probably no Eisners in your future, but damn if you don't manage to still keep me interested!


LurkerWithout said...

Nicieza's NW run will always sit on a high platform for me. I loved that team. And its being tossed aside or disdained by so many of Marvel's writers are what led to my dislike of their line for several years. I just wish they'd gotten him to do the relaunch of the title rather than that damn Underworld hack...

MrCynical said...

It's very clear to me that at this time, Marvel's not buying what Fabian's selling, and that he, like Busiek, are an ill fit for current Marvel. So for now, just know that he's doing what he does, and hope that Trinity sells truckloads and that in a year they'll beg him to bring NW back (and bring them back from the dead even).