Monday, January 31, 2005

CROSSFIRE - HOLLYWOOD HERO by Evanier/Spiegle

CROSSFIRE is an interesting comic book about the cast of a cable news program where they take complex political issues and dumb them down to a simple left/right split and yell a lot. While I appreciate the effort going into creating the Novak character, one of the greatest villains in comics history, I'm afraid my suspension of disbelief just didn't extend to cover Tucker Carlson. I mean, what was that all about...

Oh, sorry, wrong CROSSFIRE...

CROSSFIRE was a comic by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle, published by Eclipse in the 1980s as a spin-off of Evanier and Will Meugniot's DNAGENTS. It starred Jay Endicott, a bail bondsman working in the Hollywood area, who found himself with the costume and identity of Crossfire, a thief who specialized in stealing information. Endicott decides to use that identity in the pursuit of justice.

The series ran 26 issues (plus some spin-offs) from 1984 to 1988, and generally got better as it went along, especially as the more fanciful super-heroics were downplayed for more down-to-earth plotlines. However, the early issues were good as well, and the first five issues (along with the first story from WHODUNNIT, one of the spin-offs) were recently collected in a book published by About Comics.

The Dan Spiegle artwork is a real treat. Spiegle's been in the comic business for decades, always doing great work, and it's a shame so little of it has ever been reprinted. He was a great fit for this book, since it required a variety of faces and body types for its characters, like casting a movie with character actors, and he excels in drawing faces that seemed lived in, like they had stories that go far past what we see in these pages, whether it's the young acting hopeful or the big-shot movie producer or second-rate stand-up comedian. Plus he does a great job of drawing real streets and buildings for the Hollywood locations.

And of course Evanier knows all those character types and locations as well, and writes them as well as Spiegle draws them. While fanciful and action based, you get the feeling that there's a basis in reality to the stories in this volume.

There are four complete stories in this book, and my favourite of them is "The Spotlight", a single-issue story from CROSSFIRE #5. It features the story of a third-rate Don Rickles type stand-up comedian, and his attempts to get on TV, which intersect with Crossfire through a contract out on the life of a mobster from the previous story. It's a very well constructed story, with some imaginative twists, some interesting characters and a great pay-off at the end.

You can read more about CROSSFIRE on this page from Mark Evanier's site, and head over here for links to order this book, the DNAGENTS book and other Evanier writing.

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