The Gray Area Reborn: A Few Of My Favorite Things

Originally The Gray Area ran on Socialfist and was written by Tribe One aka Niles Gray aka The Evil Villain Demonos aka Devil Rhymeosaur. While Niles is currently signing up to test the super-soldier serum he has given us the permission to rerun the old articles.
Originally published online June 28, 2011 at Socialfist as “No Questions Asked. Except For The One At The End”

It seems to me that comics have undergone a complete 180 degree turn since the time I first started collecting them when I was a kid. By that I mean that nowadays it’s the stories that sell the comics more-so than the art. It could be that my appreciation of comics has matured and now I’m realizing that whether or not a comic is good is not solely decided by the art on its pages, but looking back at some of the comics that were published in the 90s I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate. Whatever the case, I think it’s definitely true that the writers of today’s comics are what brings in the readers. Perhaps even more than the characters they are writing.

But never you mind all that. It’s just lead in to what I wanted to write about this week. I got to thinking about artists and characters that are automatic buys whenever I see their books on the shelves. No questions asked. I’m talking about the ones that you buy knowing full well that the story is going to suck. I have a few. These are they…

Sam Kieth. Yes, I spelled it right. “I” before “E,” mother effers! Sam Kieth is actually a big part of the reason I got back into comics about five years ago. I, for some reason, decided I really, really needed to have a complete run of his Maxx series, which prompted me to search the back issue bins of every single comics retailer in the greater Atlanta Metro area. I eventually had to get the later issues on eBay, but on my search I learned about some other great comics that I’m still reading today. Some of his other work that I’ve collected simply because it’s his work includes My Inner Bimbo, Four Women, Wolverine vs Hulk, Legs, Batman/Lobo, another Batman book about the perils of social media and some others that I’m forgetting. Some of the writing on these is a little sketchy but the art is always beautiful.

Jim Mahfood. I love this guy’s art style so much. I even bought a sketchbook of his a while back and until very recently I hated sketchbooks and saw no value in them. I’ve since repented of that folly, I’m just using that as an example of how much I’m down for this guy. Another folly I’ve repented of because of FoodOne is the idea of Live Art. I went to a club event in Seattle that was associated with Emerald City Comic Con that featured a Live Art Jam with Jim Mahfood, David Mack, Chris Haley and others and it was AMAZING. Some random stuff of his that I’ve bought over the years includes One Page Filler Man, Stupid Ideas with Wayne Chinsang and Dave Crosland, Stupid Comics, Grrl Scouts, Kick Drum Comix and his Generation X special. His style has evolved a lot over the years (for the better in my opinion) but it’s always been great.

Kyle Baker. If you’ve been reading this column then you already know about my love for Kyle Baker’s work. I think he’s tops and I’m pretty sure I own everything he’s ever published. Oh, except for the KRS-1 comic that Marvel put out that had a Public Enemy cassette tape in a polybag. I cursed out loud in my LCS when I saw the first issue of Deadpool Max on the rack, even as I picked it up and asked the store manager to add it to my pull list.

Mike Allred. I think I mentioned it here previously, but my first memory of being floored by comic book art was when I saw the cover of Madman #1. Since then I’ve been slowly amassing a collection of Madman single issues and trades. I recently bought the collected Red Rocket 7. I bought all of his X-Force/X-Statix runs at a local convention. And I’ve been on board with iZombie since the first issue. I just absolutely love the way he draws, and luckily, he seems to be pretty consistently paired with amazing writers, including himself.

As far as characters, of course there’s Devil Dinosaur. I would follow that big lug to the Savage Land and back. He’s my all-time favorite comic book character and for good reason. He once fought the Garden of Eden and won by jump-kicking it in the face.

Daredevil. I honestly can’t remember when I first decided that I loved Daredevil, but I really must because I bought Andy Diggle’s entire run, including the god-awful Reborn miniseries. I didn’t buy Shadowland, though. No thank you, sir.

Machine Man. I know exactly when I fell in love with Machine Man. It was when I found a bunch of his comics in a box at a consignment store and I read the first issue, where he saves some hikers from falling off a mountain and he just berates them the entire time for being stupid enough to fall off a mountain. I’ve since bought as many Machine Man comics as I can find including all but two of his 19 issue series started by Jack Kirby, the 2001: Space Odyssey series by Jack Kirby in which he first appeared, Machine Man 2020 in which he fights Tony Stark’s great grandson, X-51 a 90s series which I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who knows it exists, and Nextwave. I don’t have the Marvel Zombies books he stars in, though. I’m sure Luke is disappointed in me for that.

She Hulk. I actually almost forgot to add ol’ Shulkie to this list. I LOVE me some She Hulk. I think I actually do own all of her comics, with very few exceptions. I at least have most every issue of every series she’s starred in. Of course I’m missing some issues in the Sensational series (because nobody on earth has all of those issues), as well as some of John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run, and three issues from her original Savage series. Other than that, though, I’m pretty sure I’ve got every comic book with “She Hulk” in the title. If you’ve never read any She Hulk comics before, I highly recommend you go and read Dan Slott’s run. It’s just absolutely stellar and probably the most fun I’ve ever had reading anything.

There’s a few other characters and artists that I gots mad love for, but those are the big ones, right there. The ones I rearrange my budget for when I see they have a new book coming out. What about you guys? Who are your “must buy no matter what” artists and characters?

Luke Herr

Luke is a writer and an aspiring professional comic writer who is also the editor in chief of Nerdcenaries. He currently is working on a graphic novel called Prison Spaceship.