Sunday, March 09, 2008

Jon Sable, Freelance

The excitement I feel over the Watchmen movie got me thinking about other comics that are not for kids. I have issues with the heroes from my childhood being used in adult stories that are inappropriate for kids. I know that it's my own problem, and I accept it. I learned to read from Superboy, and I think that my daughter should have the same opportunity. When Teen Titans is her favorite cartoon, I think the mainstream Teen Titans comic book should be accessible for her.

But I also enjoy comics that are for adults, especially those that were made with adults in mind to begin with. Case in point: Jon Sable, Freelance. In 1983, at the advent of the "independent" publisher, artist Mike Grell (who used to draw Superboy, coincidentally) introduced us to Jon Sable, a former Olympic pentathlete who fell in love and moved to Africa to be with the woman he would eventually marry. They had two children and he became a hunting guide and later a game warden. When the political climate became violent Sable became involved in hunting down terrorists, which led to retribution. His wife and children were gunned down, his house burned to the ground. With nothing left to live for but revenge, Sable wiped the ashes of his homestead of his face in a shape reminiscent of a mask and hunted down the people who wiped out his family. He was then deported from his new home and returned to New York City, where he became a bounty hunter by night and a children's author by day, retelling stories he had written for his children.

This book was a masterpiece in adventure comics as far as I'm concerned. Sable's violence was real, using existing weaponry (for the most part; the jetpack he used once looked like it came from Popular Science) and fighting styles. Sable was involved in everything from kidnappings to rescuing POWs, back when that was in vogue. He would even hunt down Nazis in #2, and there's nothing wrong with that. The writing was solid and the art was spectacular, especially when Grell's tight pencils were enhanced by his own brush in those early days, but the level of his artistry fell off after a few years, and it looked like he was trying to reproduce his work directly from heavy pencils when the technology didn't quite make the transfer successful. Not to worry, though. Now Sable is back, and Mike Grell's work has never looked better! If you click on this link, you'll be taken to the new Sable graphic novel, "Ashes of Eden," as it is published in serial form online. It's currently at 97 pages and every week or so, we get to see a little more of this magnum opus. Warning: it does contain adult content and is not appropriate for children.

In 2007-2008, technology has finally caught up to what Mike Grell wants to accomplish. The art is reproduced from his pencils and colored by Shannon Weaver to fine effect (seen at right). I have to think that if the computer coloring process had been around in the 80s, Grell would have stayed on his best character's book much longer. I'm just happy to see Sable back again in any form, and this story really lives up to the potential that the character has always had!

1 comment:

Martin said...

Jim, I have been a Grell fan since the 70's and I remember quite fondly the Jon Sable, Freelance book from First Comics. I believe I still have those in a long box somewhere. Thanks for the link to the new stuff. The man still does awesome work!