Binding Trade Post: Guy Gardner Warrior

guy gardner warrior 17 Guy Gardner: Warrior Volume 1 (DC)
Written by Beau Smith & Chuck Dixon, drawn by Mitch Byrd & others
Binding Order: Guy Gardner: Warrior #17-24, 0, 25-28, Green Lantern #60, GGW #29, Action Comics #709, GGW #30-31, Guy Gardner: Warrior Annual #1, Detention Comics #1 & Showcase ’96 #1

This one’s a little bit of a cheat because it’s not an actual trade that you can go out and buy, but a pair of hardcovers I had made through Houchen Bindery. I had gotten some extra cash for Christmas and my birthday that I put aside for a binding project and got to work amassing whichever books I was missing, having my parents bring out stacks from home and getting everything together. I soon focused in on two areas: the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern comics and Guy Gardner: Warrior, both books that had a huge impact on me in my formative comic-reading years that I continue to enjoy this day. I spent a good deal of time designing three different covers for the GL books, but decided to go with the more traditional, solid-colored covers for the Warrior books partially because I was tired of staring at computer screens and Photoshopping like crazy (something that proved very difficult with most of the GGW covers) and because I got a kick out of the idea of seeing my Guy Gardner comics covered in a way that makes them look like classy library books.

For a book that I love so much, I don’t actually remember why I picked up my first issue of Guy Gardner. I think I had read an adventure or two of his in random issues of Justice League I’d acquired along the way (this was before my massive post-Crisis JL collection idea), but wasn’t overly familiar with the character. Anyway, some time in 1994 I picked up Guy Gardner: Warrior #17, 18 or 19 and was instantly hooked. This was towards the end of Chuck Dixon’s run on the character where Guy — who was sporting Sinestro’s old yellow ring at the time and no longer a member of the Green Lantern Corps — was going through all kinds of costume changes from the leather-loving dude in the cover above to a ringless armor-wearer to the eventual morph meister he would soon become. These are all concepts that probably seem silly now, but were like crack to an 11 year old.

So, I’ve been a fan of the character going back nearly 20 years at this point and, aside from some of the Geoff Johns-era Green Lantern Corps, most people don’t seem to get the character. Many have the impression of Guy that he’s just a jerk with powers, but if you’ve read Dixon and Beau Smith’s run on the book, you know that it’s a lot deeper than all that. Sure, he’s kind of a jerk, but these writers also got to the underlying bedrock of the character, examining why he was a jerk and also showing all the ways that he’s so much more than that by getting into his relationship with his mom, dad, brother and on-and-off-again girlfriend Tora (better known as the superheroine and fellow Justice Leaguer Ice).

guy gardner binding

Smith has talked about how his run on the book came about in a two part post over on Westfield Comics’ blog, how it began life as a DCU-hopping adventure featuring Buck Wargo and the Monster Hunters and soon turned into that but with a sci-fi/fantasy element incorporating morphing abilities like the ones seen in the then-popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series. The books that I put in this volume feature Guy dealing with those new powers, questioning his origins in regards to the newly discovered Vuldarian DNA doing its thing inside him and also setting up his new life which includes funding from Wargo (a scientist-adventurer-millionaire) and a bar called Warriors that’s equal parts hero hangout and headquarters which happens to be the most long-lasting element of this run.

I decided to include a few crossovers like Green Lantern #60 and Action Comics #709, but also the first annual which was part of the Year One line that year. It’s an interesting take with some not so great art that shows how Vuldarians used to do their intergalactic policing back in the day. I also threw in the Detention Comics one-shot which features Guy substitute teaching as well as two other stories featuring Robin (Tim Drake) and Superboy and Showcase ’96 #1 which includes the first part of a two-parter featuring Guy teaming up with Steel where we learn that they used to play football at the same time. Fun stuff. The second half of that story kicks off the next book.

Guy Gardner Warrior 34 Guy Gardner: Warrior Volume 2 (DC)
Written by Beau Smith, drawn by Mitch Byrd, Marc Campos & others
Binding Order: Showcase ’96 #2, GGW #32, Justice League America #101, Hawkman #22, GGW #33, JLA #103, Hawkman #23, GGW #34-36, Darkstars #37, GGW #37-44, GGW Annual #2, & Mr. Miracle #7

Towards the end of the previous book Guy realizes his Vuldarian powers are going out of control because his peoples’ natural enemies the Tormocks have returned to the cosmos. In an effort to save himself and his planet from the impending invasion, Guy goes to the Justice League (who he’s pissed at for their shoddy treatment of him when Ice died fighting the Overmaster) and asks them for help. They agree to help him which launches into a seven part crossover called The Way Of The Warrior that also included Justice League America and Hawkman.

Unfortunately, this story is a bit of a slog because it felt like three different, yet concurring stories being told at the same time featuring some of the same characters, but not necessarily mattering so much to one another. The JLA are dealing with all their internal bickering while also facing off against some space bad guys while Hawkman returns to Thanagar for the first time in a long while. It’s all stuff that makes sense within the contexts of those books, but doesn’t really have much to do with Guy’s mission which eventually gets wrapped up so he can return home, but only after a few more issues where he appears in Darkstars and one where his clone attacks his pals at Warriors. Basically, it felt like it took way more time than it should have to return Guy to the setting and supporting cast that I find so enjoyable. Still, it’s cool seeing Guy fighting alongside fellow badasses like Lobo, Probert, Hawkman and Wonder Woman, even if the latter two appear in guises that might not look familiar to modern readers.

The rest of the run focuses on those elements by doing the traditional superhero stuff and other fun stories like a superhero-filled Christmas party and the end of the book which accumulates most of the bad guys Guy’s faced during his time as Warrior and throws them at him all at once. He also deals with his mother moving in, a possible romance with Ice’s best friend Fire and Buck’s decision to turn Guy into both a cartoon and an action figure. While there were some plot lines that were left dangling as the series came to an end with #44, I still really enjoy what Smith did with his whole run and how he set Guy up to be a bit of a different kind of hero in the DCU. Of course, that didn’t really happen, but he tried.

My book ends with a Legends Of The Dead Earth annual that features tales of post-Guy Vuldarians throughout the galaxy long after the Earth has ceased to be. This one actually makes a really good bookend to the Guy Gardner: Warrior story that I hadn’t read before putting this book together because I never really understood what the point of LOTDE was. Finally, I included Mister Miracle #7 because I saw online that Guy appeared and he does, but it’s not really important to anything. Had this one costed more than a buck or two, I probably would have skipped it, but I was doing okay within my budget and had enough space, so there it is.

Back when I had the first 20-or-so issues of Peter David’s Aquaman bound I actually read through all the issues before sending them out which I actually regretted upon getting the books back from the bindery. I wanted to make sure I still liked the comic, but when I got the actual books in the mail — something that’s always super exciting — I knew I wasn’t going to dive right back in because I just read them a month or so ago. I’d actually read through this run back in college so I knew I still liked it and didn’t go through it again before mailing them off. This time I was able to carry the excitement of getting the package in the mail over to actually reading the books, which I probably did in about a week (subtracting the week we were in Disney and I didn’t have much time to read).

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Books Of Justice: Justice League America By Dan Jurgens

Justice League America JurgensJustice League America By Dan Jurgens
Written and drawn by Dan Jurgens with Dan Mishkin, Dave Cockrum, Sal Velluto,
Collects Justice League Spectacular #1, Justice League America #61-77 & Annual #6 (personally collected and bound)

The Justice League was a different animal when I started reading comics. Back in the late 80s/early 90s, the team tended to consist of one major league character and then a lot of others that the writer was able to really grow and change. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were the guys who really took this idea and ran with it post-Legends. And, while that run on the book is beloved by many (including me) the rest of Justice League America does not seem to be fondly remembered by many people up until the time that Grant Morrison relaunched the concept with the Big Seven in JLA.

However, I am not one of those people. I’m sure it’s at least in part because my very first JLA line-up included Superman, Fire, Ice, Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Maxima and Bloodwynd. Plus, between his run on this very formative run for me and his hand in the Superman books of the day, Dan Jurgens became a very important creator for me.

At some point in my collecting career, I decided that I wanted to get every issue of every Justice League series from the time frame between Crisis and JLA. I’ve set my mind to collect many series’ like this, but the Justice League books are the only ones I’ve ever completed. While reading through some stuff in the past year or two, I came to the Jurgens issues and was really happy to find that I still enjoyed these stories. So, with all that in mind and a few extra bucks in my pocket I decided to get Jurgens’ run on Justice League America bound.

To give a little context, Jurgens picked up the book after a huge storyline called Breakdowns that essentially toppled both Justice League America and Europe, things were never really the same after that, partially because Giffen and DeMatteis departed at that time. With Batman and Martian Manhunter both leaving the team for various reasons, Superman reluctantly decided to lead the team. At this point, Superman was still in his late 80s/early 90s mode of “very powerful hero” but not the nearly unbeatable god he eventually became.

These issues find the League facing off against the Weapons Master, Starbreaker, Eclipso (in the annual), Doomsday, alternate reality versions of the Satellite Era League and of course each other. I don’t know if I’d call any of those stories — aside from the Doomsday stuff — classics, but I did still find them enjoyable. I like how Jurgens doesn’t always have them winning one particular way. In one adventure, Beetle uses his smarts to get them all out of a jam, in another case it’s all brute strength. As much as I love Morrison’s run, it feels like so many of those stories ended with “And Batman beat them because he’s super effing smart” (or maybe that’s just how my memory remembers it).

In the wake of Superman’s death, the team got several new members, many of whom are considered Z-Listers, but I thought Jurgens did a good job of making them interesting, something he did with each and every member. We’re talking about Agent Liberty, the then-new Black Condor and the kid version of The Ray. Oh and Wonder Woman became the de facto leader.

At this point in Jurgens’ run, he did a really cool alternate reality story called Destiny’s Hand, a four-parter that envisioned a world where the JLA started taking on more and more power and became more like fascists. Part three of this story was actually probably the first JL book I ever read and re-reading it brought back crazy memories. I remember facial expressions, story beats and panel layouts from this issue, I must have looked through it a million times after getting it in a random multipack. Anyway, I was super confused by this comic back in the day and had no idea what was happening, but it reads a lot better all together.

Before leaving the book, Jurgens also told the origins of Bloodwynd, a character I still probably don’t understand 100%. Actually, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on him now, finally, but I liked that he finished that story thread before leaving the book.

I guess there’s no real question about whether I liked this book or not. Hell, I made the thing myself, didn’t I? But, in addition to the huge nostalgic factor for me, I like these comics. Jurgens did a good job continuing on the sense of humor that characters like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold featured in the Giffen/DeMatteis run. He also did some really fun superhero stories with villains that, to this day (as far as I know), aren’t overly used. Sure, these aren’t the kinds of threats you’d see in a JLA comic these days, but you’ve got to remember that, if one of those kinds of threats popped up in the mid 90s, you’d have yourself a crossover, not an arc.

So, yeah, I like these comics. Heck, I might be in love with a few of the issues, having known them longer than almost everyone in my life. But I also think they’re good comics, the kind that you might be able to pass to someone, though you’d probably have to answer a lot of questions.

Binding My Justice League Comics

Ever since I got the first 20 issues of Peter David’s Aquaman and the non-collected issues of HERO bound, I’ve been hooked on the idea. As I said in a previous post, I am far more likely to go back and read my comics if they’re in a handy book instead of in single issues. Even if you get past keeping all your issues in bags and boards, it’s just more of a hassle and they’re harder to store as floppies. The two things keeping me from getting everything bound sooner are cost and not actually having full access to my collection (most of my boxes are back home in Toledo). But, I do have my entire post-Crisis Justice League collection in one box and decided to bind some of them. Since DC is already collecting the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League International stuff, I figured I’d be safe if I went for the first two post- “Breakdowns” waves. So, I read through them again to make sure I still wanted them and got ready for binding.

The first step was figuring out exactly what to collect in my custom hardcovers. It worked out well that Dan Jurgens’ run on Justice League America ran a fairly concise 17 issues (#61-77), so that just made sense. Meanwhile, Justice League Europe only went up to issue #50 after “Breakdowns” before turning into Justice League International, so that also made sense. So, I put together Justice League Europe #37-50 and Annual #3 to make a nice book. I also happened to have two copies of the Justice League Spectacular one-shot that lead into both runs, so one of each went into the beginning of each volume. With the issues decided, I then figured out I’d go through the Houchen Bindery. The place I used previously actually shut down and Houchen gives you the opportunity to create your own cover, so I was sold. Plus, their pricing is pretty good at $17.50 per book when you do 2-4 volumes plus shipping. I then got to work making the covers based on a template and some notes I downloaded from Houchen’s site. This actually took quite a while because I’m not very well-versed in Photoshop, but I think they turned out great. I tried to get good team shots from actual issues and scanned those covers. I then used some cloning tools to get rid of things like the company logo and creative team lists. After that, I got an interesting image for the back, did some silhouetting, created the spine text, chose the colors and was good to go. The part I had the most difficulty with was the spines because I originally wanted to use the actual logo, but I couldn’t find one online that was big enough and I couldn’t get one clean enough with Photoshop. I discovered that Impact Bold font is actually pretty close to the Justice League logo of the day, so that worked out quite well. That last element is what I was most worried about in the finished version, but wound up looking pretty good. I packed up the issues and put a PDF of each cover on a cheap memory stick (which they returned) and sent them off. The whole thing took about a full month, maybe five weeks, but I think that’s because I sent the books out around Christmas and things got backed up. I got the invoice and paid and all that was fine, but waiting for them to actually get here was the hardest part. Every day last week, I hoped they might come, but didn’t. I was bummed. And then, last night, after dark, the doorbell rang and the UPS man was there with a box from Houchen. I was giddy. The books turned out great, if I do say so myself. I was worried the typed stuff would look really crummy or my cloning would look glaringly obvious, but both turned out well. I was also a little worried about gutter loss, but the only thing I noticed was that you can’t read some of the issue numbers on the covers. But that’s it and you can see them in the indicia if you need to figure out which issue is which.  What I like most about getting comics bound is how customizable the process is. If you wanted to include the four issue Elongated Man miniseries that lead into Justice League Spectacular, you could. If you want to do one huge book with all of the DC One Million issues in there, go for it. That’s one of the reasons I want access to all of my collection before really getting into binding some books because I organized my collection alphabetically, so if there’s a Green Lantern crossover with someone and the other book is in another box, I can’t put things together just yet. Like I’ve said before, I don’t feel the need to get everything bound. There’s a fuzzy line in my head between comics I have an emotional attachment to that I want to keep even if in a slightly altered form. Newer books, I’m cool with just getting trades.

My only complaint about the whole process is how much they charge for shipping which was $17.85 for the two books combined. I appreciate that they want to ship via UPS, but when I did my books from the other place, we did media mail and it was much cheaper. I gotta say, being charged essentially what it would cost to get a-whole-nother stack of comics bound is a deterrent. As much as I liked Houchen’s work, I am still always looking for a local bindery that might be interested in doing the same kind of work but closer so I can save on shipping back and forth. Anyone know of one in the Orange County New York area?