Stan Woch

Detective Comics 567 (October 1986)

5672The headline on the cover promises an "off-beat" story from Harlan Ellison. Off-beat can't have been an intentional euphemism for bad… Ellison writes Batman as an insensitive, ill-mannered, narcissist.

On patrol, Batman can't find anyone actually needing his help. Instead of thinking the best of people, Batman assumes the worst. Ellison might like the character, but apparently he thinks of him as a reactionary fascist.

Batman moves from one interaction from another, never learning from his propensity to prejudge. The art, from Colan and Smith, is occasionally too rough but often okay. There are some nice Colan establishing shots but also some very undercooked panels.

The Green Arrow backup is far superior. Not for the superhero content, which is competently illustrated by Woch and Dave Hunt, just poorly composed, but the finale. Cavalieri comes up with a great finish for the storyline.

As finale for a pre-Crisis Detective, it's dreadful.

D 

CREDITS

The Night of Thanks, But No Thanks!; writer, Harlan Ellison; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. Green Arrow, The Face of Barricade!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Stan Woch; inker, Dave Hunt; colorist, Shelley Eiber; letterer, Todd Klein. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 565 (August 1986)

5670Colan’s really slipping. His faces are getting lifeless and awkward. The scene where Jason is making out with his girlfriend, the girl looks like a mannequin.

Moench goes on and on about love this issue in the very close to Batman third person narration. He’s got a serial killer shrinking ex-girlfriends heads, all sorts of romance. Batman and Catwoman are fighting, she’s had enough of his lack of trust. On and on. But Moench hasn’t set up the series for this arc to have much impact. It definitely should, but it doesn’t. Maybe because the relationships–except Jason, who’s got game, apparently–are so chaste. I think Jane Austen would’ve gotten more indiscreet than Moench.

The story’s fine, it’s just meandering.

The Green Arrow backup has some nice Stan Woch art and a really dumb story from Cavalieri. It ends with some guy benevolently holding a woman hostage. Seriously.

C+ 

CREDITS

The Love Killing; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. Green Arrow, Death by Misadventure; writer, Joey Cavalieri; artist, Stan Woch; colorist, Shelley Eiber; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Black Orchid 4 (December 1993)

3505This issue, with all its magic, ought to work. It’s about water nymphs and forest spirits and all sorts of earth magic and it just doesn’t work. The problem is Foreman and Thompson are too literal. Thompson even paints a full page but it doesn’t help.

Foreman opens with his dumb freelance reporter from the first issue, who doesn’t do anything but bookend the story. Then Sherilyn, the hooker with the heart of gold, considers leaving Black Orchid–who’s passed out most of the issue–and go back to the real world.

Throw in a rich Greek expat with a mansion in Tennessee and a sad flashback about his romance with a water nymph and there’s nothing else to the comic. Foreman’s coy about resolving the previous series; he’s also slacking on developing Black Orchid as a character.

Thompson’s handling of the lengthy flashback is charmless.

Orchid continues to underwhelm.

CREDITS

Acts of Faith; writer, Dick Foreman; penciller, Jill Thompson; inker, Stan Woch; colorists, George Freeman and Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg and Lou Stathis; publisher, Vertigo.

Black Orchid 3 (November 1993)

3504Bill and Ted guest star this issue. Thankfully, Foreman only gives them a few pages. Reading his dialogue for stoners, one might guess Foreman has never gotten stoned, much less tripped.

But besides them–and the lame narration from Black Orchid’s call girl friend–it’s the best issue so far. It’s not good, as Foreman comes up with a crisis then resolves it without explaining the crisis or the resolution, but it’s better than what he was doing before.

Oddly, it’s the worst issue for the art. Thompson is a boring action artist and the setting–a forest of fungus–isn’t the most interesting in her style either. She never gets trippy, which might have helped. It’s just a lot of Black Orchid and Sherilyn (the hooker) walking around.

Foreman also hasn’t done much to define Orchid, except as a liar and manipulator. Still, the hooker isn’t likable either.

Eh.

CREDITS

The Tainted Zone; writer, Dick Foreman; penciller, Jill Thompson; inker, Stan Woch; colorist, Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg and Lou Stathis; publisher, Vertigo.

Black Orchid 2 (October 1993)

3503If so inclined, one could admire Foreman’s commitment with the second issue. He takes everything bad about the first issue and enhances it. Except maybe the bad narrator.

Instead, he has a bunch of villainous military industrial guys who talk a lot. No pop culture reference, which is both a surprise and maybe Foreman’s best move as a writer, but their dialogue is awful. And there’s lots of it.

There’s also a strange sequence where Black Orchid’s working girl friend is identified on the street as a working girl by some toughs. Only she’s not wearing anything provocative; it’s like Thompson refused to play into Foreman’s weak plot choice.

Black Orchid’s presence brings the comic’s only pulse. Thompson and Woch draw her better than anyone else and the mystical realism aspect is neat. Foreman doesn’t go for that angle, however; he’s committed to doing a realistic superhero comic.

He’s not.

CREDITS

Black Orchid; writer, Dick Foreman; penciller, Jill Thompson; inker, Stan Woch; colorist, Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg, Tom Peyer and Lou Stathis; publisher, Vertigo.

Black Orchid 1 (September 1993)

3502Weird comic. Especially for a first issue. Dick Foreman’s narrative choices don’t help it much either. He makes Black Orchid the subject of the issue, not a player. She’s an urban legend and so on; Foreman’s got a lame investigative reporter narrating and trying to find her.

There’s a lot about how great it is to drink coffee in the narration. Probably two or three hundred words. It’s sort of uncomfortable to read, it feels so amateurish and I’ve liked Foreman’s writing before.

The Jill Thompson pencils (with Stan Woch inking) are cool, but they don’t really make the issue worth it until the finish. When Black Orchid finally does have a scene, Thompson and Woch do wonders. Before her arrival, it’s just an interesting looking comic. The style’s not quite mainstream, but going for it.

For a first issue of an ongoing series, Foreman fumbles big time. Big time.

CREDITS

Sightings; writer, Dick Foreman; penciller, Jill Thompson; inker, Stan Woch; colorist, Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg and Tom Peyer; publisher, Vertigo.

Black Orchid 5 (January 1994)

3506Oh, good grief. This issue ties in to Swamp Thing, with Black Orchid and Sherilyn the hooker with a heart of gold heading to Louisiana. Black Orchid, it turns out, is a Swamp Thing expert and thinks she can help him through his relationship troubles.

Foreman doesn’t even try to explain how Black Orchid knows so much about Swampy. Maybe she’s been reading the comics.

But until the lame walk through the swamp mind of Swamp Thing (he’s physically creating his thoughts out of plants), Foreman has Sherilyn narrating the issue. Except, however, when he opens it with his idiotic reporter guy.

The reporter falls victim to a laughing fit; a Joker cameo, unfortunately, does not materialize.

Thompson and Woch do okay in the swamp, but all the human scenes–Foreman centers on Sherilyn–are rather rough going. The artists being bored with the writing is never a good sign.

CREDITS

The Mind Fields, Part One; writer, Dick Foreman; pencillers, Jill Thompson and Rebecca Guay; inker, Stan Woch; colorists, George Freeman and Digital Chameleon; letterer, Clem Robins; editors, Julie Rottenberg and Lou Stathis; publisher, Vertigo.

Swamp Thing 49 (June 1986)

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This issue, though the cover does nothing to reveal it, features guest appearances from lots of DC’s supernatural characters. Moore skips his cliffhanger regarding Abby’s arrest–some things are clearly best left until after the end of the universe–and instead shows Swampy and Constantine rallying the troops.

For the most part, the issue is rather straightforward. Swamp Thing gets the more mysterious characters together, Constantine has a party. There’s very little flourish to Moore’s characterizations. The writing is all strong, but not playful. Well, except when he goes over Zatanna and Constantine’s romantic history.

Moore concentrates on the third person narration of the bird (it’s bringing the end of the world) and that approach works. It lets him set a tone and return to it, while still including the fantastic (people walking across a giant Spectre).

On the art, Woch and Alcala do well.

It’s a good priming issue.

Swamp Thing 47 (April 1986)

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So the artists on the first appearance of the Parliament of Trees are Woch and Randall… They do a fantastic job and all, but it shows how comic book series are actually organic and susceptible to outside pressures; they do better loose, not planned.

Moore concentrates on the Parliament visit, which is dense with exposition and amazing visuals. Woch fills the panels with these astounding former plant elements; they’re eerily without speech and the art conveys the relative silence of the jungle setting.

Also in the issue is a developing subplot about Abby and Swamp Thing being photographed. Without it–and Constantine’s appearance–one could almost forget the issue is part of a longer, more traditionally minded narrative.

It’s also the first Swamp Thing-centric issue in a while and Moore juggles the character through tender relationship scenes, which are almost human, to the inhuman Parliament scenes.

It’s masterful work.

Swamp Thing 45 (February 1986)

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Woch and Alcala are good artists for this issue, which is mostly just a haunted house story.

Moore follows the genre standards. He sets up the history of the curse, splits up his unsuspecting cast, gives it an ominous ending. It’s over half the issue before Swamp Thing shows up and, clearly, the story doesn’t need him.

Only after the haunted house visitors disappear does the issue become less reliant on the horror aspect and Moore can introduce Constantine and his sidekicks. Swamp Thing around the sidekicks–who are comedy relief for Constantine–is the only breather in the issue.

Otherwise, it’s wholly downbeat. Moore manages to encourage curiosity with the haunted house, even excitement at discovering its secrets, only to make it all horrible and more horrible.

It’s an excellent issue, but Swamp Thing is the deus ex machina in his own comic. It feels like Moore’s neglecting him.

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