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ireactions

gruenwald run - what happened?



Mark Gruenwald was responsible for some of the most important and definitive storylines in the Captain America title. Standouts include the whole "Captain" arc where Steve gives up the Captain America identity to a government-sponsored version, "Streets of Poison" confronting the idea that Captain America might not be much of a superhero without having taken a drug, and much, much more.

But the tail-end of the Gruenwald run is torpedoed by tiresome, dull, wheeszingly lengthy plotlines of dreary misery. That whole "Cap is Dying" arc almost killed me too with its tedium and total joylessness. Captain America stories can have dark moments, but there always needs to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Gruenwald's run had lost its light. Thankfully, Mark Waid made it shine brightly again.

I doubt poor Mark was responsible for many of the flaws, though... Marvel's general creativity was horrifically low at the time, probably due to outside circumstances and interfering editors. It's just sad that he's often remembered as the dull, miserable writer who came before Mark Waid.

- Ib


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Tannhauser




You have to keep a few things in mind.

1) Marvel Comics in the early 1990s made a lot of foolish choices, and one of those was to emphasize style over substance. Rather than concentrating on good art and writing, Marvel pushed crossovers and gimmicks and overexposure of its stars. By the large, the management didn't support good storytelling at the time, and it had to weigh heavily on Gruenwald.

2) My guess is that Gruenwald's health had something to do with it. Mark Gruenwald died of a heart attack a few years after leaving the book. I believe he knew he didn't have much time left, and spent the last two years on the book examining concepts of death and a hero's legacy (a lot of that "Cap is Dying" arc dealt with Steve Rogers' acceptance of his mortality and attempts to find someone to carry on the Captain America tradition). These are not fun concepts to explore in a conventional comic book, and I'm sure Marvel's management gave him a lot of grief for the direction he was taking. With the strain of his health and pressure from his bosses, his heart wasn't in it anymore.

Most longtime Cap fans recognize Gruenwald's contributions and the overall quality of his work. Hopefully the upcoming Cap movie will spur more reprints, and the comics world at large will come to appreciate his work as well.


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Quinn




I think Gru's health did weigh on him. He didn't die years after he left Cap, it was months.

Also, I just think he ran out of ideas. He created a great arc for Cap and Diamondback. But he was old school. Create the illusion of change. So the reasons to keep the couple apart became more ridiculous.

At least Gru was a gentleman. Leave the campsite in good condition for the people who follow. Unlike Morrison, who changes everything and leaves a mess. I'm of course talking about Damien. As a concept I hate him, but understand his motives. But Morrison doesn't write characters, he writes archtypes. Damien resembles no human being. But I'm ranting. I really do think Gru ran out of ideas. Plus, the art wasn't helping the weaker stories. All in all I'd say he stayed at the party two years too long.

Or I could be wrong.


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Michael





    Quote:
    I think Gru's health did weigh on him. He didn't die years after he left Cap, it was months.

Gruenwald's last issue was cover-dated September 1995. He passed away on August 12, 1996. So it was about a year.
It's worth noting that Gruenwald made some questionable decisions as an editor as well as a writer before he passed away- he approved the Crossing, with Teen Tony, Bug Jan and a plot nobody understood. However, it's worth noting that Gruenwald also made questionable decisions as an editor long before he passed away- for example, he approved the "Spider-Woman's existence was erased from everyone's memories" plot in Spider-Woman 50. This was an bad idea since Jessica saved Carol after Rogue's attack, and it had to be undone after Gruenwald realized that it would complicate every future explanation of why everyone resents Rogue for what she did to Carol. So you can't use Gruenwald's heath as a complete excuse for his mistakes as an editor, and I don't think you can use it as a complete excuse for his mistakes as a writer.
Michael


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Quinn




I won't defend those plots. One I'm not familiar with them, Two. there's a big difference between being an editor and a writer. There's a school of thought that good editors let writers write. They don't get in the way and mandate what must be. I would argue a lot of what is wrong with Marvel and DC today is that a bunch of guys get in a room and decide what the plots will be and make writers write according to editorial mandate. Those stories always suck.

But being a "good" editor might mean letting a writer write himself into a corner. It's a fine line being an editor who encourages writers to be creative and put new life into stagnant books and letting someone run amuck with bad ideas.

Or I could be wrong.

But, still his Cap stuff in the last couple of years, not good.


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SQUEAK




Though I disagree with a lot of what's been said in this thread, well, most of its opinion and everyone is welcome to hold one. However, I do have to correct one major detail and note that the one word most associated with reports of Gruenwald's heart attack, both at the time and ever since, is "unexpected." Gruenwald was 43 when he died, and (to the best of anyone's knowledge) in good shape. If he or anyone else knew otherwise, well, that secret has been well kept ever since.

Mark / SQUEAK




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USAgentfan


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 2,623


I too recall that Gru was believed to be in excellent health, died very suddenly and gave no indications of any ill health leading upto his death.

I recall stories that appeared in the Bullpen after his death confirming that he ran marathons for charity and would do ridiculous things at marvel get togethers like handstands and backflips, all of which would indicate he was in great shape.

Whilst I dont think his health could be used as an excuse for his later work on Cap I also think many fans are overly critical of that work. Had it occurred in the middle of his run rather than at the end I dont believe people would have cared or remembered. As it is 'Fighting Chance' simply became know as a poor story that occurred immediately before Waids excellent first run on the book. In my opinion it wasnt that bad overall.

You really have to view Gruenwalds run as a whole to appreciate why he was such a great Cap scribe and its a shame that things like Fighting Chance have been recently reprinted where as the Bloodstone Hunt and Streets of Poison have been out of print for years and to my knowledge the Replacement Cap arc has never been reprinted.


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Varan


Member Since: Mon Nov 24, 2008
Posts: 1,269


Just the whole idea of Cap dieing but still fighting the good fight (okay in armor, ugh). When life's is really beating me down I admit I think back to the spirit of that arc and think "All I need is a fighting chance"
\:\-\)


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ireactions




From all accounts, Marvel was a pretty toxic environment to work in during and after Mark Gruenwald's final years on Cap's monthly. Poor Mark Waid and Ron Garney barely got a chance to show what they could do before their book was handed to one of the most unimaginative non-creators in the business.

Because of this, I'd rather operate with the view that Gruenwald should be presumed innocent until guilty -- and not blame him for the low quality of the comic during the last few years. Just because he's credited as the writer doesn't mean the book reflected his creative wishes.

Until someone comes forward with behind the scenes info, I'd reserve my criticism for "The Gruenwald Run" as opposed to "Mark Gruenwald's writing."

- Ib


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Rob Imes


Location: USA
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008


>>>All in all I'd say he stayed at the party two years too long.

My feeling at the time was that he was "hogging" Cap to himself unjustifiably, i.e., that his work on Cap wasn't that good to really deserve being on the title so long. I enjoyed his initial work, introducing characters like Flag-Smasher and that "Justice is Served!" villain. Then he introduced D-Man, who I didn't like. Then he took away Cap's costume and Cap had to become The Captain. At the time, this looked to me like an attempt at doing his own "Nomad" storyline (Englehart era) but not as well. I didn't like it, and stopped buying it around that period. The last Gru issue I bought new was #356, and I didn't buy another Cap comic till Waid's first 2 issues. It was almost like I'd been waiting for Gru to leave before I was willing to buy Cap again. (To be fair, I had stopped buying most new comics during that time.)

Later, in the mid-to-late 1990s, I started picking up much of Gru's Cap run in the cheap boxes at comics conventions and found that I enjoyed some of the ones I'd missed. Cap #401 was a stand-out issue, as was "The Bloodstone Saga" arc. There was some good stuff here & there, but also some stuff that seemed gimmicky -- done for commercial and not creative reasons. Also, the comic didn't seem to have as much of an intelligent and credible manner (real life and politics, etc.) as it had in its best runs (Englehart, Stern and DeMatteis).

Even though I like some of Gru's issues, I do think that you could have put almost anyone on those issues from 1985 to 1994 and still probably would have had as enjoyable (or perhaps more enjoyable) comics as were done by Gru. But we'll never know for sure, because he stayed on the title so long.

Rob



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Spenser





    Quote:
    But the tail-end of the Gruenwald run is torpedoed by tiresome, dull, wheeszingly lengthy plotlines of dreary misery. That whole "Cap is Dying" arc almost killed me too with its tedium and total joylessness. Captain America stories can have dark moments, but there always needs to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Gruenwald's run had lost its light. Thankfully, Mark Waid made it shine brightly again.


I didn't read Gruenwald's run the first time around. I dropped Cap when J.M. DeMatteis started his run. I did read Cap sporadically in the late 80s and early 90s. In 1998 I tried collecting the entire run of CAPTAIN AMERICA so I purchased the entire Gru run, mostly in bargain bins for .25 or less. And after reading them, I can say they weren't worth the price I paid. Boring, drawn-out, preachy, over-bearing and I have nothing positive to say about Gru's Cap.




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Vamp Lover




I loved the Captain and his hand-picked commandoes. That was the only reason I started buying Cap. I would have been happy if that plot arc had been dragged out for another one or two years, particularly after Diamondback breezed in.

The latter stories were a bit meh, although I have a soft spot for Free Spirit. She needed a decent name, some decent powers or a gimmick (if you've gotta pump it, pump it with a turmpet) but generally I like the look and her personality. If anything, she was squandered by the decision to bring in Jack Flag.


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