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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 342

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at a cool moment that is undershadowed by the fact that it appears directly following one of the most famous moments in comic book history…

We all know about Spider-Man lifting the machinery in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #33.

However, that was just the first (albeit coolest) obstacle Spider-Man had to face. He was still stuck in a room where the river above was about to flood in AND if he escaped the room was surrounded by a bunch of guards.

So Steve Ditko supplied a brilliant sequence of pages showing Spider-Man getting out of it – Stan Lee’s dialogue dampens the impressiveness of this sequence a bit (although there are parts of it where you need the thought balloons), but it’s still a classic!

Strong, strong work.

44 Comments

That’s an awesome scene. And that”s a truckload of unnecessary verbiage.

That is pretty damn cool. Oh, and you posted the third page twice, Brian. Just FYI.

This would be actually be cool if Spidey and and the narration boxes didn’t weren’t so over the top and overwritten, completely robbing the energy from the scene.

This is why I don’t read a lot of old comics. They are a complete chore to get through.

I can’t believe people actually wrote dialog like this. If you saw someone who walked around, narrating what is happening to them, you’d think they just escaped from an insane asylum.

I can totally see a comic of a CBR poster.

“What? This guy doesn’t agree with my opinion! Who does he think he is!? Well mister, you’re about to get quite the angry reply!”

“Man, I really love *insert fictional character*. I’m so glad I’ve found a place where people have interests that match my own! I’ll type a post that showcases I belong in this group. Wait! What am I crazy? I forgot to post a picture to go along with it! *posts picture* There! Perfect!”

Ironically, I would probably buy this, then compare it to some Lee/Kirby issue and see which one’s worse.

Stan is Stan. That’s what set him apart when the “wordy” writers at DC were inundating Superman, Batman, or Legion stories with thought balloons that explained in excruciating detail what the artist was already busy illustrating.

By contrast, Stan Lee’s characters talked as much, but their dialogue served a loftier purpose. Spidey had to save Aunt May’s life no matter what the cost. Stan wanted his despair to come through no matter how many words it took.

It might all seem dated now, but this “soap opera” approach to superheroes forced DC to follow suit and paved the way for the subtler narrative drama that most creators are known for today.

I don’t mind all of Lee’s dialogue too much. It was always have a certain charm. It’s just something that takes getting used to it and once you get absorbed into the art and the worlds that Kirby and Ditko created the bad dialogue stops being a chore.

It’s also worth noting that if Kirby or Ditko wrote their own dialogue it could have been a lot worse.

Having a big problem with the dialogue styles of previous decades is just as silly as being unable to sit through a black and white movie, or get past the fact that archaic slang sounds “funny.”

Can’t agree with you at all, Jack Norris. Just cause a film is filmed in black and white doesn’t have any real affect on the quality of the film, quite unlike scenes like this filled with hackneyed, overwritten dialog and big narration boxes that hold your hand through the entire scene and sap the energy out of the scene. And archaic slang does sound stupid today, thats why that scene in Terminator 2 with John teaching Arnold terrible 90s slang. It doesn’t excuse it from being terrible now in 2009, like just because people used to write comics like this back in the day doesn’t stop it from being laughably awful today.

Everyone talking about 60’s dialogue being “laughably awful” does realize that fifty years from now, all of our favorite comics could be judged just the same way?

Just like today’s comics will be laughably awful to people 20 years from now.

I like Stan’s dialog just fine – It’s fun to read, you can tell he had fun writing it, and I generally enjoy the over-the-top tounge-in-cheekness of them more than the “We must take these stories about people mincing around in tights and shooting lasers out of their butts EXTREMELY SERIOUSLY tone of mosta today’s comics…”

But, as with any chunk of pop culture, I can certainly understand looking at older works as hackneyed. It’s the cycle of youth. The stuff your parents liked HAS to suck.

Spidey’s breathless inner monologue has always been key to the character.

The third page is only printed once now, but it’s too big and the right half is missing.

I don’t understand the hostility towards the dialogue. I realise it was overdone back then, but it was far worse in most comics. And it’s better than some of the books today where they don’t explain anything, even when the art is horribly unclear.

And, because I haven’t seen this linked in a while….

WHAT IF? Stan Lee Wrote Watchmen

http://www.beaucoupkevin.com/blog/this-weeks-project/2006/08/21/

Its not just the dialog, its the storytelling technique. Comic books are a visual medium; we shouldn’t need to be told so damn much. The art should convey the action, but instead we got Spidey says whats going on, what he is doing, what he needs to do, blah blah blah.

I just read this Hitman story arc, “Who Dares Win”. The best part was that fight in the Burger joint. When the assassins show up at the door, there isn’t any word balloons telling you what the characters are feeling, you can tell by the artwork or just a word (“Damnit!). When they hide behind the fat guy, its spontaneous, funny, and crazy. If this was some Stan Lee/Claremont book, you’d have some big freakin’ narration box, like “Our heroes reluctantly dive behind the recently deceased man. Bullets rock the giant girth, as the SAS men’s continue their onslaught of firepower”.

Oh, (expletive)!

That was amazing =)

So? Cover up the words. It’s Ditko. You don’t need them.

“Its not just the dialog, its the storytelling technique. Comic books are a visual medium; we shouldn’t need to be told so damn much. The art should convey the action, but instead we got Spidey says whats going on, what he is doing, what he needs to do, blah blah blah.”

It’s like this:

At this point in time, most – Not all, but most*- comic writers assumed that the kids reading could read the words OR look at the pictures, but couldn’t process both at the same time. So they were essentially trying to tell the same story twice.

Which makes ‘em look really clunky. UNLESS you haven’t trained yourself to read modern style comics, and can’t process the words and the pictures simultaneously.

* John Stanley who wrote Little Lulu, for instance, is actually a really modern style writer. Which is strange considering how different the superhero books were.

Mike: Thats a terrible suggestion. Thats like muting a movie because you don’t like the way the actors sound and be like “You don’t need it. Its Hitchcock”. When you have to take away a vital part of a comic book just to enjoy it, something is wrong.

MarkAndrew: That makes sense, but you’ll have to excuse me when I roll my eyes out how corny and awful it is to read here in 2009.

comics back then were for kids,i can’t understand for the life of me why people now expect comics to be some great literary novel and every comic book must be super and have this massive scope to it???? Its an escape, its supposed to be FUN, and adventurous. Stan along with Kirby and the other artists made Marvel,period. I like the older stuff much better than what they put out now…Amazing Spider-man sucks now I pick it up only because he is my fav Marvel hero and i keep hoping it will get better.The old Marvel with wordy Stan is for me far better. Another thought if Stan was so bad as a writer why is he so popular? He is in every movie,narrated cartoons ect….so for me Stan Lee IS Marvel…..Nuff Said!!!!!!

“MarkAndrew: That makes sense, but you’ll have to excuse me when I roll my eyes out how corny and awful it is to read here in 2009.”

That’s fine.

BUT REMEMBER. Kids in 2029 will be doing the exact same thing to comics from today. “I don’t see how ANYONE could read stuff on paper. Didn’t your hands get tired from constantly turning pages? The colors look sooo ugly, and there isn’t even an audio option! LAME!”

“Wait, you’re telling me people used to buy floppies? You’d only get one part of the story a month! What a *insert 2029 slang term for “a ripoff” here*.

“If you saw someone who walked around, narrating what is happening to them, you’d think they just escaped from an insane asylum.”

I’d just think they were on a cellphone.

Stan’s stuff hasn;t aged badly for me, but I’ve definitely had the experience lately of looking back on old comic writing and finding it pretty much unreadable. I used to LOVE Claremont’s early stuff on Iron Fist and X-Men when I was 12, and now it bores the heck out of me.

I’m with Jeremy. I can’t get through many comics from this era thanks to the wordiness of it all.
I mean:
“I want to read the story, but all of the unnecessary words make it hard to read, despite me wanting to read it and being told how great these stories are, but I actually don’t think they are very great, because of how wordy they are which makes it way too over-explained!”

Lt. Clutch: “It might all seem dated now, but this “soap opera” approach to superheroes forced DC to follow suit and paved the way for the subtler narrative drama that most creators are known for today.”
There’s a difference between “paving the way” and actually being there.
In Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics he talks about the relationship between the pictures and the words. In comics there are three possibilities in the relationship: words support the pictures, pictures support the words, and pictures and words support each other. This is pictures supporting the words taken to an extreme. Stan’s dialog sounds like those old hokey radio-shows in which the characters narrate all of the actions of everything around them, because they don’t have the added benefit of pictures to support the story. But Stan does have pictures (very good ones provided by very talented people) making his story telling redundant.

Mary Warner: “And it’s better than some of the books today where they don’t explain anything, even when the art is horribly unclear.”
That’s the artist’s fault. Stan Lee didn’t need to do that because he had very clear visual story tellers in Kirby, Ditko, Romita, etc.

And there’s a difference between a change of writing styles over the years, decades, centuries, etc. than there is in being redundant. Being redundant is just being redundant. You’ll hardly find any redundancies in movies like Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz or in books like Gulliver’s Travels or Dracula. They’re classics because of great story-telling techniques that are easily conveyed without needing to stumble over themselves to be clear. The great comics of our time work in the same way. Watchmen doesn’t need to stumble over itself to be clear. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are able to work together without being redundant; scenes and actions and emotions are conveyed clearly though the artwork and Alan Moore lets Gibbons take the lead when it’s in the benefit of the story and Alan Moore takes the lead in story-telling and Gibbons supplies the support when needed. It’s a collaborative process.
But I’ll give credit where credit is due. Stan Lee only overwrote the first half of this sequence with the water. The fight scene is a good example of Lee and Ditko working hand-in-hand in displaying the desperation Spider-Man is going through. That’s “Good Stan” coming through. The first half is “Bad Stan.”

The entire issue is a cool comic book moment.

always loved how after spider man lifted the tank off him that even though he was in pain he kept going on that his love for aunt may and her needing the serum kept pushing him . proving that stan and steve knew how to make the character work even though stans writting for those pannels kind of take some of the fire out of the moment

This is good stuff.

Anyway, all the complaints I’m seeing here are really based on the era, not on this particular comic book itself.

We are here to look back at cool comic book moments, which includes all eras. We’re not here to complain that they are too old or outdated (because they might be, technique-wise).

But since some have already gave the “I have my own opinion” card, well, then, you may all pass.

kisskissbangbang

December 9, 2009 at 12:01 am

Have to reluctantly go with Joe. Amazing Spider-Man 33 is one of the prides of my collection, but I, too, can’t help but wish Stan had piped down during the flood. (Is it possible he was getting paid by the word, as in the pulp days?) By the same token, Joe’s right when he says the dialogue during the fight works much better. I particularly like Pete’s resigned “But then, I never was much of a conformist !” And Spidey’s first word balloon
after climbing out of the water (“I’ve got a job…”) is great, and totally credible after what he’s just gone through.
Luis Jaime is also right: the whole book is great moments end-to-end: Betty Brant’s running-away, Pete’s confrontation with Jonah, May’s doctor’s final comment…maybe you could reprint the last two tomorrow?

Damn, I never realized how many people who posted on this website hate Stan Lee.

Ah yes, the “criticism=hate” argument. I forgot to preemptively counter that. No, I don’t hate Stan Lee. Like I said when he’s good he’s great, but when he’s bad he’s unbearable. I can’t read Stan Lee’s comics for pleasure reasons, just as study material. Kinda like, oh let’s say, Dostoyevsky. I don’t read Dostoyevsky’s work for pleasure, but it’s impossible to deny his influence and importance in the world of literature. And like Dostoyevsky, it’s impossible to deny Lee’s importance in the history of comics. I respect him for what he’s accomplished even if I can see flaws in his writing.

But maybe that argument can’t be empathized with by non-English Majors. (Assuming you aren’t an English Major.)

Sorry, I should have said “How many people hate Stan Lee’s style of writing”. I forgot i should be more specific so that English majors can understand what my point was ;) Granted, hate may have been a bit too strong a word, but I have noticed that there are more posts criticizing Stan than there are complimenting him…

It wasn’t just aimed at this particular piece, or aimed specifically at you Joe…but I’ve noticed a lot of people posting how much better a lot of the early Marvel pieces, especially by Kirby and Ditko, would be much better without Stan’s dialogue, or that the art still holds up but that the writing is lame, etc. And more people tend to be more the Kirby camp, whenever the issue of Stan vs. Kirby is brought up. Just something I’ve noticed…

Ah, I understand. I normally keep my trap shut, but I saw an interesting debate and had to weigh in. It’s not that I’m anti-Stan at all, it’s just that most of the time when I see discussion about him he seems to get a free pass from most people with the “that’s just the way things were” excuse, which I think is a pretty lame excuse for escaping critique.
I’ve got plenty of compliments to give out to Stan as well, but when I see the aforementioned excuse then I’m gonna play devil’s advocate and come down a bit heavier on the critique side of things.

I don’t know enough about Ditko outside of his Spider-Man work to say much about him.
And I’ve got my own beef (and compliments) about Kirby as well, but that’s for another time and place.

Isn’t anyone going to comment on Spidey “inventing” rope-a-dope before Ali made it famous?

Matthew Johnson

December 9, 2009 at 7:51 am

I think it’s more of an aesthetic than necessarily the limits of the time. There certainly were comics writers who worked with just images and dialogue, or very minimal thoughts/captions, but the majority used narration heavily. I suspect it’s the influence of the comic strips, which for a long time were seen as a “step up” from comic books — the dramatic strips such as Steve Canyon, Rex Morgan and so on (and of course Prince Valiant, which is in a league of its own in this respect) made heavy use of captioning. This partly a technical concern — captions let you pack a lot more story into four little panels — but it’s also indicative of a broader aesthetic of the period: prose writers made much heavier use of the omniscient POV in that period than today, and screenwriters were much more likely to use voice-overs.

(Incidentally, comics writers were aware of the artificiality of having characters talk to themselves out loud — there’s an early sketch of Captain America by Joe Simon where he mentions the need for a sidekick so that Cap won’t always be talking to himself.)

I don’t care how wordy it is. I love this scene. Thank you Brian for posting it. I wonder if the recent debating about this issue on the Top 100 storylines blog gave you the idea to post this here. Are you secretly a nostalgia-whore like me?

@Gopher, I was actually thinking the exact same thing before I saw you’d already posted that. So you’re not alone thinking that!

Jeremy: Not all comics are like this, but this particular sequence doesn’t need most of the copy. I stand by my original statement, and will modify it slightly: Steve Ditko’s art tells the reader everything he or she needs to know- Spider-Man is exhausted and desperately trying to protect the canister, he gets into a fight, he almost goes down, then finds the inner strength he needs to win. Of course, he still has more to do, so he trudges out of the secret hideout, battered but determined. Lee’s dialogue gives you a little exposition for context (and my guess is Ditko didn’t intend any of that “resting while getting beat up” nonsense), but the rest of it doesn’t need to be there. I don’t mind Lee’s dialogue, but those that can’t stand it can still get the power of this sequence without reading it. Ditko was one of the greatest, and here’s an example of why.

@ Mark Loughlin: Your comment on not needing the words is spot on. I always skim the dialog and skip most captions when reading a Stan Lee comic. Ditko, Kirby, and Romita were all good enough that it actually improves the experience when you let most of the panels speak for themselves.

While Ditko’s art is clear enough that not all of the narration is needed, I think that Lee’s dialogue helps give us a window into the inner self of Spider-man: if these were narration-free, how would you know that his motivation and personality is all that different from (for example) Deadpool?

One other thing that seems to have been forgotten is that comics were geared to a much younger audience back when this was first published. Todays comics are geared towards an adult market so less explanation is required.

People saying that comics were geared to a much younger audience back in the day would do well to remember that The Yellow Kid was licensed to tobbaco companies, Krazy Kat was seriously critiqued by Gilbert Seldes and H.L. Mencken, DC and Atlus comics were shipped to American GIs in WWII, EC comics counted returning GIs as a significant portion of their audience, and Marvel comics were not only read on college campuses (being tuned in to the psychedelic movement) but also heralded by the likes of Alain Renais and Federico Fellini.

Having a big problem with the dialogue styles of previous decades is just as silly as being unable to sit through a black and white movie, or get past the fact that archaic slang sounds “funny.”

I agree. Shakespeare’s epics and Homer’s epics were chock full of rousing, over the top speeches in the midst of battle as well. I suppose Jeremy considers them hacks as well that pale in comparison to the modern superhero comic writer.

I can’t believe people actually wrote dialog like this. If you saw someone who walked around, narrating what is happening to them, you’d think they just escaped from an insane asylum.

Yeah, but the fact that the guy is wearing MULTICOLORED SUPERHERO TIGHTS DOESN’T ALREADY LOOK LIKE HE ESCAPED FROM AN INSANE ASYLUM? These are superhero comics. THEY’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE REALISTIC THEY ARE INHERENTLY INSANE BY NORMAL PEOPLE STANDARDS.

Once a guy has a double identity that involved dressing up in bright colorful skintight spandex and performng vigilanteism, he’s already insane by real world standards. Over the top verbiage is the least of his problems at that point.

I do at least like the ‘a man can lose’ dialogue. This art’s so dynamic it’s a treat to watch.

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