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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 250

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!

Today we look at a great X-Men vs. Dracula story from Uncanny X-Men Annual #6, by Chris Claremont, Bill Sienkiewicz and Bob Wiacek!

Enjoy!

NOTE: Sorry for the delay – the blog’s server was down last night and this morning, so I couldn’t put this piece up until now.

The story opens with a sad turn of events for one of the long-time cast members of Tomb of Dracula (I’ve always been a bit put off by the idea of killing her off in another comic book, but at least Claremont and Sienkiewicz handle it well).

Next, we cut to Kitty Pryde dealing with her parents announcing that they are divorcing. Claremont often threw soap opera drama into his X-Men comics, but I think it really does work here.

Finally, perhaps the highlight of the book, Storm (under the control of Dracula, who had encountered her in an recent issue of Uncanny X-Men) dreams of killing all of the X-Men in the service of her master…

That is some damn fine comic book storytelling right there!

Of course, she dreamed it all, and as you saw above, someone possessed Kitty, and that someone is helping the X-Men in their fight against Dracula and the now-turned Rachel Van Helsing.

The rest of the issue contains a lot of well orchestrated action sequences, with a lot of characters getting some very strong character moments.

This is well worth checking out in the back issue bins – it has also been collected in a number of different collections.

15 Comments

Sienkiewicz ‘s style here is amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen something this traditional from him. Everything else has been so stylized and dynamic.

He started out as basically a third-rate Neal Adams imitator, so he could always do the quasi-“realistic” supehero style art.

I forgot just how much of an insufferable Bawwwwfest Kitty’s display was. Especially since the original notion of Kitty as the everygirl was long since passed, replaced by the computer-prodigy child-soldier who stood up to Magneto, the Shi’Ar, the Hellfire Club, and the Badoon. It would still hurt, but after all that, why would her parents splitting up make her put on an an end-of-the-world pity party?

PJC-

You’ve also probably seen Sienkiewicz mostly ink himself (and often do painted work). Here, he’s inked by WIacek, who’s a pretty traditional comic book artist, and that’s contributing tot he overall look quite a bit. For most of Sienkiewicz’s classic New Mutants and Moon Knight work, he was inking himself and adding in a lot of his trademark stylistic elements during the inking phase, not the pencilling phase. You can look at times where Sienkiewicz has inked the work of others (Starman #81, the Blackest Night tie-in issue, most recently comes to mind), and that often looks more like Bill Sienkiewicz art than his own art does inked by someone else.

Brian-

This made me think… How about a Year of cool comics bit on the classic Moench/Sienkiewicz Moon Knight run? Judging by its non-appearance in the top 100 runs vote, this is a run in dire need of rediscovering by today’s readers, and as Marvel was so kind as to Essentialize it, it’s eminently available.

I always forget how awesome Claremont was before he lost his fastball. That is some solid horror story-telling with a hint of his famous soap opera. I may have to dig this issue out of the boxes in the garage.

You’ve also probably seen Sienkiewicz mostly ink himself (and often do painted work). Here, he’s inked by WIacek, who’s a pretty traditional comic book artist, and that’s contributing tot he overall look quite a bit. For most of Sienkiewicz’s classic New Mutants and Moon Knight work, he was inking himself and adding in a lot of his trademark stylistic elements during the inking phase, not the pencilling phase. You can look at times where Sienkiewicz has inked the work of others (Starman #81, the Blackest Night tie-in issue, most recently comes to mind), and that often looks more like Bill Sienkiewicz art than his own art does inked by someone else.

It’s not the fact that he was inking himself elsewhere and Wiacek is inking him here that is causing the difference in style. For stretches of Moon Knight he was inking himself and still came off like a Neal Adams clone. The reason Sienkiewicz’s art looked different in the works you cited is that he totally overhauled his style later on, not because he was doing the inking in addition to the pencils.

You can read about it in this interview:
http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=821

Especially this part:

When I first saw Neal Adams’ work (doing covers for DC) as a kid, I hated it. Later on I developed a love for Neal’s work, and I went from hating it to loving it. And because I was alone a lot during my childhood, not that I didn’t have any friends, but Neal’s artwork was what really kept me going. I wanted to draw like him, and there was something about it that spoke to me and was really life saving for me. So his work became much more than artwork to me, it became a passion and a need. Ever since I was very young I devoured his artwork and tried to copy it, I did also look at other artists, but Neal was the main focus.

It wasn’t until I started doing Moon Knight and finally met Neal Adams, that the backlash started. I grew up with people not being aware of Neal’s artwork, they just knew that I was doing comic books, so they didn’t see the similarities to his work. But when I started doing comics professionally, the criticism of me being a clone came immediately. Neal was, and has always been very wonderful and supportive, but The Comics Journal and other professionals was saying that it was as if I learned to draw from Neal Adams and Neal Adams only. The criticism invalidated what I struggled for my whole childhood after I decided to be an artist. I never thought in terms of being an imitator, it was just something I wanted to do, and needed to do in order to survive. I wanted to be able to draw as well and move people in the way that Neal’s work had moved me, so when the criticism came back I felt invisible. Everything I had worked for up until that point became invalid and destroyed, and I felt like I had no identity because I had thrown my identity into Neal’s work.

So from that point on, somewhere around issue 25 of Moon Knight, right before I hit it, I started to try out other things and look at different illustrators and soaked up all the things I had missed, or seen in art school. I felt like a sponge soaking up things from all kinds of sources and trusting my own voice, my own vision a little bit more.

So I went from being a clone to trying so many different things. Because comics was viewed as an art form not worthy of respect, especially where I grew up, I thought that the only way to make them respectful, was to do something I felt good about, and that meant trying collage and that kind of things. I wasn’t trying to change anything, I was just trying to validate what I was doing. To show other people, and also my father and mother, that it wasn’t a waste of energy…

It was more than strange, it was an incredible period of deconstruction, it was probably one of the worst periods of my life at that point, but it was an absolutely essential period of transition. I went from wanting to do work like Neal, to wanting to do work not like Neal. And yet in the equation, Neal having been such a powerful figure to me, Neal was as powerful in the negative as he had been in the positive. It was a difficult transition for me, and I see it in a lot of other artists coming up whom I have influenced, and I can understand it ? I just hope they are also able to move on. I have a really good relationship with Neal today, and when I look at his work I don’t think I could have chosen a better mentor/style.

Sienkiewicz started breaking away from the Neal Adams style and reinventing himself around Moon Knight #25, which came out near the end of 1982. This annual came out earlier in 1982 when he was still in his Neal Adams phase, so even if he inked himself for this annual it still would have come out looking like a Neal Adams clone. This annual came out before he quit aping Adams.

One thing to note is that even if he only consciously broke from his Neal Adams style at #25, he was definitely doing more experimental stuff earlier, especially in the Morpheus issues. It wasn’t yet the frenetic, hallucintory style of his New Mutants work, but he was definitely starting to experiment with “mess” fairly early in his Moon Knight run, and he became more stylized more often as the run went on.

T.-

You’re mostly right but still kind of wrong. The inking is making a huge difference. I know Sienkiewicz started as an Adams clone, and later got out of it, and that 1982 was a big year for him stylistically, but you can look at the covers of all of his 1982 Moon Knight issues, even the ones from earlier in the year, and see how radically different they are than the interior art of this X-Men annual. Specifically, check out the covers of Moon Knight #s 8, 21, and 23. Yes, they still have Adams influence, but look much closer to his later work than this X-Men annual, and it’s because of the inking.

While I was never entirely comfortable with the X-Men taking on Dracula, this was a fine issue from when Claremont was still at the top of his game. Wolverine gets a great moment at the end of the book – “Come close, then. Let me hold you.” And Sienkiewicz art? Icing on the cake.

The Moench-Sienkiewicz run on Moon Knight was pretty much unrelieved awesome, but especially the Morpheus 2-parter and #25 (one of the very few non-team books I still have in my collection)

I believe in the Following Cerebus issue (9) where Dave talks with Neal Adams, they discuss Sink and how he was a really good Adams clone (not really third rate, like Omar says, but I haven’t seen his Adams stuff too much, so I can’t judge). They discuss how people seemed to think Adams would be offended, but Neal sent Bill to publishers, telling them “I have this guy who draws like me, you want him for some work?” And they said hell yeah!

Now that I think about it, maybe that’s something I heard from Jim Shooter at Ithacon last year. Maybe he said Neal sent Bill to him, saying Bill drew like him. What intelligent publisher or editor would turn that down?

But I know Dave Sim dug the version of Sink that was an Adams clone — see the Moon Roach. And Dave thinks Stray Toasters is a high water mark of the medium, so he digs the later stuff too.

Sink did the Starman 81? Damn, I definitely need that.

I’d guess Wiacek did shape the art to a degree. He inked Colleen Doran on Reign of the Zodiac (cool comic possibility), and from what I recall, made her art a bit more “mainstreamy”, if you will.

Sorry, I just have to disagree with pretty much everybody here – as nice as the art in this issue is, and despite some well-written individual scenes, I really disliked this story, as well as the Dracula story in the regular series on which it draws. It was somewhere at this point in the X-men that I really started to question Claremont’s judgment, because basically I think the X-men and Dracula, vampires and magic in general (with a few exceptions like Annual #4) are just not a good fit. All I can say is that these stories were at least better than those awful Belasco/Magik storylines that emerged at roughly the same time…

T – I think there’s a misprint in that interview you quoted — at the end of the third paragraph where it says “right before I hit it,” I think Sienkiewicz actually said “right before ‘Hit It’,” referring to the story in _Moon Knight_ #26 in which he first broke away from the Neal Adams style (in this case using a stylized version of a child’s drawings to capture a character’s internal monologue.)

This comic is a great example of the old Marvel style scripting. In the first half of it, we got lots of big panels, splashes and such. In the second, Bill S is going at a clip of about ten panels per page.

They also reprinted this in the early nineties as X-men vs Dracula which you should be able to find in most any bargain bin, I did anyway

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