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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 253

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, in honor of the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, let us look at Roger Stern and the Romitas (Jr and Sr) as they give us the first appearance of the Hobgoblin!!!

Enjoy!

The introduction of Hobgoblin was really done well by Roger Stern, who gave the introduction in Amazing Spider-Man #238 the feeling of a classic Silver Age villain. In fact, the whole tale tied in with classic Spider-Man themes such as the notion of “with great power comes great responsibility.”

The issue opens with a cute scene with Peter and his Aunt May (and her then boyfriend/friend, Nathan), when some bad guys almost hurt them…

The Romitas (Sr inking J) really nail the anger in Peter’s face.

So, as Spider-Man, he hunts these bad guys down, but as you can see, he decides not to pursue the last bad guy…

However, of course, that one bad guy that he let go discovers one of Green Goblin’s old hideouts, which of course, eventually, leads to…

Of course, the bad guy doesn’t get to celebrate long.

This leads to the big reveal…

This is an extremely effective issue by Roger Stern, John Romita Jr. and John Romita Sr.

20 Comments

Argh, this is the one classic Spidey saga I’ve still never read. Marvel! Premiere Hardcover! Make it happen!

A brilliant pick, Brian. Some comments:

1. Roger Stern: Can anyone this side of Stan Lee equal Stern when it comes to understanding Spider-Man? Every page in this issue displays Stern’s flawless ability to depict Spidey as he really is.

2. Romita jr-Romita sr: A fantastic combination.

3. Why do villains do what they do: One of the commentators on the LEGENDS posting asked why the Hobgoblin fools around with crime when he could make a mint by marketing his hardware (a question, frankly,that could be asked of many bad guys). Well, Stern supplies the answer right here: “Of course…in keeping this to himself,he became the only one in the world to possess such a wondrous device!The only one…yes!”

4. All in one issue: Man, look at all the content a reader got for his money in the 80s:superhero action, character bits, the birth of a new villain, etc,

I missed this one back then and didn’t get to see the Hobgoblin until a few issues later; this is the first time I’ve actually had a chance to read these pages.
Thank you.

This is what John Romita, jr, art should look like. None of the extreme sketchiness that he always has now, and a little less cartoony, but still with all the dynamic poses and stuff that he’s good at.

I love this issue and the Hobgoblin saga got off to a great start…but didn’t the identity of the Hobgoblin become some convoluted mess that was never resolved while Stern was on Amazing? Didn’t he eventually reveal the identity of the Hobgoblin in some miniseries in the 90s? I honestly can’t remember how it all went down…

well, funkmasterdre, check out the latest Legends Revealed piece on this site for more on the Hobgoblin identity.

I remember this now. It was Dec. 31, 1991, and I got the Marvel Tales reprint of this, and Wolverine 51 (Silvestri art) and Spider-Man 18 (Larsen art). I bought them with a Waldenbooks gift certificate. I’d bought some comics before, but these were the comics that got me into hard core comics collecting. Alas, I was stupid and traded them away (don’t even know for what), but seeing this again makes me wish I had them.

There is a Spider-Man Visionaries of Roger Stern, isn’t there? I’m guessing they didn’t get to this ish yet, though.

And while I like JRJR and JRSR together, I’m a fan of the JRJR/Klaus Janson art team. I can understand, though, if you like the sort of “classic” look we see above, that you wouldn’t like that stuff.

Man, Aunt May’s a nag.

This is what John Romita, jr, art should look like. None of the extreme sketchiness that he always has now, and a little less cartoony, but still with all the dynamic poses and stuff that he’s good at.

I love the Romitas and have read many interviews with both of them over the years. What I gathered from interviews with both of them is that Romita Jr had a lot of issues with finding his own identity and getting out of his dad’s shadow. Many people used to accuse him of aping his dad, especially when he was drawing Spider-Man. His Spider-Man rendition was undeniably heavily influenced by his dads: the poses, the web lines on the face, the eyes, etc. It seems in his quest to get away from his dad’s influence, he tried to draw increasingly different from his dad and some say he took to aping Frank Miller for a while before evolving into a style that was more unique. Sadly though, I have to say that even though he succeeded in getting out of his dad’s shadow, his art became worse. I mean it’s still great and I am still very much a fan, but whenever I see the smoothness, crispness and incredible kinetic energy and motion lines of his old stuff, I am awed all over again and remember how much better he used to be.

He reminds me of a recent discussion we had on this blog regarding Bill Sinkiewicz where I linked to an interview where Bill S. said he started out as a Neal Adams clone and went through a stage where he became obsessed with shedding that reputation and did everything he could to evolve and differentiate his art, and ended up becoming a stronger artist for it. Romita Jr on the other hand I think went through a same creative destruction process himself but ended up losing more than he gained from the process. He was definitely better back then.

I remember an interview with comics pro Frank Cho where he said the same thing. Cho was coming on to Marvel Knights Spider-Man for a storyline with Mark Millar, and Cho said that he was doing his best to deliberately ape JR JR’s 80s Spider-Man because he thought it was the best art of JR JR’s career and some of the best Spider-Man art he’d ever seen. So for those few issues we had the joy of seeing a really good aping of that wonderful style. Sadly I wish someone could convince JR JR of the same thing that Cho and so many other people realize…that in purging so much of his old style he threw out the baby with the bathwater.

I much prefer Romita Jr’s modern style. The above art looks so generic-Marvel to me.

Well, that, Mr. Bill Reed, is why you are a cunt.

(See, I’m English so it’s ok to say that.)

It isn’t that “generic-Marvel” is the best any art can be, or that any highly stylized art is automatically worse than what you call “generic-Marvel.” That’s crazy talk. But, and I also like his modern style very much, I think most people who like superheroes and have good eyes for them would think that the above art (and, I suppose, all of the best “generic-Marvel” art—you say this as if it were a bad thing) is crisp, clean, beautiful, badass, and generally better looking and better suited for comics than his current style.

“It’s so typical Alan Moore.”
“It’s so standard Hitchcock thriller.”
“It’s so run-of-the-mill Shakespeare.”
“It’s so average Dashiell Hammett hard-boiled detective story.”

All this stuff must sound pretty lame, huh?

The storytelling is good, and the art is solid, but it also looks staid in that solidity. Romita’s style has evolved by loosening up, becoming more dynamic and fun and interesting to look at.

Okay, I have to respectfully disagree Bill. I too love JR JR’s modern style, but it is definitely more staid and less dynamic than his old style. His old style depicts kinetic energy and bombastic action much better than his new one. I do think his new style is better at depicting mature and more quiet character moments than his old one though, as his old style was more in the vein of that old school hyperaction Kirby vein.

Nah, he gets Kirbier ever year.

How can you say his old style is too “generic Marvel” and that he’s changed a lot since then, yet also claim he’s getting Kirbier every year? The generic Marvel House Style of the past was created by Kirby top to bottom and pretty much uses all his style innovations.

I’d argue, T, that “generic Marvel style” is more the JR SR type artwork seen above. While Kirby and Ditko were the early stylistic innovators, the “generic” style is something pushed more through merchandising and Romita Sr was certainly one of the foremost artists of that style.

Maybe this work above is “generic ’70s Marvel artwork”?

Maybe I’m just arguing because I like the sound of the term “Kirbier”.

Also, (he sez, right after posting), wasn’t Romita Sr the artist on the “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way”? Kind of the “generic Marvel style” bible there. With Sr on inks, JRJR looks fairly generic Marvel.

Like I say, I like the JRJR/Janson team, and I know T doesn’t necessarily. I can appreciate, and even like, the art style seen here, but I think it’s also true to point out that it’s “generic Marvel style”. Considering how good the Marvel artists have been over the years, that’s not a slur.

Now I have to dig out my JRJR 30th anniversary book from a year or so back. That was cool looking.

I’d argue, T, that “generic Marvel style” is more the JR SR type artwork seen above. While Kirby and Ditko were the early stylistic innovators, the “generic” style is something pushed more through merchandising and Romita Sr was certainly one of the foremost artists of that style.

The JR SR type artwork seen above is the typical Kirby style artwork everyone at Marvel was encouraged by Stan Lee to do. Romita and others learned to draw dynamic superheroics from Kirby.

Travis Pelkie:

The artist on HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY was John Buscema.

Seriously, read biographies or interviews of Romita, Buscema, Steranko and others and specifically the accounts of their time at Marvel. They’re all over the internet. They all say the same thing: when they got to Marvel, they were forced to study Kirby because their style of art wasn’t dynamic enough. Romita had to pencil for 12 issues over Kirby layouts and storyboards because he could not draw in the Marvel house style yet. Buscema did one issue of the Hulk for Marvel and it sucked, and Stan Lee said he needed to study Kirby. He gave Buscema a stack of Jack Kirby comics to bring home, and Buscema started swiping (in his own words) liberally from them in order to learn how to draw dynamic superheroics. Gil Kane was taught to draw superhero comics the Marvel way by studying Kirby as well. Look at how he drew Green Lantern with Broome then compare his later Marvel work.

Buscema’s words:
http://twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/18buscema.html

I would not have been able to survive in comics if not for Jack Kirby. When Stan called me back in 1966, I had one hell of a time trying to get back in the groove. You can do illustration, you can do layouts, but that doesn’t mean you can do comics. It’s a whole different ball game. Stan gave me a book to do; I think it was the Hulk. I did a pretty bad job – Stan thought I should study Jack’s art and books so he gave me a pile of Kirby’s comics. Well, everybody was given Jack Kirby books! (laughter) It was the first time I’d seen his work. I started working from them, and that’s what saved me.

TJKC: What did you learn from them?

BUSCEMA: The layouts, for cryin’ out loud! I copied! Every time I needed a panel, I’d look up at one of his panels and just rearrange it. If you look at some of the early stuff I did – y’know, where Kirby had the explosions with a bunch of guys flying all over the place? I’d swipe them cold! (laughter) Stan was happy. The editors were happy, so I was happy.

From Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kirby#Marvel_Comics_in_the_Silver_Age_.281958.C2.A0.E2.80.93_1970.29

. . . Jack was the single most influential figure in the turnaround in Marvel’s fortunes from the time he rejoined the company … It wasn’t merely that Jack conceived most of the characters that are being done, but … Jack’s point of view and philosophy of drawing became the governing philosophy of the entire publishing company and, beyond the publishing company, of the entire field … [Marvel took] Jack and use[d] him as a primer. They would get artists … and they taught them the ABCs, which amounted to learning Jack Kirby. … Jack was like the Holy Scripture and they simply had to follow him without deviation. That’s what was told to me … It was how they taught everyone to reconcile all those opposing attitudes to one single master point of view.

In John Romita’s words:
http://www.adelaidecomicsandbooks.com/romita.html

DB: You worked over Jack Kirby layouts on Daredevil. Being a Kirby fan how did that feel?
JR: That was very interesting because there wasn’t any drawing or breakdowns; they were sort of just diagrams. They were like directors notes telling you, ‘this is a close up, this is a long shot, a scenic shot, and this is a set of eyes’. He would do diagrams and label them with initials, say this is Matt Murdock and this is Karen Page, and all he would do would be silhouettes. On a couple of panels he really triggered my excitement with a little bit of detail which was nice. Most of it was very rudimentary, but it was a pacing guide of how to approach storytelling. How to open up excitingly, how to keep it moving, how to bridge the gaps, all those things. Immediately, in those two issues, I learned everything Stan and Jack had instilled in Marvel to make it great.

DB: The one thing that comes through about that time is that they were told not to draw like Kirby, not to swipe, but to get the feel of Kirby. Was that the easiest way to get that feel?
JR: That was the easiest way for me. Stan had already re-enforced that with additional conversations. He’d tell me when the page was dull and why it was dull and what I needed to do to instill some excitement to it. The whole key of dynamics, and the word dynamics kept constantly popping into my mind; it was the dynamics of storytelling. Meaning how to keep it hopping and moving and how to make it very clear that if the reader didn’t want to read all the balloons he would still know what was going on.

It doesn’t matter that John Buscema (not JR SR) was the one who drew “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way,” what he was teaching was still Kirby fundamentals. They’d have done Kirby to do it himself if they could have, but Marvel’s relationship with him had deteriorated by that point.

Not only is my response stuck in moderation, I screwed up the blockquotes! Let me post it again without the links:

Seriously, read biographies or interviews of Romita, Buscema, Steranko and others and specifically the accounts of their time at Marvel. They’re all over the internet. They all say the same thing: when they got to Marvel, they were forced to study Kirby because their style of art wasn’t dynamic enough. Romita had to pencil for 12 issues over Kirby layouts and storyboards because he could not draw in the Marvel house style yet. Buscema did one issue of the Hulk for Marvel and it sucked, and Stan Lee said he needed to study Kirby. He gave Buscema a stack of Jack Kirby comics to bring home, and Buscema started swiping (in his own words) liberally from them in order to learn how to draw dynamic superheroics. Gil Kane was taught to draw superhero comics the Marvel way by studying Kirby as well. Look at how he drew Green Lantern with Broome then compare his later Marvel work.

Buscema’s words:

I would not have been able to survive in comics if not for Jack Kirby. When Stan called me back in 1966, I had one hell of a time trying to get back in the groove. You can do illustration, you can do layouts, but that doesn’t mean you can do comics. It’s a whole different ball game. Stan gave me a book to do; I think it was the Hulk. I did a pretty bad job – Stan thought I should study Jack’s art and books so he gave me a pile of Kirby’s comics. Well, everybody was given Jack Kirby books! (laughter) It was the first time I’d seen his work. I started working from them, and that’s what saved me.

TJKC: What did you learn from them?

BUSCEMA: The layouts, for cryin’ out loud! I copied! Every time I needed a panel, I’d look up at one of his panels and just rearrange it. If you look at some of the early stuff I did – y’know, where Kirby had the explosions with a bunch of guys flying all over the place? I’d swipe them cold! (laughter) Stan was happy. The editors were happy, so I was happy.

Gil Kane:

. . . Jack was the single most influential figure in the turnaround in Marvel’s fortunes from the time he rejoined the company … It wasn’t merely that Jack conceived most of the characters that are being done, but … Jack’s point of view and philosophy of drawing became the governing philosophy of the entire publishing company and, beyond the publishing company, of the entire field … [Marvel took] Jack and use[d] him as a primer. They would get artists … and they taught them the ABCs, which amounted to learning Jack Kirby. … Jack was like the Holy Scripture and they simply had to follow him without deviation. That’s what was told to me … It was how they taught everyone to reconcile all those opposing attitudes to one single master point of view.

In John Romita’s words:

Interviewer: You worked over Jack Kirby layouts on Daredevil. Being a Kirby fan how did that feel?
JR: That was very interesting because there wasn’t any drawing or breakdowns; they were sort of just diagrams. They were like directors notes telling you, ‘this is a close up, this is a long shot, a scenic shot, and this is a set of eyes’. He would do diagrams and label them with initials, say this is Matt Murdock and this is Karen Page, and all he would do would be silhouettes. On a couple of panels he really triggered my excitement with a little bit of detail which was nice. Most of it was very rudimentary, but it was a pacing guide of how to approach storytelling. How to open up excitingly, how to keep it moving, how to bridge the gaps, all those things. Immediately, in those two issues, I learned everything Stan and Jack had instilled in Marvel to make it great.

Interviewer: The one thing that comes through about that time is that they were told not to draw like Kirby, not to swipe, but to get the feel of Kirby. Was that the easiest way to get that feel?
JR: That was the easiest way for me. Stan had already re-enforced that with additional conversations. He’d tell me when the page was dull and why it was dull and what I needed to do to instill some excitement to it. The whole key of dynamics, and the word dynamics kept constantly popping into my mind; it was the dynamics of storytelling. Meaning how to keep it hopping and moving and how to make it very clear that if the reader didn’t want to read all the balloons he would still know what was going on.

It doesn’t matter that John Buscema (not JR SR) was the one who drew “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way,” what he was teaching was still Kirby fundamentals. They’d have done Kirby to do it himself if they could have, but Marvel’s relationship with him had deteriorated by that point.

Hm.

I’ll definitely concede I’ve been talking out of my ass (see my mistake about the artist on “How to Draw…”).

I think what I’m thinking of with Kirby is perhaps the more surface look, of “cragginess” to faces and bodies, and not so much of the underlying layout. With the merchandising art, the Romita Sr type “beautiful faces” look came to be associated (to me) with “generic Marvel”. Kirby’s people are, to be blunt, ugly. (To a degree) But his storytelling is obviously super dynamic, and from what I see of JRJR, he’s still dynamic in that sense. He’s maybe just stripped down the detail of his stuff. His faces are getting “ugly”, and perhaps that’s where Bill and I are looking.

Or again, that talking out of my ass stuff I mentioned.

I’m certainly not going to claim I’m smarter than some of you guys, and I always enjoy reading your posts T. Even when you’re taking me to task here :)

I gotta go find a post that I can praise Loeb or Meltzer on… ;)

I’ll turn this back to the issue at hand. I have the marvel motion Comic of this, as well as the issue itself. This issue and #247 featured the father/son team of JRJR and JRSR, the latter issue with the first part of the Thunderball epic.

JRSR’s inks absolutely take over the visuals; only if you know how Jazzy Johnny laid out a page, can you tell that something’s was just a tad different, and that’s where JRJR made his mark. We all saw those pencils under Bob Layton’s masterful inks; obviously, JRJR wasn’t an absolute ingredient in the Michelinie/JRJR/Layton formula, but I think that Iron Man would have suffered for his non-inclusion.

I loved Brett Breeding’s inks on #248, and I agree, fellows, Klaus Janson’s inks really worked well with JRJR’s pencils – when I saw that little blurb in the corner that said, “It’s great! Steal it!” – I considered doing just that.

I wonder how many Spider-fans did exactly that?

As to the identity of the Hobgoblin…I remember reading #245 with those wonderful Dave Simons inks, and looking to see who indeed was Spider-Man’s newest, greatest foe. And then we saw someone in the shadows steer Lefty Donovan into a wall.

We were witness to the parade of red herrings; was it Lance Bannon? Ned Leeds? Aunt May? And all the while, the real Hobgoblin was parading around, fooling everyone, as he did when he was introduced in PPTSS #43.

Roger Stern, arguably the BEST Spider-scribe since Stan the Man himself, left with an awesome cliffhanger in ASM #251, and then we got the black costume. Jim Shooter wasn’t such a bad guy, after all.

Tom DeFalco gave us a riotous ride for almost three years, and then Jim Owsley [now Christopher Priest] set up the Gang War, with some notable guest stars, which led into…the fantastic Spider-Man vs. Wolverine, with art by the monstrous talent of Mark D. Bright and Al Williamson.

Red herrings abound – Ned dies mysteriously in the hotel room while Peter’s away; nothing seems to make any sense,,,until ASM #289.

“The Hobgoblin Revealed!” Well, it wasn’t strictly a falsehood, was it, since the Hobgoblin we all bore witness to in the story was the former Jack O’Lantern, Jason Philip Macendale, who had his pumpkin handed to him by Spidey in their last encounter. We were told that Ned Leeds was the former Hobgoblin…but that never made sense.

Thanks to Roger Stern, Ron Frenz, George Perez, Scott Hanna and Bob McLeod, it all began to make some sense. Of course, Ned never took advantage of Norman’s strength-enhancing formula; nhad he done so, Pete and Logan would have returned to see pieces of the Foreigner’s men adorning said hotel room. Roger makes it plain as day; before one of the agents could have broken Ned’s arm, he would have been launched through a wall or a window.

But I’ve said enough – Brian, thanks for this column – it’s bringing back many fond memories.

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