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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 23: Spider-Man/Human Torch #2

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is a story from Spider-Man/Human Torch #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 2005. Enjoy!

Who doesn't love billboard credits?

Dan Slott, writing this like an old-school 1960s comic, tells us quite a bit on this first page. Spider-Man is looking for the Vulture, who’s been committing “high-rise heists” all over town, and Spidey hopes to catch him but also get some pictures of him so he can pay the rent. If anyone ever read a Spidey comic in the 1960s or 1970s (and even a bit into the 1980s), you read this refrain over and over – at least once an issue, it seemed – but in 2005, perhaps some readers needed to be reminded that at one time, Peter Parker was a struggling photographer who wasn’t getting paid royalties on a book of Spider-Man photographs and wasn’t married to a super-model. Slott does that nicely. We also get a bit of the Vulture’s tough talk as he robs a penthouse, but it doesn’t give us much information – it’s just bad-guy speak.

Templeton was a good choice to draw this mini-series – he’s a modern artist, certainly, but he has an old-school sensibility, and his work wouldn’t look too out of place in a Spider-Man comic from the 1960s or ’70s. Because he knows what he’s doing, he does some clever things with the art. Spidey’s web line comes in from the upper left in the first panel, moving our eye right down it past all the credits to Spidey himself. Spidey is bent really awkwardly, but he contains the readers eye and moves them down to the bottom row of panels. Templeton doesn’t use Spidey’s eyes to point toward the far left panel, but that’s okay – it’s where we naturally go anyway. The Vulture’s gun, you’ll notice, points directly at his word balloon in the second panel, and Templeton, of course, doesn’t have the good guy (we might think it’s Spider-Man, but it’s really the Human Torch) come in from the left of the final panel, but the right, so that the Vulture’s eyes look that way, directing us to turn the page. It’s a well constructed page, even as it appears relatively simple. But that’s what good artists do!

Even though the Vulture is not the main villain of this story and is captured on page 2, this page gives us information about Spider-Man, and page 2 gives us some information about the Human Torch. That’s really the only reason the Vulture is here – to show the heroes looking good before the main villain (Kraven, in this case), shows up. Comic writers do this all the time, and Slott does a nice job with it here. It’s part of what makes this a charming comic book!

Next: Even more old-school! Yay! And, of course, here are some archives.

9 Comments

I love how people think the royalties on a moderately successful book of photographs would be enough to live on.

Live in New York, I might add.

Well, sure, Michael, but the point is that by 2005, Peter wasn’t really the “struggling photographer” he once was. No, he wasn’t getting rich, but he certainly wasn’t living in poverty, either.

He never was living in poverty. He just likes to kvetch.

Hi Greg. Great comic, interesting analysis. I’ve long thought that TT was one of the under-appreciated gems of comics, and the way that he and DS made SM/HT so enjoyable for fans old and new is, as you explain, admirable. As you argue, it’s entirely transparent and yet it’s also exceptionally smart. The absolute opposite of so many other super-books then.

Hand lettering could really have fitted this book

Let me echo the comments of people who are enjoying this feature. I’m learning a lot about the “behind the scenes” work that goes into constructing a page and directing the reader’s eyes in the right direction at the right time. It’s also nice to see the critiques of the bad art, to help understand *why* it’s not as good as the good stuff, other than a visceral, “I don’t like that.”

Michael, he was definitely living in poverty at various periods. Aunt May used to have to pawn stuff and the landlord would come aroud to threaten to throw them on the street from time to time in the Ditko days. He only could afford an apt because his rich friend Harry let him stay with him for free. As late as the 80s he always had to dodge his landlady Ms. Muggins because he was always late on the rent. And it was a crappy apartment to boot.

Colin: Thank you, sir. It’s interesting how easy it is but how a lot of artists don’t do it!

Craig: Thanks a lot. It’s very fun to write about these, too. I’m always trying to get better about art so I don’t simply say “I don’t like that.” Although that’s valid occasionally!

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