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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 49: Uncanny X-Men #206

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: John Romita Jr.! Today’s page is from Uncanny X-Men #206, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated June 1986. Enjoy!

Bad-ass Storm is bad-ass!

John Romita drew Claremont’s X-Men for some time, and some people consider it the high point of the writer’s run on the title (yes, even more than the Dark Phoenix saga, which might be crazy, but not as crazy as ranking this above the Australian Era!!!!). Romita brought a different style to the X-Men than his predecessors – Paul Smith, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne – because by this time he was maturing into his classic style, which we can see here even though Ororo is in shadow – she’s more solid than the women we usually see in comics, not in a bad way, but in a more muscular way. Her shoulders are wider than we might expect, her legs a bit more powerful, her hips curvier and her waist thicker. None of this is bad – Romita draws a very sexy Storm – but it makes his X-people, both the women and the men, seem a bit stronger. Also, note how Storm is standing – if we accept Kelly’s terms about the way women in comics stand, she’s not doing that. Her hips and breasts are not thrown out, and she’s standing like a person ready for action and confrontation, which, of course, her words imply is coming. Romita, Green, and Oliver give us just enough light on her to show how bad-ass she is – the boots, the belts, the bare arms, the mohawk: Storm is ready for action! Romita adds a nice dramatic touch of paper swirling past her, both giving a slight touch of motion to a dramatic pose and, probably, implying Storm’s mastery of weather even though at this time in her life she didn’t possess her powers (if you don’t know the story, it’s long and convoluted, much like everything else Claremont wrote, but basically: she got shot with a powers-sapping gun, because it’s COMICS!). The column of neon with hanzi/kanji on it provides the illumination and also sets the scene – although Storm is actually in San Francisco, the writing at least implies an Asian misc-en-scene, presumably Chinatown. The graffiti-lettering of the credits completes the mood.

Claremont, of course, doesn’t do much with this, although the five words Storm speaks do feel bad-ass, which is the mood he’s going for. Claremont doesn’t need to do much more because Romita is so good at packing the panel with details. Like many writers, Claremont is at his best when he trusts his artists, and he obviously had a good rapport with Romita.

Obviously, because of the darkness of the panel, we can’t see too much of the “Romita” style, but dang, that’s a nice page, isn’t it? What will be next? Only 24 hours will tell! But you can use that day wisely if you check out the archives!

17 Comments

Seems to me this a page more fitting to showcase Orzechowski’s talent, if he was the one to do the credits.

(yes, even more than the Dark Phoenix saga, which might be crazy, but not as crazy as ranking this above the Australian Era!!!!)

Ohman. Now you’re just baiting me. Razzin’ frazzin’ Australian era.

I’m not exactly drawn to JRJR’s stuff these days, though it doesn’t bug me either, but I liked it during this X-Men run. I was happy with him, happy with Paul Smith–it was only afterward that it lost me, and that was more about Claremont’s writing than the art. I can’t vouch for any later run JRJR may have done, because of course I never came back from the razzin’ frazzin’ Australian era.

This is an incredible first page. I almost can’t believe that’s really JRJR!

JRJR’s old stuff was really great. I think my favorite stuff was on the X-Men and the Ben Reilly Spider-man books.

You mention how her breasts and hips aren’t jutting in a crooked pose, but want that trend created by Jim Lee in the late 80s or early 90s? I may be misremembering but I was pretty sure no one drew women like that before then?

Oops want should read wasn’t

T.: Yeah, it may be anachronistic to speak of that pose – I didn’t check. I mentioned it just because it’s so ubiquitous today, but it’s not like it always was. If people are coming to comics recently and think that, they can go back to older stuff and see that Romita, for one, could make Storm look awesome without porning her up.

The Crazed Spruce

February 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Looking at this page and yesterday’s Spidey one, I’m a bit surprised that his current style jarred me so much. You can definitely see a lot of the elements in this piece. (Especially in Storm’s hair, and the way her clothes hang on her. Most artists of the era would have a smoother mohawk, and probably wouldn’t even bother hinting at the arms of her tank top, or the outline of her belt.)

He’s always had a knack for drawing strong, sexy women while still respecting basic human anatomy. A number of modern artists could learn a lot from him.

We are still before my time as far as Romita Jr fandom goes, but we’re almost there. The looser and blockier his art gets the more I like it.

This is getting to be the most interesting, most important and most useful column presented by CSBG. Potentially more so than the Legends articles It could go deeper then it usually does, but the analysis of page compositions and other stylistic elements is very well done. The name of the series is awkward, off-putting and does not serve the content of these articles in any useful way. I hope you continue with these and maybe take the analysis deeper and further, to a place that could be commercially publishable and academically valuable.

@T.

I’ve tried to pinpoint EXACTLY when the female super-hero as porn-star trend started, and as best as I can tell, the cover of Uncanny X-Men #274 is the exact moment. You can see it here:
http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20091208024351/marveldatabase/images/6/62/Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_274.jpg

@Greg

This is from my favorite era of Claremont’s mutant tenure. Even though Claremont worked with 6 main artists on Uncanny and also wrote mutant characters in a host of other books, I think Claremont’s 15 year reign has 3 distinct eras…

Era 1: Giant Size X-Men 1 – Uncanny 161. This basically gets you through both Cockrum runs and all of Byrne, and encompasses Uncanny going from bi-monthly to the highest seller in the industry. It’s also the only time when Claremont’s mutants were basically confined to one book (guest appearances in Spider-Woman, Marvel Fanfare, Avengers Annual, Iron FIst, etc. aside). That’s what I call it, the “one book” era. The best way the stories of this era can be summed up is that they were about adventure.

Era 2: Uncanny 162 – Uncanny 216, plus all of Claremont’s New Mutants run, The first year of X-Factor, and the first Wolverine mini-series. This is what I think of as the “2 teams” era, with the senior X-Men team and the New Mutants both being written by Claremont and being stationed out of the X-mansion. I also think this was Claremont’s best era as a writer and artist collaborator. During this time, you had classic stories drawn by Paul Smith, John Romita Jr, Barry Windsor-Smith, Art Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alan Davis, and Frank Miller, all doing arguably their best ever work. This era ends with the wake of the Mutant Massacre, which was the (ominous) moment the X-Titles really became a franchise. The stories of this era can best be summed up as being about character.

Era 3: Uncanny 217-280, New Mutants 55-100, Wolverine 1-46, X-Factor 15-70, and Excalibur 1-41. I think of this as the “Mutants all over the world” era, where you had the X-Men in Australia (and everywhere after they went through the Seige Perilous), Wolverine in Madripoor with Psylocke and Jubilee, Storm and Gambit off thieving, X-Factor in NYC, Excalibur in England, Forge, Banshee, and others on Muir Isle, the New Mutants in Westchester with Magneto. This is when the mutant titles completely became a franchise for good with the advent of semi-annual crossovers and the launch of 4th and 5th monthly titles with Excalibur and Wolverine. Hell, Claremont couldn’t even keep up with Marvel’s demands for mutants at this point, as X-Factor was already written by Louise Simonson, and then New Mutants was handed to her as well. And after great starts to the series by Claremont, Excalibur and Wolverine pretty quickly became fill-in-paloozas. Still, there were some fantastic artists during this era, with Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, John Buscema, Whilce Portacio, Walt SImonson, Alan Davis, Rick Leonardi, and Art Adams all turning in great work. I really love a lot of the stuff from this era, and I’m with Greg that the Australian era is underrated and unfairly maligned, but if the stories from this era can be summed up as being about one thing, it’s direction. “Where are the books headed?” became the central concern and years long plots took over.

I love all 3 eras, but I definitely think the 2 Book era of ’82-’86 was Claremont’s high point, and that’s when Romita Jr’s run took place. I don’t know if JR JR was lucky to work with Claremont at the perfect time, or if Claremont reached his peak partially due to being inspired by JR JR (and Sienkiewicz, Smith, Windsor-Smith, & Miller). Probably a little of both.

Great choice of a page from that era, Greg. I hadn’t seen this one in a while, and it really is great.

Also, sorry I’m so damn long winded. Claremont x-stuff and anything Alan Moore are pretty much my two favorite comic topics.

Edgar: Thanks for the kind words (even though I’m committed to the name of the column!). I’ve tried to get as in-depth as I can, and I hope I can continue to improve my analysis, because I don’t know if I’m going as far as I can. Time is a factor, too – I write other things for the blog, and even though I’m trying to stay a few weeks ahead of the column going up, it’s still difficult. I think I’m getting better at looking at the various elements of a page, which is partially what I wanted to do, and I hope everyone is enjoying it.

Third Man: Hey, I like geeking out about the X-Men as much as anyone, as they’re my favorite group of characters in comics. I like your division into eras – years ago I sliced them into even more distinct eras, but yours work very well. It’s always impressive when you consider the scope of what Claremont created.

I divide X-Men into two eras:

1) The Gripping Adventures of the Leprechauns of Cassidy Keep.
2) Everything Else.

The thing about Claremont is he didn’t move backwards until the last few months when it was suddenly, Bring back the original five and the prof, and put them back in the mansion. It was pretty much downhill from there. A few notable peaks (Age of Apocalypse, New X-Men and Astonishing 1-24) aside. Feel free to disagree.

@Michael Howey

You just named the only 3 X-stories/runs I even own from 1995-present, so I’m inclined to agree. Although, after not having read an X-book for years, I tried out Jason Aaron’s Wolverine & the X-Men, and I really do love it. I hope Marvel let’s him spend a long doing his own thing on the book instead of having it be completely absorbed into the continuity of the other 10 X-books. As soon as it gets to the point that I can’t read it alone (as you could with Morrison New X-Men and Whedon Astonishing), I’ll drop it. But until then, it’s highly recommended. And I think Aaron is really only the third writer (after Claremont and Hama) to “own” Wolverine. Very few writers handle him correctly, but Aaron does.

This image really highlights Storm as a badass character. She’s standing alone in a crap-ass alley, alone in Chinatown and is telling an unknown group of troublemakers where to take it. The pose is confident and strong, while still relaxed and ready. It’s a great image.

(And yes, a great Tom Orzechowski page too; terrific integration of the credits into the art. Love the issue title: “Freedom is a Four-Letter Word!” very Claremont, very cool. hey, look! It’s the era where Marvel had editors that actually edited! Nocenti & Shooter, love it.)

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