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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 53: Spectacular Spider-Man #28

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: Frank Miller! Today’s page is from Spectacular Spider-Man #28, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 1979. Enjoy!

Can't forget to announce that this features the cadaverous Carrion!

Very early in Frank Miller’s career, he drew a two-part PPtSSM story that featured Daredevil, and I imagine someone in the Marvel offices decided that he’d be a good guy to draw Hornhead (I love that that’s his nickname) in his own damned comic. And so comics history was made! But first, he had to get through this story! (I should point out that this page is from Daredevil Visionaries volume 1, so it’s probably a bit brighter than in the original because it’s on glossier paper.)

Bill Mantlo starts us off dramatically, with the narration: “High over New York, a sightless Spider-Man begins a slow spiraling fall to his death — while the masked marauder’s bombdroid carries the plutonium payload over the doomed city!” Come on, that’s awesome. If you randomly pick up this comic, how can you not continue to read this? Spidey, of course, still knows that he has to stop even though he’s blind. Oh, the irony of this first page! How clever is Mantlo?

I posted this because it’s one of the earliest examples of Miller’s work and it’s amazing how different it is from what it later became. As I mentioned with regard to last week’s example of John Romita Jr., in the 1970s Marvel still had a house style, and their artists obviously tried to stay within that style. Miller hadn’t started to experiment, obviously, but Frank Springer’s old-school inks, which a few years later wouldn’t do Bill Sienkiewicz any favors on Moon Knight, combined with Mario Sens’ colors, keep this looking like a fairly standard Marvel comic of the late 1970s. Miller, obviously, knows what he’s doing, so he makes sure the bombdroid (really, Mantlo?) is flying left to right, while in the second panel, Spidey is looking back toward the right, moving our eye that way. Miller also draws a slightly more muscular Spider-Man than usual, and he gives him bold spider-sense lines, which I’ve always enjoyed. Other artists do this too, and I always like it more than the thinner spider-sense lines.

I really encourage you to pick up this trade, because by the end of this issue, we see some of the Daredevil Miller coming through in some of the action scenes, and the following issue in the trade, his first on DD, has Klaus Janson on inks, and we can immediately recognize the artistic strides that Miller has made. It’s pretty cool. This first page doesn’t show a lot of Miller’s individual style, but it’s coming quick!

Next: Miller branches out with his most famous superhero work. Very cool stuff! Plus, there are archives. Oh, the wonderful archives!

8 Comments

This page is sorta reminiscent of Miller’s work on Marvel’s Hostess ads from the same period, previously featured elsewhere on this blog.

I have this theory that a lot of what we came to know as Miller’s defined “look” in the ’80s was actually a result of Janson, both in his influence and of course his finishing style.

PJ I think that’s a pretty plausible theory.

Pj: Hey, you’re getting ahead of me! That kind of theorizing is for tomorrow! :)

If JR Jr. drew Peter’s head too big in one of the earlier pages discussed in this series, then here’s an opposite example. Spider-Man’s head is comically undersized, he almost looks like Charles Burns’s El Borbah:

I have very fond memories of Miller’s two Spider-Man annuals from this period.

Greg: That’s me, always a step ahead. :)

@ Dr. Bob: The Marvel Team-Up Annual with Daredevil and others vs the Purple Man, and the Amazing Spider-Man Annual with Doc Ock and Punisher? Those are some damn fine comics.

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