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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 118: Marvel Fanfare #5

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This quasi-week: Chris Claremont. Today’s page is from Marvel Fanfare #5, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 1982. Enjoy!

Clea totally stole my hairstyle!

In early 1982, Marvel launched Marvel Fanfare, an anthology title featuring some serious talent, and Claremont kicked it off with … a mutant story. But in issue #5, he got to write a Dr. Strange story! As you can see, with an anthology book, you might get readers who have less clue about the characters than even regular readers, so Claremont goes into full expository mode on this page. We discover who Dr. Strange is and where Dr. Strange is (we even get a Bulwer-Lytton-esque “It is a cold, rainy autumn night” for good measure). We find out his name is Stephen and the fetching young woman’s name is Clea. We discover that they’re knocking boots. Clea helpfully lists some of the good doctor’s enemies – Baron Mordo, Nightmare, and “the dread one himself, Dormammu.” That’s pretty damned helpful for one page. Oh, and of course Dr. Strange has a sense of foreboding. He’s living in a comic book!

Rogers and Russell (boy, that’s a team), along with Sharen, do a fine job with this splash, even though they don’t have a lot of action to draw (they get to make up for that later in the story). Rogers shows us that Stephen’s “sanctum sanctorum” is a … strange place, what with the weird metal thing hanging from the ceiling and that censer (I guess it’s a censer) on the floor, from which green smoke emanates. Claremont’s weak sentence about the weather is unnecessary because Rogers helpfully draws a lightning bolt in the window, but Claremont, like Dickens, probably got paid by the word, so there’s that. Sharen gets into the act, too, making the flame and smoke green and showing the reflection of Strange’s red skylight on the floor, lending an eerie atmosphere to the room. Rogers gives Clea a robe that, frankly, doesn’t look very comfortable, what with that shoulder thing going on, but at least the rest of it is loose and airy. Sharen makes sure that it’s yellow, blending nicely with Strange’s traditional blue tunic and pantaloons. It’s honestly surprising that Rogers orients the page toward the left, because it goes against the way we read a page, but I assume it’s because it’s a splash page, so if the writing intrigues us, we’ll turn the page. Artists buck the trends sometimes – that’s why they’re artists, man!

Next: Back to mutants! But I’m still not doing the big title! You might want to take a look at the archives. You never know what you might have missed!

5 Comments

Okay, I didn’t see this one coming… because I’ve never even heard of this story before. Yipes, that is some gorgeous artwork. I really need to find a copy of this comic book.

Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about this one! I wouldn’t have remembered that it was Claremont, in any case.

Ben: As far as I know, Marvel has only released one trade of Marvel Fanfare, but it has a lot of really cool stories in it, including this one.

I tried reading that trade. Russell’s art is gorgeous, but the horribly turgid writing ruined it for me.

I will say, though, that the backup stories were even worse.

I’ve pretty much collected an entire Marvel Fanfare run by picking them up from 50c bins and conventions. They’re not too hard to find and are well worth the effort.

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