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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 132: Strikeforce: Morituri #10

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Strikeforce: Morituri #10, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated September 1987. Enjoy!

Indulge yourself, pal!

Strikeforce: Morituri was an odd comic from the 1980s that took place outside Marvel continuity but wasn’t an Epic line book. I own a bunch of issues but still haven’t read it because I’m trying to collect them all (of course, after I got a bunch of them, Marvel decided to start releasing trades – thanks a lot, Marvel!), but basically, aliens attack Earth and humans scientists figure out how to give some people superpowers to fight back, but the process kills them in a year. Am I missing anything, or is Wikipedia correct?

Anyway, Peter Gillis, who co-created the series, wrote this issue, while a young Whilce Portacio drew it (come on – you knew it was Portacio just by looking at that guy, didn’t you?). The ubiquitous Scott Williams inked this, Max Scheele colored it, and Janice Chiang lettered it. Just so we’re clear. Gillis introduces us to D’Cheir (I assume we’ve seen him before, but I’m pretending we’re new readers of the series), who’s obviously an alien. There are 27 words on this page. Gillis lets us know that D’Cheir is hungry, that he’s surprised the food is decent, that his “soul is unquiet,” that people who know him would be surprised by such introspection, and what his name is and what kind of alien he is. I only point this out because in yesterday’s entry, 36 words on the page told us far less than that (I don’t mean to harp on that, but it’s just another strike against Invincible Iron Man). The transition from the first caption box to the second is awkward, sure – why would the food being good segue to his soul being unquiet? – but the point is, Gillis gives us a lot of stuff to ponder just on this first page.

Portacio only has to draw an alien crouching and stuffing his gob, so it’s difficult to really have a lot of fun with it, but he does a good job with it. D’Cheir’s cheeks are swollen with food, his eyes are closed with contentment, and Portacio does a good job drawing his anatomy in the crouch, even if that kind of musculature is fairly clichéd in comics. Even though it’s common, it’s still nice to see someone do it well. Portacio and Williams do a good job with the fur/cape on D’Cheir – it looks silky and luxurious, to the point where, when we consider what’s on his arms and shoulders, it’s hard to decide if it’s his hair or a garment (it’s his hair, by the way). Williams and Scheele ink/color it well to give a feeling of smoothness, implying that D’Cheir pampers himself somewhat. I often give Williams grief because I don’t think he inks Jim Lee particularly well, but this is a pretty good page, inking-wise. You’ll note that Portacio does what he can to move our eyes over the page from left to right – the stairs are on the top left, and Williams or Scheele lays the shadows from the steps from the upper left across D’Cheir, moving our eyes that way. It’s a subtle effect, but it works well.

Does this work to draw people in? I think so – it gives us a character who is already complicated even though we only know a little about him, and the artwork is perfectly fine. Nothing here repels a reader, and a good amount draws one in. That’s the job, isn’t it?

Next: If new readers wonder why some of us get misty-eyed about that guy who wrote the crappy Cry for Justice, this comic is one reason why! There’s another reason buried in the archives!

13 Comments

Boy howdy, do I love this series.

This is much better than anything Portacio has done lately.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Just a little surprised that you didn’t showcase Brent Anderson, the original series artist; or the Mark Bagley, (yes, THE Mark Bagley). Not sure if this was Bagley’s first series.

Odd is right. A depressingly bleak series, where characters are expected to die (you just didn’t know when or how).

Tom: It’s random! I just closed my eyes, reached in, pulled out a comic, and it happened to be this one! I only knew I was somewhere in the “S” area, because I have a lot of comics that begin with “S” and I know where those long boxes are.

Such a great series!!! Greg, I envy the enjoyment you will have as you discover this.

I’ve read a few out-of-sequence issues before, but now that the trades are coming out I’ve gone through the first two volumes. It’s excellent material. Not sure what to expect from Volume 3, though, with the Electric Undertow miniseries.

Greg: Nope,it’s the first time we’ve seen the alien.

This is Portacio’s first full issaue on the series after previously drawing the Blackwatch pages in earlier issues.

Buy the trades, this is good stuff

Scott Williams

May 12, 2012 at 11:39 am

Thanks for the kind words about the Morituri page. I didn’t keep many of the original pages from this series, but I kept this one. Good memories inking Brent Anderson on that book too. I don’t mean this to be in any way snarky, but what do you like to see in Jim Lee inks that I’m not providing? I’m always interested in trying to learn and get better. Thanks!

Scott: Wow, way to put me on the spot! I think the biggest issue I have with your inks of Lee is the hatching – Lee’s pencils seem very spare occasionally, and your inks seem to make them too busy. I like this page quite a bit because you use the lines to their maximum effect by not overusing them – the fur and the hair make a good impression against D’Cheir’s body. I don’t know if Lee’s pencils are too rushed (I know he’s busy) and your inks are filling in the blanks too much, but the inks seem to obscure some of the pencil work. I don’t mean to tell you your business – obviously, you’re inking a very good artist on a very good-selling book – but it’s bugged me for years.

I don’t think you were snarky at all. I hope I’m not!

Philip: Interesting about D’Cheir’s appearance. I think that makes the page even better, because Gillis does get a lot of his personality in very few words.

Scott Williams

May 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

No worries, and not trying to put you on the spot. I came to terms years ago with the fact that I will not be able to please everyone. I still like hearing opinions about what I could do to be a better artist and better inker. I’m constantly falling short, but I’ll keep trying.

Pete Woodhouse

May 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm

This is a beautifully-drawn page – love the work on the shadows. I’m not convinced it’s zip-a-tone but it looks like it. I must admit the style’s not something I expected from a future Image artist. Whether that sort-of-Tom Palmer vibe is all down to Williams’ inks I don’t know, but nice work, Scott.
My only experience of Portacio is the Byrne/Lee X-Men era stuff.

And Strikeforce: Morituri I don’t ever remember seeing on newsstands or comic stores late 80s/early 90s, so another cool insight. Nice work, too Greg, keep this series coming.

Scott Williams

May 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Thanks Pete. I used a ton of zip-a-tone in the mid to late 80′s and this page is no different. I was indeed heavily influenced by two of my favorite inkers, Klause Janson and Tom Palmer (amongst others) who used a lot of zip. And yeah, Morituri was available at comic stores and news stands when it came out. Our book was somewhat drowned out by the release of the New Universe line Marvel launched at the same time. Unfortunate timing for us.

Pete: Morituri started December 86 and was sold on Newstands. If memory serves it went direct only in the late teens at the same time as Alpha Flight, Power Pack and …… racks brains ….. I can’t remember! 31 issues and gone by the end of 89!

and yeah, it does a great job of setting up the issue by introducing the character.

While we’re on the subject of Portacio’s art: how about a nice colour Portacio X-Factor trade Marvel?

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