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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 222: Iron Fist #14

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Chris Claremont and John Byrne! Today’s page is from Iron Fist #14, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated August 1977. This scan is courtesy of Our Dread Lord and Master, Brian Cronin himself, who possesses every comic book ever published! Thanks, Brian! Enjoy!

Aren't his feet cold?

Marvel doesn’t do the little banners at the top of the page anymore, but I don’t recall ever seeing any of them in second person. I wonder why this is – I doubt if it was Claremont’s choice, but maybe it was.

Anyway, to begin our “week” of Claremont/Byrne, I figured this was a good place to start (Brian sent me a bunch of Iron Fist first pages, and I liked this one). I suppose Byrne designed the title lettering, unless Kawecki threw it up there, but while “Snowfire” might sound silly, it does fit well on the page. Cohen colors it bloody red, which is a fine color, especially in a wintry landscape like this – it helps offset all the white and blue and is also linked to the color that Colleen is wearing (that doesn’t necessarily look like Colleen, but I think it’s her). The title also rings the giant moon, another enlargement of the satellite that looks great in visual fiction even though it’s silly if you start to think too much about it. The moon forms a backdrop for Danny and Colleen, so we get a very nicely designed page – the title, the moon, the two main characters, and the two snowmobiles chasing them. It’s stable in the middle and grows more chaotic outside the circle inscribed by the moon. The chaos of the outside intrudes on the circle in the form of a bullet, which hits Colleen somewhere (the trajectory of the bullets seem to imply that they hit her in the back of the head, but I don’t think she would be in such good shape if that had happened).

You’ll notice how precise Byrne is, even under Green’s heavy inks. Byrne doesn’t over-hatch – Colleen’s face is almost completely free of lines – because he relies on his characters’ facial expressions and body language to convey emotion rather than furrowing their brows excessively. Danny, therefore, clenches his teeth in anger, while Colleen’s closed eyes and open mouth perfectly get across her pain and rage. Danny is still crouched over in a run, but she has straightened up in surprise and appears about to stumble in the snow. Byrne draws her figure very well – her breasts are not too big and she actually has hips – so that her staggering looks far more real than if her proportions had been out of whack. Both she and Danny act as counters to each other – Danny is trying to drag us, rather pell-mell, onto the next page, while Colleen’s situation makes us pause and consider the page more. If they had both been running, would we have seen both snowmobiles? Probably, but Byrne doesn’t take any chances! Byrne also does a nice job with perspective – Danny’s right hand almost looks 3-D, it’s so much closer to the reader than the rest of the page.

Claremont does what he does – gets the where, the what, and part of the who out of the way. His prose is purple, but not excessively so. It’s a pretty good way to start the story – he already has a dramatic splash page, so he doesn’t need too much in the way of explanation. Will we see more restraint from Claremont this week? No man can say!

This issue is famous, of course, because it’s the first appearance of Sabretooth. But he doesn’t show up on the first page, so I have nothing more to say about that. It’s a nice first page, though, and a good way to kick off the week!

Next: Sigh. X-Men in space is never – NEVER – a good idea. But we’ll deal with it, right? Dive into the archives to find the other Claremont/Byrne book I’ve checked out this year!

13 Comments

The second person was a writing tic Roy Thomas liked a lot. Maybe he was responsible. Claremont did like to indulge in it from time to time too, though not so much in his latter career.

Ah, one of my favorite tandems from the good old days. Thanks for using this suggestion (I’m sure many, many people voted for it).

The second person singular capsule description is because the narration in that Iron Fist series was largely in second person singular, told from the POV of Danny Rand. I say largely, not entirely, because Claremont would shift without warning into third person if it was a scene in which Danny Rand wasn’t present, or if Claremont wanted to convey a bit of description Iron Fist wouldn’t see. So for example, in this very issue we get:

“They tumble down the steep slope like puppets with cut strings…”

in reference to Danny and Colleen, but on the very next page it becomes:

“You start across the glacier, and as you fight your way though the wind and snow…”

Still, the overall rule was second person, and third person was the occasional exception.

Richard: Thank you, sir. I don’t own these issues, so I didn’t know that. One day Marvel will bring out the Masterworks collecting these in softcover, and then I shall purchase it!!!!

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Is this the same issue that has the thought balloon from Iron Fist that says “Danny, block those claws (or fists)!”

The page where Iron Fist fights Captain America should be taught in schools.

Tom, that’s from his battle with Wolverine in the following issue. However, there’s a line in this issue where new villain Sabretooth takes a swipe at Iron Fist, who ducks while thinking to himself “Down, Danny — under his claws!” So it’s basically the same thing! Claremont hangs a lampshade on Iron Fist facing two clawed animal-themed opponents in two consecutive issues by giving Danny a thought balloon in the latter issue noting the similarity between the two and wondering if there’s some connection between them. All of which makes this sound like a candidate for a “When We First Met” post…

Man that was Byrne at his best. (although he did do the Liefeld foot with Iron Fist’s right foot)

IIRC, all of those banners were written by Scott Edelman when he was an assistant editor there. He may have been following Claremont’s narration style, or he may just have been working to keep them all from sounding too similar.

Man, I hate second person narration.

But that banner is really good though. I’ve actually seen Edelman’s name in different SF/Fantasy/Horror anthologies that I read, and his stuff is pretty good.

And this is a pretty cool first page.

The title lettering on this page was by Gaspar Saladino who lettered the first page of most Marvel comics of the 70s.

I remember reading that issue back in the day. Sabretooth seemed such a disposable villain at the time.

As it turns out, he still seems like a disposable villain.

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