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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 223: X-Men #108

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 X-Men #108, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 1977. This scan is from Marvel Masterworks volume 12: The X-Men, which was published in 1990. Enjoy!

Oh dear

This is the first Claremont/Byrne X-Men issue, beginning a collaboration that would last for over 30 issues and produce some of the best (and best-loved) comics in history. Of course, because it’s a Marvel comic from the 1970s, we jump right into the middle of a story arc, because back then, Marvel tended to rotate in artists higgledy-piggledy just so they could get books out on time. Thank God that era has passed, amirite?

Claremont sets the stage well enough. It’s an old, old world, and for the first time in “uncounted eons,” living beings are walking on its surface. The X-Men and the Starjammers think they have won their fight, but at the end of the previous issue, they were disabused of that notion, and now they’re wondering what’s going to happen next. Banshee speaks for everyone when he wonders what’s happening to the sky – something freaky, I can tell you that much! As this is a Marvel comic from pre-2000 or so, Claremont begins with a big image and will soon (on page 2, to be exact) recap the adventure in four brief panels. That’s why he’s a master wordsmith!

Byrne’s splash page is a bit more complicated than it looks, mainly because he has to get all the characters onto the page. The M’Krann crystal there is the focus of the page, of course, and Bryne and Terry Austin draw it as lightly as they can, making it seem almost non-existent. Austin (probably) added the black dots in the crystal’s light, which are supposed to be stars turned “negative” by the light but which also add a nice dose of minor Kirby Krackle to the page. Then we get the characters. Banshee and Storm frame the characters, as Byrne draws them in almost the same pose and at the same level on the page. Ch’od (the big green fish-like dude on the left) and whatever the heck Nightcrawler is standing on form another pair. Kurt and Peter form and pair, as do Jean and Scott. In the center is Raza, making sure that we as readers understand what it is we’re supposed to be looking at – he’s pointing right at it! It’s a very well-balanced page, and you’ll notice that Byrne forms the lines of sight and the light emanating from the crystal so that, were we to draw them in, we’d get a many-faceted crystal, mirroring the M’Krann crystal at the center of the page. Regardez:

I'd do this more often, but it's hard enough with straight lines!

That’s a nicely-designed page, I’ll tell you what.

Byrne continued to work on X-Men, but he and Claremont also collaborated on another comic around this time. We’ll check that out tomorrow! In the interim, feel free to browse through the archives!

10 Comments

Ha! Exactly the one I thought you would pick to represent Claremont/Byrne. It’s particularly striking in Essential X-Men or another collection, where this is the first Byrne page you see after several issues of Cockrum (who isn’t bad, just different).

Brian: I figured it would be good to show the first time they worked on X-Men together. I’ll give you a spoiler alert: I’m also going to feature the LAST time they worked on X-Men together!

Yeah, it really is strange to see this after Cockrum. I like Cockrum’s work, but he seems much more old-fashioned, I guess, where as Byrne is much more modern. It’s a big shift in the tone of the work.

Cyclops has a big yellow booty! Bwah ha ha!

This was a confusing story arc for me reading in Essentials, but that might just be my distaste for cosmic X-Men adventures and especially the Starjammers. Byrne can’t be faulted though.

This is going to be a great week of splash pages. And I do mean splash pages- I’m pretty sure I have every Claremont/Byrne issue in either reprint or original, and while I don’t have all of them handy at the moment, I just looked through about 60% of them and every single first page was a splash page. And they were mostly incredible.

I’m pretty sure the Claremont/Byrne collaboration of this era extended to 5 titles–Iron FIst, Uncanny, Marvel Team-Up, Powerman & Iron Fist, and Starlord (which was originally printed in an anthology that I’m blanking on at the moment). We’ve seen 2, and I’m fairly certain we’ll see all 5 unless Burgas doesn’t have the Starlord stuff.

I’m a bit sad we won’t see Iron Fist #10 here, as the splash page is EXTREMELY similar to the legendary Days of Future Past cover, and I suspect most people haven’t seen it.

But my favorite opening page from this collaboration is Uncanny #116, closely followed by #114.

Third Man: Alas, we’re only going to see one other of those 5 titles you mentioned. I only got one splash page for Starlord, and it was kind of dull, and I didn’t realize they did a few issues of Power Man/Iron Fist together. Sorry! We’ll get some Marvel Team-Up though!

You’re right, though – everything is a splash page this week! And that Iron Fist #10 is pretty keen. Thanks for sharing!

Thank god books don’t come out on time anymore? Noyourewrong

Yeah, Byrne/Claremont were the ones that got Powerman & Iron Fist together. After tying up the loose ends from Iron Fist’s solo series in Marvel Team-Up #s 63 & 64, Claremont/Byrne moved on to Powerman #48, with Iron FIst as guest star. Iron Fist also guest starred in #49, then #50 was officially called Powerman & Iron Fist. Claremont still wrote the next few issues before handing the series off to someone else, but I think Byrne only did 48-50. They’re reprinted in The Essential Iron Fist, and definitely worth checking out, since that partnership has become a fairly significant aspect of the Marvel U.

I forgot to ever comment on this one before, but I suspect the star effect comes from a toothbrush dipped in ink and flecked (izzat a word?) so that the ink drops spray across the page.

Just me being geeky.

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