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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 228: Uncanny X-Men #143

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 Uncanny X-Men #143, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated March 1981. Enjoy!

Man, that's gonna leave a mark

For their final issue together, Claremont and Byrne decided to revisit X-Men #96, in which a demon broke free into our world and only Storm could stop him. In this issue, the co-plotters decide that the gateway between the worlds wasn’t quite closed, and one demon is loose to stalk the Earth. This is the famous “Kitty Pryde as Ripley” issue, with the youngest X-Men alone against the demon. It’s a very good standalone issue from that master of long-term plotting, Chris Claremont.

This first page begins a flashback. This is the Ororo of X-Men #96, fighting against the N’Garai. She’s trying to destroy or otherwise close that cairn in the bottom right of this panel. Claremont explains who she is, what those things are (basically) and what they’re trying to do. That’s pretty handy. I do wonder how many people realized this was a flashback to a comic from almost six years earlier – were people hanging onto comics that long back in 1981? Claremont does let us know on Page 2 that this is a flashback, but I wonder how many people remembered this story if they had been reading X-Men for that long. I’m sure someone is reading this who bought both of these issues right off the newstand can tell me.

Byrne does a nice job with this page. This is a bigger panel than the original, which shows Ororo getting stabbed in the same manner, and although Dave Cockrum is a perfectly fine artist, the original panel is rather small, so Byrne can do a lot more with it. Her cry of pain is across the top of the page, but I’m not really sure that’s where we look first – Claremont’s caption box hovers right above her head, so we see her tossed hair and pained look first. Bryne moves us down her body, where we see the spear exiting her body between her breasts (I’m not going near the symbolism there!), and the spear itself points to her word balloon (her hand does this too, but the spear is more dramatic). We then continue to move down her body, and her legs frame the demons flying toward her. Byrne has a good amount of Kirby Krackle surrounding the weird energy that seems to help the demons levitate, and the crackling border of the energy directs us down to the cairn, letting us know exactly where the demons are coming from. It’s a very nicely designed page, with Storm obviously dominating it but Byrne never forgetting that he has to show other things on the page, too. Ororo is drawn like an actual woman, too, which is always nice.

Glynis Wein is the colorist for this book, and we see the familiar blue and yellow color scheme down at the bottom of the page, as the tree, ground, and the shadowed side of the cairn are colored blue (it’s nighttime), while the rest of the cairn is yellow. The blue also contrasts with the pink of the energy coming from the cairn – pink is a good “energy” color in comics, because it’s slightly bizarre and it also is set off nicely with the darker colors like blue. Terry Austin and Wein turn the demons into very dark creatures, with heavy inks and lots of black. It’s a good contrast to Ororo’s outfit, which is of course mostly black. Austin’s and Wein’s colors on Ororo’s costume make it sleek and sexy, while the blacks on the demons make them look twisted and disfigured. It’s interesting what the inkers/colorists can do with something as basic as black.

Claremont and Byrne had been together on the book for a bit over three years, and many people think neither ever reached the heights they achieved together on this title. Of course, this isn’t the last time they worked together, and we’ll see one more example of this team tomorrow for our last day of Claremont/Byrne “week”! Discover more keen comics in the archives!

10 Comments

Man, if their JLA is next, I will laugh and laugh and laugh.

buttler: Can you think of anything else they’ve worked on since this issue came out? :)

Yeah, I had no idea this was based on actual previous issue for quite a while…it was a tad choppy but otherwise had enough info to move to the actual content of the book, Kitty’s night. Only after picking up some of the earlier Essential X-Men collections I found out about #96.

And while this was more or less a stand-alone issue, Claremont did refer to the damage done here for several issues after this, why leave good stuff to just one issue after all (and was this also the first issue where Kitty kisses Peter?)
Nice first page anyway.

AS: And while this was more or less a stand-alone issue, Claremont did refer to the damage done here for several issues after this, why leave good stuff to just one issue after all (and was this also the first issue where Kitty kisses Peter?)

Yeah, that led to one of the most cringe worthy moments in comics ever, when Kitty could not take even the tiniest bit of good natured banter from her fello team members

I remember this comic when it first came out. Only because I never got to read it. For whatever reason, no Marvel comics dated Feb & Mar ’81 were distributed to British newsagents, skipping from Jan ’81 to Apr ’81. Not only did I miss out, but the cover price went up by 33%, from 15p to 20p. As a 12 year old, I had a meltdown. Also, the wholesalers would never distribute double-sized issues, so I missed out on X-Men 137, 143 & 144.

I was 15 months away from finding my first comic shop, Quality Comics, with it’s direct US imports and back issues. In the basement, Dez Skinn was editing Warrior magazine. When Gary Leach dropped by to hand in Marvelman artwork, he would end up behind the tills. Shame that Dez never persuaded Alan Moore to work behind the counter.

@buttler

I was thinking the same thing. A JLA page would be pretty funny/sad compared to the great stuff we’ve seen so far

Does anyone know why Claremont/Byrne never worked together again after this (well, until JLA)? Is it simply because Byrne wanted to write all of his own stuff, or did they have some sort of falling out?

Kabe: “Yeah, that led to one of the most cringe worthy moments in comics ever, when Kitty could not take even the tiniest bit of good natured banter from her fello team members”

Yeah, she definitely overreacted but I took it to show that she was still fitting rather uncomfortably in the team and was still quite insecure even when the rest of the team was treating her as one of their own…

Also, the wholesalers would never distribute double-sized issues, so I missed out on X-Men 137, 143 & 144.

Interesting you should say this…..

My father worked for WH Smiths inntheir distribution warehouse in Isleworth. And he would bring us home overstocked comics which was how I got into reading Marvel US. A big wodge of that month’s Marvel comics all at once, somewhat random in what we got. Very rarely consecutive issues of the same thing so I got to read odd issues all over the place of a wide variety of titles.

And while everyone said the distributors never sent out double sized issues I know I got at least two (Power Man & Iron Fist 100 and Peter Parker 100) that way.

Just for completists, this is actually not Claremont/Byrne’s last work on X-men, which was in #273 for about 3 pages. That issue was by Claremont but had a grab bag of artists working on it. As swan songs go, it’s safe to say #143 was the more memorable send-off.

@Third Man: My understanding from assorted Byrne interviews is that he often got frustrated when he and Claremont would agree on a plot, he’d supply the art, then Claremont would write script that somehow took things in a different direction than what Byrne wanted. (a conversation between Cyclops and Storm in the Savage Land apparently made Byrne want to throw the comic across the room when he read the published version). Also, he’d sometimes have beefs with CC about characterization, like when CC wrote Snowbird saying something like, “Gotcha, boss” which was way off for the “godly” sort of speech that Byrne imagined when he created her.

So given all that, I’m sure he jumped at a big gig like Fantastic Four which gave him almost full creative control.

I’m curious if Claremont plotted the X-men after this Kitty issue assuming Byrne would still be around. #144 featured Man-Thing and D’Spayre, who were also in the Marvel Team-Up issue discussed a few days ago.

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