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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 246: Generation X #17

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Generation X #17, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1996. Enjoy!

The Death That Walks Like A Man!

Man, remember when comics didn’t take themselves so seriously? I know this came out at the height of NINETIES X-TREEEEEEEM action, but Gen. X was a book that often poked fun at itself and the conventions of the genre, as we see from this delightful first page. Chris Bachalo doesn’t have too much to do, but he does give us a nice 4 x 3 grid so he can fit in a lot of Mr. Stanley Lieber (73 years old at the time, and looking spry!). At this point in his development, Bachalo tended to draw heads a bit out of proportion to bodies, and we can see that with Lee, who’s not grossly out of whack, but slightly. Bachalo remembers to put the “17″ on his hat (it’s the 17th issue), and he does a nice job with Lee’s body language even though you’ll notice his mouth never changes from that shit-eating grin Bachalo draws (if I were Stan Lee, I’d have a shit-eating grin on my face all the time, too – dude has had a good life). Lee directs us across the rows, and Bachalo uses the fourth-wall breaking well – Lee still remains aware that he’s in a comic book and that there are panel borders. He gives us a good visual representation of Angelo’s and Jonothon’s powers, and while the X-Cutioner (shouldn’t there be an extra syllable where the hyphen is?) is kind of goofy-looking, Bachalo tries to make him menacing, with the slanted eyebrows, the baleful stare, and the beak. It’s hard to do, but he almost pulls it off.

Scott Lobdell gets a lot of grief, but to me he’ll always be a decent writer who shows flashes of greatness, and I enjoy his run on Generation X. He’s much sillier on this title than he was on Uncanny X-Men (even though he did delve into some serious topics on this comic), and we see that with this page. It’s basically a teaser for the issue, and while we might think it’s a waste of space, consider that today Marvel would put this kind of information in a boring text block on the first page. This is much more fun. Lobdell introduces Lee, who promotes the issue and introduces our three principals. Lobdell tells us that Angelo has stretchable skin, Jonothon is a “living furnace,” and the X-Cutioner … well, we don’t know what he does, but look at his name, people! Lobdell is channeling Lee, of course, but he does it pretty well, and it makes getting into the issue a lot of fun, rather than just reading a few lines of text.

The two unsung stars of the page are Richard Starkings and Steve Buccellato (Mark Buckingham inked this, but I don’t have much to say about the inking). Starkings and Comicraft really go all out to make the lettering stand out, from the circus-like feel of “Greatest Show In All Of Comicdom!” to the personalized “Stan Lee” signature in the first row, from the bubbly font on Angelo’s panel to the crackling font on Jonothon’s. Starkings switches sizes and emphasis easily and logically, too, not like many of today’s comics, where words are stressed for seemingly no reason. “Marvelous” should be bigger than everything in that word balloon – not only is it the hyperbolic descriptor, it connects back to the company publishing this comic. We can almost hear Lee building up to the “Death That Walks Like A Man” line, which is why it’s larger and heavier than the others in that word balloon. Meanwhile, Buccellato does a wonderful job. The obnoxious striped curtain and background never let us forget the carnival atmosphere that Lobdell and Bachalo are trying to create on this page. Buccellato also colors Stan teal and yellow, an unusual combination that nevertheless highlights his carnival barker persona and also sets him apart from the background. I don’t know if Buccellato or Starkings colored the lettering, but the purple in Angelo’s lettering and the red and orange in Jonothon’s are very well done. Buccellato and Starkings may have still been sharing office space at this time, so presumably they collaborated on the “effects.” Buccellato was a pioneer of digital coloring (I think he was no longer affiliated with Electric Crayon at this time, but I’m not sure), and we see that in Jonothon’s “furnace” effect, which makes him look a bit scarier than if it had been colored the traditional way.

This is actually a fairly serious comic, but Lobdell never lets it become too gloomy, and it’s a nice balance. We see that on this page, with Lee being a huckster but the final two panels kind of preparing us for something darker. If you picked this up cold, I think this first page is a fine lure to turn the page. I mean, who doesn’t want to read a “super-sensational 17th-issue spectacular”?

I’ve gotten a few neat suggestions for October, during which I will feature comics that the readers want! Remember, e-mail me at gregorymburgas@gmail.com with the comics you’d like to see. You can do it, readers!

Next: Hey, I’m quoted on the back of this comic! That’s pretty keen, I tells ya. I don’t think I’m quoted on any other comics in the archives, but you can still check them out!

5 Comments

For a while in my teen years Generation X was my favorite comic. Although his writing on other titles wasn’t great, Lobdell seemed really good at indulging and playing off Bachalo’s more whimsical turns. I think their work together is the best stuff either has ever done.

I loved the Lobdell Generation X. It was much better than what Larry Hama followed up with and pretty much drove it into the ground.

I actually just reread this run recently. This was Bachalo’s first issue back, and I think Buckingham left the book by #22 or something, when the art went downhill. But those few issues from like 17-21 had truly fantastic art, a high point that I would stand up against anyone else’s best stuff. Bachalo/Buckingham are, to me, one of the greatest ever penciler/inker duos, and I’ve never thought either of them looks quite right without the other. They truly brought out the best in one another’s work. And their layouts were really all over the place in these issues, in a good way. It was almost J.H. Williams before J. H. WIlliams.

I’ve never understood the hate for Lobdell – was Onslaught really THAT bad? I thought it was a bit under underwhelming but, jeez the guy gets almost as much hate as Chuck Austen when it comes to X-Men writers.

Anyways, I always liked Lobdell’s Uncanny, but Gen X will always be my fave series from him, and this issue was definetely a lot of fun. The X-Cutioner could be a great villain if written right, and and Lobdell shows that here (plus in his original appearance in UXM Annual 17, drawn by the awesome Jason Pearson – X-Cutioner tends to get drawn by some phenominal cartoony artists I’ve noticed lol).

Brubaker and Fraction actually refer to him as Butt-Plug in a couple of interviews, which is just another reason I don’t like them; you know they didn’t read this period of X-Men books (I think Brubaker is actually proud of the fact that he stopped reading when Paul Smith left), and then they try to pass judgement on the quality of those books. Plus it it doesn’t help that their UXM runs were also mediocre at best lol

Onslaught was pretty horrible, but I for one don’t blame Lobdell. I was a fan of his UXM run and I thought the lead up to Onslaught was great while it was contained in the X titles. It’s when it became a company-wide mega event that everything fell apart. It got too big and messy and Onslaught was made overpowered, with no real motivation. There’s no one to blame but editoral for that one.

I still haven’t gotten over how the guy with, at that point, the combined powers of Xavier, Magneto, Nate Gray, AND Franklin Richards decided the best course of action was to fistfight the Hulk.

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