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CSBG Archive

Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 327: Spider-Man #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Spider-Man #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated September 1990. Enjoy!

DOOM!!!!!

I’ve picked on Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man before, but I did buy it, after all, so I guess it’s the case of pointing one finger at him while the other three are pointing back at me! But let’s check out a first page before we heap more scorn on him, shall we?

McFarlane loved using the thin vertical panels in this story, and as I’ve noted before, I really do believe it was because he wanted to mimic the skyscrapers of New York and the giant canyons of the streets between the buildings. He also did this so his splash pages – a double-page one follows this page – more impact, because these claustrophobic panels opened up to expansive pages that were supposed to thrill the reader (and usually did). The only real problem with doing thin panels vertically as opposed to horizontally is the way Americans read – left to right, so horizontal panels fit more in with our perception of the world. That doesn’t mean vertical panels can’t work just as well, but letterer Rick Parker has his work cut out for him on this page.

Poor doomed Stan and Morley don’t give us much information on this page, but McFarlane is basically trying to humanize them as quickly as possible before the Lizard slaughters them, so we get the banter about pulling pranks on the boss and Morley’s penchant for flirting with secretaries and his more unusual tastes. I guess if you’re Stan and you were born in the 1920s (he looks over 60, doesn’t he?), then Bambi’s personal ad seems a bit “sick,” but it sounds pretty tame, if you ask me. Things change! McFarlane’s dialogue in this arc is actually not terrible – it’s not great, but it’s not terrible – and he does what he can making Stan and Morley feel like actual characters before they meet their untimely end on the next page. (McFarlane’s writing problems throughout his run on the book was in the third-person narration, not necessarily in the dialogue.) During this arc, McFarlane proved that he had been reading Walt Simonson’s Thor a bit too much, as you’ll notice the “Doom” at the bottom of each panel, getting louder as the two men’s actual doom comes closer. The repetition of the “doom” is one of the many over-the-top conceits that McFarlane really beat into the ground during this arc.

McFarlane is, of course, primarily an artist (even though he only writes these days), and while this page isn’t as dynamic as he can be, he does some interesting things with it. In Panel 1, he emphasizes the entire canyon motif with the skyscraper rising in the center of the panel even as two buildings rise on either side of the panel. Notice that in Panels 2 and 5, the perspective is from up above. This does two things: reinforces this idea of the city looming high over its inhabitants, and the view downward, coupled with the vertical panels, makes this far more effective than if McFarlane had used the same perspective with horizontal panels; and as the Lizard attacks from above, it foreshadows his arrival on the scene – Panels 2 and 5 can almost be imagined as us seeing the scene from his point of view. Notice, too, that in Panel 4, McFarlane puts the front page of the Bugle where we can read “Killing” and even see part of the bloody graffiti that Curt Connors leaves at the scene, implicating himself. Yes, it’s subtlety from Todd McFarlane!

Obviously, some of the tics we know McFarlane has – giant, inch-worm-esque eyebrows, for one – are evident here, but overall, this page does what it’s supposed to do – get us into the story and build tension for the page turn. There’s a lot wrong with “Torment” (the name of this arc), but McFarlane does some things right. This is a pretty good first page, so there’s that!

(By the way, I will give you one shiny gold doubloon if you can tell me what the remainder of Bambi’s ad says without looking it up. If you’ve ever read this comic, the phrase will be burned on your brain, I reckon!)

(Note: I have no doubloons. Sorry!)

Next: You know it’s the best mutant book ever. YOU KNOW IT IS!!!!! But you can always find other, far worse mutant books in the archives!

14 Comments

I only read the last word balloon on the posted page, never read the comic, and I still know it has to be RISE ABOVE IT ALL!!!

Cass: OF COURSE IT IS!!!!!

“Rise above it all” !! :)

If only McFarlane had arranged some lines in those panels to spell out “Hey, look, a Walt Simonson rip-off!”

Rise Above It All!

Sorry, I know Cass and Tony already said that. But I’m pretty sure I’ve made a Rise Above It All! comment on every post dealing with McFarlane’s Spiderman. I’d hate to break the streak.

Greg, can I tell you a story? This seems like an apt time to share.

I got properly into comics about four years ago, and I found CSBG while poking around on the web for ideas for stuff that was worth reading. I found the 2008 greatest runs list, which was great. Then I noticed that the blog had a tag called ‘comics you should own’. Given that I was actively looking for recommendations, naturally I clicked through and browsed the archives. One that caught my eye was an article on ‘Spider-Man: Torment’. I hadn’t heard of it, but Spider-Man was my favourite super-hero as a kid. Again, naturally, I clicked through.

I skimmed the opening of the article, which described the Torment storyline as possibly “the greatest Spider-Man story” and also as “the greatest story in the history of comics”. I decided not to read any further, fearing spoilers, but I made a mental note of ‘Torment’ as a comic story of some serious critical reputation, and one worth seeking out.

A short while later, I stopped into my local chain bookstore on a whim, wanting to get a trade or graphic novel to read. They didn’t have much of a selection, but they DID have a Marvel hardcover edition of ‘Torment’. I knew I’d got the idea from somewhere that ‘Torment’ was a great and important comic, so I decided to buy it.

I hadn’t read all that many comics at this point, so I didn’t have much point of reference, but I became increasingly confused as I read through ‘Torment’. It didn’t seem all that good. I found it hard to imagine what the big deal was. I assumed it was one of those you-had-to-be-there things, that it had historical importance that I couldn’t appreciate. Upon finishing it, I remembered where I had got the idea that it was supposed to be good in the first place, and tracked down your article, hoping to get some idea of what I was missing.

I read it.

I noticed the publication date.

I got it.

Thanks, Greg. I have never re-read ‘Torment’, but it still sits on my shelf, a symbolic reminder of… something.

fontanelle: Aw, hell, I’m sorry about that. I had a lot of fun writing that, and I didn’t think someone wouldn’t actually read through to the end and discover that I “revealed” all at the end. I really hope it didn’t cost you too much. Dang, I suck.

I’m sorry, but that’s pretty damn funny. Not to be mean or anything. And it’s totally understandable why fontanelle thought the way he did. But I do love that, however briefly, someone was under the impression that “Torment” was an important comic.

And at least it all made for a good story. Fontanelle’s experience, that is, not “Torment” itself. That made for a crappy story.

Where is this article of which you speak?

Terrible-d: It’s right here. It was an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke. It was quite fun to write, and I’m glad I had some people going. I just feel bad that fontanelle didn’t finish it, because I do give it away at the end!

I gotta see if I can find Torment in singles. I’m sure #1 has to be easy to find.

In singles, I can get it for pretty damn cheap, and it’s good for a laugh.

Poor fontanelle. But that’s an awesome story.

Actually, I’m glad that fontanelle doesn’t hate you. I guess fontanelle was able to

RISE ABOVE IT ALL!!!!

Travis: Well played, sir.

I actually own the single issue of part 4 or 5… the only thing that sticks in my memory is that they printed a letter with words to the effect of “Todd, as a writer you make a great artist.”

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