Wednesday, August 19, 2009

1 Rm Rv Vu Hi Ceils

Jim Shooter is supposed to famously (although probably anecdotally) have ordered Marvel pencillers to make certain that the splash page of each Marvel comic contained 1) the title hero(es) 2) in action 3) using their powers. I'm glad that story's just a made-up slur about Shooter (honestly, I liked his tenure at EIC of MC), because although an action-packed splash-page is an immediate adrenaline rush that pulls you into the story, sometimes a quieter, more mundane tho' still quirky full-page moment when you open the cover is just what the doctor ordered. In fact, it's pretty much the Marvel Age summed up in its very first page: their heroes are just like you and me—rushing to a high school physics test, arguing with your best friend's brother-in-law who set fire to your bed, or, say, just off the top of my head, fine-tune-adjusting your television antenna. Not that these things look anything like they do when you 'n' me 'n' the boys next door do them, oh no sirree. Even in their quietest or most ordinary moments, the Marvel heroes do things...shall we say...larger than life. Take this, f'r example:

Splash page of Giant-Man story in Tales to Astonish #66 (April 1965), by Stan Lee and Bob Powell
Splash page from Giant-Man story in Tales to Astonish #66, scripted by Stan Lee, pencilled by Bob Powell, inked by Frank "Frankie Ray" Giacoia, colors by Stan Goldberg, letters by Ray "Sherigail" Holloway

Click picture to Pym-particle-size

Check out the fine details: the architectural gargoyles; the Chrysler Building in the background, Hank's office chair, his super-computer with EIGHT, count 'em, EIGHT KILOBYTES of memory, his ash tray and speed-caulker. Not to mention the window in the next building where a vandal has scrawled the names of some miscreants all over the shades. More seriously, the way the window's in Hank Pym's building almost work, in a semi-Eisnerian way, as individual comics panels. No coincidence there: penciller Bob Powell worked from Will Eisner's scripts on, and later wrote, the "Mr. Mystic" comic strips in The Spirit Section.

So there you have it: Giant-Man isn't smashing commies or racing ants to a disaster; he's just trying to get better TV reception. Quiet as it is, it's one of my favorite splash pages of all time. We do not see the likes of this wonderful sort of splash page anymore, do we. Here's to you, Bob Powellwe salute you.


Michael Jones said...

I also love Powell's work on the Mars Attacks cards!

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, Giant Man IS the main character, he IS using his powers, and fixing the antenna IS an action of sorts. :)

First I heard the legend, though. If Comic Book Legends Revealed hasn't already looked at, someone should bring it up.

Philip G. said...

Did she call him a "goop"? Language!