Monthly Archives: April 2007

Top Ten Spider-Man Covers of the 1970s

So often when we see covers of old comics reprinted in books or shown on websites, it’s as a supplemental illustration in support of text about that particular issue’s contents. So the covers we see most often as fans are of the issues in which something significant happened, such as the death of a character or first appearance of a villain, whether or not the cover itself was particularly good.

But what about the everyday comic book cover? Here are what I consider the best Spider-Man covers from the 1970s, regardless of how minor the villain or insignificant the story inside. Though Spider-Man’s flagship title was joined in March 1972 by Marvel Team-Up, in which Spidey was paired with different Marvel character each month, and a second solo title, Peter Park, the Spectacular Spider-Man, the best covers of the decade uniformly appeared on Amazing Spider-Man so the present selection represents not just one character but a single title from 1970 through 1979.

In order of publication then:

1. In terms of composition, the best images of Spidey — inside or outside the issue — take advantage of his wall-crawling abilities to play with perspective, as represented by Amazing Spider-Man #90 (November 1970), by Gil Kane and John Romita:

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2. Amazing Spider-Man #98 (July 1971), by Gil Kane:

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3. Amazing Spider-Man #142 (March 1975), by John Romita:

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4. In terms of pure draftsmanship I think this is one of the best images of Spider-Man in the decade; it’s astonishing how many bad covers of Spidey there are. Amazing Spider-Man #145 (June 1975), by Gil Kane:

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5. This is the closest of my picks to an “event” issue, being the first appearance of Spider-Man’s clone, but I think the image of Spidey being confronting by his doppelganger is alone strong enough to make this a good cover, though it’s not the best of this selection. Amazing Spider-Man #149 (October 1975), by Gil Kane:

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6. This is probably one of the best-known images of Spidey, and still one of my favorite covers. For some reason he always looks good in and around water! Amazing Spider-Man #151 (December 1975), by John Romita:

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7. Another classic Romita image of Spidey vs. Doc Ock. Amazing Spider-Man #157 (June 1976), by John Romita:

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8. Using the hospital window as a natural comic book panel, this cover is not only a microcosm of the medium but it also illustrates the essential Peter Parker dilemma, making it an ideal representation of the words “Spider-Man Monthly Comic.” Amazing Spider-Man #178 (March 1978), by Ross Andru:

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9. I’m a sucker for stylized depictions of well-known costumes, which in this case makes up for what the cover lacks in other areas. Amazing Spider-Man #188 (January 1979), by Dave Cockrum:

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10. I just love the way Spidey frames this image with his body, and the lighting (or is it a shadow?) on his back. Amazing Spider-Man #189 (February 1979), by John Byrne:

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Conclusions? If nothing else, 1975 was a great year for covers with four entries from that year alone.

So who was the king of Spidey covers in the seventies? Gil Kane and John Romita are represented by three covers each, with a seventh credited to both artists. Assuming Amazing Spider-Man #90 was penciled by Kane and inked by Romita, I’d say that gives the edge to Kane.

But does the combined virtuosity of #151 and #157 ultimately outstrip the technical mastery of Kane’s #98 and #145?

Next on Spider-Man Week: Top Ten Covers of the Eighties!

Next week is Spider-Man Week

So get ready for a return to some actual comics content on the blog — beginning with
the Top Ten Spidey Covers of the 1970s! Then maybe the 80s, 90s, 00s, and anything else I may have up my sleeve like a mechanical webshooter!

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Tom DeFalco (words) & Ron Frenz (art), Amazing Spider-Man #259 (December 1984)

Sincerest Flattery

Though the story inside was illustrated by Curt Swan, the cover of Superman #403 was drawn by Eduardo Barreto and bears a date of January 1985:

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I’ve had that issue of Superman since I was four years old, but I only just came across the cover of Spectacular Spider-Man #99, illustrated by Al Milgrom, cover date February 1985:

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Face it, Tiger: Spider-Man 4 just hit the jackpot

Sam Raimi told SHH he would “absolutely” return for a fourth Spider-Man film. Unless I’m forgetting someone, I guess that would make Raimi tied with Lucas and Spielberg for directing four films in a single franchise, though there were 22 years between the former’s first and second, and 19 years between the latter’s third and fourth.

Unfortunately, Kirsten Dunst also said she would do it if Raimi and Tobey Maguire both return, which means she is not killed by Sandman OR Harry Osborne OR Venom! C’mon villains, how lame can you be? Maybe if you tried teaming up — or least coordinated your attacks so that one of you kept Spider-Man occupied while another one got MJ — you could finally accomplish something for a change and make your property damage worth everyone’s while!

ELEPHANT (2003)

In a dark coincidence last weekend I watched Gus Van Sant’s fictionalization of a Columbinesque school shooting, two days before the Virginia Tech shooting.

I haven’t heard an “official” explanation of the title from the director, but I assume it’s a reference to the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant because the movie is a compilation of several points of view of a single event. Furthermore, each of the individual POVs is more or less “blind” to the nature of the threat amongst them.

A particular student may witness a clue to the coming event — the girl who asks the shooter-to-be why he is taking notes in the cafeteria — but out of the context of the rest of the shooter’s experiences (being bullied, interest in Hitler, obsession with guns) it isn’t sufficient to anticipate much less pre-empt the shooting. Even as viewers it takes a while to be able to piece together what is happening, and even that is possible only because we’re in a position to integrate information gleaned from the various POVs.

The title also might be a reference to “the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about”, perhaps alluding to the alienation of these students that no one seems to acknowledge or, depending on the politics of the viewer, to video games or simply to gun control. Thus the title itself is an “Elephant” subject to being interpreted in a variety of ways.

Despite some of its “documentary” style trappings, I found Elephant extremely surreal rather than realistic, especially given the calmness with which the students walk through the school halls even during the shooting. No one screams, as if in disbelief that they would actually be shot.

Only one student comprehends what is about to happen and runs around the campus shouting to passersby not to enter the school, but his warnings are ignored by most. Rather than a docudrama of an actual shooting incident, Van Sant’s film metaphorically depicts the ennui of affluence that breeds denial, as Victor Davis Hanson described last week in reference to other current events:

the new religion of the post-Westerner is neither the Enlightenment nor Christianity, but the gospel of the Path of Least Resistance — one that must lead inevitably to gratification rather than sacrifice.

Once one understands this new creed, then all the surreal present at last makes sense: life in the contemporary West is so good, so free, so undemanding, that we will pay, say, and suffer almost anything to enjoy its uninterrupted continuance — and accordingly avoid almost any principled act that might endanger it.

Near the end of Elephant, as the shooter threatens a teacher, even an athlete approaches the gunman slowly from behind like a zombie, without attempting any kind of counteraction, and is promptly shot.

As we are reminded by Virginia, however, when such shootings occur in real life there are still those who risk their lives — and often lose them — for others’ sake, such as 77-year-old Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu, a Professor at Virginia Tech who was killed while blocking a door to enable his students to escape. (HT to Matt for both links.)

Putting the Ed in Incredible

Marvel’s do-over of Ang Lee’s Hulk just went from lame to unlame in 6.2 seconds.

I’m really surprised by the news but instantly enthusiastic about the casting of Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, which apparently will not be a remake of the origin story as previously believed, but will begin “with Banner on the run” trying to cure his condition. It will be directed by Louis Leterrier, the director of both Transporter movies as well as the underrated Unleashed, which is itself a version of the Hulk story.

East of Eden

It sounds like Scott Derrickson is off the Paradise Lost project, since according to HNR he’s now working on the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Needless to say, this could be a good thing, if PL gets a better director, or a bad thing if it gets a worse one.

SUNSHINE

The months are flying by, it’s already April… can we just call it a year and give Danny Boyle every possible March 2008 award? Might as well get it over with.

Sunshine is a Jules Vernean voyage extraodinaire for the 21st century, a space adventure, a meditation on light and optics and color. It is simply a gorgeous film.

In some ways it made up for what I was hoping The Fountain would partially be. Aronofsky’s film was very “zen” and depicted contact with a star as a basically passive affair, but Boyle’s expresses the intensity — physical and spiritual — of such an unfathomable experience.

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Ever since reading Out of the Silent Planet I have wondered whether it would be possible to make a film about “space” that portrays it as a positive conception rather than a negative one, but it always seemed visually impossible to me. But I believe Danny Boyle has actually succeeded in capturing something like what Lewis described when his protagonist is en route to Mars:

But Ransom, as time wore on, became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart. A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind by the mythology that follows in the wake of science, was falling off him.

He had read of ‘Space’: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now — now that the very name ‘Space’ seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam.

He could not call it ‘dead’; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren; he saw now that it was the womb of all worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes — and here, with how many more! No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens.

For me, Sunshine was a glimpse into what such a transcendent experience might be like — though Boyle does not portray it as necessarily having positive results.

But I should probably say Sunshine might not be for everyone: I bumped into one of my friends at the theater who is doing an MA in Science Fiction, and he hated the film. He said it was terrible science. I observed as soon as you say “reigniting the sun” in the premise, plausibility becomes a non-issue.

He seemed to be saying Boyle had failed to achieve his stated intention, in the director’s Q&A following the screening, to take the movie in the direction of “hardcore” sci-fi, with more NASA in it than Star Wars. But in fairness to the director, the three primary influences for Sunshine he cited were Tarkovsky’s Solyaris, 2001, and Alien, which I think is an accurate representation of the various aspects of the film.

I haven’t read a word of print about the movie, so I don’t know if critics are hating it or loving it, but let me go out on a limb and declare Sunshine one of the best five “space” movies, full stop.

Jamie Foxx Aborts Career of Unfunny Comic

This has nothing to do with anything, but it’s too funny not to share with everyone (yes, I believe everyone reads this blog). Browsing YouTube I stumbled on this clip from a four-year-old roast of Emmitt Smith hosted by Shaquillie O’Neal.

When unknown comedian Doug Willams (later called Doug Christie by Foxx) starts off with a tired routine about Shaq’s toe, host Jamie responds with mock laughter off camera. Then it becomes funny… because it’s true! (audio NSFW)

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