May 30, 2008

Marvel Tales #83 [1977]

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Some odd splitting of the Spider-Man reprints fronting the book around this time gave them a hole to plug in the 5-page "Goodbye to Linda Brown" story from STRANGE TALES #97 [1962]. Marvel not being known for it's subtlety at the time, they replace the blurb on the splash page with one pointing out that the kindly older couple in this story are "Uncle Ben" and "Aunt May", appearing two months before a more famous couple by that name in AMAZING FANTASY #15. The resemblance is slight, but amusing.

Other than that coincidence, the story is a slight one. A couple share their seaside home with their wheelchair bound niece, Linda Brown, with some hints of a mysterious past. It turns out she inherited some sort of sleep-walking, or in her case rolling, trait from them, and one night rolls out to the sea, and it turns out she's a mermaid. Yeah, I don't quite get it either. It doesn't even have the strong visual hook that redeem some of the more silly of these stories, although the scene with Linda rising out of bed in her sleep is nicely done.


May 27, 2008

Marvel Tales #100 [1979]

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As a backup to this landmark issue, there's a reprint of the full 9-page "The Secrets of Spider-Man" feature from THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 [1964]. A remarkable little showcase for Ditko's art and design. The first page presents a classic half-and-half Peter/Spidey image, showcasing Peter in the lab. Next is a quick recap of the origin, and then the page shown here, which is a brilliant design, a great showcase for the unique costume and the peculiar body language that defined Spider-Man and has been copied so often since.

We also get a page with some details on the web-shooters, Spidey's strength (with Thor, the Hulk and the Thing looking on as he lifts some weights, clearly unimpressed ), wall crawling, acrobatic abilities and the use of his webbing (using the Fantastic Four as examples for the comparison. Gotta get in that universe building cross-referencing).

But what about his spider sense, you ask? That gets a feature, too, as vaguely defined as it is. We also get an explanation of how when they show the radiating lines for the spider sense, or show Peter with a half-Spidey face, that's just dramatic license. Turns out the other characters don't actually see them. Who knew. Of course, the half-Spidey face is a genius bit of dramatic license. Is there any example of it being used before Spider-Man? Or, for that matter, being used effectively for any character but Spider-Man? It really does need that intricate full-face mask to work.

The final page explains some details about Spidey's mask, and how he can see out of it, and the overall costume, in particular how it's designed to conceal Peter's secret identity.

A remarkable feature, showcasing a lot of the thought that Ditko put into his designs. Certainly it seems very little of it was by accident.



May 26, 2008

Marvel Tales #134 [1981]

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This issue reprints the first Doctor Strange story, the classic 5-page "Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic" from STRANGE TALES #110 [1963]. The story has been a bit on my mind lately, with what Ditko has said about its origins in the recent THE AVENGING MIND.

I'm sure most people reading this are familiar with this oft-reprinted story. A man who is disturbed by mysterious dreams goes to Doctor Strange's Greenwich Village home to enlist the help of the fabled mystic. After a brief astral trip to Asia to consult his teacher, the Ancient One, Strange enters the man's dream, where he finds out the reason for his guilt, but also encounters his long-time foe Nightmare. With his physical body and astral form in danger, Strange calls on the Ancient One to help, which he does with the use of the mysterious eye contained in Doctor Strange's amulet.

This is a classic story, remarkable for how clearly it lays out the vision for the series in only five pages. While Doctor Strange's outfit and face would undergo some tweaking in the issues ahead, the main elements are all here. We also get the Greenwich home (with a few early hints of the design elements which would define it), the Ancient One and his mountainside home, the astral form and a great villain in Nightmare. And the hands, of course, we get some of the Ditko mystic hands.

As near as I can figure, this story (via its 1978 Pocket Books reprint) is probably the first place I laid eyes on Ditko's artwork, some 30 years ago. It's even fresher and more alive now than it was then.

Ditko plots, pencils and inks the 5-page story.



May 18, 2008

--Link-- AVENGING MIND ramblings

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This won't make any sense to anyone else, but I think my comments on Ditko's THE AVENGING MIND don't quite fit within the parameters of this weblog, so they're posted here instead (oddly, yes, a link to them does fit within said parameters...). Comments welcome either here or there.

May 10, 2008

--Link-- Various Ditko stuff

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STRANGE AND STRANGER should be available next month.

Fantagraphics' editor Eric Reynolds has a story called "How I pissed off Steve Ditko", including two postcards from Ditko in the 1990s. Does anyone know if the CBG cover in the story ever ran? It doesn't seem to be on any Ditko checklist I've seen.

Mike Gold has some comments on his interactions with Ditko in reply to that story over on ComicMix.

A short review of Ditko's THE AVENGING MIND over at Jim Hanley's Universe, which also has copies for sale in their New York stores. More details on the publication here.

May 1, 2008

--Link-- AF #15 at LoC official

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More on the donation of the interior artwork to AMAZING FANTASY #15 to the Library of Congress. Matt Raymond looks at the art, and provides some images, at the LoC blog, and the the official press release, with details on how to arrange a viewing (either of digital copies or the actual art, although I'd expect the bar for qualifications to view the actual art will be set rather high), is available here.

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