Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade: the 1970s! Today’s page is from Jungle Action #8 and was published by Marvel and is cover dated January 1974. This scan is from Marvel Masterworks: The Black Panther volume 1, which was published in 2010. Enjoy!
Don McGregor’s run on Jungle Action (featuring Black Panther) is a pretty good comic, fully worthy of the “Masterworks” treatment, and this is early in the run, when he’s fighting a dude named, I kid you not, Killmonger (Erik Killmonger, to be exact, of the Leicester Killmongers, valets of English kings!). Rick Buckler was still drawing the book at this time (Billy Graham would soon take over), and if you’re a comics historian worth his (or her) salt, you can detect the jagged inks of Klaus Janson in this splash page. What you might not notice is the distinctive lettering style of Tom Orzechowski, but that’s his work, and Glynis Wein provides the colors, although Michael Kelleher is credited with “color reconstruction,” so I’m not sure how much this differs from the original.
It’s a nice splash page, full of information that we need to move forward. That’s the Black Panther, he’s standing in the “Wakandan dusk,” his father is dead, a bunch of dudes are about to attack him, he’s aware that someone else is in the “thicket.” That’s not bad for a splash page, especially when McGregor manages to set the mood very well, too, purpling up his prose with stuff like the “crimson … dusk,” the “ebony mural of tension,” the shadows of “distorted shapes,” the “ominous arms” in the “deceptive underbrush,” the “bleeding moonlight,” and a figure that “prowls” through the “blood-stained twilight” – this is in the grand tradition of Stan Lee and the Marvel 2.0 founders, who never met florid writing they didn’t like. It’s effective, though, even though Buckler does, probably, a good enough job to set the mood without McGregor’s writing. Still, it’s effective.
Buckler’s pencils and Janson’s inks are very good, too. The Zip-A-Toned sky and the indistinct moon give the scene a lurid, exotic feel, which isn’t bad considering we’re in Wakanda, a country in the Darkest Heart of Africa!!!!!! The jungle frames Black Panther well, funneling our eyes toward him, but also giving the shapes coming out of the thicket some cover. The way Buckler doesn’t draw the entire bodies of his foes emerging from the inky blackness is quite nice, too. The giant knife helps frame Black Panther as well, and the line of the bad guy’s arm leads us to the next page. We probably miss the staff off to the right of the panel, which appears to be a vine heading toward the ground. On the next page (a marvelous two-page spread) we see that it’s probably the staff held by the other figure that Black Panther is aware of, although I suppose it could be a vine. I’d like to think Buckler put it in there explicitly as the figure’s staff.
What’s fascinating about this page in the collection is that it’s on the right side of the book, with the cover on the left side. On that cover, Buckler is inked by Frank Giacoia, who was almost 50 when he did the cover, and it’s amazing how old-fashioned it looks. If we contrast it with the inks of the 21-year-old Janson, the difference is amazing. Buckler’s pencil work with Janson’s rigid, frantic inks looks fairly modern even 40 years later, while the cover looks extremely outdated. Inking: so influential!
This is the famous run that includes Black Panther tied to a burning cross by the “Klan,” but the rest of the run is pretty darned good, too. Nice splash pages like this one help make it so!
Someone in the comments reminded me about this comic, which I had forgotten I owned. So thank Third Man for tomorrow’s entry! You can find his comment in the archives, if you know where to look!