Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Chris Claremont and John Byrne! Today’s page is from X-Men #108, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated December 1977. This scan is from Marvel Masterworks volume 12: The X-Men, which was published in 1990. Enjoy!
This is the first Claremont/Byrne X-Men issue, beginning a collaboration that would last for over 30 issues and produce some of the best (and best-loved) comics in history. Of course, because it’s a Marvel comic from the 1970s, we jump right into the middle of a story arc, because back then, Marvel tended to rotate in artists higgledy-piggledy just so they could get books out on time. Thank God that era has passed, amirite?
Claremont sets the stage well enough. It’s an old, old world, and for the first time in “uncounted eons,” living beings are walking on its surface. The X-Men and the Starjammers think they have won their fight, but at the end of the previous issue, they were disabused of that notion, and now they’re wondering what’s going to happen next. Banshee speaks for everyone when he wonders what’s happening to the sky – something freaky, I can tell you that much! As this is a Marvel comic from pre-2000 or so, Claremont begins with a big image and will soon (on page 2, to be exact) recap the adventure in four brief panels. That’s why he’s a master wordsmith!
Byrne’s splash page is a bit more complicated than it looks, mainly because he has to get all the characters onto the page. The M’Krann crystal there is the focus of the page, of course, and Bryne and Terry Austin draw it as lightly as they can, making it seem almost non-existent. Austin (probably) added the black dots in the crystal’s light, which are supposed to be stars turned “negative” by the light but which also add a nice dose of minor Kirby Krackle to the page. Then we get the characters. Banshee and Storm frame the characters, as Byrne draws them in almost the same pose and at the same level on the page. Ch’od (the big green fish-like dude on the left) and whatever the heck Nightcrawler is standing on form another pair. Kurt and Peter form and pair, as do Jean and Scott. In the center is Raza, making sure that we as readers understand what it is we’re supposed to be looking at – he’s pointing right at it! It’s a very well-balanced page, and you’ll notice that Byrne forms the lines of sight and the light emanating from the crystal so that, were we to draw them in, we’d get a many-faceted crystal, mirroring the M’Krann crystal at the center of the page. Regardez:
That’s a nicely-designed page, I’ll tell you what.
Byrne continued to work on X-Men, but he and Claremont also collaborated on another comic around this time. We’ll check that out tomorrow! In the interim, feel free to browse through the archives!