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“Age of Ulton,” “Agents of SHIELD” & Todd McFarlane Art

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
“Age of Ulton,” “Agents of SHIELD” & Todd McFarlane Art




Continuing where we left off a couple of weeks ago, looking at the original pencil pages from “The Amazing Spider-Man” #298 by Todd McFarlane:

Page Eighteen — In Which a Background Goes Missing

Inker Bob McLeod cross-hatches the background out of site in the fourth panel of this page. It looks to me like he did it to simplify the page, and he was probably right. That’s a busy panel smack dab in the middle of a busy page. Drawing all of that extra information on the page would likely just get lost by the word balloons and the reader’s attention being drawn elsewhere. Plus, this was being published on newsprint. Who knew if such small details would stand up to that process?

Page Nineteen — Inks Define Shadows

I imagine McFarlane wasn’t terribly happy when he saw the final panel of this page in print, where another background goes completely missing.

There’s a lot of detail lost to shadows on this page. Given that the scene was set at night on a dock under emergency lights only, if any, it makes sense that there would be lots of shadowy things. The sides of those crates in the middle of the page go straight black, for example. But the entire background in that same panel gets silhouetted, before getting completely eliminated in the final panel.

That last panel, again, was very busy. Maybe it wasn’t worth adding that much detail to a panel which didn’t need it. Maybe newsprint wouldn’t show it well. Maybe the important part of the story is what Spider-Man is saying, and the rest is superfluous. Maybe.

You’ll notice on this page that McLeod added the dramatic shadows to all of the people around Spider-Man on that last panel. McFarlane didn’t account much for the shadows on this page, save the back of that boom arm he was catching off that crane.

All in all, it’s one of my favorite panels of the issue. It’s moody and atmospheric, well lit and composed. I like the wavy horizontal lines with the bright lights shimmering through. I like the dramatic shadow work. I think it works better without the extra background detail.

Page Twenty — A Face in Shadows

McFarlane was originally going for a more shadowy look to this scene, with a big reveal in the last panel. The next-to-last panel had the bad guy completely in shadows, save for his glasses and part of his chest. I’m betting on McLeod drawing in the rest of the head in that panel. I’m guessing that since his identity wasn’t a big revelation, there was no need to hide his face in that panel, so he got drawn back in.

Page Twenty-One — Adding Tone

McLeod added some old school moire patterns — er, tone that he probably cut off of a sheet of the stuff with an X-Acto knife before painstakingly sticking it to this panel. Interesting effect.

Page Twenty-Two — Hello, Fist of Venom

I only include this page because it’s kind of iconic. No surprises here — the repeated backgrounds are photocopies across the panels.

The one thing McLeod left out was the motion lines from the fist pounding down on the hand. I like the panels better with those lines, but I’m sure they’d be problematic with the newspaper clippings right behind them, which is likely why McLeod didn’t include them.

The margin notes from McFarlane are interesting:

David [Michelinie]: Add headlines in panel two.
[Jim [Salicrup] — David: I don’t know what head should look like in panel

That second one likely explains why panel three is a tight shot in the eyes with everything else in shadows. It helps amp up the creepiness factor, but it’s mostly because McFarlane didn’t know how to draw Brock, if the script even indicated it was Brock.

The original art for this page is up on You can’t zoom in on it, unfortunately, but you can see more margin notes for the letterer in blue pencil. McFarlane’s notes have been erased, likely because they weren’t in blue pencil and were, thus, reproducible.

You can also see that McFarlane did the lettering at the bottom of the page for “Next Issue,” alongside the spider.

There’s slightly more to be gleaned from looking at these pages, but I think it would get monotonous and nit-picky to go any further. If nothing else, at least I got to show you a few panels of unpublished McFarlane art.

All of this is a good reminder of the meat grinder that is producing monthly comic books. Things change constantly, often for good reason, and sometimes for mysterious reasons that we could never fathom, nor could the original creators explain 25 years later.

Nothing is perfect, but the process is a lot of fun.

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