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 Marvel Team-Up #70, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated June 1978. As I've done before, I'd like to thank Our Dread Lord and Master, Brian Cronin, for this scan - Brian has somehow figured out how to create a 38-hour day, during which he sleeps for only 77 minutes, which is how he accomplishes so much! Enjoy!
This impressive page gives us the Living Monolith on a rampage, which kind of stinks for all those poor people at the bottom. Of course, considering this was 1970s Marvel, I'm sure absolutely nothing happened to them, but it still sucks to be them.
Claremont gives us two pieces of information on this page - that's the Living Monolith, and he's somehow connected to ancient Egypt. For now, that's all we really need to know. Interestingly enough, in the previous issue, Spider-Man teamed up with Havok, who is closely connected to the Living Monolith, but for some reason, in this issue Spidey is teamed up with Thor. I suppose they wanted to keep the issues as standalone stories, but considering that the previous issue did actually feature the Living Pharoah (who turns into the Living Monolith) AND Thor and this issue apparently has Havok in it, I wonder why Marvel couldn't do a grand, "Spidey teams up with TWO HEROES in a TWO-PART EPIC!!!!!" I mean, I guess it would go against Marvel's long-standing policy of downplaying the stories in their comics, but you'd think they could break out the hyperbole once in a while, right?
It's a pretty impressive splash page by Byrne, as the Monolith smashes through a building and terrifies the people below. We might almost miss the fact that he's clutching Spidey in his right hand, but note that Annette Kawecki puts the word balloons of the Monolith above and below Spider-Man, so it's almost as if there's a big circle around him. The flow of the page is handled nicely by Byrne tilting everything from the left to the right, so our eyes flow naturally down the Monolith's body to the people below. The word balloons form a nice semi-circle around the Monolith, so that we swoop around him, taking in every aspect of his being. The title is in the right place - it doesn't block anything important, and it's also out of the way when we go to turn the page. Byrne's somewhat vertiginous page design also helps heighten the fear - the world is not quite on its head, but it's certainly not "right," and the tilting of the page helps create that feeling.
One thing to notice about the artwork is the inking, which is far heavier than we've seen so far over Byrne's pencils. DeZuniga has a much rougher line when he pencils than Byrne does, so it's not surprising his inks would distort Byrne's pencils so much, but it is interesting. The man on the far right sports a typical "Byrne" face, even though DeZuniga adds some lines that Byrne, presumably, did not (based on what we know about Byrne's pencils). The man in the middle, "John," is very heavily inked, to the point where it almost doesn't look like Byrne's work. At this point, Byrne was penciling X-Men as well as this book (this was his final issue of 12 in a row that he did on this comic), so I wonder if this is more of a layout/finishing situation rather than a pencil/ink situation. I don't know what the rest of the issue looks like, but it's interesting how influential DeZuniga's inks are. The page feels far "heavier" than when Terry Austin, for instance, is inking Byrne. There's a grittiness here that seems to be fairly common among the Filipino artists of the 1970s, of whom DeZuniga was a trailblazer.
Most people know how much influence an inker can have on a penciler's work, but it's interesting to see it so starkly. Byrne is far from a "gritty" artist, so the fact that DeZuniga is able to add so much of it to this page makes it clear how much an inker can change the tone of the artwork. It's pretty fascinating.
Well, we've seen one X-Men page this week, and it's time to dive back into the famed Claremont/Byrne run for the next few days. Can you handle it? If you can't, feel free to take solace in the archives!