Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Marc Silvestri, and the issue is Web of Spider-Man #22, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated January 1987. Enjoy!
By 1986, you could begin to see the style that Marc Silvestri would perfect on Uncanny X-Men. Web of Spider-Man #22, which I randomly got years ago for my late, lamented Into the Back Issue Box series (I’d love to revive it, but man! I don’t have a lot of time anymore!), happens to feature Silvestri’s art after he began drawing in the style that he would stick to for pretty much the rest of his career, but before it became as stylistic as it later would. So let’s get to it!
The humorous thing about this issue is that there are no credits in it. It’s obviously Silvestri, but I’m going to have to trust the Grand Comics Database when they tell me that Art Nichols inked this and Bob Sharen colored it. We’ll see better examples of Joy Mercado and her “Silvestrization” below, but for now, we can see some of the tics that Silvestri would develop more fully in the next 5-6 years. Obviously, he and Nichols are using a good amount of hatching, but that’s not too unusual for this time period. Silvestri is still quite good at laying out a page – he points the car to the right in Panel 1; has Peter taking a picture toward the reader in Panel 2, which draws us into the scene well; he has the bad guys on the left in Panel 3, looking toward the car; he mimics Panel 2 in Panel 4, as Joy and Peter are in the same position, but this time Peter’s spider-sense is going off; the bottom row pushes us from left to right quite well, as even the arc of the Molotov cocktail seems to carry over the middle panel. It’s very nice work. Notice that Sharen colors the bad guys red in Panel 3. This comic came out in what seems like a transitional period, when a lot of comics, especially Marvel ones, were printed on, it seems, slightly different paper, and it also seems that colorists were trying to use different ways to work. The colors seemed to be “on-register” more often, and we got stuff like the solids of the sky or the bottom of Peter’s shoe in Panel 6, where we can see the tiny pixels or whatever they are (see below). I wasn’t buying comics in 1986, but I own quite a few of them from this time period, and it seems like this kind of coloring took over for a while. Is it early digital attempts that got straightened out as the technology got better? Is it a different paper stock? I don’t know, but it’s a weird time in Marvel comics. I can think of several examples from the House that Stan and Jack Built, but not as many from the Stodgy Old Grumpus down the street. And I won’t dig through my back issues to find them!
It’s only one panel, but I wanted to show it because of the background. Silvestri draws the wreckage of the building, uses really nice spot blacks to create a more depressing space, and then someone – Nichols or Sharen? – erases a lot of the holding lines so that it looks more ancient, decrepit, and jumbled. This kind of attention to detail is why I love looking at comics art. I mean, who’s really going to care if the lines Silvestri drew are still there, right? Yet by getting rid of quite a lot of them, the bombed-out building looks even sadder, which helps with the overall tone of the comic (which takes place in Belfast, and yes, a Spider-Man comic isn’t the best place to address the mess of Northern Ireland in the 1980s, but kudos to Len Kaminski for trying!).
Ah, the “Silvestri Face.” To know it is to love it! In the first panel, we see a pretty good proto-example of it – Joy has the almost pointed chin, the thin eyes and eyebrows, and the full lips that would characterize Silvestri females for the next 25 years. He likes showing women from the right side, too – it’s not excessive because he does fulfill the tenets of storytelling, but we can tell that he thinks of that as the “good” side from which to show women. The high forehead and the strong jaw running all the way back to the ear are also highlights of the “Silvestri face.” In the second example, we can see Joy’s hair a bit better, and while I get that it was 1986 when this was drawn, that’s “Silvestri hair,” for better or worse, for the next two decades. He gives Joy very short bangs spraying over her forehead, then combs the rest of it back in a wave to create that mullet-like style. Silvestri would alter this slightly in the next years, occasionally giving his women a part or longer bangs, but basically, that’s the style. I’d like to make it clear that I have no problem with this. Well, the hair is a bit silly, but I love Silvestri’s female faces. It’s just that he never alters them. NEVER!
Peter finally changes into Spider-Man and kicks butt, and Silvestri, as we’ve already seen, knows what to do when it comes to action. Silvestri’s figures are quite fluid – he draws a lithe yet powerful Spider-Man, and he does a good job with keeping the action clean and clear, leading us through the fight quite well. We get some nice touches on the page – the sunlight streaming through the window in Panel 1 is a good combination of line work and coloring, and the detail in the laboratory is well done. Even in the fight scene, the poses of the bad guy firing the rifle in Panel 6 is “Silvestrian” – we see poses like that a lot when he draws Uncanny X-Men (although I’m not sure if it’s any of the examples I’ll show from that run). It’s interesting to see it slowly coming together for Silvestri as he matures.
For the climax of the book, we get a bit more of the Silvestri tics we’ll become familiar with as we move forward. In Panel 2, we see Joy with those boots. Silvestri must have liked boots, because so many of his female characters wear them in the immediate years to come. In Panels 3 and 4, we get more of the “Silvestri face.” The page does work quite well, as Silvestri, as we’ve seen, has no problem with laying out a page and getting us around that page – some of it, like the guy about to shoot Joy in Panel 3 before getting shot himself in Panel 4, is somewhat clichéd, but it’s a mid-level Marvel comic from 1986 – what are you going to do? Once again, the little details are nicely done, as either Silvestri or Nichols blacks out the bricks in Panel 6 where Joy’s shadow falls across them. Even the buildings behind the scene, as sketchy as they are, are good enough to give this a solid sense of place. That’s always nice.
Someone must have decided that Silvestri was a superstar, because very soon after this, he was on Uncanny X-Men, and his legend was born! Obviously, I have to show some of his X-Men work, but since he drew the very best X-Men Era EVAH (the Outback Era, yo!), it’s hard for me to figure out which issue to show! I think I’ve figured it out, though, so you’ll just have to come back tomorrow to see what’s what! Check out some more X-Men comics in the archives!
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