Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Michael Golden, and the issues are Bizarre Adventures #25 and Avengers Annual #10, both of which were published by Marvel and are cover dated March and [August] 1981. Enjoy!
By 1980/1981, Golden had evolved a bit more, and he was getting a few higher profile assignments, like drawing the first appearance of Rogue. But that comic came after a previous collaboration with Chris Claremont, in “By Virtue of Blood!” in Bizarre Adventures #25, which came out in January of ’81. It’s very Claremontian, I’ll tell you that much!
Golden’s characters still look “Golden-esque,” but he’s still tinkering with them a little, as in this comic, at least, their faces aren’t quite as rounded off and their eyes aren’t quite as big. Terry Austin is inking this, and Austin’s inks add some crispness to the line work, and I wonder if Golden or Austin added the lushness in Megan’s hair, for instance, or the stippling that makes her sweater fuzzy or the short lines that make Ian’s sweater more cable-y. Golden’s details are impressive, though, as Megan’s room is very precise, while the Tarot cards are richly delineated. No one is credited with grayscales in this comic, so I don’t know if Golden did them himself, but they’re very good. The sky in Panel 1 is wonderfully darkened, and the shading on the Daemon stronghold is also very well done. Check out the smoke from Ian’s cigarette, too, as Golden stops drawing the lines bordering it and turns it into a gouache mix, which is a good representation of what happens to the smoke from a cigarette. It’s pretty nifty.
Megan’s sister, Alisabeth, is some kind of evil witch, and she calls up a demon or something. You know the drill! I love the first row, as Golden slowly lights the scene – we get the eyes and tentacles in Panel 1, but we can’t see them very well, and then, in an inspired move, Golden moves the “eyes,” which makes me think they’re not actually eyes or, even cooler, that they’re on stalks. I’m going with the second explanation (although, you’ll note it looks like those are suckers on the end, which means they’re probably tentacles, but I like my explanation!). He also shows the tentacles a bit more clearly, which is nice. Meanwhile, it appears that he cheats and just draws Alisabeth once, but then uses spot blacks and shading on her to slowly illuminate her. Either way, it’s a cool effect. He keeps the shadows on her neck, which keeps her cheekbones high and sharp, and it’s neat that he lights her eyes in Panel 3 after keeping them hidden in the first two. You’ll notice in Panel 4 that Golden goes fumetti on us, as he just drops a photograph of the Hindenburg into the narrative. It’s probably this one, which I found in this news story, so I assume Golden just Googled “Hindenburg images” and then Photoshopped it into the artwork. Isn’t that how it was done in the early 1980s? We’ll see a bit more of this below, but I wanted to point it out because it fits fairly well into the story, possibly due to it being in black and white. If someone had “Turnerized” it, I doubt if it would have looked as good.
Once again, Golden uses photographs, this time for the inside of the zeppelin, and he drops Megan and Alisabeth in there for good measure. Obviously, blending his drawn lines with the fuzziness of the photograph doesn’t work quite as well, but the black and white still makes it work better than had it been in color. And if you didn’t know this was Claremont, well, that verbiage in the panel should give it away. Sweet fancy Moses, Claremont! We see more good inking and grayscaling in Panel 2, as Alisabeth casts a spell on Megan. The lines flow nicely, and Golden and/or Austin take some creative liberties as her hair fills up the entire panel, but it’s still neat. Plus, the grays add nice tones to the drawing and make Alisabeth look far worse – and tired, I guess – than she would look otherwise.
We get some nice work here, with a lot of cool blacks and nice inking, especially in the first and last panels, where the flames erupt. Golden is still giving his characters slightly larger eyes, but they’re not so large that they don’t “fit” onto the faces. Megan’s eyes are a bit big in Panel 3, but that’s because their wide with fear and sadness. Once again, there’s nice shading on the page, from the darkness around Megan’s eyes in Panel 3 to the gray Panel 5, where Alisabeth opens her eyes. The grays help make Alisabeth look even creepier – part of it is Golden opening her eyes, as in Panel 4 she actually looks a little peaceful, which then becomes creepy in Panel 5. Golden opens her eyes and her mouth, but there’s a little bit more line work, and the grays are nicely done, which completes the transition. When I first saw Panel 6, I thought of Tim Vigil’s Faust, which is not something I would have expected to think. It’s a horrific drawing, as Golden turns Alisabeth into a skeleton and the flames engulf her, and it really drives home the spookiness of the story.
The story ends, in case you didn’t know, with the Hindenburg crashing, which Megan blames on her sister and the demons she tried to summon. It’s a cool little story, and Bizarre Adventures #25 is a pretty cool magazine – the main story, by Ralph Macchio, is a bit too inert even for a spy comic featuring the Black Widow, but Paul Gulacy’s art is superb, while the third story is a vampire tale by Claremont and Marshall Rogers starring Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. So if you happen to see it lying around in the cheap boxes at your favorite comics shoppe, pick it up. It’s keen.
Later in 1981, Claremont and Golden again collaborated on Avengers Annual #10, which introduced the world to Rogue and cleaned up some of the mess from Carol Danvers’s weird affair with that dude Marcus, as our Dread Lord and Master explained here and here. It has some great art, so let’s take a look at it!
Oh, hey, look, it’s little Maddy Pryor. Kill her, Sergeant Golachinsky! KILL HER BEFORE SHE BECOMES THE GOBLIN QUEEN!!!!!*
* “Golachinsky”? Really?**
** Whenever this issue is brought up, comics bloggers are contractually obligated to note the presence of Maddy Pryor. Yeah, they make us sign weird contracts.
Rogue takes down Captain America, and Golden, here inked by Armando Gil, does a nice job with it. One problem with the art in this comic is that it’s fairly busy, and it not clear whose “fault” it is – on the one hand, Golden is very detailed, but on the other hand, it appears the Gil does add quite a bit in the line work. The foliage around Cap and Rogue in Panel 1, for instance, has a lot of lines on it, and I don’t know if Golden or Gil drew them in. What is nice are the spot blacks on the characters, especially Rogue, as it shows the leather/spandex in which they drape themselves very well. There’s some nice Kirby Krackle in Panel 2, as well, when Rogue drains Cap’s powers. This is the first example of Rogue kissing someone to take their powers – there was always something sexual about Rogue, and I have to think Claremont was tapping into the manly fears of sexually aggressive women with Rogue. I mean, she doesn’t have to kiss people to take their powers, yet she does it quite a bit. And then the men get sleepy. Yeah, nothing sexual about that at all.
There are more nice blacks on this page (as you might recall, one of my many pet peeves is that artists tend not to make Iron Man’s armor look like actual armor, but I think Golden does a nice job here) and more nice details, from the machinery in Panel 1 to Mystique’s clog in Panel 5 (my fifth grade teacher – and I started fifth grade about a month after this issue came out – used to wear clogs like those, and when we were learning square dancing – yes, we learned square dancing in fifth grade – and some people couldn’t keep to the beat, she would take them off and pound them on the gym floor, because she was crazy). Golden draws a sexy “Janet” in Panel 2, and I like how he gives Mystique muscles even though she’s still thin. I also love the expression on Tony Stark’s secretary’s face – she totally thinks “Janet” is there for some “afternoon delight,” because I’ll bet she sees quite a few honeys show up at Tony’s office insisting to see him, and I bet Tony always cancels his appointments! Notice the “Golden face” in Panel 3 – when “Janet” becomes Mystique, her eyes narrow in the universal sign of evil, but when she’s “Janet,” her eyes are a bit wider, even though Golden is still doing a good job fitting them onto his characters’ faces. I’ve always wondered – what is that skull at the point of Mystique’s widow’s peak? Is it jewelry that she affixes there every morning? How does she affix it? Dave Cockrum designed her look, and I wonder if Claremont or anyone else ever asked him what the crap that thing is.
Rogue takes the Avengers apart, and we get this cool page as part of it. I’m not sure if Golden put the arrow in to move us from Panel 1 to 2, but he really doesn’t need it, because he lays the page out perfectly well – Jessica’s hand and blast lead us easily to the larger panel, where we get a maniacal Rogue absorbing Thor’s powers and shrugging off Jessica’s shot. Golden colored this book too, and he does good work both with the way he draws Rogue – practically drunk with power – and the way he lights the scene with greenish hellfire shot through with blacks, lighting Rogue’s crazy face even better. Thor points us to Panel 3, as Rogue holds him in the bottom left corner, which is the last place our eyes go before moving to the third panel, where we get one of the wonderfully sexist comments by the characters in the book (“Thor’s being trashed … by a woman!?!”) and which leads us to the bottom row. Golden places Rogue in the center of Panel 4, with Thor off to the right side, as Vision approaches her from the bottom right. This leads us easily to Panel 5, where Vision zaps Thor instead of Rogue when she places the thunder god in between them. Thor’s tilted head then takes us to Panel 6, where Rogue bashes Vision over the head. Golden again uses blacks really well, as Rogue’s hooded eyes in Panel 6 speak to her fierce determination to destroy the Vision. This is a well designed page, and Golden draws it beautifully.
I like this page, especially the final two panels, but the top is an example of the busyness that seems to plague the issue a little, and I’m not sure it’s Golden’s fault, because if you’ll notice, Claremont doesn’t exactly trust his artist here. Panel 1, where Pyro’s phoenix attacks Wonder Man, is cramped a bit because Claremont has to get in what happened to Mystique while also setting up the rest of the page. So we don’t get to see a nice, big version of the phoenix, while Simon’s flight path seems to exist that way only because it fits inside the panel border. Claremont then has Destiny tell Pyro what to do (that’s her bag, after all), but we don’t see it, just Simon’s reaction to it, which is silly. Even so, in Panel 4, Pyro’s “hammer” doesn’t seem to have struck Simon, even though Wonder Man looked worried in Panel 3, as his flight path again shows him coming in from the top of the panel, parallel to where the flames are. Golden’s layout isn’t great, and I’m not sure if Claremont wanted him to do far too much in too small a space. He does move Simon toward the Blob, which sets up the tremendous bottom row, where the Blob hits Simon, contorting his body disturbingly, knocking him through a building. The diagonal lines of both panels link them really well, and the details Golden brings to every panel in this book work really well in the final one, when the building crumbles. Those two panels almost make up for the confusion above it, and while the individual drawings of those rows are nice, it’s unfortunate that the storytelling isn’t as good as elsewhere in the issue.
Golden still draws somewhat rounded faces, as we see her with both Hawkeye and Avalanche, but that’s okay – it’s his thing, and he does it well. As with all these pages, we get some very nice details on this page, and the hatching threatens to become excessive without crossing that line (at least according to me). Obviously, the cool panel here is the third one, as Hawkeye’s arrow explodes, lighting the scene and throwing Rogue, Blob, and Vision into intense shadow. The beautiful line work and the lack of holding lines are well done, making the light feel even brighter, yet Golden manages to keep the details, such as Blob still holding onto Vision. Golden also draws a nice Hawkeye in Panel 4, as his body is tossed like a doll by Avalanche’s wave. It’s difficult to figure out what’s going on with his head – is the coloring screwed up, or is his head twisted so much it just looks weird? – but the way Golden draws his body is neat.
Golden’s somewhat idiosyncratic facial work gives us some deeply weird idiosyncratic figures, like Storm and Carol Danvers in swim suits (Jessica to a lesser degree, as she’s wearing sunglasses so her face is obscured a bit). On the one hand, Golden draws these women like brick shithouses, which is pretty awesome, because of course they’re going to be quite fit. On the other hand, Golden doesn’t do “traditional” beauty all that well, because of the way his face work has evolved, so while he gives both Ororo and Carol some edges to their faces, they’re still a bit rounded off, and those opposing forces kind of work against each other, not with each other, so neither Ororo nor Carol has a classically beautiful face. We’ve seen many, many artists forego noses, especially on females, but while Golden does that here, the roundness of the faces and the lack of noses actually flattens their faces, which is weird. It’s very unusual, especially for someone working in traditional, mainstream superhero comics. Still, Ororo, Carol, and Jessica in swim suits is never a bad thing.
Oh, Thor – you’re so sympathetic! I love that line – “Be not ashamed of thy womanly tears” – because it’s such a douchey Thor thing to say. Anyway, piggybacking on the previous example, another thing that doesn’t quite work with the way Golden draws faces is crying. Carol has wide eye, and the tears streaming from them down her wide face don’t look quite right. It’s tough to put my finger on it, but there’s a bit of an uncanny valley syndrome happening when Golden’s characters cry. I didn’t show Steve Coffin crying in yesterday’s post, but he does, and it looks kind of weird. Golden’s eyes are bigger than normal, even if they’re not “manga-sized,” so while they’re expressive, showing tears flowing from them, for me, brings home how large they are, and it’s an unsettling feeling. There’s a better example on the page after this in the issue, but I’m not going to show it. Brian showed it at the first link up above, so you can check it out there. Again, Golden does nice work on the page – Carol’s pose in Panel 1 is nice, as is her slap of Thor in Panel 2, but the tears freak me out a little.
Tomorrow I’ll take a look at more Golden work from the 1980s. What could it be? Well, I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t supposed to be in Marvel continuity, but then it was! Wait, was that too easy? Either way, be back here tomorrow, after you’ve finished digging through the archives!
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