Martinex1: We have frequently discussed covers that have made us buy a book, and there are indeed numerous examples of the great and colorful cover art that caught my eye from across a room. But today let's talk about some of the splash pages that captured my attention.
As a kid purchasing comics in the late '70s on a very limited allowance, I typically circled a spinner rack numerous times as I considered all of the options for my precious fifty cents or dollar. Sometimes even my favorite titles didn't totally draw me in and had to compete against all of the other four-color choices. It wasn't always a slam dunk that I would buy Avengers, Fantastic Four, or the Amazing Spider-Man. Sometimes the store proprietor wouldn't want me to flip through the book's pages but when given the chance I definitely took a peek to get a glimpse of the story. And often it was the splash and not the cover that sealed the deal. Here are a few examples of those experiences from my early collecting days:
One of the very first comic books I purchased was Avengers #164, the start of the Count Nefaria conflict, so it would seem natural that I would grab issue #165 as soon as it hit the rack. But that wasn't the case at all. I have to admit that today when I look at the George Perez art for that cover I admire it, but when I was nine-years old it did not grab me. I can clearly remember thinking how small the team members were on the cover. And I did not like the floating red Nefaria head screaming at them. And on top of it, the white logo and lower right corners were a bit mottled from the printing. Where was the hand-to-hand combat that I was expecting? Where was the epic battle following the closing moments of #164 when Nefaria absorbed the strength of Power Man, the speed of Whirlwind, and the energy of Living Laser? But once I opened the book, the John Byrne splash page answered all of my questions! Nefaria just decked Captain America and Black Panther easily and he is totally unscathed; the villain is just standing there gloating. This is going to be a huge fight; he's going to kill them all! At least that is how I interpreted it in my youth. As it turned out, I am glad I saw the splash page and snatched that issue up because the Count Nefaria storyline has remained my all-time favorite. Looking back at the art, it may not have been Byrne's best but I loved it. Here is the cover and splash of which I speak:
That very same month, August of 1977, nearly the same thing happened to me with the Fantastic Four. However, this had a bit of a twist. I had previously read the Len Wein penned and George Perez penciled FF issue #187. I was mesmerized by the team's battle with Klaw and the Molecule Man. That book had so much great art and suspense that I just could not put it down. The last page overwhelmed young me. It was monumental and shocking when down-on-his-luck Reed Richards picked up the mystical rod and transformed into the Molecule Man himself! I know that I stared at that page for a long time. Reed looked so creepy. I looked at his jagged lips and his treacherous scowl and I just had to have the next issue. What a great cliffhanger!
But when the next issue showed up at our local pharmacy, I was seriously underwhelmed by the cover. "Seriosuly! They are fighting a giant walking building! How dumb!" young me thought at the time, "It looks like a silly cartoon not a dangerous battle. It is not scary at all." In retrospect, it reminded me of one of those Twinkie advertisements we talked about a couple of days ago. And again, the white background did not help. It was a struggle to buy that book; it really was. What carried me through was the memory of the closing splash of #187. That crazy Reed in the green costume stuck in my head; so the previous issue's final splash made me buy issue #188. Here they are for your viewing pleasure:
The final example for today's post is Marvel Team-Up issue #70 that was on sale in March of 1978. It had a perfectly fine cover and in fact I liked the cover a lot. It was dynamic and cinematic. I just wasn't particularly a Thor fan at the time so I wasn't convinced. But when I flipped it open, the John Byrne art took my breath away. I had seen giants numerous times in comics before, but this one looked monstrous crashing through the building, scaring the citizens, and getting ready to put a squeeze on the tiny Spider-Man in his right hand. I had to have it! Looking at it now, the inking is a little overdone for my taste. It still packs a wallop, but I cannot take my eyes off the citizen in the foreground who looks like a zombie. When I was young, I could only focus on the size of the Living Monolith. Take a gander.
So there you have it - three splash pages that captured my cash. I cannot explain what hit me on such a visceral level, but it was definitely the interior art that I so clearly remember doing so. What do you think? Do you have any examples that you would like to share? Cheers all!
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