Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Splash Page Made Me Buy the Comic!

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:

Hey!  Wait a minute!  That is bizarre!
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!


Doug said...

As I am reflecting on great splash pages -- and many of those are last-page reveals of a baddie to come (such as the last page of X-Men #111, where we find that it is Magneto and not Mesmero who is causing the carnival trouble) -- I am thinking Galactus might be the winner. Tough to think of a full-pager of the Big G that isn't awesome.

Great topic, but I feel like I need to be sitting on the floor surrounded by stacks of comics, doing research! Come to think of it, that would make for a pretty good Thursday!


Anonymous said...

The splash page at the end of FF#121 might be the greatest reveal/cliffhanger in comic history

Doug said...

Anon --

That is indeed a nice one. Also served as the cover to a Marvel Treasury Edition.

I liked the reveal of Doom on a last page of FF #155 (I think - correct me if I'm wrong).


Doug said...

I'll correct myself -- I was thinking of the last page of FF #142, which has a similar vibe to the Vader reveal on the Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back.


Anonymous said...

Great topic, Martinex. As both you & Doug say, it’s more the splash pages at the end that one remembers…….though of course last month’s final page should more or less be this month’s opening splash (in content at least).

There are also great splash pages which are neither beginning nor end. Steranko did some corkers across 2 and 4 pages in the interior of the comic which were the absolute focus of attention (esp. in Cap). Of course, Gulacy apes it brilliantly in place in Shang Chi. Kirby did loads of them. Also, Xmen #137 has that 2 page interior opening splash ‘the fate of the Phoenix’.

Doug, Galactus is indeed the poster child for these. Literally. I remember the Byrne one in FF especially: ‘Galactus Falls’. (Sounds like a nice spot for a vacation).

I was never a fan of Jim Mooney, but Ms. Marvel #8 has lovely (almost unique) splash page framed by the heroine and her scarf.

Spidey, don’t remember the issue number, but the one where he pulls off his shirt to discover he has grown extra arms.

Martinex, you chose Avengers #165, but I always remember #167, the start of the Korvac saga, which is great Perez panel of Cap & Wanda hustling half dressed down a corridor and the Beast bounding over their heads. The saga also ends with a great overhead splash (terrible art) of them all lying dead in Michael’s house. A lot of the good ones are not action packed. I like the Avengers freezing their butts off in the snow by Big John in Avengers #62, and, of course, ‘even an Android can cry’.

Avengers #95 (hi Karen): Triton coming out of the harbour by Adams & Palmer.

Your Team Up #70 makes me remember Byrne’s splash of Red Sonja in #79. For all the wrong reasons. There’s also a shot of Spidey chained up in front of Kraven and Tigra that I remember from around there. And #55, again Byrne, where Spidey hallucinates everyone around him in miniature.

There’s a fantastic splash of Havok trashing a sentinel in X factor somewhere (issue, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

Xmen 140 is that Byrne shot of Colossus pulling a tree stump out with a chain.

OK, this could go on forever….let me just hand my award out ….everyone raise your right fist, stare into the sky and say it with me:

’We’re coming for you, Kree and Skrulls alike….’


Anonymous said...

Great topic Martinex. For yours truly the closing splash that leaps immediately to mind is Spiderman #121 - The Night Gwen Stacy Died. Maybe an obvious choice, but just such a powerful image that came along at the right time and hooked me into the whole Marvel cliffhanger/soap opera universe.


Garett said...

The double splash pages in the Warlord were a big draw for me. I liked the first page being a teaser, and then boom! A big poster when you turn the page. It made Warlord different from the usual page 1 splashes. Kirby also had double splashes on page 2 and 3 in Kamandi. One that comes to mind is issue 6 with the "dune-cycles" jumping out at you.

Batman 251 by Neal Adams with Batman running across the sand. Great action pose, swirling cape. This must have been made into a poster.

An obscure tidbit I came across yesterday: a double page splash by Kirby from 1946 that's only half inked. It's from Stuntman #3, which was unpublished, so it was left unfinished. A thin ink outline was done by a staff member before Joe Simon would come in to finish the inks with shadows, etc. It's fascinating to see the art half finished like this, and to know the procedure Simon + Kirby used back then. It's in this book:

Humanbelly said...

Let me toss in some un-sung splash-panel love for my man Herb Trimpe in the Hulk, yeah? I'm at work, taking a quick lunch break, so I'm operating out of pure memory here, so details are fuzzy-- but Herb was certainly capable of capturing a great moment on the splash page every so often. Hulk #136 (I think) comes to mind, when Bruce is crossing a street and is just about to be mowed down by a delivery truck. One big panel, where the entirety of what-just-happened + what-is-happening + what's-about-to-happen is all perfectly captured in one gripping moment. (Spoiler alert: Bruce doesn't get killed-) Hulk #165, with the Hulk trudging along the ocean floor as a captive of Captain Omen, has always stuck with me as well. I didn't have the previous issue-- and my first copy of it was coverless-- but it's a perfect example of a splash that sparks a desire to see just what the heck is goin' on here?

Most famous example, though, would be the splash of issue #170 (which I'm sure we've discussed 'round here before), where Bruce and Betty have just begun falling out of the sky from the Bi-Beasts destroyed sky-island. At the end of the previous issue, as they fell into the atmosphere, Betty was clearly and obviously completely naked (discretely depicted, mind you). Then, at the beginning of #170, a brief couple of seconds later, Betty is there in full view. . . somehow wrapped in a tarp or butcher paper or something. About 2 seconds have elapsed. This raised a delightful hue and cry and debate in the letters pages that lasted for months and months and months--!


Anonymous said...

Hi HB - there are some great Hulk ones in that period. 133 when he’s carrying Jim Wilson’s body into a valley, Psyklop’s hand crashing through ceiling to take him away from Jarella, 141 where he surfaces in the water next to Lady Liberty. I don’t think it was a splash page, but I remember the issue where he fights Havok in the desert and tears down a whole mesa with Lorna on top of it.


Redartz said...

Martinex- excellent topic! But like Doug, I feel it would be better were I home surrounded by piles of four color wonderment. Regarding your comment on the inks on that Byrne MTU splash: yes, fairly heavy inks. But they may have suffered from muddy printing. I once owned a page of original art from that issue, and it was beautiful....

Loads of great "splashes" of inspiration today. Tom beat me to Amazing Spider-man 121, about Fantastic Four 141, last page, when Reed had just blasted Franklin and everyone walked out on him?

Less well known, but memorable: Amazing Spider-man 201, with Pete confronted by the Punisher who "knows"his "secret".

Man, I want to go home and rifle through a box...

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there were a few splash pages that made me buy comics way back when, but it's hard to remember now. Probably some Spideys, some Batmans, and maybe some New Teen Titans or LSH...I seem to recall them all having some pretty good opening pages.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I love a good splash page, but I honestly don't think I was ever prompted to buy a comic just because of one. One of my favorites, though, is this one from X-men #125.

By the way, I never had that issued of FF, but I always thought that giant building robot in the Hostess ad looked pretty cool. Pity it never became a part of someone's rogues gallery: when it wasn't rampaging, it could just stand still in the middle of the city and everyone would think it's just an unusually tall brownstone.

Martinex1 said...

Thanks for commenting and sharing some splash favorites. I really enjoy splash pages,and the more recent tradition of replacing opening page splashes with text recaps is no fun.

Edo your living building perspective is clever and funny - like a local version of Ego the Living Planet. Some of my issue with the concept as they portrayed it originally is it looked too goofy and cartoony for my tastes. If somehow they could have made it more serious or dangerous, I may have had a different opinion. I know comics are fantasy, but there is a certain suspension of disbelief that for me is broken by "cuteness." At the age of nine, when I bought this the FF seemed to be in a very difficult and tragic situation, with their leader, husband, and friend possessed by a villain. And that villain should have been significantly more dangerous with Reed's attributes. Instead it appeared to turn into soft comedy.

I've noticed in reading back through the examples, that the story and words ( balloons and captions) really play into the appeal for me. It's not just the art but also the juxtaposition of the cliffhanger with what came before. For the Reed one, on the previous page the FF had just defeated two major enemies and you would think the story is winding down, and Sue starts to warn her husband, "Don't touch that" and then wham - the story continues in a different direction.

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