Thursday, 15 November 2012

Spidey-man vs Gnatman and Rotten!


Welcome To The World of Images Degrading Forever

If this is your first visit to this little blog, then you have picked an ideal place to start, as this week I embark on a completely New Project

But before I go into that, just what is Images Degrading Forever?

I hope that it’s a different approach to looking at comics, about what comics mean, how comics work.   

I do not just merely look at a comic and provide commentary on what I can see, but I also make an attempt to put myself in a similar position to the orginal creator by attempting to recreate the art

By recreating the art I inevitably look and see things in a way I probably never would by just reading the comic on its own, I mean it’s rare that someone would scrutinise each panel in relation to the other

But when one attempts to do the same drawing it quickly becomes the whole point

As for what my next project is, well let’s look back to the just completed WHAT MEN

If I was to mention duality in the context of that project (or indeed anything I have done, or even just the drawing that’s used as my picture in my twitter profile) I imagine that some of you will at least see that there is some duality there

If I was to invoke the “Theatre Faces” one presenting drama, one representing comedy and to merely say that the best antidote to too much drama or seriousness is a lot of comedy and outrageous comedy at that, then what follows makes perfect sense



It is the light that follows the dark, this is the equal and opposite reaction to the previous action

So what is it?

Let’s go back to 1981  when a few issues of the very short lived Marvel Uk Comic called "Marvel Madhouse" managed to get into my hands.

The impact of that comic and in particular issue 2 July 1981 cannot be overstated

This was my first real exposure to outrageous and / or anarchic comedy. Sure I had seen a lot of "The Beano" and "The Dandy" by this point, but I was never really interested in those, but this was something completely differnet

I had not even seen an issue of "(Tales calculated to drive you) Mad" at this point and it would be many years later that I would finally read Kurtzman and Woods infamous “Superduperman” (which served as part of the inspiration for a certain comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)

And when I read this comic, in 1981 most of what it was parodying or making fun of would have been things that I would have not even been aware of. For example I knew little of Spider man or most of the marvel heroes, comics was a very rare treat and by and large I missed out on almost any comic until I was old enough to buy my own

Another thing that I would have missed out on is being familiar with America or American history particularly in 1967 when the original material that Marvel Madhouse was reprinted was actually created –in  the equally short lived “(Not) Brand Echh” comic

But of course I knew of the Batman Tv series, given it was the literal bane of my childhood, so anything making fun of that would be very much welcomed

But that wasn’t it, it was the sheer energy of this comic, the frantic poses of the characters and the many layers of ridiculous signs, pop culture references and sight gags combined with the super compressed storytelling and the focus all on getting as much possible fun as you could into as little space as possible

It was a literal rocket explosion of a comic which has inspired everything I have done and it was created by the supremely talented and extremely underrated genius of Marie Severin

And it is simply brilliantly funny, even though I didn't have any of the deeper appreciation or knowledge to really understand it in all its magnificent glory

So with some pride and wink in my eye I am proud to try and represent :-



and as requested, this time I will blog about what I think or see in the pages - If you prefer that I not do this, by all means please let me know

As far as I know "(not) Brand Echh" issue 2 is probably the first very unofficial attempt at a marvel / dc cross over. 

It would be a few years before the first official publication Superman vs Spiderman did eventually see the light of day, but would it have ever happened if "(Not) Brand Echh" never existed?


Let's start with my attempt at re-creating the splash page:-

The Aging Spidey-Man
Of course Marvel characters can age, just at a much much slower rate than reality, Spider-man started in High School in his debut issue in 1962 before eventually graduating to college sometime in the 1970's...

But you would never expect to see a mid to late forties or over 50's portrayal of Spider-man. For one thing all the other characters would have to equally age including Aunt May…  

So the last thing spider man could ever be is aged or ageing... 

Spidey-man - Everyone surely knows it was Stan Lee who coined the rather inappropriate abbreviation of spider-man to spidey and spidey-man drives this point home as its an extension of an unnecessary abbreviation

It would actually only be a few years later that "Spidey Super Stories" would debut on the PBS children's television series The Electric Company 



and that Marvel Published a comic of the same name set in the same "universe "(actually making it part of Marvel) aimed at children ages 6–10 which actually lead to "spidey-man" being normal verbiage for children too young to know better! 

Which is ironic as the whole point of "spidey super stories" was to get young kids interested in reading and to help teach them

However you look at it, you can't help but think that Marie Severin knew the future…!



Peter Pooper
Again everyone knows Stan Lee used alliterative names, for the oft quoted reason to help him remember who was who!

Peter Pooper is just one step away from being a Party Pooper - In the real Spider-man comic one of the main (and probably still continuing) plot points is Peter Parker's perpetual bad luck, so if he did go to a party even in the real Spider man comic, its a pretty safe bet he would ruin it inadvertently - say with the sudden entrance of the green goblin

Gnat man
This a brilliant reversal and a pun in one, instead of being based on something dark, scary and gothic like a bat, the character here is based on a insect which one could equate to being even less than a termite and what did Doctor Manhattan say about termites?

Anyway…

It also places the character as being based on a insect or a bug, just as spider-man himself is

The costume of gnat man takes it yet another level, as he is nothing short of a monochrome court jester, complete with bells that actually jingle (as we will see)

Rotten
At what point has anyone not described a child who is mischievous and trouble making as being rotten? or a rotter - This is equally just pure genius

J Jawbone Junkton
Another of Stan Lees famous alliterations twisted - a Jawbone is someone who talks a lot and junkton just is another expression for rubbish, so basically a character who talks a lot of rubbish (just like me, then)

A fink - This rather old expression means one who is disapproved of or is held in contempt  

In the splash page alone the way the characters are posed and are behaving tells you almost everything you need to know

JJJ is in the background cackling to himself (and has been given devil like ears)

Gnat man is throwing a rope up to nowhere in particualr and has no relation to anything else on the page

Spidey-man is hanging upside down, has a hole in one of his socks (yes socks, I will get back to this in a later episode) and is holding a comic

A comic which makes light of DC itself and of the number of Batman titles that was available, even back then when there was only one spider-man title (The Spectacular Spider-Man debuted in 1976)

Rotten is throwing in a bomb to explode the entire situation

Just above Rotten is a interesting sign - which we will cover in a later episode

Next week: Join me as Jimmy Olsen makes an unscheduled guest appearance...

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