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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #148

"Cry, Mutant!
August 1981

In a Nutshell 
The ladies go out for a night on the town and meet Caliban.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artist: Dave Cockrum
Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: Janice Chang
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Louise Jones
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
In the Bermuda Triangle, Cyclops and Lee Forrester explore the island city which sprang up overnight, which appears to be a remnant of an ancient civilization, and to have been underwater for a long time. Meanwhile, on the grounds of the mansion, Wolverine and Nightcrawler spar with one another while Angel argues with Professor X and Storm over Wolverine's involvement with the team, believing him to be a dangerous psycho. Unwilling to be on the same team as him, Angel quits and flies off. In the hanger, Banshee and Colossus are working on the Blackbird before Banshee is called back to the mansion, where he meets his daughter Theresa for the first time. That night, Storm and Kitty, joined by Stevie Hunter and the visiting Spider-Woman, attend a Dazzler show at a nightclub downtown.


Drawn there by the presence of the mutants, the sewer dwelling mutant Caliban sneaks into the nightclub and attacks two security guards. Kitty investigates but is captured by Caliban, who quickly tries to leave the building with her. As Dazzler calms the crowd, Storm and Spider-Woman pursue Caliban and stop him from returning to the tunnels beneath the city with Kitty. Caliban explains that he was tired of being alone and meant no harm. Storm attempts to offer him a home at the mansion, but as the police arrive, he slips away. Back in the Bermuda Triangle, Cyclops and Lee discover they are not alone in the island city: it is inhabited by none other than Magneto. 

Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first appearance of Caliban, a mutant who lives in the tunnels beneath New York City with the ability to sense other mutants. He will eventually join up with the underground mutant community of Morlocks (once Claremont gets around to creating them), and will become a recurring supporting character and occasional villain throughout the X-Men universe, being featured at different times in X-Men as well as X-Factor and X-Force.


Caliban was originally conceived by Claremont and Byrne during their run as a potential member for a second team of X-Men in training (along with Kitty and Willie Evans, a character from an older Fantastic Four story). According to John Byrne, Jim Shooter eventually scuttled the idea of a training team, feeling it was too close to the Legion of Substitute Heroes (the training team for the Legion of Super-Heroes at DC), but not before Kitty had already been introduced. So Kitty simply joined the team, and after Byrne left, Claremont went ahead and introduced Caliban, but never made him a part of the team. Of course, Claremont eventually returned to the idea of a team of young X-Men for New Mutants, the first X-Men spin-off book.

Angel, somewhat-abruptly fed up with Wolverine's dangerous tendencies, quits the team, once again voiding the X-Men roster of any original team members, though as before, that condition will not last long.


Following from Spider-Woman #37-38, Banshee meets Siryn for the first time, and learns she is his daughter. As mentioned in the comments to the Spider-Woman post, Siryn isn't seen again for quite some time.


The last page of the book reveals Magneto as the inhabitant of the mysterious city atop the mysterious island in the Bermuda Triangle, marking his first appearance in the book since his brief scene in issue #125, and setting up the first Magneto story since the classic Claremont/Byrne two-parter in issues #112-113. 

After bringing in the X-Men to guest star in her book, Claremont follows up by having Spider-Woman visit the X-Men this issue. Dazzler, fresh off the debut of her own solo title, also makes a guest appearance (her appearance in this issue falls between issues #5 and #6 of her title).

Janice Chang fills in for Tom Orzechowski as letterer, and the difference is noticeable.  

On a personal note, this is the issue of X-Men that was on the stands the month I was born. I apologize if that makes you feel exceptionally old or exceptionally young.

A Work in Progress
Colossus' sister Illyana, staying at the mansion for the time being, wonders if she'll turn to steel when she grows up.


Moira admits that she finds herself resentful of Siryn because Moira could never give Sean a child herself, for fear the child would be like Proteus, while Storm admits she is jealous of Stevie Hunter's relationship with Kitty.


At the nightclub, Kitty carries her X-Men costume in a secret compartment in her purse.

Kitty also manages to walk on air for a significant distance.


As a result of her encounter with Caliban in this issue, Kitty realizes she's been judging Nightcrawler solely by his appearance, and resolves to make amends, effectively putting an end to the "Kitty is creeped out by Nightcrawler" subplot.

I Love the 80s
Well, the Disco Dazzler is back, and the time away hasn't updated her act any.


Kitty asks Jessica Drew a litany of questions about her work as a private investigator, and gets reprimanded by Storm and Stevie, because apparently kids those days didn't ask questions of their elders.


Claremontisms
Though not quite a trope on the level of some others, the idea of a "ladies night" (and the ensuing superhero shenanigans that ensue) is one Claremont will return to on occasion.

Artistic Achievements
The final page reveal of Magneto continues a long tradition of last-page Magneto reveals (future X-Men artist and current DC grand poobah Jim Lee collects the original art of those pages), and is perhaps the best piece of art yet in Cockrum's second run.


Young Love
Stranded on a mysterious island that randomly rose from the sea, without food or water, Lee decides it's as good a time as any to get frisky.


When Scott rejects her, she gets pissy and storms off, leaving a blind Scott to briefly fend for himself.


The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
Which, of course, leads to more fist-clenching angst!


The Best There Is At What He Does
Though Wolverine's affinity for Japan was established in the Moses Magnum story during the Claremont/Byrne run, here he specifically references a "ninja trick" he learned there, the first time Wolverine is directly associated with ninjas.


Dave Cockrum on issue #148
"I hated [it] so much it took me six weeks to draw...For one thing, it had Dazzler and the disco in it and I hate Dazzler and I hate discos, and for another thing - well, that's the major thing."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p75

Chris Claremont on Angel
"Well, the problem with the Angel, as we discovered after we put him back in The X-Men, is that's he's functionally redundant. The only he can really do is carry people around. He flies and he hits people, but considering the quality of the foes the X-Men run up against, that really doesn't give him much opportunity to do things."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p39

John Byrne on Caliban
"He was going to be an incredibly ugly Living Cerebro kind of character, whom we would never see entirely. We would only see bits and pieces of him. And he would live in this dark room in the back of the mansion and Kitty would be able to relate to him for some reason. Chris defined the situation as being that she can't stand Nightcrawler because he is so "wrong" somehow, he is human done sideways, but Caliban was so hideous and so deformed that he was a broken thing, like a bird with a broken wing, and she could relate to him on that level. And it was going to be a very trying thing for Nightcrawler, the fact that Kitty could relate to Nightcrawler but not to him....they [the X-Men] were going to discover the tap that the Hellfire Club had put on it [Cerebro], or at least figure out something was amiss, and he was going to fulfill the function of Cerebro for them."

Sanderson, Peter. The X-Men Companion II. Stamford: Fantagraphics Books, 1982. p80-81

Teebore's Take
Though we're not exactly back in "all time classic" territory, this issue is a decided step up from the previous three, thanks in large part to a good chunk of the issue being turned over to quieter moments of Claremontian downtime and characterization. And while Dazzler is still very much a product of her time and Caliban isn't exactly going to light the world on fire, the second half of the book is the kind of old-fashioned superhero fun the previous story reached for but couldn't quite achieve. Nothing here is groundbreaking or terribly compelling, but the presence of Spider-Woman and Dazzler make the story a snapshot of its time, in a good way, and give the action scenes an eclectic energy. At the very least, this issue feels like both a Claremont comic and an X-Men comic (albeit a decidedly average one). It's never going to make anyone's "best of" list, but it's a step in the right direction. 

Next Issue
The return of Garokk! It's okay if you don't remember him.

17 comments:

Matt said...

This is probably the single issue from the second Cockrum run that I have the least memory of. I know I've read it just as many times as the others, but except for the subplots (Banshee & Theresa, Cyclops, Lee, & Magneto, Angel quitting), nothing about it has ever really stuck with me.

(Strangely, Cyclops, Banshee, and Angel are three of my favorite X-Men, so I wonder if that's why I only remember their scenes...?)

"This is the first appearance of Caliban..."

I never liked Caliban all that much. It took the intervention of Apocalypse years later to finally make him mildly interesting to me.

"...the first Magneto story since the classic Claremont/Byrne two-parter in issues #112-113..."

Y'know, I never really noticed this since I had always read these issues close together as back issues, but nearly three years between stories starring the title's major villain seems like a long time! You never saw Dr. Doom gone from Fantastic Four for that long.

"Janice Chang fills in for Tom Orzechowski as letterer..."

Glad you pointed this out! Letterers rarely ever register with me, but ever since I was a little kid, I've disliked Janice Chiang's work. She seemed to letter a lot of the Transformers comics I read back then.

I'm not sure what it is about her work that doesn't appeal to me, though. I think maybe it's too light and almost scratchy looking, and her captions sometimes try to be a bit too fancy.

"...this is the issue of X-Men that was on the stands the month I was born"

Are you going by the on-sale date, or the cover date? Going by cover date, mine would be December, 1978 -- the conclusion to the Claremont/Byrne Savage Land epic. If you go by the on-sale date, I guess that would be a few months earlier, somewhere during the afore-mentioned Magneto story.

Either way, I think I win because my birth month was during the Claremont/Byrne period.

"...the Disco Dazzler is back..."

And I still love her cheesy costume and gimmick! I really need to read The Essential Dazzler one of these days.

Considering that Claremont was originally against Dazzler appearing in the title, and considering that Cockrum doesn't seem too enamored of the character either, I wonder why she was here? I know Claremont warmed up to her years later when she joined the team, but had he already started to mellow at this point? Or was this appearance perhaps editorially mandated to promote her series?

"Chris Claremont on Angel..."

I call shenanigans here! If Claremont actually liked Angel, he would find a way to make him useful. I think he just didn't care for the character, and so wanted him removed from the team.

"John Byrne on Caliban..."

Interesting that Byrne says the X-Men were going to find the wire tap on Cerebro, since that's something that ultimately never actually happened on-page. For someone as detail-oriented as Byrne, I can see how he would've pushed for it to occur. But since Claremont seems much more of a "seat-of-the-pants" writer (in certain respects), it's not surprising that he never addressed it after Byrne left.

Teebore said...

@Matt: I know I've read it just as many times as the others, but except for the subplots...nothing about it has ever really stuck with me.

Same here, and even though I remember this issue as the first appearance of Caliban, I never really remember much about his part of the story.

It took the intervention of Apocalypse years later to finally make him mildly interesting to me.

Issue #179 (the one where he almost marries Kitty) is pretty much a classic, but other than that, like you, I don't take much of a shine to the character until he gets involved with Apocalypse in X-Factor circa "Fall of the Mutants".

...nearly three years between stories starring the title's major villain seems like a long time! You never saw Dr. Doom gone from Fantastic Four for that long.

Indeed. I'll comment on it in issue #150 as well, but it is crazy to think of, especially in this day and age. It's also weird to think that throughout the most acclaimed run on the title, the book's most definitive villain was only featured in one two part story.

I think maybe it's too light and almost scratchy looking, and her captions sometimes try to be a bit too fancy.

The scratchiness really catches my eye, and I'm not someone who generally notices such things.

Are you going by the on-sale date, or the cover date?

On-sale date. The issue cover dated the month I was born was issue #145 (May 81).

Either way, I think I win because my birth month was during the Claremont/Byrne period.

Can't argue with that, unfortunately...

Or was this appearance perhaps editorially mandated to promote her series?

That would be my guess, based on the things you suggested (general apathy towards the character on the part of both creators).

If Claremont actually liked Angel, he would find a way to make him useful. I think he just didn't care for the character, and so wanted him removed from the team.

Agreed. "There's no such thing as a bad character" and all that. While on paper there's nothing inherently unique or flashy about Angel's power, all it would take for the character to make an impact is a writer who is wiling to make it work. If Claremont make a powerless Storm a viable (and even essential) member of the team, he could have found a way to make Angel work too.

So yeah, I think he just didn't have any affection for the character and cited his weaker/more redundant power as an excuse to cut him.

Blam said...


I didn't remember this cover as being related to the introduction of Caliban. The fact that Cockrum himself drew the cover makes it even weirder that the menace suggested on it — an immaterial shadow-man who can grab Kitty but through whose body Storm's lightning bolt passes — has nothing to do with what Caliban is really like.

Other thoughts...

How does Scott telling Lee about being Cyclops compromise the other X-Men?

Scott: "Her name was Jean Grey. We were in love. She... died."

That was blunt. Can't he 'fess up about his eyebeams the same way? Which he then apparently ends up doing off-panel based on the talk at the end of the issue about him trying to zap some fish out of the water for them to eat.

Great Zip-a-Tone in this panel!

Writing about music is, the saying goes, like dancing about architecture. Chris Claremont probably shouldn't do either one.

I love that the Hostess ad has the FF in canoes with their '4' insignia.

along with Kitty and Willie Evans, a character from an older Fantastic Four story

Willie Evans!

The last page of the book reveals Magneto as the inhabitant of the mysterious city atop the mysterious island in the Bermuda Triangle

I wonder if Seth and Amy are available for an installment of Really?!?. Maybe Lee's unrevealed mutant power is ridiculous coincidence.

After bringing in the X-Men to guest star in her book, Claremont follows up by having Spider-Woman visit the X-Men this issue.

Now I really see what those of you who've read these issues more recently than I were talking about in terms of how these stories fit order-wise. The problem is that #148 needs to take place right after the Doom/Arcade three-parter in #145-147 because Illyana, Moira, and Sean are there, and it should probably take place right after Spider-Woman #37-38 for Theresa's revelation to Sean to make any sense. The reading order that you followed based on publication has the edge, because the other way around makes no sense without insane contortions, but you'd still think that, being from Ireland and all that, it would've made more sense for Theresa to visit Sean on Muir Island off the coast of Scotland on her way back home than to hang out in New York until Sean happened to come back Stateside.

Blam said...


Moira admits that she finds herself resentful of Siryn because Moira could never give Sean a child herself, for fear the child would be like Proteus, while Storm admits she is jealous of Stevie Hunter's relationship with Kitty.

Yeah, Theresa's sudden presence in Sean's life and how it affects his relationship with Moira is exactly like Storm's jealousy over Kitty finding her dance teacher cool.

Stranded on a mysterious island that randomly rose from the sea, without food or water, Lee decides it's as good a time as any to get frisky.

I'm no Bear Grylls, but I don't know that swapping saliva aids with dehydration any.

When Scott rejects her, she gets pissy and storms off, leaving a blind Scott to briefly fend for himself.

At which point he fires an optic blast into the ceiling, but the falling debris doesn't touch him and it's apparently a change of heart, not the noise, that brings Lee back on the next page.

That Cockrum quote is hilarious.

On the other hand, that Claremont quote is a little disappointing. I realize that the freshness and/or redundancy of abilities in a mid-sized team is a concern, but he doesn't mention what Angel could bring to the table in terms of character interplay at all — which is strange especially because there were dynamics at play in Claremont's reason for Angel leaving, namely Warren's issues with Wolverine, that aren't really echoed with other team members at this point. Like Matt said, I get the feeling that Claremont just wanted Angel out on principle or he'd be willing to make it work.

At the very least, this issue feels like both a Claremont comic and an X-Men comic (albeit a decidedly average one). It's never going to make anyone's "best of" list, but it's a step in the right direction. 

Nicely put.

The return of Garokk! It's okay if you don't remember him.

Wasn't he with Jalad at Tanagra?

VW: androjor — Robot duplicate of Superman's Kryptonian father.

Blam said...


Matt: I never liked Caliban all that much.

Teebore: #179 (the one where he almost marries Kitty) is pretty much a classic

Since I'm unfamiliar with most post-1986 stuff in the X-Men world, except for brief stretches, I largely associate Caliban with the Morlocks in JR Jr.'s upcoming run; it's not a positive association. I haven't re-read that stuff in forever, so I wonder how I'll like those stories as stories — and how I'll like elements within the stories that didn't thrill me (the art, the Morlocks) — within the larger tapestry now.

I cribbed from that heinous cover to #179 for a friend years ago. He wanted a wedding shot of Jewish superhero comic-book characters, so I had Kitty marrying Nuklon of Infinity Inc., with Forbush Man presiding and a few other folks in attendance — I'm trying to remember who was there besides Ambush Bug. Maybe I'll have dug the piece out by the time we get to that issue. 8^)

Matt: Letterers rarely ever register with me, but ever since I was a little kid, I've disliked Janice Chiang's work. She seemed to letter a lot of theTransformers comics I read back then.

I'm actually something of a letterer geek. For me the old adage about readers not noticing good lettering, only bad lettering, is only partly true; readers, at least some, also notice great lettering. John Workman goes overboard sometimes, but his style is mostly noticeable in a good way. Howard Chaykin's work on American Flagg and The Shadow in the 1980s is impossible to picture without Ken Bruzenak's contributions. Todd Klein was great even before he made the lettering noticeable on purpose in Neil Gaiman's Sandman; both he and his mentor Gaspar Saladino are classic letterers who straddle that line of blending into the art yet adding to it. Seeing Janice Chiang's credit here surprised me a bit because I mostly associate her with the more calligraphic style that she later used, the one that looks remarkably like Bob Lappan, whose stuff could seem a bit precious on the wrong material but which worked perfectly on Scott McCloud's Zot! and the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League.

this is the issue of X-Men that was on the stands the month I was born.

Matt: Are you going by the on-sale date, or the cover date?

I was going to ask the same question. (PS: Sorry for missing your 30th birthday, Teebore! You should've said something.)

Matt: Either way, I think I win because my birth month was during the Claremont/Byrne period.

Definitely! Heck, I was born during the reprint period, in October 1970, and there was no issue of X-Men that month.

X-Men #119 came out in December 1978 per Mike's Amazing World. So did all of these.

Matt: Or was this appearance perhaps editorially mandated to promote her series?

I think it was a choice between this and more Danger Room clean-up.

Dr. Bitz said...

Hatchi Matchi! If my power prevented me from seeing a half-naked Lee I'd be angsty too!

Chris said...

If my power prevented me from seeing a half-naked Lee I'd be angsty too!

Yeah, Cockrum's art suddenly got a lot better!

I've forgotten, was there ever any explanation about the Atlantis-like city Magneto's using as a base?

I was born during the reprint bi-monthly era, so on-sale date issue, the cover date makes it #76.

Matt said...

Blam -- "How does Scott telling Lee about being Cyclops compromise the other X-Men?"

The only thing I can think of is that Lee knows Cyclops's real name, so if she was intent on stalking him, she might learn that he lives at Xavier's school?

Blam -- "I'm actually something of a letterer geek."

When it comes to lettering, I don't know what's good, but I know what I like (and dislike). As I said, most letterers don't really register with me either way. Janice Chiang is about the only one I can think of off the top of my head that I've never enjoyed. At the other end of the spectrum, I can think of two who I always love -- John Workman, who you mentioned, and Richard Starkings/Comicraft. I loved in the mid- to late-90's when Comicraft was lettering about 95% of Marvel's output.

I like Orzechowski quite a bit too, but only after having had his skill pointed out to me over the past few years. Until I was made to recognize it, his lettering was another one that was just "there". Whereas, Workman and Comicraft caught my attention immediately without anyone pointing them out to me.

Blam -- "X-Men #119 came out in December 1978 per Mike's Amazing World. So did all of these."

Thanks! I think I was counting backwards when I tried to figure mine out. Plus, it makes sense that the Moses Magnum Christmas issue would've been on sale in December!

Glancing at that selection, I see three comics that I know for a fact were drawn by John Byrne: X-Men #119, Marvel Team-Up #79, and Avengers #181. I know page counts were low at the time, but even so... I can't imagine any artist -- even the fast ones like Bagley and Romita Jr. -- pulling that off these days!

Matt said...

Blam -- "Writing about music is, the saying goes, like dancing about architecture. Chris Claremont probably shouldn't do either one."

I meant to comment on this, but forgot! I agree. Claremont has a lot of tics that drive people crazy. There are some that I dislike, but I can usually live with most of them. However, his attempts to describe music using prose -- something no one should ever do -- are universally awful, and drive me further up the wall than nearly anything else he does!

But I'm guessing he thought he was pretty good at it, because between Dazzler and Lila Cheney, he did it a lot over the years.

Teebore said...

@Blam: Which he then apparently ends up doing off-panel based on the talk at the end of the issue about him trying to zap some fish out of the water for them to eat.

Wow, yeah, I completely glossed over the fact that after all that build-up, he tells her off panel. Something tells me Claremont lost track of that particular thread, issue-to-issue.

Writing about music is, the saying goes, like dancing about architecture. Chris Claremont probably shouldn't do either one.

I don't think I've ever heard that saying before, but I love it! And yes, as Matt mentioned, Claremont really does keep trying to write about music, and he really shouldn't.

I love that the Hostess ad has the FF in canoes with their '4' insignia.

Reed Richard's genius clearly also extends to marketing.

The problem is that #148 needs to take place right after the Doom/Arcade three-parter in #145-147 because Illyana, Moira, and Sean are there, and it should probably take place right after Spider-Woman #37-38

Yeah, that really is the problem: you can place those issues in either position and it works, but it also doesn't work. There's just no perfect answer.

I'm no Bear Grylls, but I don't know that swapping saliva aids with dehydration any.

Exactly! Look, sex is sex and Lee's a hottie, but I can think of a ton of reasons why making the beast with two backs while stranded in the middle of a mysterious island city with no food, water, shelter or apparent hope of rescue isn't a good idea. The first of which is none of those rocky ruins look very comfortable...

...namely Warren's issues with Wolverine, that aren't really echoed with other team members at this point.

Yeah, the whole "Angel doesn't like Wolverine" thing seems very obviously manufactured just to create an in-story reason for Angel's departure.

Wasn't he with Jalad at Tanagra?

When last we saw him, he was Shaka, when the walls fell.

I wonder how I'll like those stories as stories — and how I'll like elements within the stories that didn't thrill me (the art, the Morlocks) — within the larger tapestry now.

He wanted a wedding shot of Jewish superhero comic-book characters, so I had Kitty marrying Nuklon of Infinity Inc., with Forbush Man presiding and a few other folks in attendance — I'm trying to remember who was there besides Ambush Bug.

That sounds AWESOME. I'd love to see it sometime.

Sorry for missing your 30th birthday, Teebore! You should've said something.

No biggie. I used to make a point of posting something for our birthdays on the blog, but after a while, it felt a bit self-aggrandizing. The sentiment is appreciated though (and incidentally, my 30th was well spent, with a great bottle of Scotch and a good WWII novel the day of, and a nice gathering of friends and family a couple weekends later).

I think it was a choice between this and more Danger Room clean-up.

Ha! It's a good thing I wasn't drinking any coffee when I read that.

@Dr. Bitz: If my power prevented me from seeing a half-naked Lee I'd be angsty too!

I'm pretty sure the cock-blocking nature of his power is the cause of 75% of his angst.

@Chris: I've forgotten, was there ever any explanation about the Atlantis-like city Magneto's using as a base?

Not that I can recall, or at least nothing more definitive than "he found it". But if there is an explanation, I'm pretty sure it'd be in the next dozen or so issues, so I'll keep an eye out for it.

@Matt: I know page counts were low at the time, but even so... I can't imagine any artist -- even the fast ones like Bagley and Romita Jr. -- pulling that off these days!

Heck, if you can get one artist to draw each issue of one book for more than six consecutive months these days it feels like a minor miracle, let alone drawing three at a time.

Jason said...

What's wrong with Claremont's descriptions of music?

Note: The "dancing about architecture" quote is by Steve Martin.

Teebore said...

@Jason: What's wrong with Claremont's descriptions of music?

In this particular instance, the passage that made me stumble was, "Dazzler launches into a series of complex arpeggios. The lightshow transforming her into a rainbow-colored star as her voice gaily races up and down the harmonic scale."

I think I've proven I'm a pretty big fan of Claremont's romantic, baroque narration, thoroughly enjoying much of what many consider "overwriting", but in this case, I feel like his description is too clinical, creating a disconnect between what he's trying to describe and the words he's using to describe it.

And I'm also a big fan of the way Claremont can expand a reader's vocabulary, but parts of that passage read like he's just picking terms out of a music theory dictionary.

But that's just me, in this particular case. I'll try to remember to point out future instances where his writing about music doesn't sit right with me.

Blam said...

Matt: When it comes to lettering, I don't know what's good, but I know what I like (and dislike).

That's all that really counts. I just tend to be someone who's certainly satisfied when lettering is solid and professional yet not calling much attention to itself (except for where it matters, like splash titles) but who really grooves on lettering that goes that extra mile to bring something unique to the artwork. Tom Orzechowski certainly did that as his X-Men run went along, in the compact round letterforms that accommodated Claremont's dialogue well to the unique style he developed for display lettering — which I think is even discussed in one of the Fantagraphics Companion volumes. I liked what Richard Starkings' Comicraft brought to the table in terms of crispness and design at first, but some of the fonts weren't personally to my taste and I began to hate it when shortcuts were taken in terms of sound effects; Starkings himself and John Roshell had a flair and eye for detail that not everyone else at the company did (or perhaps they couldn't afford to given the volume of work that came their way(.

Jason said...

'In this particular instance, the passage that made me stumble was, "Dazzler launches into a series of complex arpeggios. The lightshow transforming her into a rainbow-colored star as her voice gaily races up and down the harmonic scale."

I like it. :)

'I think I've proven I'm a pretty big fan of Claremont's romantic, baroque narration, thoroughly enjoying much of what many consider "overwriting", but in this case, I feel like his description is too clinical, creating a disconnect between what he's trying to describe and the words he's using to describe it.'

Hm. I see what you're saying; I guess I just don't see a huge difference between that passage and a typical passage by Claremont describing a place, or someone's powers.

'And I'm also a big fan of the way Claremont can expand a reader's vocabulary, but parts of that passage read like he's just picking terms out of a music theory dictionary.'

I will compromise. The "complex arpeggios" thing is weird, because it seems weird to imagine a singer doing that in anything other than a warm-up exercise. A piano-player or guitarist "launching into a series of complex arpeggios" is sensible and is the kind of virtuosic thing one can imagine an instrumentalist doing.

That said, since Dazzler's power requires sound as "fuel," and it's been established in her own series at this point that more complex sounds work better for her for whatever reason, the idea that she would provide her own "fuel" here by doing something that you don't usually imagine a singer doing at a concert ... well, I give it a pass.

Meanwhile, I think "her voice gaily races up and down the harmonic scale" is delightful. :)

'But that's just me, in this particular case. I'll try to remember to point out future instances where his writing about music doesn't sit right with me.'

Ah, but later instances only get better! :)

Oh, and one last thing: Have you read much of the Dazzler solo series -- the early issues by Tom DeFalco or Danny Fingeroth, or maybe the Dazzler graphic novel written by Jim Shooter?

Because if not, you don't even KNOW how bad prose descriptions of music can get in a comic book featuring Alison Blaire. :)

Teebore said...

@Jason:Have you read much of the Dazzler solo series -- the early issues by Tom DeFalco or Danny Fingeroth, or maybe the Dazzler graphic novel written by Jim Shooter?

Because if not, you don't even KNOW how bad prose descriptions of music can get in a comic book featuring Alison Blaire. :)


Ha! No, I haven't read much of Dazzler's solo series, aside from a few random issues (the Galactus one, one of the guest-starring X-Men ones). I have the two Essentials, but just haven't gotten around to them yet.

And I'll give you this much: if I am going to read about musical descriptions, I'd rather read about them when written by Claremont than DeFalco or Fingeroth (not that I have anything against either of those two gentlemen's work, but as distracting as I can sometimes find his writing about music, Claremont certainly does have a unique knack for words).

Blam said...


Me: ... I had Kitty marrying Nuklon of Infinity Inc., with Forbush Man presiding and a few other folks in attendance — I'm trying to remember who was there besides Ambush Bug.

You: That sounds AWESOME. I'd love to see it sometime.

Only a month later — Here you go!

Teebore said...

@Blam: Excellent!