Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SPIDER-MAN #6 - January 1991

Masques - Part One

Credits: Todd McFarlane (artist/writer), Rick Parker (letterer), Bob Sharen (colors)

Summary: Believing that he’s doing the Lord’s work, a deranged Hobgoblin kills random citizens. Hobgoblin takes a boy, Adam, as his ward when Adam is willing to look him directly in the face. Spider-Man and Ghost Rider hunt for Hobgoblin, with Spider-Man locating him first. During the fight, Adam emerges from the shadows, asking Spider-Man to leave Hobgoblin alone. Half of Adam’s face is now scarred like the Hobgoblin’s.

Continuity Notes: The Hobgoblin was given a demon’s face and powers during the “Inferno” crossover. In this issue, he’s driven insane by his new face, while in his previous appearances in Spectacular Spider-Man, he enjoyed his new look.

Approved By The Comics Code Authority: While searching for Hobgoblin, Spider-Man pours out his informant’s cocaine on the ground. Webbed up, the addict is forced to watch as the powder blows away. Also, Ghost Rider is terrorizing a man who produces child pornography and then kills the children.

Panel Count: Eighty-one panels this issue. In this month’s Spectacular Spider-Man, Sal Buscema produced 131 panels (124 if you discount the twenty-third page, since this issue only has twenty-two).

Where’s Felix?: I couldn’t find a Felix in this one.

Review: A deranged monster killing innocent people and scarring a little kid, a cigarette-smoking detective making weary remarks about superheroes, trashy street people, and a splash page of the hero on top of a cross-shaped structure intercut with news reports commenting on the story. It’s hard not to view this as a proto-Spawn story, isn’t it? The book grows even darker, introducing child mutilation of all things into the mix. The pretentious narrative captions are gone, leaving McFarlane with only dialogue and pictures to tell his story. There’s an entirely silent page that mainly consists of Peter and MJ hugging in bed that I’m sure would’ve been covered in ridiculous prose a few issues earlier. This page, along with a gratuitous splash of Spider-Man jumping out of the window, are more examples of the questionable padding that even bothered me as a young McFarlane fan. They’re not totally worthless, though, as the Peter/MJ page is used as a transition piece (The Hobgoblin hugging Adam is mirrored by Peter hugging MJ, which leads to a shot of Peter’s costume on the floor, which leads to a close-up of the spider emblem, which leads to a close-up of a spider that dangles from the rooftop the Ghost Rider is standing on. McFarlane loves his scene transitions.), and the splash page at least has a meta-joke about the amount of webbing Spider-Man always shot out during the McFarlane issues.

Artistically, this is McFarlane’s strongest issue yet. Hobgoblin’s gratuitously long and tattered cape is another Spawn prototype, and his evil eyes and horrid teeth thrilled me as a kid. Aside from the adolescent kewl factor, there’s some subtle work going on. The facial expressions of Adam’s mother, which range from terror, disgust, to absolute fear, are executed extremely well. This is a vast improvement over McFarlane’s earlier, lumpy work in Amazing Spider-Man. He also excels with Ghost Rider, having a field day with all of the fire effects. If McFarlane was born to draw anything, it’s a flaming skeleton riding a flaming motorcycle.

The lettering experimentation continues. Rather than using more turgid captions to explicitly detail Hobgoblin’s descent into madness, the opening pages instead have scattered, purple balloons without pointers that represent the voices in his head. It’s also obvious in this issue that Spider-Man will have a different balloon shape while in costume (he barely spoke aloud in the first arc, so it wasn’t very noticeable). Beneath each balloon is a tiny cloud shape, followed by a wavy pointer. I assume it’s supposed to represent the fact that Spider-Man’s voice sounds different under the mask, and it’s a gimmick I really liked as a kid. Since Rick Parker didn’t do this in the other Spidey books he lettered, I’m assuming that McFarlane was drawing the balloons and Parker filled in the letters later. All of the visual gimmicks are fine, but there are only so many ways you can distract from such a razor-thin plot.


Jeff said...

I LOVED this arc as a kid, although I thought the scarring of the kid was little much. Reading it now, it's more overly-dark pretentious crap that doesn't really fit Spider-Man at all. Most of McFarlane's run is a waste, but I do have a soft spot for the upcoming Morbius tale. I think that is his strongest story by far. I have to admit that I do love the artwork.

Michael said...

the art in this issue was, really, the big proto-spawn issue, wasn't it? all the pieces are complete:

Ghost Rider's Chains
Hobgoblin's Cape
Spider-Mans' mask Eyes

toss in some 'similar enough to venom's markings' for the costume, and a gun drawing 'lesson' from liefeld, and voila: Spawn.

I've never read anything about the inspiration behind spawn, but wouldn't surprise me at all if it came to McFarlane in some fever dream while writing this one.

(note: he got his first good capework practice on Batman in Year Two)

wwk5d said...

My main problem with his artwork is that, while I do appreciate his attention to detail, I hated his 'anatomy', and the fact that much of his work doesn't read like a just seems to be mostly a bunch of pin-ups thrown together. He does get points for poking fun at himself in this issue, though...

Matt said...

I actually owned this issue for some reason. I think it was only McFarlane-drawn issue of any Spider-title that I had. I probably picked it up because the Hobgoblin was my favorite Spider-Man villain and I'd enjoyed Gerry Conway's work on his demon persona in Spectacular and Web over the previous couple of years, so I was willing to give McFarlane a chance in spite of my distaste for his art.

I did not purchase the next issue.

MRPRSN said...

"If McFarlane was born to draw anything, it’s a flaming skeleton riding a flaming motorcycle."
Nice one!
I think Ghost Rider was the only thing that kept me reading this book after the underwhelming first arc. I was really into the first year of Ghost Rider before it became apparent that no forward plot movement was going to occur in that book, just continued dangling mysteries with no explination in sight.

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