Sunday, May 27, 2007

Metapost: The Throwaway Panels

There used to be a time when newspapers carried pages of comic strips, and on Sundays, all of them had three rows of panels to entertain the world with. Sadly, the realm of the comic strip has mainly fallen into less pages and less room on those pages. Most of the time this is two rows of panels, but I've seen them cut down to one row. I have also seen them still in their three row form, but that's pretty rare. In any case, despite the limited space available, artists still usually do three rows of comics (as a peek at any online comic strip place will show you) and, most of the time, the top row of panels feature a little throw-away joke or needless exposition and the title of the strip. "The Amazing Spider-Man" is no different, and I'm here to show you the cycle of throw-away panels the strip uses. These are arranged in a purely arbitrary order.

The Origin - Part OneOne of the most important aspects of Spider-Man are his spider-powers. How did he get them, though? This pair of throwaway panels tells us, while at the same time letting us know that not everyone thinks the Amazing Spider-Man is an okay guy.

The Origin - Part Two
If the first two throwaway panels tell us the how of Spider-Man's super-heroics, these two tell us the why. It can only be assumed that the fact that Spider-Man's uncle is referred to as "Gentle Ben" is a joke on the part of the originators of these panels.

The Double Life
Another facet of Spider-Man's character is that running off to be a hero can royally screw him over at times, as shown above. As the second "Spider-Man" film illustrates, the super-heroics cuts into his civilian life and gives him an air of unreliability. It can also safely be assumed from these panels that the throw-away panels have not been changed since the strip started in 1977.

The spider-powers mentioned above are summarized here, entirely leaving out the spider-sense and proportionate agility of a spider. No one knows why, exactly, Spider-Man is lifting a city bus off the ground. Chances are, it's just a visual representation of how strong he is. Other options are that the bus needs a tire changed, someone is stuck under the bus, the bus has some evil agenda which Spider-Man is putting a stop to by lifting it, or he is just having a good time. If the last one is true, then it is no wonder people think he's a menace.

The Web-Shooters
I have no idea what having spider-powers has to do with making web-shooters. These two panels treat the latter as if it were the foregone conclusion of the former, but it's really not. They do represent Peter Parker's innate scientific wizardry, however, and that's pretty nice.

Friends and Foes
My personal favorite shows us Spider-Man's supporting cast and rogues' gallery. It's great fun going through and seeing how many of them you know. Oddly enough, Peter Parker is shown in the "friends" panel. You'd think they would go with the split-mask for that. Coincidentally, the only person I'm unsure about is the person behind Robbie Robertson. Is that his wife, his son, or another character all together? I'm guessing it's his son?

There you have it, folks. Which one is your favorite? Weigh in in the comments because, seriously, that's what they're for.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting to juxtapose the size of Spider-Man's eyes between the original throwaway panels and the current strips. It's also interesting to note the missing name from the byline, which presumably once read "Stan Lee/Steve Ditko". Still more interesting is the reference to the spider as an "insect", which we all know it isn't.

Can anyone identify all of the villains? I think I only recognize about a third of them.

Azor said...

Guy behind Robbie is definitely his son, Randy

Mike Podgor said...

The villains are:
-Molten Man (I presume)
-Kraven the Hunter
-Green Goblin
-Doctor Octopus
-Doctor Doom

If you want, I can whip up one of those charts where everyone has a little number.

Mike Podgor said...

Also, according to this list, the blank spot would have been John Romita.

Anonymous said...

Those Sunday panels are excellent pieces of work. What is sad is that they have removed John Romita Sr. name from the names, and only left Stan Lee.

Also. note the quality in the art in comparision to the actual present strip. A very sad state.

As for strip size, and page layout. The original work of John Romita Sr. really gave the strip a greater scope to it. Even though the strip size was limited. But, my favorite has got to be the double sized strips that Gil Kane did on Star Hawks. It really felt that each day yoou actually got something going on instaed of dragged out limited story and art.

Evan & Kristin said...

I could live with four months of Doctor Doom instead of a fat guy with a handgun and a plan that makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Friends and villains panels, definitely. However, the bus-lifting one is pretty cool too, I just assumed that Spidey dropped a quarter and is trying to retrieve it.