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Let’s pick this cover apart (in a good way) – The Amazing Spider-Man #40

January 7, 2011
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A couple of weeks ago I posted a half-cocked theory about how John Romita’s art on The Amazing Spider-Man rescued that title after Steve Ditko left Marvel, while Doctor Strange suffered a different fate in the immediate aftermath of that sudden departure. I threw that thought against a wall just to see if it would stick. I’m not sure if it did. As I write this it might be sliding down said wall like a slimy White Castle pickle.

My ruminations on the Doctor Strange comic in that other post led me to pull this Spidey book out of the pile to look at. It’s perhaps the best Spider-Man cover of all time — and that’s really saying something — and it represents what John Romita was at his absolute best. The fact that this came in his second issue on the title in the midst of one of the biggest moments of Spider-Man lore only adds to the magic of the whole thing. I mean, it’s the comic book equivalent of “Send it in, Jerome!” in college basketball:

I thought it would be kind of fun to break the cover down, and pick out the parts that make it so effective. Forgive the slight wear around the binding — I actually bought this comic very cheaply a few weeks ago because the rest is in very clean, unruffled and vibrant shape. I think that even the fine lines at the edges give it a distinguished look, like wrinkles on an aging but still-handsome Hollywood star.

Here we go.

First, on a broad level, there’s the contrast of colors, both between the primary red and blue of Spidey and the secondary green and purple of the Green Goblin, and then between the two principals and the yellow and orange flames behind them. It’s a rich, vibrant tableau if there ever was one.

This first smaller portion we focus on has to be Spidey’s posture:

His shoulders are tensed, his fists are clenched, and he looks like he’s poised to deliver a James Caan/Godfather/two-trashcan beating to his foe. He looks pissed. Even his “eyes,” which are always susceptible to subtle changes by artists depending on the webslinger’s mood, have “angry” written all over them.

Then there’s the Goblin:

He’s a beaten man. He’s down on his knees, his fingers are curled, perhaps from pain, and he can’t even raise his head, which keeps his face concealed and lets us imagive how twisted with agony it is. But the most effective flourish might be the way his cap dangles over his left arm. It gives a disheveled, thoroughly beaten apprearance to him. I should also note that his sinister purple European man-purse is still intact. I’m not sure if that adds anything, but it deserves to be noted.

In the background there’s the Goblin’s glider, which has been grounded and overturned and appears on the verge of being consumed by the flames:

And, finally, there’s a little touch that isn’t an artistic choice by Romita but more of an editorial leftover (and one that would last a few more issues) — Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man is looking down on it all:

If I could cook this cover in a spoon and inject it into my veins I would. Wait, did I just type that?

Seriously, this is great stuff. I’m not sure if it buttresses my earlier crackpot theory all that much, but it’s always nice to revisit these bygone days in the Spidey-verse. The elder Romita was (and is) a true mensch.

Excelsior!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. neill permalink
    January 9, 2011 11:52 am

    Truer words were never spoke! I invaded the premises of the Marvel office once as a child, and JR Sr was soooo nice to me, giving me lots of his time in the middle of what had to be an ungodly busy day (this was also true of Don Heck, Herb Trimpe, and Tony Mortellaro). Truly a prince!

    • January 10, 2011 8:16 pm

      I think you just described in brief what amounts to a dream day for most comics fans. What a memory that must be…

      • neill permalink
        January 10, 2011 10:36 pm

        Most definitely. “Nuff said.

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