Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Amazing Spider-Man #154. The Sandman

Amazing Spider-Man #154, Sandman
(Cover from March 1976.)

"The Sandman Always Strikes Twice"

Words by Len Wein.
Pencils by Sal Buscema.
Inks by Mike Esposito.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.

Just how long is a piece of string? About half as long as the average super-villain is stupid.

All of which brings us to the Sandman.

I don't think anyone ever accused Flint Marko of being a criminal genius but, this tale, he really does seem to have been taking the idiot tablets. No sooner has he been freed by a gang of mystery men than he's out to have another fight with Spider-Man, the man who helped put him away mere days earlier. Why he wants to fight our hero when he's on a mission for the shadowy mastermind who organised his release is anyone's guess but, needless to say, it endangers the entire endeavour for no good reason and, this being Spider-Man's comic - not the Sandman's - leads to a rather unpleasant ending for our beachified brawler.

But what of that shadowy mastermind who sent him on this errand? Hmn let's see. Who can it be? This is The Amazing Spider-Man and the mystery mastermind uses a cigarette holder. It's certainly tough to figure out his identity, though I have a hunch he's not the Kangaroo.

On the art front, Ross Andru's gone missing but has a good excuse. I believe that, at the time, he was drawing Spider-Man's mammoth first encounter with Superman (With a little uncredited help from John Romita and Neal Adams), so, it's time for Sal Buscema to step in.

Sal Buscema's never been as celebrated as his brother, with a style that's a kind of missing link between Don Heck and big John but I've always had a soft spot for him. Ground breaking he wasn't but he knew how to tell a story with the maximum of clarity and the minimum of fuss. Still, he's no Ross Andru and I'll be glad when he's back.

There's literally nothing of Peter Parker's private life in this tale. Not one panel. I'm assuming this is because of the stand-in nature of the artist. It makes you realise how much influence pencillers had under the Marvel Method Stan Lee developed. Presumably, having been drafted in late in the day, Sal Buscema wasn't up on what was going on in Peter Parker's domestic arrangements and therefore avoided them like the plague. Interesting that the implication of this is that, with Marvel Comics, developing such subplots was often left to the artist, not the writer.

On a scientific note, I'd love someone to explain to me the principle behind the functioning of the Cryogenic Converter but somehow I doubt an answer'll be forthcoming.

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