Friday, June 10, 2011


The Bronze Age, comics forgotten era.
In the 1970's comic companies pushed their content in new and wildly different directions inspired by the anything goes social attitudes of the times, while also balancing new fan fostered talent at the helms of post Comics Code adherent, kid friendly books.
While not much born of the era had lasting impressions, there's a cool factor to the books that's singular in style, and inescapable if one looks just a bit closer...
That's where I come in, with Bronzed Beauties, my weekly look at some of the books from the era, that feature more were-men, cyborgs, man-things, barbarians, sorceresses, dinosaurs, monsters, and damsels in distress than any other time, all in striking and vibrant (or should I say faded) four color ink!

This is the first part of a special double-feature this week, chronicling not one but two Bronzed Beauties, and this week we get a bit more literal, featuring the mighty Marvel debuts of two female heroes... The Spider-Woman and The Savage She-Hulk!

First up we have...

TODAY'S BOOK: The Spider-Woman
COVER PRICE AND YEAR: 35 cents - April 1978
PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

Nothing crazy here, classic hero stuff, very much in the vein of Spidey... probably because it's illustrated by none other than John Romita, who, along with Steve Ditko, are the artists most associated with Marvel's wallcrawler! Is is a very strong work of cover art though, perfectly capturing the character in an iconic and illustrative way, with striking desigin elements spotlighting the titular hero in action against men with guns all aimed squarely at her, amidst the center of a spotlight...

WHO'S IT ABOUT (AND HOW COOL AND/OR CRAZY ARE THEY): In the late 1970's Marvel had had some success getting their properties into other media, namely with the Spider-Man and Incredible Hulk TV dramas. So, Stan and crew began to worry that others would try to steal their thunder by creating knock-offs of their core characters, and rushed to get female versions in their books to establish copyrights for the name/gender variations, as well as creative directions for them and such.

First up was Spider-Woman, in early 1978, but this wasn't actually her first appearance... she had debuted a year earlier in Marvel Spotlight number 32, but her origin is recapped (or first revealed, I'm not sure) here. Turns out Spider-Woman, though appearing very much like Spider-Man, has no ties whatsoever to him and his origins. Instead, there's some convoluted back-story of scientist parents, colleagues, death, and sickness to their child (brought on by their work in their top secret European high tech labs amidst what appear to be the Alps), who can only be saved... by utilizing the experimental work they're doing, naturally. Which essentially turns her into a half human half spider hybrid, complete with spider abilities and a venomous sting (but yet leaves her looking completely normal when not in Spider-Woman garb!).
Carmine Infantino is the artist here. And for other Gen X Marvel comics fans, you'll probably know him as I do, the longstanding early artist for Star Wars, post the initial issues. To be honest, I always hated Infantino's work back in the day, it can be very stylized in an odd exaggerated way, that I found to be nothing short of ugly back then. Now, looking back, I love his work. I don't know why I couldn't handle him on Star Wars, probably because he didn't try to stick very close to the likenesses and style of the property, but I find his work to be quite dynamic and fun now. On Spider-Woman, with inks here by Tony DeZuniga, his work is a bit more reigned in, but still a solid choice to depict Jessica Drew's agile nature. Infantino's stuff, like it or not, is rock solid in depicting motion and movement, and those are the bedrock of sequential storytelling.
Written by Marv Wolfman, who appears to be quite prolific at Marvel during the bronze age. We pick up with Spider-Woman slinking around a grocery store in the middle of the night, conflicted as to whether she should steal food to survive, or hold to her moral ground and tough things out. What an epic dilemma and intro to a character folks! Yikes. Turns out she sides on theft as being wrong, but gets caught as she leaving (by an old timer security guard no less!), and then another mysterious man. Escaping and alluding both, after knocking the latter into store displays and rushing off unmasked! What drama!! From there we see her human identity, which oddly has her living for free in an English apartment, with all around her finding her to look cold and inhuman, despite appearing totally normal... queue flashback origin, repeat happenstance conflict and coincidental collision with mysterious well dressed older man from earlier, who she later saves, despite having just recently smacked him upside the head with a lamppost!
It's pretty pedestrian stuff, with some soapy elements I suspect sewn in to appeal to more than just boys, but it's all very odd. The fact that she's not tied in any way to Spider-Man. Her convoluted origin. Her current story being set in London England, and tied to this mysterious British spy... it's definitely a departure from the rest of the original Marvel Universe, but not not trafficking in the bizarre or outlandish elements that so much of the era was known for.

No guests here, it's all Spider-Woman all the time!

Sea-Monkeys anyone?
It's mind blowing that you could send away for these things, that were really what? Plankton???
A comic book staple, as iconic an ad as the muscle gain spots featuring the undersized teen getting sand kicked in his face by the musclebound man...

OVERALL BRONZE FACTOR - ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10 Hostess snack cakes:
Despite this being a debut of a cool female character, complete with flashbacking origin, sporting art from a fairly exciting artist, the whole thing is lacking in any real drama or especially anything very spectacular. So, cool design, art, and core concept, with not much else.

I like Spider-Woman, but can only muster 6 out of 10 variety of snack cake here!

Stay tuned for part two of our double-feature... THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK!!!!


Boo Rudetoons said...

I have that Spiderwoman comic, or a reprint of it carnt remember, love me some classic Spiderwoman

Javier Hernandez said...

Been catching up here on your Bronze Age reviews. Fun stuff! I remember buying Spider-Woman and She-Hulk (and Ms. Marvel a few years earlier) and thinking it was cool Marvel was bringing out new super-hero women characters.

Carmine Infantino seemed like the right guy for the art chores. He drew a sleek Spider-Woman indeed. And if I can mention your other review, John Buscema really drew a great She-Hulk. Like a super strong super model, with a little more mass. And I always preferred She-Hulk in that ripped up, white one-piece!