Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Praise of: Marvel Premiere #13 Dr. Strange by Englehart & Brunner

A culmination of artistic talents brought the somewhat read Dr. strange series to a dramatic head with this last few issues of Marvel Premiere. basically, it was clear after Lee and Ditko were done with the character that no one knew what to do with Stephen Strange. The book was cancelled and Strange languished in character oblivion.

When he was resurrected in Premiere, the art was dire. The early Barry Smith work didn't work, and the writing by Gardner Fox was really wrong. What was needed was a master plan. Lo and behold, Steve Englehart had one. And Frank Brunner took a couple hits and really got to work at his board.

Brunner has one of those epiphany moments that last a good year or two where the artist grows so much over the short period of time that buying a monthly title by them is tantamount to a time lapse movie of a person's life. We voyeuristically watch the artist grow on so many different levels: as a storyteller, as penciller, as an inker and interpreter of their own work, as a draftsman of pages, as someone using the visual medium as a vehicle for personal expression, that the growth can be dizzying. Just in my years as a fan remember watching Brunner, Rogers, Jim Lee, and more than a few others go through this. It may be one of the best things ever about monthly pamphlets despite my arguements against them in other posts).

The inks were by Crusty Bunkers team which was quite the all star inking team. It was basically whoever was around to do the inking, which might have been Neal Adams, or Alan Weiss, or Barry Smith, or Dick Giordano or even Brunner himself. It makes for an interesting mish-mash of looks, but all those hands somehow made a sum that was greater than the whole of it's parts. The talent level was nothing short of amazing. It would be interesting to try to dissect who inked what on those issues. The reality is that, given the limitations of the color printing then, you had the black lines being printed on metal plates, and they had a good chance to pick up the delicacy of a Neal Adams feather, or an Alan Weiss cross-hatch.

Sadly, it was not to last. After Dr. Strange regained his own series, something that I believe had more to do with Marvel's marketing decision to flood the market during that time period than anything else, and the Silver Dagger story arc, Englehart and Brunner left, and the stagnation began again. It took until Stern and Rogers showed up to really make the series interesting again for me.

Of all the golden periods from Marvel's early 70's luminaries (i.e. pre-All New, All Different X-men): Starlin's Captain Marvel, Colan and Wolfman's Dracula, Perez and marcos' Avengers, Moench and Gulacy's Master of Kung Fu, Thom as and Smith's Conan this is the series that I think that has escaped reprinting, that has fallen under the radar. And it's too bad.

Did I miss any great Marvel series runs from the early '70's?

No comments: