Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: Marvel Masterworks The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 13; Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 121-131 (cover dates June, 1973- April, 1974)
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: Gil Kane (121-124), John Romita, Sr. (121-125), and Ross Andru (125-131) with Jim Mooney, Tony Mortellaro, Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt
If the status of Marvel in 1972 was the illusion of change, then 1973 is the year when those illusions were shattered and Marvel was changed forever. The death of Gwen Stacy in issue 121 signified the true end of the Silver Age of comics, ushering in an era of dark and gritty storytelling. The reverberations of issue 121 and 122 are still felt today, albeit for all of the wrong reasons. Death is a cheap, over-hyped sales gimmick in today's market. In 1973, it was used as a vehicle for storytelling. Gerry Conway showed a bitter, defeated, morose Peter Parker in the issues following the death of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin). The strife of the era had bled onto the pages of comic books with spectacular results. It's a pity that Gil Kane left the book, as he is a master artist. The Postal Service lost some of his artwork for issue 123, and the recovered pages are shown as extras in the back. Kane was a first rate storyteller as well as an artist, and his pages had a dynamism rarely matched since.
I never minded Ross Andru's Spider-Man as a kid when I read these as cheap-o back issues. It's only when going from Gil Kane's superb rendition of the Man-Wolf in issue 124 to Andru's workmanlike art in issue 125 that you realize how inferior he is. Andru is a competent penciler in his own right, but when you jump from one issue to the next you really notice it.
I had many of these issues during my original collecting phase. Issues 121 and 122 were bought with paper route money (I got 122 in Good/ Very Good or better for like $6 back then), 124 for .50, 129 (the first appearance of the Punisher) for $1.50 in Fine condition. I found Issue 131 in a quarter box circa 1983 and can still almost recite every panel, so it was a treat to see it in “high def” Masterworks format. So this era of Spider-Man has a strong nostalgia factor for me, even if the issues post 122 are not considered high marks in most fan's minds.
The introduction of the Punisher was yet another “zeitgeist” moment for comic books. Gerry Conway stated in the introduction that he was intended to be a cross between Dirty Harry and the subway shooter vigilantes that had been rocking headlines back in 1973. He would continue to reappear as a quasi-villain/ anti-hero, and by the mid-'80s he was a star. By the '90s he was one of Marvel's top selling heroes.
The OCD zone: The same ol' same ol' for this line of high end hardcovers. Nice paper, superior linework restoration, coloring faithful to the original issues and sewn binding. Dare I ask for more? Howsabout letters pages? What? Save 'em for the inevitable 4th or 5th omnibus? I don't think so, Tim. 

The original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a 1973 made for TV movie, is one of the most terrifying movies ever made, in my opinion. I saw it in the late '70s as a small child on re-runs. For some insane reason my Mom thought that it was okay to let the television be my baby sitter, and she let me watch whatever I wanted to. Monster movies, Planet of the Apes, B-Horror films of the '60s and '70s...they were all fair game for 3-5 year old Kris. This particular movie scared the crap out of me because it was set in a regular house, and these things lived in it. It could have been my house. They were strong, too, strong enough to drag poor Sally into the fireplace or furnace where they lived. They were also pretty smart, smart enough to rip out the electrical wires to make the house dark. The movie scared and scarred me, and it took me years to get over it. I watched it again 20 years ago, and while it is lame and cheesy by today's standards, it still evoked feelings of terror and helplessness in me, even as an adult. I found this to be totally badass, which brings us to...
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)
I am generally opposed to remakes. I feel that there are more than enough books to be adapted into movie form, and that remakes are generally pointless cash grabs. The fact that they dug up this forgotten relic made me smile, though (see lengthy story above). It's polished, and the creatures are supposedly more terrifying than the originals. While CGI makes it possible for shadows and scurrying to appear more realistic, those creepy “Sally creeps” (my childhood name for them) guys in fur suits were way scarier. You be the judge:

Coke Classic:

The New Coke:
OK, that wasn't nice. This was nowhere near as bad as the New Coke. It was, in fact, fairly decent. There were almost as many nods to the original as there deviations, so you got that comfortable feeling with the occasional shock.
One thing that I don't like about modern movies is that they answer every question. I like how old movies leave you wondering. Everything is spelled out pretty clearly here by the end. The mystery of motives is often the most terrifying thing about a movie, like the original Psycho. A guy who just happens to be completely nuts is way scarier than someone who was molested and shit (like the stupid prequel made for TV thing said). Having creatures who just wanted to kidnap this lady was scarier than fairies who want children's teeth. Just sayin'. And no, that's not really a spoiler. You find this out 90 seconds into the film.
The verdict? It's worth seeing. It would be a great dollar show movie.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I didn't spend the $22 bucks and go with you. I need the money to get the Thor classic cover Blu-ray that's coming out on the 13th!