Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Behold the Man

'Behold the Man'
Adapted from the short story by Michael Moorcock by Doug Moench (script) and Alex Nino (art)
from Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction (Marvel / Curtis) issue 6, December 1975

Frank Brunner's front cover illustration of the 6th and final issue of Marvel's Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction certainly was a dramatic, if contrived, envisioning of the Michael Moorcock short story Behold the Man

The short story, first published in 1966, and then later as a novel in 1969, is probably Moorcock's best-known story.

The problem with Behold the Man is that, aside from its provocative plot, it's not very good. 

The time travel elements of the story are perfunctory, and most of the content is centered on a tedious, belabored recitation on the psychoses of the lead character, a German Jew named Karl Glogauer.

Needless to say, a story like Behold the Man was just the sort of 'controversial' material that Marvel editor Roy Thomas loved to showcase in Marvel's black and white magazines. It was part and parcel of his desire to have such comics seen as a mature, meaningful, 'adult' art form.

Thomas pontificates about his decision to run a comic-book adaptation of the story in a self-indulgent Introduction (scanned and posted below).

Doug Moench's script for the adaptation is too wordy to be effective. It also suffers from pretentiousness, such as the inclusion of a quote from Carl Jung, and excerpts from the Gospels, as framing devices.

What makes Behold the Man worth scanning and posting here, is Alex Nino's artwork. 

Despite the overwritten nature of Moench's script, which not only requires the use of 5 - 7 panels per page to accommodate, but the inclusion of large blocks of external narration text in many of these panels, Nino is able to give the artwork his own distinctive approaches. 

This takes the form of filling the backgrounds of the panels depicting the events in Palestine with palm tree fronds, and cross-hatching motifs that mimic the texture of palm fronds weaved into thatching, in an effort to give them a visual style in keeping with the story's placement in the 'New Testament' era. 

It's these little touches, done in very little drawing space, that overcome the low-res quality of the printing, that confirm that Nino was one of the better artists to contribute to the Marvel and Warren black-and-white magazines of the 70s.

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