Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Something that occured to me in the grocery store the other day

I do way too much thinking at the grocery store. That, and Mark Bagley's Spider-Man has to be the definitive version of the character at the moment, simply because it shows up on all of the licenesed Spidey merchandise out there. And there's a whole lot. This thought, which surely had to be floating around in my thoughts for some time, but it reached the forefront of them when I saw his Spidey crouched in the middle of an inflatable beach ball.

Obviously, I have very little on my mind for this to be such an epiphany, but still, it's a hell of a thing, isn't it? I mean, nothing against Bagley, he's a solid storyteller and has a great work ethic, but given all of the people who've worked on Spidey over the years, Bagley would be among the last guys I'd think of as one of my favorites. But there his version of the character is, all over the place. And yeah, I know that the quality of his work has little to do with it, since it's a corporate thing, but really, it's amazing simply because this is a guy who broke in to the business with a try out comic, and now his work is among the most widely seen of any cartoonist working today. Even if that's solely because it appears on things like beach balls.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, some of the first comics I picked up where Bagley's issues of Amazing Spider-Man, so, despite having a bookshelf full of Essential Spider-Man trades, I do kind of associate him as my No. 1 Spidey artist (next to Ditko, whose art style couldn't sell a beach ball today).

4/19/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Anonymous stephen Cade said...

I llok to Ditko & Romita as classic artists for Spidey--and among my favorites.
But there have been others--even MacFarlane.

I loved Ross Andru's rendering as well.

Worst would be Larsen.

4/19/2006 01:38:00 AM  
Anonymous SpiritGlyph said...

Economically, it makes sense -- which is unusual for Marvel these days. Ultimate Spider-Man is the most accessible series for new readers. It's written for trades, it's characters are younger and relatively unburdened by continuity, and most of all, it's gone an incredible 93 issues with the same writer and artist.

Simply put, it's My First Spider-Man. What interpretation is better to put on a four-year-old's shoes than the one he's most likely to read about?

4/19/2006 03:31:00 AM  
Blogger David Cutler said...

Next to Wieringo, it's probably the best drawn Spidey with the most 'kid-appeal'. As talented Ditko or either of the JRs are, they aren't likely to sell bubblegum to six year olds.

For myself, he was the artist on Amazing when I got into comics so his Spider-Man will always appeal to me. I also like 'Ringo, Ditko, JRsr and jr, Kane, Frenz, Buckingham... but I remember as a kid Bagley's spidey would just blow me away. I didn't even mind (or notice) the perfect-oval head. It was high energy, spider-like, with just the right amount of cartoonishness. Really appealed to me at that age.

4/19/2006 05:36:00 AM  
Blogger Fantomas said...

What has always bugged me is that why doesn't Marvel do the competition more often. The guy they choosed has been a workhorse for them, I think that they could make a lot of money selling try out books and if in the end they can find an artist like Bagley it would be a homerun for them.

4/19/2006 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger Bully said...

The beach balls...and the pencil cases, and the pajamas, and the badminton sets, and the stickers...are all, at least as part of a massive marketing program, probably more profitable for Marvel than the comic book.

You can argue either canniness ("Let's develop a single style of character art and artist to use on all our merchandising to brand them together as one") or laziness ("Ehhh, there's a lot of Bagley iconic poses on those covers and in the book. Just pull the merchandising pose book from those.") I'd like to think Marvel is smarter and more like the first than the second, but if that's true, then why isn't there a single set style for the other merchandised Marvel characters like Captain America, Hulk and Wolverine? Products with those characters feature a mismash of Ultimate and regular artwork from many different artists.

Either way, you can bet that millions more of those toothbrushes and mugs are being sold than Spider-Man comics: Ultimate or Original Recipe. For the kids growing up today with that merchandise, Bagley's is Spider-Man. If they ever discover comics and find out he looks a million different ways, what's that reaction going to be? (Also, when these kids hit their late twenties and early thirties, will there be a massive wave of Bagley nostalgia and raising his work on a pedestal simply because it was their Spidey?

4/19/2006 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I just wish the grocery/retail stores had the actual comics with his art in them, not just the sleeping bags and air fresheners.

4/19/2006 08:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Jack Potts said...

Bully, I'm right there with you. DC Comics hired Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez to develop and refine their style guide throughout the years. In return, they created a single, unified look for their characters by an artist, with a dynamic, clean, fluid, open line style that's accessible, interesting and fit for a wide variety of merchandise.

Marvel's done the "grab bag" approach and I think their licensed products, and the merchandise suffers for it. On the same sleeping bag, you might have an Adam Kubert Cyclops next to an Art Adams Wolverine, beside a Liam Sharp Hulk and the effect is jarring and amateurish. Marvel would be better suited to create their own style guide and hire Stuart Immonen to do it. He can go from traditional to cartoony, but at least all the characters would be consistent under one artist's hand.

4/19/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger buckshot said...

I've noticed Bagley's Spidey plastered all over the merch, and I'm not mad at all. He's always been one of my top 'definitive' Spider-Man artists. And that's not just nostalgia talking (when I first came into Spidey, I think McFarlane was the 'it' guy of the times)

4/19/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Nobody said...

I just remembered my only piece of superhero-themed attire as an adult is a necktie with the Amazing version of Bagley's Spidey on it.

Bagley's certainly earned the product exposure: his version of Spider-Man has been definitive for two generations of fans, based on separate runs 5+ years long on Amazing and Ultimate. And he deserves the recognition since he's one of the most reliable monthly artists in comics history. He's like the Iron Man of pencillers.

Personally I appreciate Marvel's use of distinct artistic interpretations on merchandise over DC's use of the same bland versions of its characters on all the merchandise.

4/19/2006 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

My top 4 Spider-Man artist would be

1. John Romita JR
2. Ross Andru
3. Gil Kane
4. John Romita

Todd McFarlane and Bagley wouldn't show up on my "top 25" list. I think both really suck.

4/19/2006 07:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I think really sucks is that none of the Marvel artists see an extra dime from their artwork on that merchandise. Yes, they don't own the character, but the art is still one of the driving forces behind the selling of those products.

- Stealthwise

4/20/2006 08:40:00 PM  

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