Monday, October 8, 2012

When Comics Came With Eye Candy

You don't see so many battle "tableau" panels when super-teams mix it up anymore--those "all in one" pics that come on the tail end of a fight, when everyone has taken each other's measure and the fight has come to a head. A tableau panel almost feels like a wink from the writer and artist--"Hope you enjoyed the battle! Here's one last look at everyone before we wrap things up!" In an instant, the panel lets us size things up--and while there may have been more of the story to follow, this part of it at least was concluded satisfactorily.

We never got a full-blown battle between the Avengers and the Fantastic Four--I suppose because, with the FF always being limited to four members, the numbers were too lopsided. And there are different fighting styles to these two groups. The Avengers have a "chairman" acting as leader in their battles, but for the most part the Avengers act independently of each other--and while that's true of the FF to an extent, the FF is a more close-knit fighting team, with everyone forming on Reed to a certain degree.

So while the two teams have had their skirmishes, it was mostly due to trying to decide which was the better team to handle a crisis--particularly in their early days, when they were unfamiliar with each other for the most part:

As a result, this is the closest we got to a tableau panel with these two groups:

The FF still got their chance for a decent tableau shot, with the X-Men:

But the Avengers found other opponents where mistaken assumptions each team made about the other led to a fight breaking out--specifically, those selfsame X-Men, whose reclusive status usually made them an "unknown quantity" with other teams. Somebody really needs to speak to Prof. Xavier about how wise it is to keep your team so secretive that even the good guys don't know you're all on the same side. Here are two nice tableau panels from their earliest conflicts with each other, with everyone getting good coverage:

I don't know why these throw-downs always have the women going up against each other. Virgo against the Scarlet Witch. Medusa against Invisible Girl (when the latter isn't being held hostage somewhere). The Wasp against Marvel Girl. Why wouldn't Marvel Girl, for instance, telekinetically grab all of Hawkeye's arrows and dispose of them? Here's a nice one of Medusa being an equal opportunity villainess, though look at how Reed just dismisses her threat:

Though speaking of Medusa, what glaring question mark can you spot in this tableau panel?

Namely: what exactly is Medusa doing while all hell is breaking loose around her? Granted, her team has been cut in half, with the Wizard and the Trapster taken out of action--but at the moment, the odds would be even if she'd only thought to yank Sue's feet out from under her and thereby free the Sandman. With the Torch returning shortly, the battle is still probably as good as over--but Medusa doesn't strike me as the indecisive type, nor the type not to be in the thick of a fight. And worse, Reed and Sue are acting like she'll stay that way--like she's not even a factor they need to take into account.

I'm not sure whatever happened to these kinds of tableau panels. I suppose when comics began veering in a more "serious" direction, panels like this that reminded you that you were, after all, reading a comic book were deemed an indulgence and, to an extent, unnecessary. It's difficult to repeatedly show teams mixing it up with each other and eventually boil it down to one panel. It if's heroes vs. villains, the tableau panel can sap the conflict of its drama since it all but nullifies the struggles in individual panels that came before it. And if the two teams both have their own titles, chances are no real consequences will come of the fight--so the most the reader will get out of it is eye candy. But every now and then, a little eye candy was fun to indulge in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic Four #43 is a classic and one of my top 25 issues. I also have often thought that Medusa should have grabbed Sue and than who knows what would have happened. We could have seen Medusa vs. the Invisible Girl and Sandman vs. Mr. Fantastic. Better yet, Medusa should have grabbed Mr. Fantastic and smashed him against Sue Storm, thus knocking both Richards and the blonde girl unconscious, while freeing Sandman. Then Medusa and Sandman could have ambushed the Torch when he returned and the Frightful Four still could have reigned supreme!