Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Attention To Detail

It seemed a rare day when we readers got a cutaway of the inner workings of our heroes' headquarters or residence, which we'd usually find tucked away in a "king-size" annual or special edition of the regular Marvel title. If I had to take a guess, I could probably list a number of reasons why that might have been the case. For one, a cutaway represents a considerable investment of the artist's time, given the detail needed as well as assuring its adherence to the current stories of the title--and for a medium where "deadline" is likely a word used often, devoting that kind of time for producing a large diagram that otherwise serves no real purpose may be a luxury that isn't available. Another reason might be feasibility--for instance, a cutaway of Atlantis or Tony Stark's offices is probably of no real interest to anyone. And who would even attempt a cutaway of Dr. Strange's Greenwich Village sanctum?

Yet on occasion, it's been a nice surprise to see a cutaway pop up in an issue, particularly a regular-sized 20-page issue which didn't need the extra padding like an annual would. Some of these would take the easy way out, and just "show us around" a locale or residence. The Xavier school, for example:

A nice rendition, and probably all that's really necessary. After all, we know what the Danger Room and its control booth look like, and we've seen the Blackbird aircraft's hangar and Cerebro--so the most a cutaway could show us would be the individual classrooms and students' rooms of the school. I'm not saying that wouldn't be interesting on some level--but would an artist take the time to map out a bunch of dorm rooms and atriums?

There was also this two-page spread of no less than Asgard:

I dunno--Asgard looks a little like a medieval Tomorrowland, which probably isn't what Odin had in mind.  One good thing about being Odin--no contractor is going to duck his calls.

Other spreads of note were Magneto's nifty Antarctic base. Which makes me think that the evil Garokk might have hit Magneto up for a little advice on how to design his base of operations in the Savage Land:

But actual cutaways required that extra amount of effort and attention to detail that wasn't really warranted for all of Marvel's mainstream characters. We saw a number of cutaways of the Baxter Building, I suppose because it's the only headquarters that's arguably its own character in the pages of Fantastic Four--it seemed to evolve alongside the FF itself. And while it's a pity that Bruce Banner doesn't have a place to hang his hat, we at least had a good detailed look at the old Hulkbuster Base where he was an occasional "guest":

Wouldn't you feel at home surrounded by all of that army ordnance?

And there was Daredevil's apartment/gym combo awhile back:

I'm still trying to figure that one out. The guy was able to foot the bill for two New York City apartments, one under an assumed name. Murdock must charge one hell of a fee for his legal services. Later, he bought a brownstone with basically the same setup, so he no longer had other tenants to worry about:

Probably the least-inspired cutaway that comes to mind for me would be that of Avengers Mansion, at the time when it was still flush to Fifth Avenue:

The mansion as depicted here makes use of a warehouse annex directly behind it to house its mostly nonresidential components and hardware related to Avengers activities. There are things here that are quite sensible--for instance, I like the fact that the garage is located in the annex, so that it opens to the street behind the mansion. But there also seems to be a lot of wasted space in this part of the complex. What's with that vague "experimental chamber," anyway? That's a lot of square footage to devote to stuff that by definition is only temporarily stored there at any given time. Also, do the Avengers need an arsenal--and one with state-of-the-art weaponry, at that? I can't see anyone but Hawkeye making use of an arsenal, as storage space for his specialized arrows.

Otherwise, the detailing in many of these sections looks a bit too generic to be interesting in a cutaway sense. With the exception of the garage and the meeting room, you could shift almost all of those descriptive signs around to different areas, and the rooms would still conform to the descriptions. (By the way--frankly, if I were a villain wanting to take out the resident Avengers in one strike, I'd bomb their nonreinforced living quarters with a missile attack or ray blast at around 2 a.m. Why bother with dealing with their protective devices when you can just wait for them to nod off?)

If you're interested in this sort of thing, you can see some more cutaways and schematics on Rip Jagger's page on the subject.


Doug said...

A very long time ago Karen posted that spread of Asgard and pointed out the sign in the lower right corner -- directing Asgard's denizens to the... shopping center! Ah, the King thought of everything, didn't he?


Comicsfan said...

That he did! I'd bet the shopping area even has a Starbucks franchise--serving lattes spiked with ale, no doubt.