Oct 29, 2015

It Was Already There: Busiek, Butler, and Bloodshed

One of the first comics I ever bought with my own money was 1991's Web of Spider-Man #81. Aside from my general like of Spider-Man as a visual and as a character (he was funny), I can't really think of why I would buy this issue off the rack. If I were to hazard a guess, I must have been intrigued by the cover copy.

"He's one of Spider-Man's oldest enemies, but the web-slinger's never seen him before!"

How can he be one of Spider-Man's oldest enemies when Spidey's never seen him before? The first sequence explains how Spidey stops two brothers committing a car robbery years ago.

The villain, Bloodshed, is the older brother Wyndell on the left there. But the story actually focuses on the other dude, Ricky, who since that time Spidey caught them, has been too scared to actually live life. He's a successful guy, but he's just unsociable, and remains so until the day Wyndell catches up to him again.

The thing that strikes me about this whole thing is the focus on a civilian character we've never seen before and how his life changes in the presence of the superhumans. Also, in that sequence you see up there, you kind of get a whole summary of his life in four panels. So it shouldn't be surprising when you look at the credits:

Kurt Busiek had been in comics a good long while at this point, but he wasn't the household name he'd become just three years later when he wrote Marvels, the landmark series painted by Alex Ross that followed a civilian character we've never seen before and how his life, and the world, are changed by the presence of superhumans.

Busiek and Ross would go on to do Astro City with Brent Anderson, about a, uh, city named, uh, Astro City, in which a bunch of metahumans dwell. Like that one issue of Web and Marvels, the main focus of each issue isn't the superhumans, but the civilians who live in Astro City, and how their lives are affected by these superhuman adventures.

It's become such a Busiek trademark (although not even half his books use it) that it's just interesting to see it in play here, in a 1991 comic, one of the first comics I ever bought.

Interestingly, this comic also features art by Steven Butler, who would become the regular artist on the title during the infamous Clone Saga. His somewhat cartoony style, usually rendered with thick inks, made him one of my two favorite Spider-Man artists (Steve Skroce is the other) of that era.

He went on to Archie Comics to do a bunch of stuff, including a really long run on Sonic the Hedgehog.

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