When The Comic Was Better Than The Movie

I was leafing through some old comics looking for something that would fit this category when I came across this ad:

Gene Colan’s recent death had brought about a number of articles and posts in appreciation of the great one’s art. Those articles as well as a recent reading of the Marvel Essentials edition of Tomb of Dracula reignited my love for Colan’s pencils so when I came across the above ad for a comic adaptation of Jaws 2, I got very curious. Generally comic adaptations of movies are always bleak affairs, but how was a crappy movie handled by one of the masters of comic art?

I hunted around eBay and various comic collector websites, but I had a hard time finding a Jaws 2 comic. As it turns out it was actually Marvel Super Special #6 which was a magazine format that Marvel was playing with in the late 70’s. The rock group Kiss was the star of one of these Super Specials, for instance. I was considering buying it, but was worried that it might be awful. I already have more than enough crappy comics. Why add to the misery?

But I was still curious. How did Colan handle it?

J2-041Very well as it turns out. An internet search turned up a terrific comic book nostalgia blog called Diversions of the Groovy Kind where its author has posted pages from Marvel Super Special #6. Take a look. They’re terrific! Definitely a better treatment than the screenplay deserved. Colan’s great white shark is certainly a lot more animated and active than the toothy, fiberglass log featured in the movie.

J2-038This scene played as pure cornball in the movie. I know that the other teenagers and I were all groaning at this in the theater when the shark takes out a helicopter, but Colan makes it look kind of cool. The movie certainly pales in comparison to the comic. (I’m not sure about the sound effect KA-BLOW.)

The other thing that is really striking about this comic is the coloring by Tom Palmer. It must have been a new and/or certainly more expensive process because I don’t recall comic colors being any where near as beautiful as these in the 1970s. The ad above does mention Full Spectrum Color reproduced directly from Palmer’s hand-colored originals. I wonder why they didn’t start doing this process for more comics. My guess is that the process was too expensive, and it would have never reproduced well on the cheap newsprint most comics were printed on. I’ll have to quiz Gerry Giovinco about this. He’s done some marvelous articles on coloring comics over at CO2 Comics.

The ad was from Godzilla No. 18 from Marvel Comics. In this series, the House of Ideas attempted to weave Toho Studios’ giant behemoth into the Marvel Universe, and like the Jaws 2 adaptation it was better than the Godzilla movies being produced at the time which were mainly forgettable fodder for the kiddie matinee market. Godzilla was sort of an overly benign brute for my taste, but at least the Marvel bullpen was trying to do something different with the character rather than the rubber-suited wrestling matches that the movies had degraded into over in Japan.

Why is Godzilla fighting a rat? Long story. Mr Fantastic and SHIELD had something to do with it.

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3 Responses to When The Comic Was Better Than The Movie

  1. Something by Frank Santoro may help.

    Frank writes of Steve Oliff:
    “He worked on Marvel’s first full color comic magazine in the ’70s, The Hulk!, the first book there to use the “blue-line” process.”


  2. Joe Williams says:

    Thanks for the info, Bill. Great article! That sort of stuff is fascinating!

  3. JT says:

    When I read this, I immediately thought of the take that the late Richard Jeni did on Jaws IV.

    Sadly, it is no longer on YouTube due to an alleged copyright infringement.

    Please accept this written transcript of the bit; without his vocal inflections it is a poor substitute, but with a little imagination, I think you can appreciate what he did.


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