POP: Retro Cover Of The Week: "Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101"

Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101, April 1985

Cover by John Byrne Marvel Comics

For our first POP: Retro Cover Of The Week (week of June 10, 2019), we flashback to 1985, when comics cost 65 cents, and spinner racks at the local pharmacy or convenience store were being phased out, as comic books were being sold in more and more new local comic book shops around the country.

Since the events of the maxi-series Secret Wars, Spider-Man had been wearing a cool black-and-white costume, the first ever variation in his crimefighting threads. At first, the new suit was actually an alien symbiote, and not popular with fans. But soon it caught on, the alien symbiote was done away with, and Spider-Man continued to wear a lookalike “black suit” that Black Cat made for him. I am sure she loved the idea of their clothes continuing to match on their rooftop dates.

The stark contrast of the black-and-white costume inspired artist John Byrne to design an entirely black-and-white cover for Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101. Everything on the cover, the upper left hand corner trade dress, the Spider-Man head in the UPC code box in the lower left—except for the orange and yellow masthead logo—appears in high-contrast black-and-white. The black costume was always depicted in flat black, with no highlights, so it was, ahem, tailor-made for the technique Byrne used: the Fadeaway.

Made popular by magazine cover illustrator Coles Phillips in the 1920s, the Fadeaway features a foreground figure (Spider-Man) in flat colored clothing (black), against a background in the same flat color (black). The colors merge together seamlessly, and the figure seems to “fade away” into the background. The figure’s edges are defined by a contrasting colored pattern in the clothes (the white spider logo on Peter’s chest, the white “eye holes”, and the white soles of his feet), and also by using contrasting colors in the background. Here, intricate, highly detailed, perspective renderings of tightly-packed black-and-white office towers completely fill the background, with the white areas defining enough of Spider-Man’s outline to allow the viewer's imagination to fill in the rest.

Everything Byrne depicts is also on a dramatic angle, hightening tension and the feeling of vertigo created by watching the wallcrawler swing by upside down, on a webline so thin you almost miss it.

The completely black-and-white Fadeaway is a beautifully effective, breathtaking technique for grabbing the attention of the viewer. Who cares if this cover tells you absolutely nothing about the interior story? Sometimes a cover is just art for the sake of art.

For a more in-depth visual exploration of Fadeaway Comic Book Covers, click the link to see our POP exclusive COMICS ART article, “Appreciating the enduring novelty of Fadeaway covers”

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