Sunday 7 July 2013

Marvel Premiere #3. Barry Smith tackles Dr Strange.

Marvel Premiere #3, Dr Strange, Barry Smith art
One of the things you have to give Barry Smith about his early Marvel career is he clearly didn't believe in outstaying his welcome. Apart from his two-year stint on Conan, if he started to draw one of your favourite titles, you could be pretty much sure it wouldn't be long before he stopped drawing it. Daredevil, Ka-Zar and the Avengers all saw him managing noticeably short stints on them before vanishing without trace, and so it was with Dr Strange.

On his way home from wherever it is he's been, Dr Strange is almost run over by a lorry but saves himself with a quick burst of the old, "Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth."

But, returning to his Sanctum Sanctorum, he senses an evil presence.

Before long, he's in a world gone weird, his body's been possessed and he's up against an unknown foe.

Marvel Premiere #3, Dr Strange v Nightmare, Barry Smith art
It's then he realises that he didn't stop the lorry from hitting him at all and is now in a coma, trapped in the land of his old foe Nightmare.

Armed with this knowledge, he soon disposes of the threat and makes a full recovery - but not before discovering there are darker forces than even Nightmare behind it all.

It's a nice tale and beautifully drawn by Smith. The writing too seems more sophisticated than we sometimes credit Stan Lee with being capable of. No one's credited with the story's colouring, so I'm assuming it was supplied by Smith who does some rather lovely things with red and black at certain points in the tale.

To be honest, even though I read the good Doctor's adventures avidly every week in Marvel UK's Avengers mag, I remember virtually none of his stories, which can't be a good sign.

However, along with Steve Ditko's early haunted house tale, this is the one that's always lodged itself in my memory, which suggests it must have been a cut above the average.

The only disappointment is that Smith hung around for just two issues before being replaced by a whole string of other artists just after he'd launched the somewhat repetitive Shuma-Gorath storyline which seemed to consist mostly of Strange going to seaside towns to be threatened by vaguely identikit watery menaces. Given how stylish a start to it he'd made - and just how suited he was to the strip - it would've been nice to have seen just what Smith would have done had he managed to see the whole project through from start to finish.

Marvel Premiere #3, Dr Strange. Barry Smith art


Kid said...

What an improvement over his dreadful X-Men tale in the late #60s. (Although he drew that while sitting on a park bench apparently, so maybe he's got an excuse.)

Dougie said...

The seaside town in the next story is very like Fishertown in Nairn. The fact that the adjacent stream that runs to the sea is known as the Maggot has always seemed creepy to me.

Steve W. said...

Dougie, I wouldn't worry about it unless you've noticed a tendency for the locals to randomly devolve into fish people and for visitors to use words like, "gibbous."

JimmySlattery said...

I love that X-Men, with the balloon muscles and odd perspective, and the Avengers work is gorgeous.Much as I love his later work his early Kirby stuff was excellent

Steve W. said...

I've not seen enough of his work on the X-Men to comment on it but I really liked his early work on the Avengers. Even at that point, his story-telling and layouts had a real style to them. It's just a pity that the inking on those issues wasn't as good as it could have been.

JimmySlattery said...

It's very much like the Avengers stuff, same time period, same approach. You'd dig it, I'm sure

Anonymous said...

Agree about the story seeming better than you'd expect from Stan Lee, Steve, so I did wonder if it was a case of Barry Smith contributing (uncredited) to the writing as he often did at Marvel.

Fwiw, Bazza's wiki entry says that the issue was "re-scripted" by Lee after it was drawn from his original script, which sounds like there might be something going on there (not least because an original script isn't very "Marvel method")
Maybe that means Smith did his own thing, so changes were required... or, you know, maybe Lee was just inspired by the artwork and decided to put some extra effort in.


Steve W. said...

Thanks for the extra info, Sean. It does seem like something atypical was going on.