I've noticed that some of the covers I've chosen for Simply the Best status tend to represent common themes I'm fond of, such as clash covers or imaginary tales. This month's selection of Iron-Man #62 (1973) could also be considered a representative of a favorite cover theme...namely the conditional cliffhanger!
"Conditional cliffhanger?", you ask? Here's what I mean: Much like the classic movie serial cliffhangers that visually showed the hero in impossible-to-escape danger, the conditional cliffhanger of comic books is unique in its use of character dialogue to spike the drama level.
Frozen at the moment of maximum peril, the hero (as Iron-Man demonstrates) is shown literally thinking or talking through the seemingly impossible dilemma he or she faces. Much like the role suspenseful music plays in enhancing a movie cliffhanger, these dire "If-Then" statements dramatically amplify the sense of danger and desperation already suggested by the visuals...to the point where a kid had no choice but to reach for two dimes and buy the dang thing!
Obviously, having chosen this particular cover, Iron-Man #62 (by cover artist supreme Gil Kane) is one of my favorite examples of the conditional cliffhanger.
One of my favorite aspects of the old Iron-Man comics is when the artists (in this case Gil Kane) would occasionally bend the rules of logic to show a hint of emotion on Shellhead's otherwise expressionless helmet. In this case, it's an expression of pure sad-faced agony as Iron-Man struggled to support the giant generator. Unlikely? Of course!..but who cares? Factor in the back-breaking contortion of Iron-Man's body, the sharp angle of the massive machinery, his about-to-buckle right leg, along with Whiplash slashing his armor to ribbons, and that adds up to sheer, unmitigated misery!
Speaking of Whiplash (The guy whose name sounds like the sound his weapon makes. Try it! I dare you!), his body language, cape, "head tassel", and (of course) his whip really convey a sense of fluid, whip-cracking motion.
Also, points for the "tin-headed has-been" crack.
Now, back to that conditional cliffhanger! Note the progression of importance in Iron-Man's string of thought balloons. First, and naturally least important to the hero, is his own safety. Next, Iron-Man's thoughts move to protecting the life of the woman on the floor, Pepper Potts. However,as if pandering to the pre-teen boys reading the cover, the final and most horrifying possibility wasn't the death of himself or his lady love...but of Whiplash winning! "Yeah, Pepper and I will be crushed to a pulp, but man....Whiplash can't WIN!" All kidding aside, I have to say, the picture painted here is one of pure heroic determination in the face of impossible odds...something that many of today's comic fans and creators seem to dismiss as quaint or "unrealistic" (whatever that means).
My favorite part of the cover? That would be that little price square up in the corner. Man...20¢ per comic book. Five for a buck! Yeah, I know...inflation makes it seem like more of a deal than it actually was at the time...but as we break the $4.00 barrier for a single comic book here in 2009, that's one heck of a wicked whip-crack to the wallet! WWWWHHPPSSHHHH!