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What makes Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man Torment so special?

 

Marvel Comics - Spider Man Torment Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

The 1990's have received a lot of criticism in recent times by a certain sector of the comic book media because of the tendencies that were developed at the time, such as a more cynical approach in the storylines, the graphic violence and artwork that has been deemed excessive, but the reality is that a lot of great things also came out of that period, such as a bigger emphasis on detailed art and character development. Showing a refreshing degree of ambition and maturity.

Compared to the modern day comic book industry, where there is a concerning lack of fascinating and entertaining stories, sales have suffered over the past three years and the artwork has become somewhat stale, it’s not hard to look at a story such as Spider-Man’s Torment from 1990, done by star artist Todd McFarlane, and feel that this decade gets a lot more flack than it deserves.

Here we have a piece of highly historical value in the comic book art form and we’re going to tell you all about it.

What was Torment?

Back in the late 80's, Canadian artist Todd McFarlane, along with American writer David Michelinie, injected new life to the Amazing Spider-Man title with solid storylines and fantastic artwork that updated the wall-crawler to the current times. McFarlane’s artwork gained a lot of recognition and awards, boosting sales, but he also wanted to contribute to the writing side of comics, which is why Marvel editors gave him the opportunity to work on his own Spider-Man title that would be drawn and written by him.

Torment would be the first story and it would be about the voodoo priestess Calypso putting a conjuring on the Lizard to go on a killing spree and go after Spider-Man. Peter Parker would have no idea for the vast majority of the story of why he was being chased and he would even get poisoned in the process, fearing for his life and having hallucinations, including one about Kraven the Hunter, who was connected with Calypso for a long time and who had died in the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline.

How was it?

Marvel Comics: Spider-Man Torment Review: Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

Todd McFarlane has received a lot of criticism regarding the writing of Torment due to a lack of consistency in the narrative voices, and a somewhat pretentious approach in the choice of words and creating overly complex stories. While these are all valid and logical criticisms to this story, which is far from being perfect, there are also things to enjoy about this particular story.

Torment shows Spider-Man in what could very well be a horror story, Spider-Man is engaged in a conflict he has no idea about and has to cope with it like any other superhero. The entire first issue works as a buildup of sorts for the main confrontation, with Peter enjoying his life as Spider-Man and the Lizard killing everyone in his way–it creates a certain degree of tension that is quite interesting.

There is a feeling of claustrophobia and impending doom in Torment that is quite enjoyable, with Spider-Man being pushed to his limits to deal with an unfamiliar situation with no clues,

and that works: the constant notion of adversity and danger is great for any comic book story.

McFarlane is a huge fan of Frank Miller and Alan Moore and it shows in this work; he tries to capture the feeling of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen in this story and even though it’s not even close to reaching those heights, there’s a certain ambition and effort that most of his peers didn’t share about the writing process.

What about the artwork? 

Marvel Comics: Spider man Torment Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

Of course, McFarlane’s art is the star of the show and for good reason: it’s one of the best pieces of artwork that has graced a Marvel comic book and it works delightfully with the overall dark tone of Torment. His drawing style fits quite well with horror stories and that’s why Spawn later on worked so well for McFarlane’s career: it got the best out of him as an artist and writer.

There are multiple details that are astonishing in these issues, especially Peter’s suit; for most artists, he wouldn’t get cuts or anything of the sort, but here you see the suit being teared to pieces and Peter struggling in an incredible way. Calypso’s scenes are dark, enchanting and transmit the kind of mysterious doom that makes this story entertaining.

But the scenes with the Lizard are definitely the biggest highlight: they are vibrant, full of action and are the most savage and aggressive depiction of this character that you are going to find in comic books.

If anything, the artwork is worth every penny that you invest in this story.

What it represents?

Marvel Comics: Spider Man Torment Review - Animated Apparel Company

Image by Marvel Comics

This story represents the moment that the tendencies that would become so central in the 90's would come up, with artists having much more creative power than before. Sure, artists like George Perez or John Byrne already had runs writing and drawing, but they were more plotters in their past runs; Todd McFarlane was given the opportunity to draw and write without any past experience in the latter, showcasing how artists were becoming more and more powerful in this particular era of the comic book industry.

 

This story represents the moment that the tendencies that would become so central in the 90's would come up, with artists having much more creative power than before. Sure, artists like George Perez or John Byrne already had runs writing and drawing, but they were more plotters in their past runs; Todd McFarlane was given the opportunity to draw and write without any past experience in the latter, showcasing how artists were becoming more and more powerful in this particular era of the comic book industry.

Do you also love Tood McFarlane's artwork? Maybe there is a comic run you prefer more. We'd love to hear from you. Feel free to leave your feedback below. 

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Kevin Tanza

Kevin Tanza is a Venezuelan writer who fell in love with stories, music and soccer/football when he was a child and since then, he hasn’t stopped writing about them. He has been published in multiple websites in both Spanish and English. You'll find his work at MusikHolics, Good Comis to Read, Gemr, The Busby Babe, Chiesa di Totti, La Soledad del Nueve, Sail Away, Colgados por el Fútbol, Genre, United’s Red Rain, Mariskal Rock, Sugati Fashion, Indie Artists Go and Music Existence. He has also published a series of short stories. Feel free to use the links provided below to follow Kevin on social media. For business inquiries, please contact him via email.

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