Saturday, August 22, 2009

Silver Surfer Saturday: John Byrne and Tom Palmer's 1982 special

One of my favorite inkers of all time is Tom Palmer.  Palmer has a superlative inking style, but he is also a wizard of coloring--especially in the old days using the four color process.  No one could make colors more vibrant (without using computers) than Palmer.  His credits are too numerous to mention, though you can look them up on Comic Book DB.  I'll always remember his inks on Neal Adams (Avengers, X-Men), Gene Colan (Doctor Strange, Tomb of Dracula), and John Buscema (Avengers).

Back in the 1980s, fans always wondered how well Palmer would work with the superstar of that period: John Byrne.  We finally got to find out in a special double sized event issue: Silver Surfer #1, V2, circa 1982.

Silver Surfer 1 v2 by John Byrne Tom Palmer 1982

I think the cover to this special is one of the most glorious Silver Surfer covers of all time.  All for the big price of $1, the story (plotted by Byrne and dialogued by Stan Lee) resolved a number of dangling plot threads strewn throughout various Fantastic Four stories.  Shalla Bal, who had been kidnapped by Doctor Doom and forced to live with amnesia, was finally discovered by Norrin Radd.

John Byrne splash to Silver Surfer 1 v2

I made a recent discovery myself--John Byrne's original pencils to the splash page of this special.  The Surfer dissolves into one of his usual bouts of self-pity, among the wreckage of a long lost Himalayan civilization.  Streams of light arc diagonally towards the Surfer, drawing your attention down to his figure.  I am really impressed by how tight Byrne's pencils are on this page.  He was really quick during this period.  Did he knock this one out in a day?

John Byrne splash, with inks, colors by Tom Palmer Silver Surfer 1 v2

Here's the finished page with inks/colors by Palmer.  You can see he kept all of Byrne's original lines intact, but Palmer also added his own remarkable style.  The color design is fabulous--the muted tones of the ruins really make the Surfer's white body stand out in the scene.

I was under the impression that this was the only Byrne/Palmer collaboration, but I see they also worked on X-Men The Hidden Years.

Tom Palmer continues to work in comics today, most recently on Kick Ass with John Romita.  Nuff said.

Update: Comments from my old MT blog...


Hi, Richard:
Byrne/Palmer were also the art team on Byrne's "Star Brand" run in the late '80s.
Richard, thanks for this -- Tom Palmer is a Giant-Sized Marvelman, both regarding inks and colors, and one of my greatest comics art heroes! According to the color reprint hardcover edition of their classic Adams-pencilled X-Men issues, Palmer also colored those X-Men issues -- whereas I had always assumed it was Adams who colored them, as their coloring style is very similar, and, yes, truly excellent.
I've only seen one story Palmer pencilled himself, a short horror story, I think it was of some Lovecraft tale, or some clone thereof. It was perfectly competent, but nothing really special -- but it had his great inks and colors.
A little technical correction: "especially in the old days using the four color process". That's the name of the coloring/separation/printing also used today: "four color process" simply means CMYK seps/inks. Whether this kind of color reproduction is achieved by hand-cutting separation films or cranking out direct-to-plate by digital software makes no difference -- it's all "four color process".
Thanks for the correction on the coloring and reminding me the Palmer did the coloring on Neal Adams X-Men!

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