Monday, May 7, 2007

The Black Hood by Dan Spiegle

From Black Hood, Vol. 1, No. 2, August 1983. Published by Red Circle. Story by Carbonaro. Scripting by Margopolis. Art by Dan Spiegle. Color by B. Grossman.
This story precedes, and is in many ways similar to, the series Crossfire that Spiegle would begin illustrating in 1984. That series, superbly written by Mark Evanier, lasted 24 issues and had three spin-off titles (Crossfire and Rainbow, WhoDunnit? and Hollywood SuperStars). Around this time, Spiegle was also illustrating several titles for DC including the Brave and the Bold, Elvira's House of Mystery and BlackHawk. One of the comics medium's most skilled storytellers, Spiegle has had a long , successful career illustrating all types of comic book stories. He has adapted many Disney films into comics (published by Dell and Marvel). Additonally, he had a long run illustrating the syndicated strip Hopalong Cassidy. Additional work includes Classics Illustrated titles, Terry and the Pirates, the Space Family Robinson series, Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom, Scooby Doo, Mickey Mouse, Johnny Quest, Jonah Hex, Korak, Tragg and the Sky Gods, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Maverick, the Twilight Zone and NUMEROUS OTHERS!
The revival of the Black Hood character lasted only three issues, but was illustrated by a host of classy illustraors includng Alex Toth and Pat Boyette. In some ways he resembles your typical 40's pulp hero. However, in the end, we find a grimmer character who is not completely opposed to violence.
This short story demonstrates Spiegle's versatile talent. While the story begins like a romance strip, it ends with an exciting action sequence. The transition is flawless. Spiegle has that rare ability to render his characters realistically while never forgetting to include a sense of caricature. His figures never appear stiff or posed due to his cinematic approach. Always viewing his scenes from different angles and organizing the pages with innovative designs, he seems completely in control. With some cartoonists, this approach would only bring confusion. Spiegle's story is clear and easy to read.
Page one begins with a beautiful splash panel that introduces us to the characters and sets up a conflict. The antique shop works as a metaphor that romance for this character is a trifle relic of the past. IF we doubted this, the title CANDLE IN THE WIND, only acts as a reminder!
Page two and three are great examples of how Spiegle can set a series of panels in a single room while avoiding repeated imagery.
Page four has an interesting montage technique to show the passing of time in this budding romance. Can you hear the melodramatic music in the background? Then the action begins with a shot through the window! Notice how the characters never seem to be standing still. The wide panel and blue coloring of the bottom panel, give us that claustrophobic mood that is perfectly suited to this scene.
Page five begins with a nice romance interlude that leaves the details up to our imagination. After the close up of the kiss, we back away to a silhouetted embrace. Sometimes seeing less is more...nicely done!
Page six develops the story further with some drama in the courtroom. Spiegle creates a nasty villain with Geovelli. Just look at his expression in the top right hand corner; how could you possibly like this guy?
On Page seven, Spiegle switches to a wide screen approach. Notice the variety of perspectives that we are viewing this single hit and run incident from. Viewed from inside the car, from the front, from behind, the moment after the impact and finally the fateful moment. This adds to the tension and drama.
On page eight and nine, The Black Hood is propelled into action. Here is where things get really visually exciting. Spiegle doesn't take any shortcuts here. The motorcyle, street and car are drawn with the utmost detail, making this chase believable. The sound effects and long panels on page nine brilliantly accentuate the illusion of movement and impact.
Our conclusion on page ten shows the Black Hood making his final decision. What sort of hero is he? The prolonged decision to shoot leaves some of this interpretation open to the reader. On the one hand, we see Black hood as the quintessential tough guy, on the other, we see him with a tear dripping down his face. Who is this masked man? Not exactly Superman, that's for sure.
Spiegle has succeeded here in creating a believable hero. If you enjoyed this piece, check out Spiegle's collaboration with Mark Evanier from Eclipse comic. Crossfire is, in my opinion, his best work. Like this Black Hood piece it has a lot of heroic and pulp-inspired action. Still, the heart of the story rests in a realistic setting that never overshadows the humanity and vulternability of it's characters.
One of the most prolific, versatile and talented cartoonists in the field, Dan Spiegle is truly a creator to be celebrated!

1 comment:

sam said...

This was quite a story. I am also surprised at the similarities between the black hood and crossfire. Dan Spiegle was no ordinary artist. His work is only now being studied and understood. I think it'll take a while longer before he is really appreciated. I know I sure miss his stories. Thanks for sharing.