Sign of the Hammer!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Heavy Fluting

PARAGON #10 hits the ice (wrapped up in an astonishing cover by major talent Matt Soffe), and with it comes 'Spencer Nero and the White Spider'.  This strip is probably the point at which 'Spencer Nero' really starts to intersect with my personal obsessions in a major way. Ever since seeing the film 'Touching the Void' many years ago, I've developed a total fascination with human survival stories in icy climes. (A related obsession involves the South Pole - keep your eye on future issues of PARAGON for that one.) If you're not aware, 'Touching the Void' is the true story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who attempted to climb Peruvian mountain Siula Grande in the 80s and nearly paid for the attempt with their lives. Joe himself was inspired by the writing of Heinrich Harrer, whose book 'The White Spider' is regarded as a seminal mountaineering text. Harrer was part of the first team ever to successfully climb the dreaded North Face of the Eiger, but the most famous failed attempt on the Swiss peak was made in 1936 by a German climber called Toni Kurz and his team. Their doomed journey has been recounted several times on celluloid, documented by the aforementioned Joe Simpson in 'The Beckoning Silence', and dramatised in the movie 'North Face'. The tragedy of Toni Kurz is in just how much he went through and how horribly close he was to rescue.

Toni, however, did not reach the White Spider - a treacherous, arachnid-shaped ice-field that some reckon to be one of the most difficult parts of the Eiger to traverse. Literally-minded as I am, of course, my story involves Spencer Nero squaring off against an actual White Spider, animated by the spirits of the dead, in an effort to save the soul of Toni Kurz. As well as the Spider, the story introduces a new nemesis for Spencer in the form of Saturn Reisen, a soul-gorging mystic. There were two main inspirations for Reisen - one was the artist Goya's infamous painting 'Saturn Devouring His Son', which I'd seen in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, but had first encountered in one of my dad's books of fantasy-related artwork when I was a young lad. If you ever get the chance, you need to witness this masterpiece and Goya's other 'Black Paintings' first-hand - 'Saturn...' is both repulsive and utterly compelling. The other source was, oddly, the Ditko-era villainous cast of 'Amazing Spider-Man', many of whom seem to represent the dominating power of age and experience levied against the vigor of youth, embodied by Peter Parker. As a kind of avatar of the Roman god of old age, Saturn Reisen seemed like he might perform a similar function for Spencer Nero. We will undoubtedly see him again...

This is the first Spencer Nero strip drawn by the remarkable James Corcoran, but it certainly won't be the last. It's safe to say he's absolutely nailed it, amplifying the sinister side of the script and presenting a characterful take on Spencer, who runs the gamut in this strip from determined to smug, baffled to psychotic. I defy anyone to read this and not feel a bit cold - James has given this one a real sense of place, and draws some damn fine snow. Hope that doesn't seem like a back-handed compliment - he really has excelled with the chilly environment of this story. In fact, James is lined-up to draw an Antarctic adventure for Spencer too... hopefully we can talk him into doing another one set in sunnier climes as well sometime, so he doesn't feel typecast! Also on-board providing lettering for the strip is the multi-talented John Caliber, with whom I have a future project over at Massacre for Boys comic, for which John provides some particularly smashing artwork. More on that another time. For now, simply a recommendation that you get your hands on PARAGON #10 - at 52 pages, it's the biggest issue yet, packed full of high-quality adventurous yarns.


  1. Yes some sunnier climes would be nice started work on the South Pole adventure will show you some designs for the characters once I've nailed them

    1. That's smashing, James - can't wait. Absolutely loved your work on 'The White Spider' - really looking forward to seeing your take on some of the more monstrous elements of the Antarctic one. Re: sunnier climes - if there's any particular (warmer!) locale you'd fancy drawing Spencer adventuring in for a future story, just let me know - I'm sure we could sort something out.