Sunday, December 29, 2013

Uncanny X-Men #118 (February 1979): Bad New Mutants Go To Japan!

Script: Chris Claremont; Art:  John Byrne and Ric Villamonte

Enjoy this spectacular double-page spread from Uncanny X-Men #118 (February 1979), pencilled by John Byrne and inked by Ric Villamonte.  Maybe Terry Austin was off that month.  Agarashima, the city on fire here, is completely fictional but the visible architecture in Byrne's rendition is plausible enough.

Except for Mt. Fuji in the background.  An online source tells me Agarashima is in Miyagi prefecture, which is way up north along the eastern coast of Honshu.  Actually, that same source reports the city to be "300 kilometers north of Tokyo" and misspells the prefectural name as  "Miyago."  This may be a fictionalized flourish on Chris Claremont's part, freeing him to use his imagination and create a fanciful Marvelized Japan.

Fake Miyago or very real Miyagi, it's a likely location for a medium-sized port city, which is what Agarashima appears to be here.  Mt. Fuji is much farther west, so there's no way if this city resides 300 kilometers north of Tokyo you would see it looming that large in the background because it would be about 500 kilometers away.  I live in a city in the same prefecture as Mt. Fuji, about 116 kilometers away, and even when we can see it from here (it's visible from several vantage points on clear winter days when it's wearing its snow cap), it's only about the same size as my thumb.  So this is more than likely a little artistic license on Byrne's part as well.  We just need some cherry blossoms blown out to sea by the conflagration to achieve perfection.

So, with all that in mind (or better yet, out of it), let's just admire this glorious drawing, huh?  Unfortunately, after this image, there's not a lot of travelogue imagery in this story.  Much smaller panels, and a lot of the action confined to interiors.  By the next issue, the X-Men are on a volcanic island off the coast where they fight a pissed-off nutjob named Moses Magnum, who wants to sink Japan, so we're denied more John Byrne-drawn vistas of late 1970s Japan.  Think what he might have done with Tokyo.  I would love to have seen it.

You know, not on fire.

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