Remembering Comic Books' Most Infamous SNOWSTORM

a page from Alpha Flight #6
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Editor's Note: With a polar vortex triggering the coldest temperatures in the past 20+ years in some part of North America, we are re-presenting this 2015 article about another bout of particularly cold weather.

Batten down the hatches, 'Rama Readers! If you're situated in the midwest United States, you're about to get blasted by winter storm Jayden.

Naturally, we thought we'd capitalize on the occasion and take a look at one of the most famous snowstorms in comics. Way back in the 1980's, John Byrne was the "it" guy at Marvel. Hot off a star-making run as the artist on Uncanny X-Men, Byrne had taken the reins on writing and drawing Fantastic Four. Ever the workhorse, Byrne then also took writing and art chores on Alpha Flight, a series that spun out of his Uncanny X-Men run with Chris Claremont.

In Alpha Flight #6, in a story entitled "Snowblind," Alpha Flight's resident goddess Snowbird sets out to tame the Great Beast Kolomaq, who has power over ice and snow. And that's when things get weird.

During his fight with Snowbird, Kolomaq decides to get nasty, and summons up a massive blizzard, blinding Snowbird, and forcing her to use her shapeshifting powers to take the form of a white bear. If you're following along, you've realized that now, Alpha Flight #6's big climax is a scene of a white bear fighting in a snow storm.

And that is exactly what Byrne drew.

Well, "drew" isn't exactly right, as the scene consisted of five pages of blank white panels, adorned only with captions and word balloons - a daring choice for Marvel's most popular artist of the day. As odd as five pages of essentially negative space in the middle of an action packed story sounds, "Snowblind" has become something of a modern classic, legendary for exactly the sequence that makes it so strange and unique.

As for Byrne's motivation for taking this road, we can only guess. The idealist answer is that Byrne was taking a risk with an experimental storytelling choice, pushing the boundaries he himself set as the top artist of his time. But, given that he was also writing and drawing Fantastic Four at the time, he may have taken the opportunity of Marvel's Assistant Editors' Month to bank a little extra time on his deadlines.

For what it's worth, Byrne did address "Snowblind" on his personal website back in 2006, confirming that he was paid his usual page rate, as then Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter called the pages an "artistic choice."

Whatever the case - experimental art decision, or easy gag to meet a deadline - Byrne's Snowblind lives on as one of the most memorable moments in Alpha Flight's cult classic history.

Here's a look at the six-page sequence from Alpha Flight #6:

Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics
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