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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 5: Sandman Mystery Theatre #66

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Sandman Mystery Theatre #66, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated October 1998. Enjoy!

You really shouldn't sleep with your eyeglasses on

This particular issue is written by Steven Seagle, drawn by Guy Davis, colored by David Hornung, separated by Jamison, and lettered by John Costanza. It’s “Act Two of Four” of “The Goblin” story arc.

Davis, you’ll note, gives us a classic nine-panel grid set-up. It works well here because of the progression of the scene, from a young boy in his bed, sleepwalking out of his house to the edge of a cliff, over which he falls. We then get the transition from the dream world to the real world, and on the next page, we of course find out that the boy is actually a man (Wesley Dodds, the star of the comic) and that he’s actually been thrown off a roof. Davis shows this very well in the bottom row – the bird begins to get fuzzy in the first panel; the bird is very fuzzy in the second panel and the colors are beginning to shift from the gray of the dream to the larger palette of the “real” world; in the final panel, the bird has been replaced by the goblin, who is raising his arms in triumph.

Davis does a good job in the middle row, too, as we get a sense of “zooming in” on the sleeping boy (the dreaming Wesley) as he approaches the cliff. Good artists know how to do this well – it gives the static medium of comics a sense of motion, and Davis is, after all, a good artist.

Seagle honestly doesn’t need to write anything on this page, but he gives us a piece of doggerel rhyme that basically tells us exactly what we’re seeing in the pictures. The only effective bit of writing is the repetition of the last line, “He prayed to wake and find it dreamed,” because as we can figure out from the final two panels (and which is confirmed on the following page), Wesley might have woken up, but he’s in the same situation as the boy in the dream. That can’t be good.

While the first page of SMT #66 doesn’t tell us anything about the story itself, it’s still an effective first page. Seagle’s rhyme, I suppose, heightens the slightly surreal atmosphere depicted in the dream, and presumably we’re meant to be intrigued by the shift from the dream world to the real world and its similarities. It also ends with that intriguing panel of the man cheering on top of a building. Why is he doing that? Well, because he’s just chucked the hero off the roof. Why wouldn’t he be happy?

Next: Brian K. Vaughan surely knows how to write a first page, right?

7 Comments

The best series of the 90’s, bar none. The dream sequences in SMT were almost always in this format — nine panels, black and white, obscure poetry filled with dream imagery — though of course they weren’t always on the first page. The last text box may not be necessary in terms of the storytelling, but it is needed to complete the poem.

Why couldn’t this series have just run forever? So depressing that it ended.

I don’t get the title of this feature. Also, cardographs haven’t had needles for decades. But the idea of looking at the first page is pretty great. Covers seem to get all the glory on comics sites.

I admit I was skeptical about the idea of this series in theory, but in practice I’m very pleasantly surprised. Good job!

I agree with sandwich eater though, the name sucks.

Scott: I’m trying to consider the first pages in a vacuum, so I don’t want to mention the dream sequences from the rest of the series. I like that they remain constant, but in this case, I didn’t want to get into it.

sandwich eater and T.: The title is a Marillion lyric. Blame Fish, who wrote it. I like the title because drawing is all about “scratching out lines.” I was just sick of Brian’s incessant use of Dylan lyrics. DAMN YOU, CRONIN!!!!

Thanks for the nice words about the feature, though. I’m having a good time doing it.

I thought that might be the case but I figured I might add some background after the fact for those unfortunate souls who have yet to experience the greatness of Sandman Mystery Theater.

Always nice to see SMT get some attention. And cool to see a Marillion lyric get used like this. Great idea for a column. The short straw may take its bow.

[…] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 5: Sandman Mystery …Comic Book Resourcesby Greg Burgas Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from Sandman Mystery Theatre #66, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated October 1998. Enjoy! This particular issue is written by … […]

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