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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 6: Ex Machina #26

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Ex Machina #26, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated March 2007. Enjoy!

What an odd hand gesture

Ex Machina #26 is written by Brian K. Vaughan, pencilled by Tony Harris, inked by Jim Clark, colored by JD Mettler, and lettered by Jared K. Fletcher. This first page is somewhat SOP for the book – the issues begin at some crucial point in the past and then catch up to the main characters in the “present” – whenever that happens to be. We don’t get a lot of information about the characters from this page, but given that Vaughan tells us that it’s 11 September 2001, we can figure out what’s going on. Of course, the smoking building in the background of the bottom panel tells us that too. Vaughan is establishing that the military doesn’t like the superhero (we don’t know his name yet), who claims he can help more people. It’s a simple enough premise.

Harris’s art, which is heavily photo-referenced, is very odd. In the first panel, the pilot is making a bizarrely overdramatic hand gesture – make it yourself and see how unnatural it feels. I assume he’s gesticulating for effect, as he’s actually talking to Mitchell (the superhero’s name is Mitchell), but it’s still a bit dramatic. You’ll notice also that he seems to be looking on the wrong side of the plane. He’s looking up and to his left, but in the second panel, Mitchell flies beneath him and to his right. The jet stream from Mitch’s back pack doesn’t seem to indicate that he came from the other side of the plane. Perhaps this is because of Harris’s predilection for using posed models – he found someone making that gesture and looking that way, but in the second panel, he wanted Mitch flying left to right and wanted him in the front of the panel. The placement is very odd nevertheless.

Vaughan uses 9/11 in this comic fairly skillfully – Mitch saved the second tower from coming down and used that cachet to get elected mayor, which is the main focus of the series. Vaughan does a nice job here showing the tension between the official responders and Mitch, as well as showing how heroic Mitch actually is. There’s not a lot of information on this page, but it’s a good way to kick off an issue and draw people in.

Next: Our run of DC books ends, I swear! Such are the vagaries of randomness – you might get a bunch of DC books in a row. But not tomorrow!

13 Comments

Harris’s art, which is heavily photo-referenced, is very odd. In the first panel, the pilot is making a bizarrely overdramatic hand gesture

I just reread the whole series last weekend and I thought there were quite a few instances of this kind of unnatural posing. I understand if the pilot needs to get his hand high enough for Mitch to see him point down, but it feels unnecessary. I don’t know if it’s a Harris tic (I’m only through volume 2 of Starman), but sometimes his figure poses don’t quite match up with the action, like he didn’t use live models on sequences where he really could have used them.

As for this being the first page of a book, it does a good job showing some authority telling Mitch he is not where he belongs when he’s trying to fix things, not just for the book, but for the whole series.

I’m not sure what’s bizarre or overdramatic about pointing down. I don’t need to need to make it myself to see how it feels because I’ve done it naturally many times.

The way Harris drew hands in this series always made it seem like the characters were trying to make shadow puppets. But I don’t remember him doing the same thing in Starman.

I think the pointing does look awkward, mostly due to the wrist bend. If he went with a thumbs down, it could have been avoided. I think the bigger issue as you mentioned, is the Mitchell flip, where the eyeline of the pilot puts him one place and the next panel places him in another.

It’s a great series, and the art is generally excellent, it just hits a few wonky moments every now and again.

Since Mitchell can’t actually hear the pilot, the hand gesture is kind of necessary.

Brian: The point is not that it’s unnatural to point down, the point is that he’s pointing down by thrusting his wrist high in the air and holding his arm across his body. Seriously, try it that way – it’s weird.

Michael: It’s not that the hand gesture is unnecessary, it’s that it’s drawn awkwardly. And Vaughan implies that Mitchell CAN hear the pilot, for what that’s worth.

The hand gesture looks much less odd the more I look at it, though initially, it looked a bit weird. It’s a dude in a small space with gloves and a lot of other gear on going fast and pointing down trying to get someone to see him. Looks fine to me now except for the eyeline. And the eyeline problem is kind of fixed if there’s 2 jets on the next page. Or like you you said, a different jetstream on this one. Oh well. The artist can’t win ‘em all. It’s still a cool page.

The hand gestures throughout the series never bothered me much (I tend to use a lot of them myself, usually without realizing it), but on average of about once an issue, someone would have a horribly awkard/impossible facial expression. There was always a feeling that he was working off of a photo reference of someone who was in mid-sneeze. Many more examples in Starman’s first few Omnibi.

I think the hand gesture would make sense if the cockpit’s window was relatively high. That way the pilot would have to reach up to be seen. Think how high this person would need to reach: http://www.bestrussiantour.com/files/imagecache/tour_image_full/image/tour_image/edge_of_space.jpg That being said, the window as draw is probably not that high.

[…] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 6: Ex Machina #26Comic Book Resourcesby Greg Burgas Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today's page is from Ex Machina #26, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated March 2007. Enjoy! Ex Machina #26 is written by Brian K. Vaughan, … […]

He’s holding his hand high so it can be seen through the window. And he’s reaching across himself because in order for the gesture to be seen by the person outside the plane, you need to gesture with the hand on the opposite side of that person.

Harris’ work is usually very unnaturally posed, or overly exaggerated. No one save one or 2 people actually over act to that level with their hands, but he insists on having everyone pantomiming their dialogue. Oh well.

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