Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from World’s Finest #2, which was published by DC and is cover dated 1990. Enjoy!
In 1990, DC published a three-issue “Prestige Format” mini-series written by Dave Gibbons, drawn be Steve Rude, inked by Karl Kesel, colored by Steve Oliff, and lettered by Bill Oakley called World’s Finest, hearkening back to the old series in which Batman and Superman often teamed up (although originally they starred in separate stories in one comic book). This was, obviously, before Steve Rude purportedly went off the deep end a bit (this is based on the observations of several people I know, who know The Dude pretty well, as he lives in the Phoenix area), when he was still drawing comics. [Edit: as “O” the Humanatee pointed out in the comments, Rude has been diagnosed with bipolar disease, which I didn’t know. I don’t know how much of his behavior is linked to that, but he has done some very strange things in the past decade, from what I’ve heard from fairly reliable sources. I love Rude’s art, and I hope he’s gotten his life under control, because he’s made some very bizarre decisions that I suppose are part of his problems.] And hey – that Dave Gibbons knows what he’s doing, too!
Gibbons, obviously, doesn’t have a lot to do on this first page of issue #2. I have no idea how much input he gave to Rude, given that Gibbons himself knows a thing or do about drawing a page, but let’s just consider the pieces of information we get in this page. The first is, of course, that we’re in Gotham City. The second is that the dude coming down the stairs is named Mr. Kent. Anyone with a tiny bit of knowledge of comics knows that we’re in the home of Batman and that dude is Superman. It’s also the 16th or the 18th of December, but the date on the newspaper isn’t clear.
Rude’s beautiful art gives us a lot of visual information, too. The arc of the train leads us from the upper left of the page, passing over the announcement that we’re in Gotham, over to Clark getting off the train. After lingering on Clark for a moment, Rude draws our eye up the group of people getting off the train before Clark to Alfred, who waves his hat and calls out to Clark. So we get a nice spiral which, while it doesn’t lead us to the next page, at least ends up pointing that way. Along the way we get the fact that Christmas is near (this is before we get to the date on the paper), that Clark is a fastidious dresser (not only is he well dressed, he’s adjusting his tie), and that Alfred is there to meet him (although someone might not know that’s Alfred yet). Rude also shows us the various people – the woman and her daughter, the dude wearing the big furry hat who is probably meeting the other dudes with the big furry hats, the dude bouncing a basketball and wearing a baseball jacket with the ridiculously named “Gotham Go-Gos” written on it (how many baseball teams play in Gotham, anyway?), the girl running toward her boyfriend. It’s a well designed scene, and we can forgive the oddities of it: the platform as the train station seems really huge, and why is there a staircase leading down off a train? We don’t know it yet, but the first two pages contrast very nicely with the next two pages, in which Bruce Wayne arrives in Metropolis. This page and page 3 are full-page drawings showing the differences between Gotham and Metropolis.
Rude is a good visual storyteller, and Gibbons wisely allows him to show his stuff on this page. It’s always interesting when a good artist writes something for a different artist, because you never know if the writer will let the artist do his or her thing. Gibbons understands that, and we get a really nice page (and a beautiful comic overall) out of it.
Next: Man, what a weird series. It sure looks nice, though. One other thing that looks nice: the archives for these posts!
(I’ll be in transit most of tomorrow – my vacation is coming to an end, so sad! – so I want to ask you readers today what I should do about continuing this series. I could just stop after a month, or, if you’re enjoying it, I could continue. I plan to do random comics every other month and themes in the even-numbered months, and I already have the next two weeks planned out, but if you guys don’t think it’s worth it, I can bag the whole thing. For February I’m doing a week’s worth of a single artist as he or she develops over their career. Other even-numbered months will be different themes. Let me know in the comments if you think I should keep doing this for the entire year, because I’m certainly game!)
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