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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 30: World’s Finest #2

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!

The Go-Gos? Really?

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!)

17 Comments

I’ve been enjoying this and it’s added a number of comics to my to-read list. I can’t imagine why anyone would say don’t bother continuing.

Another vote in favor of continuing. here.

Definitely keep it up. I always enjoy your writing.

Of course you should keep doing it. That idea for February sounds really interesting.

I’m digging it, and would happily continue digging.

Ditto!

What’s this about Rude “going off the deep end?”

Such a great mini. One of my very favorites from DC’s mid-80s-through-early-90s second golden age..

"O" the Humanatee!

January 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I believe Rude has acknowledged that he suffers from bipolar disorder, which he’s had a hard time controlling. Sometimes he gets laid up by depression for long periods. However, he’s working with Mike Baron on a new Nexus story for Dark Horse Presents (http://www.darkhorse.com/Blog/781/return-nexus-dark-horse-presents-12), which will hopefully be collected on its own at some later point. And he does a good number of commissions, many of which can be seen at his web site or his Facebook page.

One important point, albeit one that’s made clearer by the contrasting page of Bruce arriving in Metropolis — Clark/Superman is in the freground, and “big;” Gotham and its people are in the background, and “small.”

Superman is big and brightly colored in contrast to the Gothamites; in the contrasting page, Bruce isn’t drawn as the major foreground figure in anywhere nearly as visually dominant a fashion. Metropolis is big and goofy and sci-fi, and the “realistic” Batman, liek the “realistic” Gotham, are “smaller” but darker and more detailed in comparison.

All right, I’ll keep going. I just thought some people might be sick of it!

I wasn’t aware that Rude had bipolar disease, so saying he went off the deep end is probably not the best way to state it. I won’t repeat some of the things I’ve heard about him because it’s second hand, but he does some weird things that may or may not be connected to his condition. I hope he’s going to be back doing comics full time, and the Nexus story is a good place to start.

Omar: Whoops, forgot to address your point, because it’s a good one. I dig how Gibbons and Rude contrast Metropolis and Gotham throughout.

Count me as another who really enjoys this column. I don’t comment often but this is always one of my first things to check out when I see there is a new one.

I’ved clicked on every one so far, so yeah, it’s interesting stuff.

It might be interesting to hear your thoughts on what you think makes a great first page and then judge a few books against your criteria.

Or, how about a wild card week sometime down the line: look at the last page of a few books.

Nah, do something new and different. New and different is always better and helps avoid burnout.

From the angle, Clark might be taking stairs or an escalator down from a walkway that allows people to cross over the tracks, to allow people to disembark from both sides of the train.

For that matter, we don’t see anyone but railroad employees near the train on this side of the tracks, as it appears to be a type of area not used for actually boarding/leaving trains for decades. Most passenger platforms tend to allow people to walk onto the train without using the lower step we see the one conductor with one foot on (that’s one usually meant for getting in/out while away from a station), it’s fairly safe to say that either everyone got off on the right side of the train, then crossed over, or they got off a different train entirely – in either case having to take an overhead walkway to get to the area where they can meet those waiting to receive them.

It makes sense if you’ve actually ridden on a modern train (as opposed to a throwback one at an amusement park).

However, drawing it this way appears to be a choice to add a much more open view of the area, as most of the time where you see a train terminal scene such as this, everyone is crowded onto the platform just off the train for simplicity’s sake (not in the waiting area for arrivals, such as this one), and as such you’d probably not get as good a look at Clark or Alfred in such a mob scene.

>>I wasn’t aware that Rude had bipolar disease, so saying he went off the deep end is probably not the best way to state it.

As someone who’s been there, done that (& has at least one job termination in my history to show for it) … nope, probably not.

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