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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 36: The Shadow #6

Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. First up: Bill Sienkiewicz! Today’s page is from The Shadow #6, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1988. Enjoy!

Well, that's not very nice

After doing some beautiful painted work for Marvel, Sienkiewicz went over to DC to pencil the first six-issue arc of yet another attempt to make The Shadow work. Andrew Helfer wrote this, Bob Lappan (whatever happened to Lappan?) lettered it, and Richmond Lewis colored it.

The first thing you might notice about the page is that it’s in “true” first-person, in that we’re seeing things through the eyes of Albert Renn, which sets up the next few pages, because Albert has some … issues. So Sienkiewicz keeps the page layout relatively traditional, mainly because Albert is keeping his head still and people keep moving into his field of vision. Within the panels, of course, we get the experimental Sienkiewicz, but the grid is fairly standard.

Helfer lets us know some of the particulars – Albert has led the police to a “Mister Light’s” place, and from the first two panels, we can figure out that Light is some kind of malevolent Christian/religious figure that was such a popular villain trope in the Jim Bakker 1980s. “Brother Constance” does something horrible to Albert’s eyes, but then, as he’s about to go to work with a hammer and nails, a piece of wood falls on him. Then we see the fire, and Albert goes through an exit. Who are those people in the final panel? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we? Helfer does a good job setting the creepy tone of the book while not giving too much away. Lappan, an underrated letterer (he’s famous, of course, for cramming all of DeMatteis’s words into the “bwah-ha-ha” Justice League comics), makes Albert’s words smaller but keeps the balloons normal-sized, a standard but effective way to imply a quiet voice. It works fine in this scenario.

Sienkiewicz, as usual, is trying some stuff out. Mister Light is just that, a seemingly insubstantial being, all harsh lines that don’t show a face as much as a group of angry parts of a face. The raggedness of the pencil work on the rest of the page is just Sienkiewicz being Sienkiewicz. He still switches things up, with the black smears (presumably paint) showing that Albert is bleeding and the blood is blurring his vision. The jagged lettering in panels 5 and 6 are another Sienkiewicz staple, and they make the fire more menacing – it sounds angry, and a good comic artist knows this.

Because he’s confining himself to an 8-panel grid, Sienkiewicz isn’t able to lead us as much as he might, but he paces the page so that Albert gets to the exit just as we reach the end of the page. Again, this isn’t revolutionary, but it’s still something the artist (and Helfer, depending on the script) had to think about, and the final panel entices us to turn the page even though the visual cues aren’t there. Sometimes you just have to rely on the reader’s curiosity!

So that’s Sienkiewicz doing straight pencils with some nifty tricks. This arc is filled with all sorts of interesting Sienkiewiczian artistry, and while this page doesn’t show them all off, it has some. But next, Sienkiewicz gets really weird. You know it’s coming!

Plus, there are the archives. See where it all began!

10 Comments

BRING BACK THE 80s SHADOW.
(I have now fulfilled my personal obligation to petition nonstop for the completion of this much disliked Shadow series.)

Sienkiewicz’s run was followed by early work from Kyle Baker, and YES, these stories should be collected.

I totally agree! The Helfer Shadow, continuing Chaykins mini, was not the traditional Shadow, but it was creepy and disturbing. remember the Annual with the little boy going to Washington D.C. to kill the president? Wow. Still chills me. Also, one of the Sienkiewicz issues was the first english language comic book I bought in a comic book store – without knowing anything about the character.
(Also, DC had a nice offer with prints of all the Sienkiewicz covers a little bit later. Cool stuff, even today!)

I recently went back and reread the first six issues of this shadow series and really enjoyed it.. Especially with Sienkiewicz’s art.

Loved this series. Sienkiewicz hooked me, but Helfer’s writing kept me enjoying the series right through to the 19th issue. Over the top but lots of fun.

I’ve said this elsewhere already, but this is far and away my favourite Shadow series.

The student trying to kill the President wasn’t in either of [i]The Shadow[/i] Annuals, but issue 7. It was a fantastic issue, though. Marshall Rogers pencils with Kyle Baker inks– inspired combination.

Yeah, that’s right. thanks, man. But what a great issue.

I loved the series beginning to end, but some fav’ highlights were the issue where the helper monkeys and obese mob boss crush a flunky, the issues where Twitch becomes a medical themed vigilante, and the end where Shadow gets his head stuck on a robot body–because, HEY COMICS!

I am a fan of the classic shadow series, but still love this run because it just worked so well.
The art was delightful, and maybe because I was kinda young, but the humor in the darkness always crept up on me later after I’d finish an issue. I’d find myself mentally saying, “Wait, did I really read that?!” And forget trying to explain why it was funny to someone else…
I think, with the darker-comic tone is so many books these days it could find an audience.

Annual #2 with the Citizen Kane vibe is one of my favorite comics, like, ever.

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