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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 45: Batman and Robin #1

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. This week: Frank Quitely! Today’s page is from Batman and Robin #1, which was published by DC and is cover dated August 2009. Enjoy!

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

The first page of Batman and Robin (written by Grant Morrison, colored by Alex Sinclair, and lettered by Pat Brosseau) gives us a stereotypical Batman opening, with bad guys fleeing, thinking they’d gotten away with a crime, but realizing too late that Batman is onto them. It’s been done to death, so why would anyone want to keep reading?

Well, Quitely is a big reason. In the first panel, we get the wonderful explosive sound effects, which are always fun to see. It’s a beautiful panel, full of energy and madness, from the flipping police car to the getaway car hovering for a brief moment to the spinning car on the right side, tail light after-effects trailing out of the tunnel. Why is there an explosion? That’s not for us to question, just enjoy!

Then we zoom in close inside the car. We get panicked thugs and the diabolical Toad in the driver’s seat, with his large red eyes set too far apart, his flattened nose, and his wide, grotesque mouth, all under an incongruous bowler hat. You’ll note that the mustached bad guy is looking back into the car to point our eyes that way, and if we’re too quick, we might miss the Bat-flying machine coming at the car, as seen through its rear window. The third panel alters our view point so we don’t see the Bat-flier, as Mustache Man looks up, realizing they’re screwed. Finally, Quitely shifts our perceptions again, so we’re looking down on the car, and Mustache Man is really panicking now. It’s a very nice way to imply movement through static images and keep the surprise and tension building. We know Batman is going to catch up to the punks, but at least Quitely keeps us in suspense while acknowledging that rather than springing Bats and Robin on us.

Morrison doesn’t do much in terms of information, but he does get some across while still keeping out of Quitely’s way. The bad guys always think it will be easy, and it never is. Toad remains calm, although he ironically remarks that they’d need wings to catch him, which of course is what Batman has (a minger is an ugly person, by the way). He also continues to be unintentionally ironic when he comments that Batman is dead, which, of course, he ain’t. Just that little bit of information is enough, probably, to intrigue a casual reader. Is Batman really dead? If so, who’s gaining on the bad guys? And why the Toad? What the hell?

You’ll notice that Quitely inks himself here. I was not thrilled with Jamie Grant’s digital inking and coloring in yesterday’s installment, and this page feels much more organic and “real,” perhaps because it’s Gotham rather than Metropolis, so of course it’s not going to be as sterile. Quitely’s bolder inks seem to make this a more plausible place, even with the presence of, say, a large Toad-man. I know it’s just a personal preference, but Quitely’s art on this book is better than that on All Star Superman, and I don’t think it has much to do with the actual pencils.

Next: A new artist for a week! Who will it be? Honestly, I don’t know as I type these words (on 24 January) (obviously, by the time I post this, I’ll know, but work with me, people!). You’ll just have to wait and see, and so will I! Of course, there’s always the archives!


Didn’t recognize the allusion to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride?

Michael: Well, yeah, but that seems like a vague reference. I mean, why would Morrison make that reference specifically?

That and the comment from the prior about not following Jimmy Olsen’s exploits makes me feel the writer is unqualified to do this series, or at least regarding these particular books.

Fred: Wow. So I can’t comment on certain comics unless I’ve read a bunch of Silver Age stories about Jimmy Olsen? Really? And because I don’t care to mention the fact that Toad is modeled on a character from The Wind in the Willows? Man, your standards are really high. This series has nothing to do with the fact that Morrison is so much smarter than I am that he can make references to 1950s comics or children’s literature, it’s about how the first pages of comics draw people in and, with regard to this week, whether the ARTIST has anything to do with it. That’s all.

Doesn’t matter to me if you mention it or not, but as to why Morrison would reference Mr. Toad specifically, I suppose the same reason Batman has a lot of Alice in Wonderland-themed villains. This is no more or less subtle than the Mad Hatter or Tweedledee & Tweedledum, but it doesn’t necesarily mean anything either.

Batman “ain’t” dead; really Greg? Don’t you mean that he “is not” dead? That and the aforementioned blunders confirm my suspicion that the writer is an incompetent buffoon who shouldn’t trusted to handle a pair of scissors, let alone a column on the internet.

Cass: Dang it!!!!

buttler: Yeah, that’s probably it. It’s just a weird Morrisonism.

Fred (if you’re still reading): You’ll notice, too, that I’m putting myself in the place of the “casual reader.” A casual reader who is picking this up on a lark might wonder why Toad is the bad guy. When I first read this, I didn’t bat an eye and I knew it was a reference to Mr. Toad, but I didn’t let it bother me. It’s a Batman comic. But suppose this is your first comic, or the first one you’ve read by Morrison. Why Toad is there might intrigue you. It could piss you off, I suppose, but it might intrigue you.

I’d like to see some credentials before reading any more of these posts. In what state are you licensed?

When New X-Men came out, Marvel acted like Quitely was going to be a full-time penciler for the run. He ended up doing the occasional rotating arc and a lot of covers. With Batman and Robin they acted like Quitely was going to be doing the rare rotating arc and a lot of covers. All we got was a lot of covers. WTF?

Pretty sure all of Quitely’s stuff is colored straight from the pencils these days, possibly for a while now.

Yeah, Quitely’s straight pencils now.

Re: “mingers” – yes, in normal British slang, it means an ugly person, but Toad here is specifically speaking in European circus slang, where it means “police”.

T.: Well, we got one arc out of Quitely!

Bill and BLOW: Thanks. Good to know.

Chris: Confounded circus slang!

I was thinking of being mean to Greg but holy hell, it seems everyone else in the world has beaten me to the punch. I guess I should go the other way and ask for a few page one reviews. How about some early 80s late 70s stuff. Bill Scienkewicz doesn’t count because he was always way out there. I’m thinking old Frenz, Buscema, Milgrom and the like. Just for comparrisons sake.

Michael: Go ahead, be mean! I can take it! :)

This week and next I’ll be featuring some late 1970s/early 1980s art, mainly because the next two artists got their start in that era. In March I’ll be back to random comics, so I can’t promise anything!

I think Quitely not doing pencils anymore > http://vimeo.com/13426824

[…] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 45: Batman and Robin #1Comic Book Resourcesby Greg Burgas 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. This week: Frank Quitely! Today's page is from Batman and Robin #1, … and more& » cardiograph, Frantic, lines, scratching […]

The toad is a nod to the villan from the Courages Cat and Minute Mouse cartoon, also created by Bob Kane. At least thats what I think.

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