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. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: John Romita Jr.! Today’s page is from Daredevil #279, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1990. Enjoy!
Man, look at that thing. Romita left Uncanny X-Men and joined Ann Nocenti on Daredevil for an oddball run that has both its ardent defenders and strident detractors. I still haven’t read these issues – I just got them a year or so ago, and haven’t had time – so I have no idea what’s going on with the fiery goat. I know Matt Murdock goes to Marvel’s Hell and meets Marvel’s Satan, Mephisto, but what the crap is up with that goat?
I don’t know, but it’s an arresting image. If a first page is supposed to get you to wonder what the hell is going on and make you turn the page, this certainly works (that the following pages are far less wacky doesn’t change that). Romita gives us a goat from Hell, yellow eyes drawing our gaze toward the black-haired moppet in the lower right corner, right where our eyes would go before we turned the page. The eyes also pull us down to the snout and mouth, from which emit yellow, ethereal smoke, while the goat’s beard looks like horrible saliva dripping from its maw. Romita wisely keeps the goat’s body from having well-defined borders, making it seem much larger as it mixes with the surrounding yellow and black (presumably the work of Williamson). By this time, Romita had started drawing people, especially kids, with crazier and crazier hair, so the genderless head in the bottom right is pretty standard by this time. If you know Romita’s faces, you can guess that this kid has big eyes and a large forehead, which we see is the case on the next page.
Williamson was a very good inker for Romita, because he used bold, thick lines to give Romita’s work a much more medieval feel – if you recall the page from Amazing Spider-Man a few days ago and the black lines on the back of Amy’s leg, imagine that but used far more liberally. Williamson seemed to attack Romita’s drawings, and the result is a stark yet incredibly detailed book, showing the physical degradation of Matt Murdock wonderfully. The goat is not as thickly inked as much of the book is, but you’ll notice that either Romita or Williamson spends time with the horns, making them powerful instruments of pain rather than dainty ornamentation. This is a goat not to be messed with, from the top of the head down to the beard.
Nocenti manages to get some good information to us with minimal words – the child shouldn’t be near the goat because his (the kid is a boy) mother told him the goat was crazy, and she lets us know that perhaps the child is a bit different when he thinks “This goat’s okay, no crazier than me.” [Emphasis mine] This lets us know that someone has told the boy that he’s crazy, and while he might not believe it, someone does. It’s a nifty little trick by Nocenti and leads into the story pretty well.
This is pretty much Romita, fully-formed. Next time we’ll see what happens when you take this rough artist and throw him into the digital inking and coloring age. Will his work hold up? Only tomorrow’s entry can tell!
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