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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 Miller! Today’s page is from Daredevil #172, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 1981. Enjoy!
Once Miller started drawing Daredevil, he was paired with inker Klaus Janson, and comics history was born. It’s interesting to read these stories now, because we think of “Miller on Daredevil” so much that we forget that Miller slowly pulled back from drawing these issues, leaving much of it to Janson. Even issue #181, the famous “death of Elektra” issue, features Janson’s “finished art,” not just inking. It’s fascinating because Janson was pencilling the run by the end, and one wonders how much of the artwork was shaped by his inks early on. Miller’s non-Janson art is much looser and abstract than when Janson inks him, so it’s fun to speculate how much of Daredevil is Miller’s art. This page, for instance, clearly lists Miller as the penciller and Janson as the inker, and it’s much more in the style of Miller’s Springer-inked page we saw yesterday and isn’t as rough as when Janson is finishing Miller’s layouts or pencilling the issue himself. (We see this more clearly in Miller’s final issue, #191, which he actually pencilled and which Terry Austin inked – it’s much looser and less harsh than Janson’s pencils or inks are.)
Miller pays homage to Will Eisner a bit on this pseudo-splash page (technically it’s two panels), with the title of the story integrated somewhat into the cityscape, the truck rolling by with “Featuring Daredevil the man without fear” on its side, and the cut-away cross-section of the pipe with the street level forming the panel borders. Miller’s words are mostly unnecessary – Matt could have easily simply said the last line – “I wake up in the strangest places” – because we can see all the rest of it. This was still early in Miller’s writing career, and Marvel comics of this time were heavy on the exposition, so perhaps he was just following the trend.
Because it’s just Janson inking, we can see the difference between Miller’s art and Janson’s. Miller’s background characters drift closer to abstract forms, especially the person walking behind the truck’s exhaust in the center of the first panel. The street people are a bit more defined, but they’re definitely “Miller-esque” in that they’re composed of basic shapes with not a lot of definition. As he gets older, Miller will rely on very basic shapes to convey meaning, and we’re seeing a glimpse of that here. Obviously, he can be detailed if he wants to be, and the cityscape is done well, as is Matt in his predicament. When Janson takes over full pencils, however, the work becomes a bit more detailed. Miller might have been laying the pages out (in one issue later in the run he’s credited as “writer/storyteller,” whatever that means), but Janson drew in much more concrete figures.
Miller moved on from Marvel without Janson for his next project, and we can see the wide difference not having those inks will make. But that’s for tomorrow. For now, perhaps you’d like to check out the archives. Don’t be afraid!
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