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Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Swamp Thing #127, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1993. Enjoy!
Consider all the things that are going on in this deceptively simple page grid. Scot Eaton, very early in his career (his earliest work was on Dreadstar in 1991), is aping Jill Thompson somewhat in his style (a drawing later in this issue of Abby Arcane looks eerily Thompson-esque), but there’s nothing wrong with aping Jill Thompson’s style, I suppose, and Eaton shows some good chops even though he was a babe in the woods, comic-book-wise. He begins by giving us a long shot of “Sunderland Corporate HQ,” which will mean something to long-time Swamp Thing readers but doesn’t need to be known if you’re a new reader. He goes inside the lobby, where we see an older man, Mr. Winter, waiting for his appointment with Ms. Sunderland. The large “Private” sign on the wall isn’t all that out of place, but because it’s a comic book and Eaton and/or John Costanza, who lettered the issue, had to write it in very deliberately, we know it’s there because writer Nancy Collins wants us to be aware that something weird is going on at Sunderland Corporate HQ. In the third panel, we see a shot of Mr. Winter from the floor, making him seem larger than he actually is and accentuating his importance, which will diminish over the course of this opening scene. In the fourth panel, we catch our first glimpse of Connie Sunderland, the head of the corporation. She’s wearing gloves on a sunny day, and we know it’s not winter because of the flowers blooming in the first panel. So why is Connie wearing gloves? We don’t know, but it’s a nice, weird touch to her character. In panel 5, Eaton still doesn’t show her head, but he emphasizes her sexiness even though she’s wearing business attire. Connie is a woman in a man’s world and uses anything she can to get ahead. Finally, in panel 6, Mr. Winter is pleased with Ms. Sunderland’s reaction, but Eaton makes sure to stop his smile before it can become larger, and Collins cuts him off mid-sentence and at the end of the page, so we’re forced to turn it to find out he’s been engaging in some insider trading and Ms. Sunderland knows all about it. It’s a nice page without a lot of flash, just solid storytelling. Kim DeMulder’s inks add some darkness to Mr. Winter’s clothing and face, while Tatjana Wood might have earned her entire paycheck for this issue with Connie’s excellent red-based outfit. It’s dark, moody, seductive, and evil, all without being too obvious (red being the color of sex and the Devil, of course). Wood also makes sure to use a different hue on Mr. Winter’s suit when he enters the office – out in the lobby, the sun makes the suit lighter, but Ms. Sunderland’s office isn’t lit as well.
Collins gives us enough basic information on this page, as Mr. Winter has been working on “Project Proteus” and he’s been doing well. We don’t need to know all about Project Proteus yet, just that a big corporation is working on something, which in comics is code for “evil.” If you know even a little about Swamp Thing, you know that connection is even stronger, but you don’t need to know that to get the inference. Collins doesn’t do a lot more on this page, but it’s certainly intriguing.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Collins’s run on Swamp Thing, even though it’s not held in very high regard by fans. It’s certainly better than what came before (Doug Wheeler, anyone?), but it’s not as good as the Millar run that followed. Collins got a bit too soap opera-ey toward the end of her run, and this issue, unfortunately, begins that trend, with Swampy creating a double to protect Abby while he goes off and does shit, which leads to Abby getting pissed at him and Swampy having an affair. Sigh. But this page is pretty neat!
You can still tell me which writers you want to see in April. I know everyone went nuts the first day I asked for nominees, but if you missed it, just do it here! I don’t mind!
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