Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Jay and Silent Bob #2, which was published by Oni Press and is cover dated October 1998. Enjoy!
Jay and Silent Bob, which explains how the titular heroes got from New Jersey to Illinois for the beginning of Kevin Smith’s Dogma, is not a terribly good comic book. Much like Kevin Smith’s movies, it tends to be overly talky, but while in a movie, the actors can add inflection and rhythm and very often in Smith’s movies, the talking turns almost musical, when it’s just words on a page, it doesn’t fare as well. This is one of Smith’s first comics, and he hadn’t yet figured out that sometimes, less is more (many people would argue that he never figured that out, of course).
We do learn some things from this page, even though it’s mostly given over to satirizing the Bible belt culture that, depending on how humorous you think it is, works to varying degrees. Jay and Silent Bob are on a bus, in the bathroom (we don’t yet know that it’s those two, but it’s not hard to figure it out). The passengers think that the two are having sex, whence comes the moralizing about homosexuality, but in reality, they’re getting high (which, of course, would lead to different but as strident moralizing, to be sure). We also get a glimpse of Mooby the cow, which is somewhat important in this series but is far more important in Dogma. Smith, I suppose, builds tension fairly well, as he makes sure we reach the end of the page as his protagonists are about to come out of the bathroom. Ellie DeVille, the letterer, does a nice job cramming all those words onto the page without blocking too much of Duncan Fegredo’s artwork.
It’s Fegredo who’s the real star of this book, after all. His artwork is superb, and while we don’t get a lot of that from this page, we can see how good he is at drawing and laying out a page. The establishing panel simply sets the scene, but look how he manages to fit all those people into a bus aisle without making it look too cramped or without even expanding the bus too much (which we often see on television and movies when people are on airplanes, which look so spacious I wonder if any of the people involved have ever flown coach in their lives). He fits in the “cutaway” panels of the boy talking to his mother so that those word balloons can fit, and he does a nice job moving our eye from in front of the mother and son back to the bathroom in the third panel, and then swinging back around to orient the mother and son with the location of the bathroom. In the fourth panel, he fits the mother, son, and woman banging on the door very nicely. His figure work is excellent, too – these are all people we might encounter in the real world, and while the woman banging on the door is a large person, she’s not a ridiculous parody. Fegredo is very good at making sure that the page flows even through the verbiage that clutters it, making this a far more exciting page than it has any right to be. Fegredo doesn’t show all the tricks he uses in this book on this page, but that’s okay, because making this an interesting page without resorting to tricks shows how good he is far more.
This might not be the best comic book and it might not be the most action-packed first page, but at least it looks very neat. And that’s half the battle, right?
Today is the last day you can suggest writers for me to feature in April. I have begun writing these suckers for that month, so I need to start tallying votes and digging through the long boxes! So if you haven’t given me your picks yet, do so, and I’ll see what I can do!
Next: Man, I own some shitty comics. Tomorrow’s entry is something I’m not proud of, but that’s the luck of the draw! Check out some better comics when you look through the archives!
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