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 Fate #17, which was published by DC and is cover dated March 1996. Enjoy!
I own every single issue of Fate, the DC series that starred Jared Stevens, the extreeeeeeeme substitute for Dr. Fate. No, I’m not proud of that fact. But there it is!
For those people who weren’t collecting comics at this time, Fate can be used as a wonderful example of what we mean when we say “Oh, the ’90s” in a crestfallen voice. DC took an old character, basically killed him off (yes, Dr. Fate is mystical, so killing him off never sticks, and yes, “him” should read “them,” as Dr. Fate was made up of two different people), and replaced him with a “fresher” character who robbed graves, got violent really easily, and had black hair with a red streak in it. You know, like regular folk.
Anthony Williams and Andy Lanning worked on the entire series (I think), all 23 issues, which is pretty impressive when you consider the problems artists have today sticking on a book longer than four issues. This splash page is fairly typical of the work on this comic and of the extreme 1990s zeitgeist in general. Ricky Contrares has a big knife, rippling muscles, a disturbing number of abdominals, giant thighs, and a really angry face. Jared sees his angry face and raises him, and although we don’t see it here, he’s no slouch in the “far too many muscles area” either. The moon (yes, that’s the moon) behind Ricky is ludicrously large, but the moon in visual fiction is often too large, so we’ll have to let that go. Williams actually has some chops, of course, and even when posed, his figures have a ridiculous amount of energy, as they always look like they’re ready to burst off the page. He places the figures on the page well, and we even get a fun bit of saliva around Jared’s mouth, because you couldn’t draw a comic in the 1990s without saliva. It was the law! Mike Danza, who colored the page, gives Ricky a standard blue-and-yellow outfit, and as goofy as it looks, it still fits in nicely with the general over-the-top tone of the book.
Len Kaminski recaps fairly well – we know the dude is Ricky Contrares, he was a drug dealer but now he’s into human sacrifices, and Jared is “Earth’s mystic defender.” I suppose that human sacrifice is enough to get a reader into the book, but what do I know – I was already buying the book!
This is a deadly serious comic, although it probably works better if you read it as a parody. I doubt that’s what the creators intended, though. As a splash page, this works to get us right into the story pretty well, and although it’s an example of 1990s excess, you can’t deny that Kaminski makes sure we’re not lost and Williams gives us a page that feels coiled with potential energy. It’s a ridiculous comic, but at least it does that right!
Next: Bringin’ the funny right to you! There are some other funny comics in the archives, but most of them are deadly serious!
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