"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril #2, which was published by Penny-Farthing Press and is cover dated January 2005. Enjoy!
Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril is a marvelous series written by Joshua Dysart before he became the megastar he is today and drawn by Sal Velluto years after he killed it on Moon Knight (I can link ANYTHING to Moon Knight, bitches!). “Vril” is a common science fiction trope for some kind of energy elixir, taken from the 1871 novel of the same name (written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for whom the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest – in which entrants attempt to write the worst opening of a novel – is named, as Bulwer-Lytton famously began a novel with “It was a dark and stormy night,” thereby giving Charles Schulz years of jokes, and this clause it starting to get Bulwer-Lytton-esque itself, isn’t it?) and used by many different writers over the years since. This comic is in the tradition of 1930s movie serials, and takes quite a bit from The Rocketeer, but it’s still worth checking out. But what about this first page?
Dysart doesn’t give us too much information in his words, because it’s all a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about “vril” without being too specific. The head hooded dude talks a lot of bullshit, but one thing we get is that this vril apparently will help them “govern the universe.” If this happens to be the first issue you’re picking up, you might not know that it takes place in the 1930s, but if you know that, you can assume Nazis are involved. Aren’t they always?
Velluto, along with inker Bob Almond and colorist Mike Garcia, has more to do (Richard Starkings and Albert Deschesne lettered this, but they don’t get to cut loose too much on this page). Velluto does a decent job shifting the point of view so that we don’t get bored by a dude speaking crap, from the long shot in panel 1 that shows the acolytes to the close-up in panel 2, which slides easily into the POV from above in panel 3, allowing us to see the blobs of light. Panel 4 shifts to a view looking up, which always makes the person in the shot look bigger and also gives us a nice view of the skull and the dude’s smoking hands (indicating his control over this strange power). Panel 5 shows us that the acolytes are middle-aged/elderly white men, which means this isn’t some punk kids’ cult, but one that appears to have solid backing from people in positions of power (the men are well groomed, for instance, so they must have some coin). Again, we might not know what’s going on, but we get some good visual information on the page. Garcia bases the entire page on red, because he knows that red is the color of eeeeeevil, and he makes sure the main hooded dude is a slightly different shade of red than everything else so he stands out (red is much more evil than white, something comic book colorists have known since the 1930s, when whoever was coloring Batman comics made that monk dude red – and yes, I know white was rarely used because of production issues, but don’t spoil my belief that it was an artistic choice!). Garcia uses some computer tricks to make the blobs of light in panel 3 and the light streaming from the skull in panel 4 more ethereal, but it works well. You’ll notice that the acolytes are in shadow even in the well-lit chamber in the first two panels, implying that they haven’t embraced evil as much as they should, and then the skull bathes them in light in panel 5. It’s a nice, subtle touch by the artists. Even the logo at the bottom of panel 5 is unobtrusive but hard to miss. It lends that movie serial vibe to the comic, too.
This is a solid first page of a comic the first issue of which people might have missed, so Dysart needs to get them interested quickly. He might not give us a ton of information, but this page sets the mood pretty well. That’s all we can ask for!
Next: You can’t escape the Bendis! So … much … talking …! If you want to get some action before the talking, be sure to check out the archives!
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