Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 95: Doom Patrol #63
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This week: Grant “Come in out of the rain” Morrison. Today’s page is from Doom Patrol #63, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1993. Enjoy!
The first page of the final issue of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, the finest comic book series ever written, shows how what Morrison can do when he pulls back on the weirdness just a little. The issue itself is fairly strange in the best Doom Patrol tradition, but this first page is more ominous and sad than anything, and it sets up the framing device used in the issue very well. I don’t know how it works if this is the first issue you’ve ever picked up of this series, but Morrison does give us some good information, and I think it’s intriguing enough to get you to read on.
The first sentence sets the ominous tone – “They still haven’t found the body.” It’s a creepy sentence and implies far more than just what the words say. As we move through page, we find out more – the narrator is a doctor (we infer) and she’s talking about a patient, Kay Challis, who was wandering on a bridge, attacked a cop, broke his arm, and was taken to the “hospital.” Kay was a painter, and she did a picture for the narrator. Finally, the final sentence is also ominous, but in a slightly more hopeful way. We already know things did not end well for “Kay,” but when the narrator thinks “There is another world,” perhaps she’s hoping that Kay has made it there. All of this is foreshadowing – the entire issue is about Kay – Crazy Jane to long-time DP readers – and the issues in her head and how she escapes it all. Morrison manages to get this all on the page with fairly simple sentences – there’s no need for wild wordplay, because he’s dealing with raw emotions – fear, despair, hope – and flowery prose would ruin it. His final sentence leads nicely onto the next page, because there is another world – the Empire of Chairs – and Jane (Kay) is part of that world even more than she’s a part of this “real” world (Morrison makes clear that this is supposed to be our mundane world). This is a well written page because it’s full of possibilities but doesn’t overwhelm the reader at all.
Richard Case doesn’t get much to do, but he does focus on the painting (photograph) of the chair quite deliberately, as chairs are very important throughout the issue. Presumably he re-uses the drawing of Marcia (the doctor’s name is Marcia), but look at her in the final panel, where we see her the closest. If we ignore the terrible 1990s haircut, her eyes stare right at us, assuring us that her statement in the final panel is correct and also implicating us in what she’s about to do – we are “keysmiths” just as she is, and what she’s going to allow happen to Kay is what we would allow happen to Kay, too. It’s a haunting picture, and Case nails it. Daniel Vozzo’s muted coloring just adds to the sense of “realism” in Marcia’s world – Vozzo does a wonderful job switching back and forth between the rich color of the Empire of the Chairs and the dull sepia of the real world. Having John Workman do the letters is just icing on the cake. His lettering looks like thoughts, if that’s possible. We can believe Marcia is thinking all of this, rather than some omniscient narrator.
This is an excellent page in a brilliant issue finishing the best long-form story in comic book history. What else could you want?
Next: Morrison does superheroes. No, “He’s just a man!” doesn’t appear on the first page of an issue. That would be neat if it did! In the meantime, take a walk through the archives!