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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 128: Promethea #23

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Promethea #23, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated December 2002. Enjoy!

Oh, Alan - lay off the drugs, man!

I’m sure some people might think that there were far more visually interesting first pages of Promethea to use, but I remain committed to the attempted randomness of this project! Plus, this is far more visually interesting than you might think, because J. H. Williams III is, after all, an artistic genius.

The Great Cranky Northamptonian doesn’t have a lot of dialogue on this page, because “Something … from nothing” pretty much sums up the theme of the page and the issue. I can’t believe that Moore would be so presumptuous as to tell someone like Williams how to lay out a page, but let’s presume they both had a hand in it and I’ll just say “Williams” because it’s easier, okay? Williams gives us a sun at the top of the page, with the panel borders describing arcs that could be orbits of planets, as they flatten out when the circle becomes larger. He builds the figures in the page like a pyramid, with Barbara on the left and Promethea on the right forming the sides – they move apart (only because Williams zooms in) as they move down the page, so the sun could be the apex of the triangle. Of course, we see the conceit of the stick figures becoming basic puppets and more fleshed-out characters as the page develops, because “something” is coming out of “nothing.” This could also turn the sun into an egg, as the two stick figures in Panel 1 look vaguely like sperm, impregnating the egg which then becomes these two women striding into the future. It’s all symbols, people!

I doubt if inker Mick Gray had much to do on this page, and Todd Klein got to ease into this issue as well. Jeromy Cox colors the entire page yellow, but unless it’s an optical illusion caused by the presence of darker figures at the bottom of the page, it does look like the top of the page is brighter than the bottom. If it’s intentional, it’s a nice trick.

Williams does a lot – a lot – of wacky shit in Promethea, which is part of the reason why it’s a modern artistic masterpiece. His first pages tend to be a bit more “standard” before he cuts loose, but this one shows that even when he doesn’t have to do much, he creates a nice work of art. A lot of artists might have phoned this in. Not J. H. Williams III!

Next: Counter-X! What an odd, great, and doomed concept. If you want to see some other odd comics, there may be some in the archives!


Back in the day on Barbelith.com Williams would post once in awhile. I asked him once if Moore ever gave instructions on the intricate panel bordering that Promethea is chock full of. I’m still waiting for the answer to this. Other than that Williams was a nice affable guy online, and obviously is an artistic genius.

Great Choice! The Fact that Absolute Promithia 1-3 was produced proves that someone at DC is paying attention. Now if only there were an Absolute Top Ten. This series itself could fill a month of Brian Cronin’s Comic Book Easter Eggs. Gene Ha is no slouch!

"O" the Humanatee!

May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I’ve been wondering, Greg, how you assure the “randomness” of this series? The issues you chose for your entries focusing on writers were clearly not random, since you admitted explicitly excluding certain things. But what about for entries like today’s?

“O”: Yeah, the theme months are definitely not random in any way. For the odd-numbered months, I go into my garage (where I have all my books), close my eyes, open a long box, and pull out an issue. Or I close my eyes and pull a trade off the shelves. It’s not perfect, as I generally know where in the alphabet I’m heading, but it’s about as close as I can get!

Williams seems to LOVE boarders in his work. If Moore had to give him any push in that direction I suspect it was thematic at most.

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