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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 133: The Golden Age #2

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The Golden Age #2, which was published by DC and is cover dated 1993. Enjoy!

Never trust the war hero!

James Robinson’s The Golden Age is a tremendous comic book, and is a big reason why people who read comics in the 1990s really, really want him to succeed these days, even though his recent work has been … less than loved, to say the least. Maybe all he needs is to write the Justice Society of America again (as he’s sort of doing in Earth 2), like he does in this comic!

No one has ever accused Robinson of being terse or economical with his words, and he’s not here. Luckily he doesn’t obscure the lovely Paul Smith artwork, but as I’m not sure who puts caption boxes on a page – Robinson, Smith, or letterer John Costanza – I don’t know who gets the credit! Anyway, Johnny Chambers (who doesn’t get named here, but it’s him) sits at a table, and Robinson gives him a first-person narration. If you happened to miss the first issue of this four-issue series, you might miss the joke at the beginning – Johnny Chambers is Johnny Quick, a speedster who doesn’t run anymore (he still can, but he chooses not to), and Johnny Quick, obviously, always had time. We learn that Chambers is a filmmaker – he made a documentary about superheroes, he’s going to do one about baseball, he’s editing another – but he can’t get away from “mysterymen.” We also learn that the hero making news is someone named Tex Thompson, and Johnny doesn’t really like him – something about Thompson makes him “uneasy.” When someone in a superhero comic thinks that, it’s a sure sign that something evil is up! Superheroes’ intuition is never wrong! Robinson also switches to the narration of the film reel, as we learn that Thompson is a new senator who is gaining a lot of acolytes. So we get a lot of information on this first page, which, as it’s Robinson, isn’t surprising.

Smith doesn’t get to do too much on this page (he makes up for it on other pages), but Robinson makes sure that Chambers is doing something so that Smith gets to draw some movement. Chambers takes out the film, loops it, and watches. It’s not too exciting, but at least it’s something. Smith does a nice job with the period details – the cigarettes, the Life magazine, the hair styles – and colorist Richard Ory gives it a softer sheen, invoking a time past (the entire book looks like this). Obviously, Smith doesn’t really have to move our eyes too much – it’s a pretty standard layout, and the way Chambers’ eyes look slightly downward toward Panel 4 is the only place on the page where Smith directs our eyes. Of course, Thompson faces the page turn, which helpfully implies that we should read on!

Readers (rightfully) bemoan the colored caption boxes showing different characters narrating, and Robinson is certainly guilty of that in this comic, but what mitigates it is that he doesn’t do it on the same page, so we don’t have competing colored caption boxes. Chambers is the only one narrating, and when the caption box switches to gray, we know it’s the movie, both from the color change but also from the quotation marks. This is a ridiculously verbose comic, but it’s never confusing.

Robinson does a good job, I think, giving us a lot of information and also tantalizing the reader with the darkness lurking in these pages. I don’t want to give anything away, except to say that The Golden Age is really good. You should get the trade!

Next: A spooky comic from someone who knows how to do spooky! Feel safe in the archives!

10 Comments

Hey-
This is a really random question, but one I think the commenters here are uniquely qualified to answer.
I have a wedding coming up, and we are doing, rather than numbered tables, superhero tables. So, for example, you would be seated at “Captain America” and there would be a comics cover and a brief write-up as a part of the centerpiece.
So, to do these write-ups, I want to use the actual summaries appearing in the comics (i.e. “When millionaire industrialist Tony Stark, inventor extraordinaire, garbs himself in solar-charged, steel-mesh armor, he becomes the world’s greatest human fighting machine.”). What are they called? In Marvel books, they tended to be on the first page with a big “Stan Lee Presents.” I have had a hard time finding many of them online. If anybody knows these little write-ups off the top of their head or has a tip for how to find them, I’d appreciate it! I am looking for pretty much the big Marvel and DC heroes, as well as Orion, Miracleman and Mister Miracle.
Thanks!

Nerd Groom: Man, that’s a hard one. Marvel used to publish handbooks, but I don’t know if they’re on-line. This actually might be a better question to ask in the forums (the link for which you can find on the right hand side under the logo), because you might get better responses. I don’t know if a Google Image search will help. I know that some of the scans I’ve used in this series show them, but not too many – one of the older X-Men comics, maybe, but I can’t think of too many off the top of my head. Sorry I’m not more help, but good luck!

Thanks, Greg! This is my first time commenting on here, but keep up the good work!

@Nerd Groom: couldn’t you check out some of the Essential collections from your local library to find those?

Also, I had a pretty cool wedding, but not as cool as yours sounds like it’s gonna be. Your fiance must be exceptionally cool.

@nerd groom: those splash page headers were written by 70′s marvel assistant editor scott edelman who posted about them in his blog: http://tinyurl.com/3l3pkyt. there’s also nice scans of about twenty at bronze age babies: http://bronzeagebabies.blogspot.com/2011/05/splash-tops-or-everything-i-need-to.html. hope that’s helpful. have a great wedding.

Night Swordsman

May 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

For all the love Final Frontier got, this book, imho, did it better. And Paul Smith’s art is incredible. This is a A+ series that helped pave the way for a A+ comic, DC’s Starman.

"O" the Humanatee!

May 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm

What the heck is Paul Smith up to these days? I initially didn’t like him when he first came on X-Men, but with work like The Golden Age (which was a wonderful mini-series), he went on to become one of my favorite artists. Not too crazy about Ory’s coloring, though.

This is as good a place as any to recommend Robinson and Smith’s Leave It to Chance, their way too short-lived series about a young girl and her dragon in a land where the supernatural is common. (That description doesn’t do this charming series justice.)

Travis Pelkie

May 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm

The last Paul Smith I remember seeing, O, was an issue or more of the X-Men Forever series from a few years back. Beautiful stuff, of course.

And Leave it to Chance is indeed wonderful. To me, that’s the Robinson series that I wish newer Robinson stuff was as good as. Damn Hollywood for ruining him!

@Nerd Groom: pretty cool. I’m not sure how many of the DC stories/synopses there are around, but I’d say they’re probably easier to write (“When young Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down before him, he swore to fight evil, and as criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot, he disguised himself as a bat!” and so forth). And Superman you might consider doing from the first pages of All Star Superman (the “Doomed Planet, Last Hope, Kindly Couple” bit).

I don’t want to be seated at the Kid Miracleman table, though. Especially not the rear of it!

We had our tables named after superhero girlfriends, so we had Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane Watson, Julie Madison, Lois lane etc. The geeks in attendance liked it but I think it went over the heads of the other guests…

I agree Golden Age is quite the unsung masterpiece in superheroics.

Pretty much everything else I have tried from him is rather average.

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