Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Superman: For All Seasons #3, which was published by DC and is cover dated 1998. Enjoy!
Issue #3 of this DC “Prestige Format” comic (I always liked that they called these types of comics that – it made them feel so special!) is a fairly typical Jeph Loeb page, at least when he’s working with Tim Sale – very few panels per page, as Loeb probably realized early on in his collaborations with Sale that the artist was, you know, really good. He doesn’t always get out of Sale’s way, but he does it quite a bit, and this page shows that. All we learn from Loeb’s writing is that the issue is a “love story” between “a man and a city” – we assume he’s talking about Lex, and obviously, he’s talking about Metropolis. I mean, anyone living in the United States in the past 70 years has to know that, right? Oh well – even if we don’t, we find out on the next page. We also find out that the words on this page are Lex’s, as he’s narrating. Who knew, right?
Sale tells most of the story in the art. We find out his name from the first panel, as well as the fact that he’s being processed by the police. Even before we see Lex, Sale draws in the cuff link to show that Lex is clearly a man of means. It’s a bit weird that Loeb puts “This is a love story” and Sale draws the hand of the policeman clasping Lex’s, as the close-up view makes it far more intimate than it is – this is another advantage comics have over movies/television, as finger-printing moves too quickly in those media to allow for frozen images like this, which is juxtaposed uncomfortably with Loeb’s narration. Sale is quite good at facial expressions, and Lex’s look in the second panel is classic, as it appears he may have just eaten a particularly sour lemon. Everything in the face points toward the placard he’s holding, which is the central image of the drawing – this is a man who has just been arrested, after all. This time, we get even more of Lex’s social standing that Sale implied in Panel 1, as we see the undone bow tie and the vest. The out-of-place strand of hair is nice, too, as Lex is not the type of person to have anything out of place, and although he’s certainly not disheveled in this panel, what is out of place in the panel is enough to emphasize how much it rankles him. The jail cell in Panel 3 is a bit too big, but Sale uses it to emphasize how small Lex is in the corner of the panel, so far from the door and freedom. Sale angles the panel toward the right, too, moving us to the next page. Bjarne Hansen, who colored the page, links Lex to jail by using the same blue in his vest and in the bars of the cell. Lex looks right at home. It’s a nice touch.
I know this comic, unlike later Loeb works, has a pretty good reputation. Pages like this help. Loeb doesn’t do too much, and he lets Sale, who knows a thing or two about storytelling, do that. Loeb might go a bit too far with this occasionally, but he also knows that sometimes, it’s just fun to look at Sale’s beautiful artwork!
Next: Iron Man! Always a hit with the ladies! No one else in the archives is such a playa, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking them out!
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