Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Scout #4, which was published by Eclipse and is cover dated February 1986. Enjoy!
Tim Truman’s series Scout is a weird, post-apocalyptic action/adventure story starring Emanuel Santana, an ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding Apache. Dynamite started releasing these in trade a few years ago, but only two have come out yet. Who knows if they’ll finish reprinting them!
Truman, in the grand tradition of comics, began most of the issues with a splash page, as we see here. I imagine that Truman designed the logo, which sits proudly at the top of the page, the target squarely in the center and slightly bigger than the other letters. The conceit of the narration is that they’re excerpts from a book about Santana, written by Rosanna Winter (the book was published in 1999 – this is another post-apocalyptic story that is set extremely close to the time of publication; did Truman really believe that society would crash like this in less than 15 years?), so we can get a lot of recap and it doesn’t feel too forced. Santana has been on a killing spree, but Winter gives us some information about the other principal players in the comic as well – the president for one, and some of the bad guys – as well as a bit of the geopolitical situation in the country (90% of the farmland “exhausted” and the rest under government control). We even find out a little about Winter herself. So the narration, which is quite dense, also gives us a lot of stuff we might need.
Truman puts Santana in an interesting position. The eagle behind him signifies his strength and even his patriotism, and he’s clutching a rifle, another sign of strength. However, he’s on his knees and heavily bandaged, which indicates that he has been beaten down, which is of course more symbolism. His face is fascinating. We can’t see his eyes too well in the splash, but in the thin panel at the bottom, Truman zooms in, and we see their sadness, their vacancy, and the fact that they’re a bit mismatched. It’s a harrowing panel, implying not only the battles that Santana has fought, but the toll they’ve taken. Meanwhile, in the splash, his mouth is small but completely black, a literal gaping maw, again implying that something has cracked inside him. Sam Parsons paints the background in red and yellow, implying a fire, but the streaks of light running diagonally across the page and the drops on Santana’s body imply rain, as well. Fire and rain – two elements that can either burn away or wash away the dirt/sins of the past. The drawn image is nice enough, but Parsons’ excellent coloring helps make it more dramatic and even apocalyptic.
Splash pages can be used to very good symbolic effect if the artist knows what he/she is doing, and Truman certainly does. This page doesn’t lead into the story, but it does show Santana’s state of mind as he moves forward. Splash pages these days are much more literal and integrated into the flow of the actual story. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it would be neat to see some more like this these days. Oh well.
Next: I don’t own a ton of self-published comics, but I’m featuring one tomorrow! There’s one other so far in the archives!
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