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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 143: Harker #9

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Harker #9, which was published by Ariel Press and is cover dated December 2009. Enjoy!

Everyone knows all about the Synod of Whitby, right?

Harker is a nifty police procedural comic starring an overly fussy DCI who is nevertheless brilliant. I reviewed the first arc a few years ago, and this first page is from the second arc. Harker, by the way, is created by Roger Gibson and Vincent Danks.

Gibson provides a recap on the inside cover, so this page isn’t concerned with catching us up. We know, going in, that the first dialogue caption refers to a dead body, even if the word balloon in the second panel doesn’t inform us. So in the first panel, we find out that the body is blue and smells of fish. The policeman immediately comments that it came out of the sea (which, if we didn’t know, is a good way to tell us where Whitby is), and the third person strolls up and asks if “Starsky and Hutch” have arrived. The dialogue itself isn’t too informative – we know there’s a dead body, we know we’re near the sea – but it does establish personalities – the cops are squeamish, for instance. The third voice, we can tell, is cheeky even though she (she’s a she) hasn’t said much yet. She’s talking about the main characters, Harker and Critchley, but we don’t need to know that yet. We just need to know she’s got sass!

Danks uses a lot of Photoshopping in this comic, but it’s better than we usually see. Part of this comes from the black and white – computer effects look better without color. We have already discovered from the recap that this is Whitby, a seaside resort (well, resort might be pushing it) on England’s northeast coast. So we never find out on the first page where we are, but Danks does establish the locale nicely. The first panel shows a dramatic mesa overlooking the sea with a ruin on top of it (surprisingly enough, it’s the famed Whitby Abbey). The shot gives us a wide angle view of the town, and in the second panel, Danks zooms in to establish the scene of the crime. Again, I imagine this is heavily influenced by photographs he (or someone) took of the area, but again, it looks more organic because of the tones. Danks picked a good long shot – the principals are on the left side of the panel, where our eye would naturally gravitate, and they’re pretty much in the center of the panel, so the word balloons of the cops lead us to them, while Jenny Griffin’s word balloons stop us from going past them until we account for them. Danks needs to get the entire scene in, so we get the police lines and the onlookers standing just beyond them. The building on the left side of the panel, the police lines, the milling populace, and the large building next to the police help frame the three main characters, so that we’re focused on them even though they’re small. Danks chose a good spot to place this crime.

One of the strengths of Harker is the way Danks manipulates images (obviously, he draws a good deal of it, but he also integrates outside images) in a way that isn’t intrusive. Comics like this show that using Photoshop or Abode doesn’t have to sterilize your comic and can, in fact, enrich it. Too many artists use it as a shortcut, though. It’s nice that Danks doesn’t.

Next: One would think that a certain movie would mean a certain company might try again with a certain character. See one of those attempts tomorrow! In the meantime, languish in the archives for a spell!

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