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. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade: the 1970s! Today’s page is from Mister Miracle #5 and was published by DC and is cover dated November/December 1971. This scan is from the trade paperback Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus volume 2 from 2007. Enjoy!
This is a fairly ridiculous splash page, but what the heck, right? Kirby’s bombastic prose is the second thing to capture our attention (if you don’t know what the first thing is, I worry about you), and it’s suitably silly: “See Big Barda! See how she exercises! Big Barda is tough! Big Barda is incredibly strong! Big Barda comes from Apokolips!” I mean, really. Kirby tries to get us into the story by pointing out that without Barda, we wouldn’t get to meet “Doctor Vundabar and his Murder Machine,” but come on.
The art, of course, is wonderful. Barda is only stretching, but that allows the King to angle her body so that, when we’re confronted with her sexy midsection (which cannot be ignored!), we follow the plane of her right arm down to Scott Free, her husband, who gets the first dialogue we need to read. This is important because the opening narration leads to the giant title balloon, which is right above the other gentlemen speaking. Kirby doesn’t want us to go there yet, so the balloon blocks us from reading further, while the line of Barda’s arms point us right to where he wants to go. Usually, the biggest image on a splash page directs us to the next page, but Kirby doesn’t want us to do that. So Scott’s dialogue and gaze point us back over the page, right through Barda’s crotch (once again, an artist subtly directs us to the sexy parts) and along her shapely left leg to the men to whom he’s speaking. Placing one man inside the arc of her legs is both a function of space and so that the men frame her leg, making it more noticeable (as if it needs to be). The men confirm who Scott is, that they’re there on business, and something we already know – that Barda “sure is a lot of girl to watch!” Finally, you’ll notice that Barda’s expression doesn’t betray anything – she’s slightly amused by the attention, but not overly so.
Kirby’s drawing of Barda herself is interesting. She’s not thin, and her breasts aren’t overly large for someone of her size and proportions. She’s not ridiculously muscled, but she looks powerful. Kirby doesn’t make her waist too tiny and her ribs don’t stick out – in fact, the way he draws the bend in her side is more realistic than we usually see in that she has a bit of fat there, which you’ll see even in the most toned bodies. Her ankles look a bit too thin, but we can excuse that given how well the rest of the drawing looks and how incidental they are to the effect Kirby is going for. We can’t see in this drawing, but in others, it appears she’s wearing flat shoes, another indication that Kirby, while not above cheesecake, at least tried to make it “realistic” cheesecake.
The final interesting piece of information that we get from this splash page is the setting. If we don’t know anything about Scott and Barda, we at least know that one of them lives in that nice house in the background. Scott is dressed in normal clothing, while Barda is wearing a slightly otherworldly bikini (it looks like a bikini, of course, but Kirby “Kirby-fies” it enough so it doesn’t look like every other bikini you might see), so we can surmise that Scott probably lives in the house. Of course, they both do, but we can’t know that from this page. Scott, the house, and the wall form a nice triangle, grounding the triangle formed by Barda’s legs. Both of these triangles help balance the page, which was thrown off a bit by the angle of Barda’s arms. Geometrically, this is a well designed page that also shows the tension between the mundane (Scott, the house, the men) and the outre (Barda). It’s not surprising that Kirby designs a page well, but it is fun to see him do it so sexily!
I can’t imagine this page wouldn’t get you to read more. Well, I can, but only if the reader were crazy! Don’t be crazy, people!
Next: I can never escape Batman! Sad but true! Find more comics with the Dark Knight in the archives!
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