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 The Brave and the Bold #104 and was published by DC and is cover dated November/December 1972. This scan is from the trade paperback Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo volume 1, which was just published a few months ago. Enjoy!
Jim Aparo lays this page out really well – the four panels aren’t innovative, but look how each of them places the major action on the left side of the panel and moves us very well toward the right side. Aparo keeps the action moving quickly, which is what we need in a heightened, frenetic scene like this. We’re confronted with the bad guys wearing gas masks, all shooting from the left to the right, the bullet streaks leading us that way. Already, we see the gas around them, so if we’re at all puzzled by the gas masks, the way the page is speckled helps create a feeling of drifting smoke. In Panel 2, Aparo places Batman on the left in the foreground, looking back at the body shop, while Gordon is the next person we see. Everything directs our eyes toward the body shop, from Batman and Gordon’s gaze to the rifle in the extreme foreground pointing that way. Batman’s eyes, Gordon’s eyes, and Gordon’s gun are all on the same level, creating a nice plane to lead us back to the body shop. In the next panel, Aparo places the word balloon at the first place our eye falls, because the dialogue in this panel is very important – Batman is expositing, so we need to get that first. Then we see Gordon looking worried, as befits Batman’s implications, and Batman looking angry, pointing us toward the visual proof of his words – a wounded man being helped away. Finally, in the payoff panel, the word balloon on the left is again very important, as Batman gets really melodramatic with “It’s struck … the hour of the gun!” and he grabs the rifle from the trunk of the car. The word balloon leads to the gun, which leads down Batman’s arm to his body. Gordon has been pushed off-panel, but his gasping word balloon leads us to the second page.
What Aparo does well on this page is move our point of view around really well. In the first panel, Batman and Gordon are off-panel to the right. Then the “camera” swings around behind them so that they’re on the left of the bad guys. He switches back in Panel 3, but he’s closer in so we actually see the two men. In Panel 4, we swing back around, but somehow Gordon, whose presence would blunt the impact of seeing Batman grab a gun, has been moved out of the scene. It’s a nicely done page that manages to take a fairly static scene – Batman and Gordon watching a firefight – and make it more exciting.
Bob Haney wrote this sucker, and he gives us plenty of information with which to deal. The bad guys are a stolen car ring, they’re too heavily armed, and Batman inexplicably decides that this is the time to pick up a gun. There’s a reason for it, although I don’t think we can really call it a “good” one. Haney throws us right in, which is always nice. The entire story is full of Haney wackiness, but this first page isn’t that great an example of it.
Next: It’s All-New and All-Great, according to the cover! We’ll see about that, won’t we? Check out some other “all-great” first pages in the archives!
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