Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Casanova: Gula #2, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2011 or, if you prefer, published by Image and is cover dated October 2007. Enjoy!
When I reached into a random long box with my eyes closed (which is how I aim for randomness in these selections, although it’s not perfect) and pulled out the Marvel version of Casanova: Gula #2, I knew I had to grab the Image version as well – the Marvel version reprints issues #10 and 11 of the original series. So above is the Marvel version of the page, and below is the Image version. Can you tell what’s different?
In both issues, we get a “Previously” page on the inside front cover, so Matt Fraction, who wrote this, isn’t too interested in beginning the issue with a recap. He instead begins with a strange scene in which a young lady freaks out at a party and drops to her knees as a fat dude named Dr. Toppogrosso strolls forward and says hello. We have no clue what’s going on – the young woman is very upset and talks about how “this was my life” before the doctor shows up and says something enigmatic. Does this page explain anything? Not really, but Fraction is more interested in setting the scene, giving us a sense of the strangeness of the book, and making us curious about what we’ll learn when we turn the page. Who are these people? Why are they laughing and holding video cameras? Who is that woman? Who is Dr. Toppogrosso? Why the fuck is he wearing a fez like Sydney Greenstreet? If you want to know the answers to those questions (well, not the fez one, because we never find out what’s up with that), Fraction has done his job even if he doesn’t give us very much on this page. It’s all about setting the mood.
Fábio Moon draws this, and he does a nice job with it. The first panel gives us a good overview of the weird party – people are filming each other and thinking it’s hilarious, which leads into Panel 3 below it. I don’t know if Moon drew the laughing or if letterer Sean Konot did, but it’s very effective, floating above the partygoers in disturbingly disembodied letters, incessant and uncaring. Moon places the young woman in the center on Panel 2 like she’s the center of attention of the entire party, and we see her vulnerability wonderfully, especially as her mascara is running more in Panel 4 than in Panel 2. Panel 3 is terrifying, as we’re seeing the partygoers from her perspective, as masked men (and one woman) close in on her with those cameras, and Moon does a nice job implying the sexual element that pervades this scene. Her eyes widen more in Panel 4 as she spots the doctor, as he’s obviously someone she knows and perhaps trusts (he’s been pretending to be her therapist, we learn on Page 2). The final panel is an extension somewhat of the first one, as we get the wider shot of the laughing people and their cameras, now focused on the woman. Even before we know what’s going on, the theme of voyeurism is clear, as the woman has no idea why all these people are pointing cameras at her and she naturally feels violated. Toppogrosso is a nice contrast to the thin people all around him, his girth seeming more debauched than even the voyeurs with the cameras. His expression is one of contempt, and Moon nails it beautifully.
Of course, the big difference in the two versions is Cris Peter’s coloring. In the original version (see below), everything was blue-based, and that was true for all of “Gula” (after “Luxuria” was green-based). Peter’s colors, whether you believe them necessary or not, are quite good. In the original, the background is stark white, setting off the characters well but placing them in a kind of limbo. In the Marvel version, Peter warms the background with yellows and oranges, which takes the scene out of that limbo and makes it feel more like a place, even though we still get nothing back there. The colors also help brighten the blues that Peter leaves alone, as in Panel 2, when the faces of the voyeurs look even more inhuman because the blue stands out against the warmer background, plus the fact that the white of their skin has become a pallor is also effective. The woman looks softer thanks to the yellow in her hair, so she becomes even more vulnerable. Peter wisely kept the blue in some places because blue is cool while yellow and orange is warm, so the contrast between the woman and the people surrounding her becomes even more pronounced. Whether that works for you or not is, of course, a personal decision, but Peter shows that she does know what she’s doing, so the re-coloring isn’t as egregious as some recoloring jobs we’ve seen recently.
Casanova is an interesting example of a book that not only feels different because of recoloring (most books do), but which isn’t obviously worse or better because of recoloring. Both versions do different things with the artwork, and it’s fascinating to see those differences on the page. It does come down to personal preference, although I can’t really decide which one I like more. It’s a conundrum!
Next: Black Jesus! There’s certainly nothing quite so controversial as that in the archives, is there?
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