"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams! Today’s page is from The Brave and the Bold #93, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1971. This scan is from Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 2, which was released in 2004. Enjoy!
After two tremendous Batman first pages from O’Neil and Adams, we get this one, which is just kind of “meh.” O’Neil wants to introduce Cain, our narrator at the House of Mystery (he’s never named throughout the book, and even though B&B is a team-up book, naturally Batman never sees him), so he gives us this thug running through the night and trying to gain access to the House. The thug certainly sees Cain, as he threatens him, but after this page, Cain simply becomes a typical 1950s-style horror narrator, showing up on the edges of panels to tell us a bit about what’s going on. Notice that he immediately shifts into this mode in the final panel – he’s “in the story” in Panel 4, but then he steps out of it to speak directly to the reader, placing himself on the other side of the fourth wall for the rest of the story. O’Neil writes his dialogue like a good 1950s horror narrator, too – he has a sharp and macabre sense of humor, no pity, and a sadistic streak. O’Neil can’t help throwing in some slang from the time period – Cain saying “pad” is extremely weird – but otherwise, it’s a nice introduction to Cain’s personality. O’Neil uses this incident – the thug almost kills Batman – to kickstart the main story, in which Batman takes a vacation, so while the thug isn’t that important, the page is more to bring in Cain than anything else. Weirdly enough, except for the cover (which is an homage to this famous one that began The House of Mystery‘s refocus on horror), there’s no indication that this is a “team-up” between Batman and the “House of Mystery” at all. I guess DC readers were just supposed to know!
Adams does what he can with the page, even though it’s not all that exciting. The punk runs in from the left, looking back over his shoulder, adding some continuity to the scene, as it feels like we just happened to wander onto the scene. Panel 2 and Panel 3 are linked, as the scene expands outward from the focus on the single man to his surroundings, and his importance from one panel to another is dwarfed as we get a sense of where he is. The House in Panel 3 is nicely drawn – Adams explains in the introduction of this trade that he used Craft-tint paper in artwork back then, and this looks like an example of it, with the figure superimposed on top of the drawing. It’s the same principle as a lot of computer effects these days, with figures moved around onto different backgrounds, with a few key differences – Adams obviously re-drew the punk, because he looks different in Panel 2 and Panel 3, and he also drew the background, so even though it’s two different ways to show artwork, it still looks fairly organic. It also adds to the mysterious nature of the House, because it looks like it’s materializing out of the fog. (According to Wikipedia, the House was actually located in Kentucky in the DCU, and why it’s in Gotham City is never addressed, but I assume it could move around at will.) After the punk tries to get in, we see a nicely-designed Panel 5, with Cain in the foreground on the left, pointing directly at the thug, who’s looking directly back to Batman. It’s not two panels, but the frame of the door forms a natural barrier between the hunted and the hunter – Batman almost appears to be in his own panel. The light behind him is placed well, too – Batman is a creature of the dark, but he brings the light of justice, so the fact that he’s running through the night but there’s a bright glare behind him helps create that dichotomous symbolism. This is, of course, recolored, so I can’t really say much about how it’s colored, but I’m not sure if Cain was green in the original – it helps him stand out, of course, especially as he spends the story “outside” of it, so this highlights that idea – but I don’t love it. It’s a bit too lurid, and I think his coloring could be toned down but still get the message across that he’s not part of Batman’s world. Again, I don’t know how much the new coloring changes the original. Adams inked this himself instead of his usual inker, Dick Giordano, but I can’t see too much difference between their work. It seems like Giordano has a slightly lighter touch than Adams, but that could just be the nature of the stories.
I don’t know why O’Neil and Adams zipped over to The Brave and the Bold for this story when they were telling weird kinds of stories in Detective and Batman during these years, but there you have it. DC shifted writers and artists around back then, and they’re still doing it 40 years later! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!
Next: You might think we have to get to those stories eventually – you know, those stories – but for tomorrow, we’re back with Batman! Will we ever get to those stories? You’ll have to be patient, won’t you? Bide your time by meandering through the archives!
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