Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 220: Flash #219 back-up story
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 Flash #219 (the GL/GA back-up story), which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1973. This scan is from Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow #7, a reprint series which was released in 1983. Enjoy!
This is the final GL/GA team-up that this team worked on (they did a Green Lantern story in issue #226, but it seems that Ollie is nowhere to be found in that one), and it begins with a wonderful page. O’Neil, as usual, gives us some nice purple prose at the bottom, which he deems necessary in order to get to the title of the story but basically tells us what we’ve already seen. I suppose that because Dinah isn’t actually identified on the page, he needs to tell us that she’s Black Canary, but Hal tells us that on Page 2, so perhaps he didn’t need it that much. At least he stays out of Adams’ way!
This is another wonderful page by Adams. No letterer is credited (it looks slightly different than John Costanza, who has been the letterer of choice this week, but it might be him), but I imagine that Adams was responsible for the sound effects, not any letterer. The screeching of the car tires both warns Dinah and links the panels together very nicely – it gives the page a feeling of actually moving, as the car careens toward the phone booth. (Note for you youngsters: that’s a phone booth. It contained a telephone that you could pay to use. I know, I know – how did we survive without cell phones?!?!?) Note that the screeching goes outside the panel borders, appearing to go behind the second panel, which helps create the feeling that the car is getting louder and closer, until the letters get very big in the final panel, smashing up against the sound effect of the car hitting the phone booth. This is a marvelous use of the effects, and it’s the kind of thing that isn’t too difficult but is not utilized enough.
Adams does a nice job building the tension, too, stretching the moments of what would be too quick in “real time” to process. In the overhead shot, we see the fire hydrant shooting water onto the street and the car coming in from the upper left, which is where our eye would naturally begin reading. The phone booth is directly in line with the car, and the sound effect leads our eyes that way before pulling us over to Panel 2, where we first see the man driving the car having trouble controlling it and then Dinah seeing the car. The panel is crowded but not overwhelming – Adams does a nice job getting the two important moments into the space. Dinah is coming into the panel from the right, which leads us to a longer shot of her in the phone booth, with car still coming at her and the sound effect moving us across the panel. Adams pulls back to set up the final panel – we already know that Dinah is in the phone booth, so he doesn’t need to do that, but if he went straight from Panel 2 to Panel 4 there would be some disconnect. He artificially extends the moment so that we can place Dinah in the proper context, plus it heightens the tension. You’ll also notice that the sound effect both moves us left to right, but if we follow it backward it moves us down to the car smashing into the phone booth. That final image is devastating: the detail is wonderful, the sense of motion is excellent, and Adams draws Black Canary realistically – we can believe that she was just struck by a car. He needs to show her flying up and over the car because of the way the panel is laid out – if she were thrown “forward” from that spot, she’d be off the panel. The way Adams draws her implies that between Panel 3 and 4, she made some kind of move to leap out of the way but failed. This has the effect of both showing how quickly she reacts to situations and also how quickly the car hits her from the first moment she spots it. Adams has deliberately stretched time in Panel 2-4, but the way he shows the actual collision reminds us how fast it all happens. It’s a nice trick.
O’Neil and Adams decided they were done with Green Lantern and Green Arrow (or DC decided it for them), so for the last installment of this team, we’ll head back to Batman. Which iconic first page will it be? I wonder if you can guess? You certainly won’t find it in the archives!