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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 Chris Claremont and John Byrne! Today’s page is from JLA (volume 3?) #95, which was published by DC and is cover dated May 2004. I borrowed this issue from Howard Harris, my friendly neighborhood retailer. Thanks, Howard! Enjoy!
After almost 25 years, Claremont and Byrne got back together for a six-part story in JLA called “The Tenth Circle.” I have not read this arc, but I recall that it was not well received by the Internet bloggerati back when blogs were but a nascent expressive format (it came out a bit before Brian started this blog, for instance). But we don’t care about that! What about this first page?
Claremont gets across some good information, although we ought to already know who this “Superman” is. If we can’t figure it out, that guy’s a vampire (named, unfortunately, Crucifer). And the young lady on the right is obviously a key player, because her melodramatic ejaculation draws our attention to her and makes it obvious she’s very, very upset by this turn of events. Claremont also lets us know that Superman is the world’s greatest hero. Just in case you didn’t know.
Notice that Claremont, Byrne, and Ordway don’t get credited with anything, so I’m just assuming that Ordway is inking Byrne. It’s obviously Byrne’s pencils on the figures, but I don’t know if Ordway is just inking him or finishing his layouts. Some of the artwork in this arc seems a bit more “Ordway-esque” – a bit blockier and heavier than Byrne’s – so I don’t know if it’s the influence of the inks or if Ordway is actually taking over more of the penciling.
Byrne gives us a pretty decent splash page. We begin with Superman’s rather large hands (the left one probably isn’t too big, but it certainly seems gigantic) leading us down to the vampire holding his head and biting his neck. The pose is natural, so the fact that Byrne contrasts Superman’s healthy hand with Crucifer’s long, sallow hands is probably less intentional than we might think, but it’s still a good one. We encounter Crucifer’s vile face first, too, which makes the appearance of Superman’s profile more shocking – he’s helpless and even terrified, which makes the scene even more disturbing. The flow of the page leads down Crucifer’s body and toward Nudge – the upset girl – which helps lead us onto the next page. This is a nice tripod page design, with Superman’s body forming one leg, Crucifer’s forming the other, and Nudge forming the third. What this means is that although the flow takes us over Superman’s legs, if we consider the entire drawing, we see the hooded figure below the credits and next to Superman’s legs. As the figure is not obscured by Superman and Crucifer (like the others in the panel), we can assume it’s a figure of some importance. We can also tell that the purple robe the figure wears is similar to Nudge’s, which highlights her importance a bit.
David Baron does a nice job with the colors. Because Superman is in his bright blue and red, Baron makes sure that Crucifer is in duller blue, dull green and black, and Baron’s coloring of his skin contrasts very nicely with Superman’s healthier tones. Baron also makes the background a dull earth tone to set off the characters better – Superman, Crucifer, and Nudge are all wearing colors that stand out well against the brown/beige of the background. Baron even colors the background characters in that brownish tone to minimize their importance on the page.
Byrne draws a very nice Superman – his style fits the kind of hero Superman is very well. He’s not quite as good with Batman, but this page gives us a nice dichotomy between the strapping hero and the sickly villain. Everything on the page helps make Crucifer’s act even more creepy. Which is the point, I imagine.
So that’s Byrne/Claremont Week. I hope you enjoyed it. Tomorrow we begin the next writer/artist duo, a team that is much more contemporary. In fact, they’re working on a series right now! And don’t forget to check out the ever-expanding archives!
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