Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 238: Detective Comics #583
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 Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle! Today’s page is from Detective Comics #583, which was published by DC and is cover dated February 1988. Enjoy!
The readers spoke, and I listened: Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle received the second-most number of votes for the writer/artist duo I get to feature here, and as they almost never worked on anything together except Batman comics (there’s one exception that we’ll see), this week will be full of Batman! It’s a good thing I’ve barely featured any Batman comics this year!
Breyfogle doesn’t get to be too dynamic on this splash page, but it’s still designed well. Notice that the vanishing point is not exactly equidistant from both vertical panel borders – the streets converge slightly on the right side of the page. This both leans us toward the second page but also adds a bit of “realism” to the page, because just that skewing helps make it seem like an actual urban scene rather than a carefully constructed page. Breyfogle also puts Batman in a nice spot – he’s highlighted against a too-large moon, which makes him more visible and also backlights him, so Breyfogle can just draw a silhouette (and, of course, this reflects the symbol on his chest, which at this time was still surrounded by the yellow oval). If the buildings were situated perfectly so that they met in the center of the page, Batman would be pushed too far off to the left. He’s not in the middle of the page, but by shifting the buildings to the right, Breyfogle is able to balance the page with Batman’s presence in the upper left. As this is the 1980s, when urban life in America had still not recovered from the nadir of the 1970s (yes, I’m generalizing, but bear with me), you’ll notice the proliferation of skeezy places along this road – the only businesses that thrive in Gotham are liquor stores, bars, and strip joints, apparently. With their first issue, Grant and Breyfogle are announcing one of the general themes of their run, which is addiction and its horrible effects on people. There aren’t any illegal drugs on this street, but the creators plant the idea with the abundance of bars. Adrienne Roy’s colors are effective, too. She colors the modest buildings in the foreground with browns and dull reds, which gives them a bit of a seedy and decrepit feel, while the downtown area in the background shine with yellow and orange, symbolizing the brightness of the rich hiding the poverty on the streets. Meanwhile, Roy’s choice of red and purple for “10 p.m.” is interesting. No, the skies over cities never truly get dark, but they’re still not as bright as Roy makes them. What this color does is foreshadow the drug that Grant will build his story around – the title “Fever” against the background of purple and red sky makes Gotham seem like a seething town of sickness, which, of course, it is.
Grant (and Wagner, who wasn’t on the book very long) sets the scene but doesn’t give us too much information – it’s ten at night in Gotham City, and the night life is starting. It’s perfectly fine, but we don’t learn much beyond the time and place. The first few pages are meant to evoke the night in Gotham, so Grant is more concerned with establishing a mood, and the narration on this page is just beginning to do that. It’s certainly not a bad bit of writing, but it’s tough to consider it without the context of the next few pages.
This is the first of many excellent issues on Detective from this team. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested. Over the next few days, we’ll see more comics from this run, although over a few different titles. That’s just the way it has to be! You can always find non-Batman comics in the archives!