"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 Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle! Today’s page is from Detective Comics #610, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1990. Enjoy!
After a few years together, Grant and Breyfogle were really hitting on all cylinders (to be honest, they were always on the same page and doing good comics, but they got more and more confident in their abilities as they went on), and this page shows that very well. It’s a wonderful splash page that gives us a lot of what we need to know even though the only words on the page are lines from John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” (and no, despite my English major background, I didn’t know that just because I know every poem ever written; the priest says on the next page what it’s from). I assume Grant had some say in how Breyfogle designed the page, but it’s still the artist’s show, because it’s a beautifully laid-out panel.
The first thing we see is the title. Then we see Batman’s head directly to the right of it, which leads us down his body. Is his head too small? Perhaps, but perspective can be a bitch, and I’m not really positive that it doesn’t work here. Either way, we follow his body down to the cape, which leads us back to the left so we can see the scene framed by the cape, Batman’s legs, the ground, and the monument on the left side of the page. This shows us the Penguin’s monument, the “mourners” (nobody is really mourning the Penguin), and the priest. Between Batman’s legs we see the ubiquitous news crew, as the Penguin’s death would be news.
Look at how Breyfogle constructs the scene, not just in how he directs our eyes around the page. Because we move across the top of the page first and arrive at Batman’s head and then start to move down, Breyfogle draws the trees with speed lines, indicating the wind blowing through the leaves, pushing us back to the center of the page. The three flares on Batman’s gloves are parallel to the speed lines, giving a greater sense of movement. The speed lines point us to the bats circling above the cemetery, which is a nice touch by Breyfogle. The wind is coming from the right of the page, so that Batman’s cape and Gordon’s trench coat push us back toward the Penguin’s grave. Batman stands facing the setting sun, so his back is drenched in black with just a few splashes of Roy’s blues. Notice how Batman and the monument with the cross on top of it stand as frames to the scene, while they’re linked by Batman’s cape swirling toward the monument. The cross provides comfort to the just in the afterlife, while Batman provides comfort to the just (by punishing the unjust) in this life. The Penguin’s grave is slightly off-center, which is fine because Batman’s placement means it has to be, but it also balances the page a bit better. It also makes the idea of Batman looming over the city’s criminals, even in death, a bit more obvious. Breyfogle draws the Penguin statue so that Cobblepot is facing Batman, defiantly raising his umbrella in contempt. Roy’s blood-red sun doesn’t provide much light for the scene, so we get the mourners and the priest overshadowed by the Penguin’s statue, while Gordon and the cops are in relatively better light. The statue’s line of sight reverse our gaze back to Batman, which allows us to turn the page and move on with the story. It’s a really well done page, somewhat deceptively so. It’s packed with symbolism even though it’s just a page of Batman watching a funeral.
Grant and Breyfogle continued on this title for a while, then DC inexplicably switched them to Batman (apparently even Grant and Breyfogle don’t know why; presumably it was because their sales on Detective were so good and DC wanted sales on Batman to go up too). So tomorrow we’ll look at an issue from that run. Before then, you can always scamper through the archives if you have some time to kill!
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