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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 241: Shadow of the Bat #5

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 Shadow of the Bat #5, which was published by DC and is cover dated October 1992. Enjoy!

Drugs make Batman so angry!

The final time Grant and Breyfogle worked together on a regular Batman book was on Shadow of the Bat, of which they only did the first five issues (Grant continued on the title, but Breyfogle left to go work at Malibu). Issue #5 is a standalone story featuring the Black Spider (who is a black man but dresses in purple and orange, so there’s that), and on the first page, we see Batman finding a letter written to him by the Spider. We don’t know yet that the letter is from the Black Spider, but it is. Grant sets up the issue fairly well, as it’s clear we’re probably going to flashback to the conversation the letter-writer alludes to – he wouldn’t allude to it unless we were going to find out what the Spider is talking about! Grant does something clever on this page – he begins with the corpses (well, we assume they’re corpses because Batman doesn’t seem terribly concerned about waking them up) and ends with the portentous statement by the letter-writer: “By the time you read this, they’ll all be dead.” It seems that Grant is implying that maybe the person who wrote the letter had something to do with their deaths. The Black Spider actually didn’t have anything to do with their deaths, but it’s a nice way to set up a bit of a mystery in the issue. Obviously, it doesn’t last long because we find out quickly what the situation is, but it’s still fairly clever. We also see on this page that Grant has returned once again to one of his favorite Bat-themes, which is drug addiction and its deadly effects. That is a very important part of this story.

Breyfogle gives us a typically nice first page. He shows Batman coming through the window first, and I’m always a sucker for showing parts of the body coming out of shadow, as Batman’s left leg is. The shadows across Batman’s face are done well, too – it’s a somber moment, and Batman can’t escape the darkness. The panel is laid out nicely, too, because Batman is the first thing we see, and while we aren’t looking at the room from his point of view, the way the panel is laid out makes us see him first and then the dead people, almost turning this into a Bat-POV – we’re seeing the victims at the same moment Batman is, and in the same fashion, as our eyes slowly travel from the edge of the sofa by the window to the heads of the corpses. It’s a good way to begin the story and get us into Batman’s head while still showing us a dramatic drawing of our hero coming through the window. Breyfogle draws the needle in the arm of the woman and colorist Adrienne Roy makes sure her lips are deathly white, and while we don’t know what happened to the boy, his placement in the foreground makes him slightly more important than the woman – Grant is subtly implying that addicts’ deaths are less important than the collateral damage they cause. The boy is not an addict, but he’s still dead. Why? We don’t know yet, but his tragedy is worse than the woman’s.

In case we missed the needle, Breyfogle gives us an overhead shot in Panel 2 that shows the spoon and the powder on the woman’s lap. The panel leads us up the woman’s body to Batman’s hand so we don’t miss him picking up the letter. In Panel 3, Breyfogle again does one of the things he does well – shows emotion on Batman’s face. This is not a robotic Caped Crusader, this is one who expresses the grief and other emotions he feels as he patrols the city. Batman hasn’t even read the letter yet, but he already knows it ends in tragedy, because he’s already been confronted with it. In Panel 5, we get another view of the victims, and we see that the boy was eating something – probably cereal – when he died. It’s still unclear why he died, but it’s a good clue left by Grant and Breyfogle. Finally, we get the nice fade to Page 2 with the spider web superimposed on Batman’s cowl – we already know a flashback is coming, so the caption box at the bottom right of the page and the web obscuring Batman’s head are good ways to ease us into it. Of course, Breyfogle uses the web because the Black Spider is a major character in this issue, so it’s both a good device and ties into the larger story.

I’m almost positive this is a sheer coincidence, but I can’t help but notice that Roy colors the room purple and green and the young boy red and green. Does that remind you of any color schemes famous in Batman lore? I really wonder why she chose those particular colors – green shorts, especially, don’t seem too common a color (he’s wearing green pants “earlier” in the issue, but either he changed or Breyfogle forgot and put shorts on him when he died). I’m sure there was no reason, but I did find it fascinating. And while I don’t usually point out the lettering in a comic (I should, I guess, but I don’t), Todd Klein’s cursive is very nice – clean, neat, and legible. In some comics, deviations from the “normal” font turns the letters almost incomprehensible, but Klein is able to do a beautiful cursive script that appears like someone wrote it (even though today, I guess, it would be in print since schools aren’t teaching cursive anymore – don’t get me started on that!!!!) but is easy to read. Well done, Mr. Klein!

Grant and Breyfogle had worked on Batman comics for over four years at this point, and it’s too bad that Breyfogle got a better offer. He’d return to DC later in the decade, though, and get back to work on Batman. Really, Greg? Another Batman book? If you don’t remember it, that’s cool – we’re here to edumacate as well as entertain, so be here tomorrow! Or just go through the archives. Either way, you know.

10 Comments

I though maybe he had web on his face because Batman is secretly also Spider-Man. You know, in his spare time.

Tatatata Buttler……..

Go buy the first 10 issues of their run on TEC, and the 5 issues of SotB..

and after that you ll see that there were real good batman stories in the late 80’s , early 90’s. (I always compare their run to the 3 ossues done by sam hamm and denys cowan for the 500 th issue of TEC.. wich are really poor IMHO, but were average batman stories for the 80’s )

Batman being Spider-man in its spare taime…. tssssssss (though ..it would explain some things…. )

I like how Batman’s fingers holding the letter in the one panel in the middle “attach” to his head in the last panel, so it looks like the Bat-ears are drooping down in anger over what’s happened.

Or else it makes him look kinda like the Tick, which is yet another thing he does in his spare time.

Oh, wait, am I still shunning butt***? I can’t even remember. Whatever.

Ok, I’ll come out and say it. Learning cursive is a pointless waste of time. I learned cursive in school, and as an adult I only ever use it in my signature. In my experience people’s knowledge of cursive is so poor that when I used to write my name using proper cursive a lot of people would get confused because they didn’t recognize the correct form of certain cursive capital letters. I had to “bastardize” the cursive in my signature so that my name was legible to them. Nowadays, the only time I ever write by hand is when I’m doing math or I’m forced to fill out a paper form (which is a great annoyance in this digital age). Cursive writing can still exist as an art form but it shouldn’t be mandatory; I mean learning horseback riding is no longer mandatory in this age of cars and public transit. Sorry for the rant.

This page is really striking to me. I especially like how in the bottom half of the page there are two different angles of Batman overlaid on top of each other. It’s like combining 2 panels into one. It has the potential to be really confusing, but I think it really works here.

sandwich eater: You’re dead to me!!!!!! :)

Wait, so one of your arguments against cursive is that everyone else is a moron? That’s what it sounds like!

I mean, in my adult life, I never use calculus (well, not consciously), but damn, I loved taking calculus. I haven’t had to balance a chemical equation since 11th grade, but damn, I loved balancing those equations!

I get what you mean, and it’s not a bad argument. I happen to disagree, but that’s okay. As much as I’ve embraced technology, I think the fact that we’re losing stuff like cursive and learning how to tie shoes (everything’s velcro, man!) is depressing. But that’s just me. I own a rotary phone, for crying out loud (and I love that motherfucker!).

You still listen to ABBA on 8 track, too, right? Old, old man.

The last issue of Alan and Norm Shadow of The Bat is issue 13

Greg, if you stop wearing children’s shoes you won’t have to deal with velcro anymore.

Also, calculus and chemistry are lies given to us by Satan.

Travis: I’m all about the reel to reel, man!

Bill: But they’re so sparkly!

indy83: Yeah, my bad. I tried to make sure I got these team-ups correct, but Wikipedia – shockingly – isn’t always accurate. I’m sure I have that issue of Shadow of the Bat, but I skimmed through my back issues and must have missed it. Sorry!

@indy83

Thanks for the factoid. I thought they had stopped working together after issue #5 as well. I’ll have to track down #13 now…

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