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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 284: The Authority #13

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month (for a while) I will be showing pages chosen by you, the readers. Today’s page is from the The Authority #13, which was published by DC/Wildstorm and is cover dated May 2000. This page was suggested by Hal, who’s a very enthusiastic commenter (and we love him for it!). Enjoy!

Good question!

Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s run on The Authority began so well, even if this first page isn’t the best one in the world. Millar decided to warm up for his run on Ultimates by doing the same thing, essentially, with these characters – making them go after “real” threats and turning them into dissolute celebrities. So Millar asks the question we’ve always asked – why DON’T superheroes fight dictators and such? – and proceeds to show what would happen. The run devolved into a bit of a mess, but it started pretty well!

The Authority – especially the Ellis/Hitch issues – have been considered early “wide-screen” comics (if not the first), and the way the splash page is set up is somewhat reminiscent of this. In a regular comic, Quitely’s drawing would have taken up the entire page and probably been a bit more magnificent. In the rush to turn comics into movies, whoever designed this page (probably Quitely, but he was taking his cues from the first year of the title) added the black bar at the top and bottom, which cramps the drawing a bit. Is this an attempt to “letter-box” a comic book page? If so, it doesn’t work, as Quitely’s drawing looks a bit less impressive than if Angie and the orbs had filled the entire page to the edges. The Big Two have moved away from “wide-screen” comics recently, which may or may not be a good thing, but it does mean that we don’t often get wasted space like this much anymore. Big Two comics today tend to have their indicia at the back, which means it doesn’t clutter up the first page anymore, and even credits are moved to different places. Even if we leave the credits where they are, there’s no reason for the black block at the bottom of the page and even less for the one across the top.

It’s not the most intricate drawing, but it’s dramatic, which is why the cramping of it bothers me so much. The orbs falling from the sky are explosive, in case you didn’t know, and Quitely places them nicely on the page to give a good sense of their range. His point of view is nice, too, because it feels more intense if we’re looking up at these things and wondering what the hell they are. David Baron illuminates them from below, too, and his use of orange/yellow implies fire, so right away we’re wondering what the ground onto which these things are falling looks like. It helps create a sense of tension and anticipation – before we turn the page we think of destruction, even though we have no proof that these things are, in fact, destructive. A quick glance might miss Angie, floating high above, but because she’s so small, it adds to the sense of vertigo and makes this scene a bit more impressive – if she’s that high, how much ground will these orbs cover? Quitely makes sure we don’t miss her, because he connects the “antennae” of the orbs to her general vicinity through lines of perspective, so we get her in the center of a vast web, highlighting her importance even as her physical presence on the page is small. It’s a very well designed page even if Quitely didn’t have a ton to do – presumably he didn’t “draw” every single orb, just copied them digitally (I could be wrong, I guess, and if so, I apologize).

This is a pretty cool issue. Too bad it went sideways so quickly!

Next: Will I have another reader suggestion? Or will I start showing scary comics? The mind reels with the possibilities! Calm yourself with a tour of the archives!

7 Comments

How about a reader suggestion from a scary comic? Tomb of Dracula #25. It should give you lots to talk about.

You’re right about the weird black space, Greg. I only have this in trade so I didn’t know if it appeared the same way originally. It’s a fairly good opening page but it’d be better occupying the full space. I think the simplicity works; what is the Engineer dropping her Globes on (ahem)?! And what will that bluntly stated question lead to? Of course we *know* why superpeople don’t tackle the “real bastards” but it was interesting to see where Millar would go with the idea. I liked bits of the run yet Millar’s irritating tendency to go straight for the outre “look how many taboos I’m breaking, Ma!” well was annoying (something that increased with the years and became more than a mite juvenile and hypocritical). Thanks for calling me enthusiastic, I’m usually getting the web equivalent of a “funny look” for arguing against the excellence of some overrated crap or other. “That’s how I roll”, I guess :-). It’s a curse…. Ha.

Oh, and looking at this page reminds me of how much I miss hand-lettering and titles being integated *into the artwork rather than dully separated. This page displays the dullness of modern credits unfortunately – compare it to work from the ’70s and ’80s and it sucks the big one.

I am going to disagree with you on the black bars. The negative space makes the cluttered drawing a bit more effective for me.

I second Dean’s comment — if the orbs filled the entire page it’d be almost… too much, I suppose? The black bars keep the focus tight and enhance the panel and mood for me. Like you’re literally getting a snapshot of this moment, whatever the hell it might be. Plus Quitely’s a hell of a draftsman who knows how to lay out a page.

I disagree with Hal though about the lettering. This is a modern, “cinematic” comic, so why not have the credits fit accordingly. Not to say this always works (and frankly this approach from top to bottom has failed spectacularly when done by arguably lesser creators), but it’s fitting here.

Have a good day.
G Morrow

tdsacomic.com

I use the cramped-letterbox-splash page for the openings of each of my Ruby Nation webcomic chapters; I’ve been using this technique for a while now. I got the idea from artists like Hitch and Quitely, because it really helps draw attention to whatever’s going on in the splash panel. The human eye tends to read things horizontally, so having the image contained within a square rather than spreading it across the entire Vertical rectangle gives it more immediacy.

Well, if other people like the black bars, that’s fine too. I think it stems from my desire to see no wasted space in comics, and it feels like wasted space. But I understand the arguments, too.

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