EXCLUSIVE: "Gargoyles" Co-Creator & "Archer" Artist Launch Marvel's "Starbrand & Nightmask"
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be showing pages that are either scary or are part of “scary” issues (as scary as a comic can be, of course), because it’s October! Today’s page is from X-Men Annual #6, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated 1982. Enjoy!
It’s Claremont and Sienkiewicz! Two years before they got together on New Mutants! Whoo-hoo!
Why, no, this isn’t a particularly scary page. But this comic stars Dracula! And he seduces Storm! And this comic features a completely bad-ass and heart-rending ending with Wolverine before his actions became clichéd! Yay, good annuals!
Obviously, Claremont likes the words, so this page is full of them. And because it’s an annual, it’s not really following a previous issue – Claremont brings in some plot points from the ongoing, naturally, but it’s a standalone story. So we learn where we are, who that woman is, and why she’s in New York. Claremont, unlike a lot of writers these days, acknowledges that culture exists in the Marvel Universe – in other words, Bram Stoker actually wrote Dracula – and Rachel dismisses the idea that she’s in any way connected to the vampire legend. Of course, we’re reading a comic book, so we know that’s bullshit, but I like that Claremont addresses it. Then, of course, Claremont immediately lets us know that Rachel is lying, so that’s fine, and then he catches us up by telling us that Dracula is dead. Phew! Of course, Claremont once again immediately undercuts that with the creepy speech at the end of the page. Even though we don’t see anyone yet, the cover of this comic and the fact that a reader isn’t an idiot tells us that Rachel is absolutely wrong. But Claremont gets us into the story with his usual verbose aplomb.
This is before Sienkiewicz changed his style, so it’s much more conventional than he’d later become. Obviously, he knows how to put together a page, but on a book with Dracula and creepy stuff going on, it would have been more interesting to see this exact script drawn two or three years after this. Anyway, Sienkiewicz sets the scene with the idyllic glimpse of Bard College, and then we move inside. You’ll notice that even though the panels are very small, Sienkiewicz does a really nice job moving our eyes across the page. In Panel 2, Phillip is on the left side, looking toward Rachel, who’s standing toward the right. Rachel’s close-up in Panel 3 is facing the “wrong” way – to the left – but notice that her eyes lead us to the right. In Panel 4, Sienkiewicz leads us from Rachel in an arc toward Phil, who’s moving toward the third row on the page. Rachel is moving across the page nicely in the third row, especially in the last two panels, as she enters the house and then looks off-panel to the next page (which is a big splash page). Sienkiewicz knows exactly what he’s doing to move the reader over the page and around Claremont’s words. It’s certainly not as dazzling as Sienkiewicz would later become, but even in these early years, his line was strong and confident, and Bob Wiacek’s inks work well with this style. Glynis Wein doesn’t have a ton to do with the coloring on this page, although I have to think that she used red in Panel 3, where Rachel mentions Dracula, as a nice foreshadow. Back in 1982, you could still probably assume that blonde women were good (you really can’t anymore, although the cliché seems to have swung completely the other way), so Rachel is blonde. I’m not sure if Wein is making that implication, but I’m going to infer it, damn it! Finally, notice Orzechowski’s final word balloon. I assume he creates the word balloons, so when Dracula says “Enter freely, and of your own will,” the balloon’s border is thicker, blacker, and smudgier. Just from that, we get the sense that Dracula is saying those words in a different and more sinister tone of voice. It’s a small thing, but very effective.
So, yeah. I know this isn’t too scary, but come on – really scary first pages are hard to find. Isn’t it enough that Dracula shows up on the next page? Work with me, people!
Next: More Marvel vampires! You know you love them! I’ve already done some scary books, and you can find them in the archives!
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