Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 302: The Crow #2
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 The Crow #2, which was published by Caliber Press and is cover dated March 1989. Enjoy!
James O’Barr’s emo masterpiece has a lot of violent stuff going on in it, and while this first page stretches the definition of “scary,” I think it does a good job creating a mood, and with the Crow, that mood is absolute terror that he’s going to fuck your shit up pretty hard. O’Barr sets the scene well, as we know we’re in Detroit and we see that the Crow is walking down a somewhat bleak street. The “dead end” and “one way” signs are a bit on the nose, but O’Barr’s not the most subtle writer, and at least they would conceivably be on a city street. The Crow dominates the page, naturally, and O’Barr does a nice job making him extremely menacing. The cat is a good touch (cats like Eric, for some reason), because O’Barr draws both the cat’s face and the Crow’s face almost the same way, so there’s a sense of the predatory nature of our avenging dead guy. Eric’s ridiculous hair (a product of his time, unfortunately) isn’t as obvious as it often is, so while we can see that it’s shaggy and black, it doesn’t elicit chuckles as it does in some drawings. O’Barr makes Eric’s eyes thin and eerie, while the makeup he wears turns his thin-lipped mouth into a sinister sneering grin. The romantic gesture of the Champagne and the flowers is mitigated by his evil expression and the trench coat, which puts us in mind of someone doing something quite wrong. Plus, he’s wearing gloves, which just looks creepy. Taken in isolation, wearing gloves and a long coat like that while heading to a romantic rendezvous isn’t in itself disturbing, but added to the Crow’s expression and the cat in his shoulder, it becomes something much more unsettling.
O’Barr’s prose is a bit tortured, but he has some nice turns of phrases. The drug metaphors show up throughout the comic because a lot of people in this comic use drugs. O’Barr adds some creepiness by referring to Eric as “an earthbound ghost” who speaks to his “dead lover,” and what he says is pretentious, sure, but also terrifying, making the city something absolutely evil that sucks people down and strangles them. The Crow is spiraling down “through a collapsed dream” and the only sound he makes is “like a concave scream.” The use of “concave” is interesting – it suggests something hollowed out, sucked in, and the image I get (because of the other metaphors in the book) is of a drug addict with a concave chest, unable to breathe properly. O’Barr might pummel you over the head with images, but his bludgeoning paints a picture full of despair. Which is the point, after all.
The Crow is a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece nevertheless (as I argue here), and this page gives us a good idea of the horrors contained within without being too explicit. It’s pretty darned cool that way, if you ask me.
Next: An early work by a writer who’s risen in the DC ranks and an artist who has decided to spend his time working for Zenescope. What comic could it be? You won’t find any clues in the archives!