"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Seth Fisher, and the issue is Legends of the Dark Knight #195, which was published by DC and is cover dated November 2005. This scan is from the trade Batman: Snow, which was published in 2007. Enjoy!
If you work for DC for any length of time, or if, indeed, you’re an artist in the comic book industry of any note, sooner or later you’re going to draw Batman (it’s true!), and that was the case with Seth Fisher, who drew “Snow” in 2005, with J. H. Williams III and Dan Curtis Johnson writing, Dave Stewart instead of Chris Chuckry coloring, and Phil Balsman lettering. (I wonder what happened between Williams and Johnson, as Williams’s writing partner these days is Haden Blackman.) It’s stunning, as you might expect, but it also requires Fisher to cut loose on the action, something he hadn’t needed to do too much prior to this. Well, he’s up for it, as you might expect.
I scanned several consecutive pages of the big fight in the middle of issue #195, plus a few pages from later in the issue. I’m going to show the main fight all at once, with only a few comments right here.
Page 1: You have to love the Afro! Note, too, the panel borders throughout this fight, as Mr. Freeze is the main villain, so the panels look like cracked and jagged ice. Fisher, I imagine, designed the sound effects, and in Panel 5, they appear to be made out of ice.
Page 2: Most artists, I imagine, would use a straight line at the bottom of Panel 1 and simply draw Freeze using his gun over it, but Fisher conforms the panel border to fit the gun and the blast from it. That’s clever. Notice, too, how he make Freeze point the gun upward toward the next page’s first panel.
Page 3: More clever details from Fisher, as he places a fish tank in Panel 1, smashes it, and shows the poor fish flopping around in Panel 2. Mr. Freeze is a monster!!!! Notice, too, that although “L.D” in Panel 4 is looking backward at the hapless victim, his microphone is still pointing to the right, leading our eyes off the page.
Page 4: Notice the frozen sound effects in Panel 4.
Page 5: The cactus, which contrasts against the ice, is a nice touch. In the second panel, although Parke is about to leap through the window the “wrong” way – meaning going to our left – Fisher makes his feet and the swirl of Freeze’s ice prominent on the right side, making sure we follow Parke’s body from his head to his feet and therefore off the page.
Page 6: Fisher reverses the point of view so that Parke crashes through the window from left to right, which is easier to follow. That is, I should point out, not the best drawing of Batman’s head I’ve ever seen. Can’t win ‘em all!
Page 7: In a lot of scenes, Fisher draws Batman as well as anyone else. Panel 2 is not an example of that. It’s only the bottom half of the Caped Crusader, but he still looks like an old man who’s a bit excited about going off to fight. Not a good look, Bats. However, Panel 3 is very cool, as Batman lands in the koi pond with a tremendous “Bat Shawng!!” sound effect. Sure it’s kooky, but that’s the way it is! Freeze’s leg in the bottom right takes us off the page, and that poor turtle in between the two antagonists is wishing he could get off the page, too.
Page 8: I like the little inset panel of the tracker that van Daalen puts on Freeze. In the middle of this big fight, Fisher never loses his sense of humor, and the exclamation point in that panel keeps things light (whether that’s Williams/Johnson or Balsman, I don’t know, but it’s still nice). The way Freeze falls leads us to the next page, on which he escapes.
After a few more pages, van Daalen … well, things don’t go well for him.
Notice, again, how Fisher likes to put “cracks” in things to age them, so that Freeze’s hideout looks seedy even though he’s decorated it so nicely for his dead wife. He also moves our eyes across the pages very well, as van Daalen comes in from the left in all three panels of Page 1, even though we get different viewpoints from which we watch the scene. Then, in Panel 1 of the second page, he crashes to the ground in the same manner – from left to right. Fisher uses the flowers to contrast Freeze’s deadly powers, but notice how they almost appear three-dimensional as they burst out of the panels when the action begins. Stewart does a superb job softening the colors when Freeze talks to his dead wife so that it’s clear he’s hallucinating. That’s a nice touch.
Fisher, as you can see, was getting more confident with action even as he kept what made him so unique in the first place. For the last installment of Seth Fisher’s art, we’ll look at his final work, in which he uses all he had learned to turn in a masterpiece. I have no idea how I’m going to limit what I show you! I’m going to keep linking to the archives, you know!
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