Axel-In-Charge: Waid & Samnee on "Black Widow" and the Dawn of the All-New, All-Different Era
Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Alan Davis, and the story is Part 4 of “D. R. & Quinch Get Drafted” from 2000AD #358, which was published by Fleetway and is cover dated 3 March 1984. This scan is from The Complete D. R. & Quinch trade paperback, which was published by Rebellion in 2010. Enjoy!
Alan Moore has a better sense of humor than a lot of people think, mainly because he’s been so obsessed with rape over the past 25 years that people tend to recall that a bit more than his humor. Whattayagonnado, the dude likes rape. [Edit: I wrote this before the infamous “last Alan Moore interview” was published. It’s just the zeitgeist, man!] D. R. & Quinch is, I would say, by far the funniest thing he’s ever written, and Davis was a superb artist for it. Davis was getting smoother and smoother during the course of 1983-84, and while he still used hatching to good effect, it was clear he was getting sleeker. This would serve him well when his work crossed the pond in 1985, which we’ll see tomorrow. But that’s tomorrow! For now, let’s check this sucker out.
Chrysoprasis, or Crazy Chryssie, is D. R.’s ex-girlfriend (his name is Waldo Dobbs, but everyone calls him “D. R.,” which stands for “Diminished Responsibility”), and she’s not happy because D. R. got her thrown into an institution. I love this panel – Chryssie is beating on D. R., and she’s tied his fingers into a knot. Davis really does a fine job with D. R.’s distressed look and Chryssie’s insane look – as usual with Davis, it’s all in the eyes and mouths, and he gets it done. Paired with Moore’s dialogue for D. R., it heightens the ridiculousness of the situation, because when we read the dialogue and see the facial expression, it’s almost as if D. R. isn’t quite as terrified as we’d expect him to be. The contrast between his laid-back words and Davis’s face makes the panel even funnier.
On the next page, we find out that Chryssie escaped from the institution and became a mercenary, and after playing “one little practical joke with some frag-mines,” she ended up in the stockade. So that’s that. Look how Davis uses these three panels, though. Lots of artists do this well, and Davis is one of them. The layout remains the same, while the characters move within the same confined space. But notice how every panel starts us in the upper right with a word balloon and then leads us to a diagonal moving from the lower left to the upper right. We are led to Chryssie’s face in Panels 1 and 2, but in Panel 3 we’re led to Pulger’s head. When we’re led to Chryssie’s head, the diagonal leads us downward to see D. R.’s reaction, but it also leads us to Quinch, who’s standing behind and to the right of Chryssie. Davis once again does excellent work with the facial expressions, as Chryssie’s rage is contrasted with D. R.’s somewhat pathetic look, while Quinch goes through a range of emotions. In the first panel, he looks almost amused (he was not a fan of Chryssie when D. R. dated her). In the second panel, he’s scared that D. R. is going to get killed, and then, in Panel 3, he’s happy that Pulger showed up. Both D. R. and Chryssie’s faces in Panel 3 are excellent, too, as Pulger surprised them both. Davis wisely puts a few bubbles rising from the floor in Panel 2 to foreshadow Pulger’s arrival in Panel 3 (he’s carrying a gun made out of soap, in a classic prison escape cliché). This is just a very well-designed sequence.
This is another nice sequence, because it shows both sides of D. R. quite well. In Panel 1, he’s embarrassed to be associated with a screw-up like Pulger (who’s wearing a dress as part of his convoluted escape plan), and we see that on his face. Then in Panel 2, he switches to conniving D. R., who’s always looking for an angle and is quite bloodthirsty (D. R. and Quinch wreak plenty of havoc in this series, including wrangling a plan to get the Earth blown up). Davis doesn’t do too much different, but just by angling his eyebrows differently and changing the shape of his mouth, we get two very different pictures of D. R. The monster in Panel 4 is big and ugly, and Davis makes its entrance suitably impressive. Quinch doesn’t say much in the series, but once again, we see on his face that he likes the idea of fighting, and that’s probably what they’re going to have to do.
Once again, Davis helps sell the scene with his facial expressions. Quinch is amused by everything, and he’s unperturbed by the slime jungles. Chryssie’s words fit her disgusted facial expression quite well, while D. R. looks dismayed. Davis moves us across the panel well, as Pulger, on the right, extends his hand toward Panel 2, and his face goes from triumphant to depressed as he realizes there are a bunch of guns pointed at him. Pulger seems to be a bit bipolar in this series, so it’s not surprising he acts this way, and Davis does a good job with it. In Panel 1, his hand leads us right to his word balloon, and his gaze leads us to the right of the panel and to the gun barrels, which take us down to the next page. Again, this is simple storytelling, but Davis is still good at it.
Davis was too good for American comic companies to ignore him, and as he was still drawing Captain Britain for Marvel at this time, it’s not surprising he began to do more American superhero books. So tomorrow, we’ll look at one of his early efforts! Won’t that be fun!?!? If you don’t think so, there are still some fun comics in the archives!
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