Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from 30 Days of Night #1, which was published by IDW (back when they still primarily called themselves Idea and Design Works) and is cover dated June 2002. Enjoy!
Steve Niles’ vampire epic begins with only the most token information – it’s Barrow, Alaska, and it’s 17 November 2001. That’s all we get. But Ben Templesmith’s three panels, smaller than we might expect on the page, do something for us that words can’t – they convey the mood Niles is going for wonderfully. The background is white with streaks of blue, which is already a cold combination, but the fact that it’s larger than we might expect makes the feeling even colder. The three panels are similar, showing Barrow slowly coming into focus. Templesmith doesn’t vary the background in the panels – this is basically one panel reproduced three times, with foreground details added – but he doesn’t have to, because the blues and the clouds and the snow give such a good idea of the weather. When the town appears in the second panel and then becomes bigger in the third, it stands out in its starkness – part of this is Templesmith’s style, which is usually stark, but part of it is because of Templesmith’s background dominating the scene. This is a dead world, suddenly lit in the third panel by a globe of light, giving us some hope. We don’t recognize it instantly as the sun, but that’s what it is, arriving late on the scene because it’s winter in Alaska, so the sun will be absent for most of the story. Its lateness in arriving is just a precursor to the story. The sun set against such a bleak scene looks weaker, too, which is the reason we might not realize it’s the sun. It’s a solid effect by Templesmith, conveying a lot of visual information in such a static environment.
This is not a frenetic opening page, which is the point. Niles is telling a horror story, after all, and he needs to rely on atmosphere. What this first page does is convey a sense of something approaching Barrow, and while we might not know what it is yet, based on the way Templesmith creates the page, it can’t be good. The landscape is too bleak and the mood is too quiet to be a good thing. And, of course, we find out it’s not a good thing. So, for this story, mission accomplished with this first page.
Next: The first time a writer appears for the second time!