Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade(s): the 1930s/1940s! Today’s page is from Science Comics #4 (a Cosmic Carson story), which was published by Fox Feature Syndicate and is cover dated May 1940. This scan is from Supermen!, which was published by Fantagraphics in 2009. Enjoy!
For some reason, Jack Kirby used the pseudonym “Michael Griffith” early in his career (he used a lot of pseudonyms, actually, and I don’t know why; Mark Evanier probably does, but he’s not writing this, is he?), and so we get this page, which is proto-Kirby but still, in some ways, noticeably by the master. The introductory panel manages to be a static image with quite a lot of energy – the laser spelling out “Carson” is a superb touch, but the plane behind Mr. Carson draws our eye from left to right, while “Cosmic” himself is pointed that way. Kirby’s design sense is very nice – unlike a lot of artists of this time, he makes the armor and the gun actually look like something a man could wear and shoot. The struts (if we can call them that) extending from both sides of the gun harness make this far more realistic than the story might indicate. Carson’s face is well done, too – he looks joyful that he’s shooting a gun, but he’s also concentrating on the target.
In Panel 2, Kirby again shows some nice chops. The perspective of the panel helps create a nice sense of motion, as the ships hurtle from the lower left toward the upper right, drawing our eye from the caption box, which explains that it’s the “Martian night,” to the ships firing their weapons. The smoke billowing from the destroyed buildings ties the entire scene together nicely, as it and the beam from the ship helps create a kind of cross in the panel, forcing us to take in everything. In the final panel, Kirby places the caption box in the upper left, the natural falling place for our eye, so we learn that the fort has been destroyed by unknown attackers. Once again the design of the page is done well – the “V” of the glass-enclosed tube and the structure supporting it make our eye follow the people up and out of the panel and onto the next page. Kirby’s vision of the future is, naturally, very much of the 1930s/1940s model, but that’s okay – it still looks pretty cool.
Obviously, this is not the greatest work Kirby ever did, but even this early in his career (he was born in 1917), we can see how much further along he was than many of his peers, art-wise. This is a well-designed page, as Kirby makes sure we have some basic knowledge about what’s going on and that we want to turn the page. Who wouldn’t want to turn the page? It’s the King!
Next: Is this the greatest splash page in comic book history? You be the judge!!!! You can see some other groovy splash pages in the archives!