Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams! Today’s page is from Detective Comics #410, which was published by DC and is cover dated April 1971. This scan is from Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams volume 2, which was released in 2004. Enjoy!
In Detective #410, we get a nice splash page – perhaps not as iconic as three of the Batman comics we’re going to look at this week (two of which we’ve already seen), but still a very cool drawing. O’Neil, continuing his tradition of both using purple prose and making sure to stay out of Adams’ way, explains the situation after setting the scene. Instead of second person, he uses the vocative case, addressing the reader directly. Both ways of address bring the reader closer to the subject – in this case, O’Neil’s demands that we hear, feel, sniff, and see force us into the scene, even if we really can’t do any of those things. The descriptive language helps set up the second caption box, where we find out that Batman is venturing into a place “abandoned by anything that is holy … a place for dark deeds!” After that set-up, O’Neil can move on to the particulars – Kano Wiggins, escaped murderer, is trying to get away from Batman. As we’ve seen this week, O’Neil likes coming up with dramatic names for his stories, and “A Vow From the Grave!” is a good one. This time, we know that John Costanza lettered this page, but I still don’t know if he or Adams drew the title. The jagged letters and red coloring again make it a nice callback to the 1950s horror stories that O’Neil often tried to evoke in these Batman tales.
Obviously, Adams doesn’t do any panel-to-panel storytelling on this page, but it’s a dramatic image, which is nice. We saw yesterday that he illuminated Batman with a street light and placed him further away from the reader but coming fast, which he does again here. The lightning draws our attention straight down from the logo to the Caped Crusader, lighting him up and turning him into a far more fearsome avenger than if the light source were steady or if there were no light at all. As always, the use of blue and yellow is a wonderful contrast, so the recoloring of this page makes the lightning glow more brightly, helping turn Batman into even more of a weird figure of the night. From Batman we’re led along the rope bridge to Wiggins, who fearfully looks behind him and realizes he’s in a race he can’t win. The lightning is nowhere near Wiggins, so he’s plunged further into darkness, literally and symbolically. Batman might be dark, but he’s always a figure of light. His quarry is usually not so lucky. Adams also turns the rain into a guide, as we follow the slanted streaks the wrong way, back up from Batman to Wiggins. Everything on the page is slanted this way, so that the line that links Batman and Wiggins is echoed throughout. Notice, too, that Batman runs along the rope bridge without holding onto the guides, while Wiggins clings tenuously to the thin cords. Batman is far too bad-ass to stop running just because the bridge looks like it might fall down at any moment! Again, this highlights the difference between Bats and those he pursues – they’re just a bunch of cowards! The drawing of Batman running with the cape spread out behind him is supposed to suggest that Bats might even be able to fly after Wiggins, adding even more kinetic energy to the static page. We can envision Batman closing the gap rapidly while Wiggins balances uncertainly on the rope, unable to escape …
Even though Wiggins does make it to the other side and slices through the rope bridge, the way Adams sets up this page leads us to the second one, where Batman does appear to fly (he’s a good jumper). So this page does what it’s supposed to – give us a dramatic opening to the book yet still lead us nicely into the rest of the story. That’s why Adams is a good artist!
Next: Can it be? The stories you’ve been waiting for? Well, yes it can be! Perhaps not the exact issues you want, but that’s the way it is, innit? Meanwhile, there are archives to check out!