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 Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle! Today’s page is from Batman #458, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1991. Enjoy!
After a nice run on Detective, DC shifted Grant and Breyfogle to Batman for some reason, and they continued on their merry way, working on the book for almost 20 more issues. During that time, they re-introduced Harold Allnut, Batman’s handyman, and in this issue, they brought him back and put him to work for our hero (the fact that Jeph Loeb killed him off is one of the many, many reasons to avoid reading Jeph Loeb’s comics). Harold’s not on this first page, though, so let’s move on!
This is a great splash page, I must say. Grant begins with a caption box that implies more than one thing – if we think the narrator is Batman (as we might suspect), is he saying that he could have been the kid getting attacked by the punks, or maybe a punk himself? If the narrator is someone different, are they thinking they could have been Batman? In fact, the narrator is James Gordon, and that’s exactly what he’s thinking – he could have been Batman. Grant’s only other writing on the page is the punk trying to inject the kid with some kind of drug. So we’re wondering what the caption box means and we’re getting a bit of a plot – Batman has to save the poor dude from the punks. Notice that Todd Klein does lower-case letters in the caption box – this a nice example of Klein trying to distinguish thoughts from dialogue and continue the idea of “Year One,” when the characters thought or wrote in journals and the letters were often lower-case. Klein is a great letterer, so the letters look very nice.
Breyfogle does a wonderful job with the splash page. Batman’s flowing cape forms the panel border and enfolds the bad guys as well, implying Batman’s omniscience in Gotham City. The punks are typical late ’80s/early ’90s street toughs, with the ripped shirt sleeves and the skinny ties – wait, are they punks or down-on-their-luck stockbrokers? – and Breyfogle does a nice job showing the two punks in the middle ground, watching the action while the punk in the back sees Batman and freaks out. Breyfogle also gives us a clue about what’s going on – note the claws on Batman and the almost supernatural way he looms in the background. We learn soon that this is Gordon daydreaming about being Batman, so of course he looks a bit less “real” than he usually does. Breyfogle makes him a horrifying force of nature, with the claws, the eye slits and the enfolding cape making the criminals fear him even more than they do in “real” life. Breyfogle makes sure to put the full moon between his “wings,” making him even more baleful and eerie. Outside the panel border, the moon is the only thing that’s colored, and Roy even uses a pale yellow that contrasts with the electric light, making Batman’s blackness even deeper. She also makes his blues a bit deeper and more purple – it’s a bit more blue when the actual Batman shows up. It makes Batman even more a figure of terror.
This is a fine example of a beautiful and slightly experimental splash page acting as a good introduction to the story. Grant and Breyfogle knew how to get us right into the issue, and I very much doubt that you would be able to resist turning the page after reading this!
Next: Grant and Breyfogle get their own Bat-comic! Unfortunately, they didn’t last too long on it, but we can see a page from their brief run! In case you haven’t had enough Batman, there’s more in the archives!