Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be showing pages that are either scary or are part of “scary” issues (as scary as a comic can be, of course), because it’s October! Today’s page is from Ghost Rider #35, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated July 2009. This scan is from the Ghost Rider Omnibus, which was published in 2010. Enjoy!
Jason Aaron does a pretty good job setting things up on this page, but I think it’s Tony Moore who really sells it. This is basically a one-off issue about a weird-looking woman terrorizing a town, and it’s kind of strange that it’s the final issue of the regular series (before Aaron finished up his run with the “Heaven’s on Fire” mini-series. But none of that matters – let’s check the page out!
Aaron gives us pretty standard “set up the horror plot” prose, with hints about what’s going on and how it all happened. The idea of all these acts of horror happening completely at random is dismissed (the narrator is a dude who lives in the town) because random horrible things are too disturbing to contemplate – there must be a reason the freaky woman came to the village! And, by the looks of things, she did some horrible stuff.
Moore is a very good but presumably slow artist, so we don’t get too see as much of his work as we’d like, but he does a nice job with this page. His crisp and cartoony lines help make the horror more horrific – you can’t really sell a brain stalking out of someone’s body with “realistic” art, but it looks fine when Moore draws it – and while his layout isn’t all that interesting, he gets us through the page. The details are impressive – in Panel 1, we see the tentacles and think octopus/squid, but if you look a little more closely, you’ll notice that the creatures are different animals that have grown tentacles – most of them are coming out of the fish tank on the left side of the panel, but the kid in front seems to be getting attacked by a squirrel or some other small mammal. Moore does an excellent job of moving us across the page from left to right, because that’s the direction in which the kids are fleeing. In Panel 2, we see the same thing – the brain has broken free of the head and is moving from left to right. Again, Moore gives us a nice drawing, which helps us process the absurdity of a brain slicing a head in half (how, exactly?) and using nerves as legs to walk away. Aaron’s Ghost Rider is full of black humor, and in Moore, he found a good collaborator (many of the artists who worked on this with Aaron were good, but Moore’s style worked the best with the sense of humor Aaron brought to the book). Moore repeats the left-to-right viewing in Panel 3, as we follow the disfigured arm from the hand toward the shoulder, taking in the charming photograph of the couple and the robot-versus-monster program on the television. Once again, Moore’s slightly cartoony style helps make the buboes on the man’s arm more horrific because, ironically, it looks more “real” than if the style were more “realistic.” The fourth panel, of course, is meant to be a contrast to the first three, but it also becomes almost as horrible because we know that this is the person who caused all of the terrible things, so the fact that Moore draws an attractive mouth that happens to be smiling lets us know that this person is completely sadistic. It also sets up the reveal of the rest of her face, which is another twist. As usual, I don’t know if Moore or Joe Caramagna placed the caption boxes, but they’re in good spots which also help move us nicely over the page.
It’s interesting to compare the kinds of horror Aaron writes in this run, because I wonder how much he tailored it to his artists. The Roland Boschi horror issues, for instance, feature more stark demons and things blasted straight from hell, while Moore’s horrors are a bit more squishy and wet, befitting his style. I always wonder about stuff like this, especially when there’s no “regular” artist – as with many Marvel books recently, each arc featured a different artist (although this run featured more consistent art than most). So did Aaron know he was going to be working with Moore when he started writing this, and therefore wrote something that would show off Moore’s strengths? I don’t know, but it’s always fun to speculate about stuff like this!
Next: I will begin warning you here (and I’ll warn you again in the title tomorrow): The comic I’m showing tomorrow is TOTALLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK EVEN A LITTLE BIT!!!! Well, I suppose there are a few places where it would be fine, but I doubt if many of you work in places like that. I’m just warning you now, so be careful if you happen to check it out at a workplace. It’s … something, I’ll tell you that much. You can find another Not Safe For Work comic right there in the archives, if you so choose!