Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Captain Marvel (volume 4) #22, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated June 2004. This scan is from Captain Marvel: Odyssey, the trade that was published in 2004. Enjoy!
Peter David and Aaron Lopresti begin this issue of Captain Marvel, in which our hero is trapped in the future, with a charming image comparing the good Captain to Prometheus. It makes sense in context, I swear!
David is writing this as dialogue, because an old dude is telling the story to a man he met in a bar, who just happens to be the actual Captain Marvel (or Genis, as I suppose we could call him). It’s the standard Prometheus myth, except that Marvel is god-like, unlike Prometheus, and the other powerful beings weren’t punishing him for something he did – steal fire from the gods – but because of something he might do. The storyteller, being a good myth-maker, offers his listener an explanation for earthquakes, as Marvel is struggling against his chains every so often. Then, because it’s Peter David, the speaker subverts his story in the final word balloon. David enjoys doing this – setting up something deadly serious, then winking at the audience with an aside that shows it’s really not. If this annoys you, you probably don’t like Peter David very much.
Lopresti had been kicking around for a decade when he drew this, and he wasn’t the more famous artist he is today, but he gives us a decent image. You’ll note in the first, small panel on the left, Captain Marvel is angled downward, his feet significantly lower than his head. This screws up the perspective a bit in the large, second panel, because it appears that Lopresti draws him lying flat, and the vulture eating his liver certainly looks like it’s standing on a flat surface. This angle is difficult to work with – Lopresti has to draw him upside down, and because he wants to make sure we see both his anguished face and the bird pecking away at him, it would be hard to angle him downward like he is in the first panel. Why Lopresti simply didn’t put him on a flat rock in Panel 1 is beyond me. Anyway, no inker is credited for this issue, so either Lopresti inked himself or Chris Sotomayor colored this directly from pencils, which, given the softness in much of Lopresti’s work, seems likely. However it’s done, Marvel himself always looks slightly out of phase with the rest of reality, which is probably the point. His borders seem a bit more ill-defined, almost hazy, and his muscles (and he has a lot of them) are suggested more than drawn. Notice that Lopresti draws his costume with a bit more roughness, anchoring it more to the mundane world, unlike Marvel’s starry silkiness. Sotomayor didn’t have a choice with coloring Marvel, but his midnight blues stand out among the harsh browns of the vultures and the brown of the rocks. The light source in Panel 1 seems to come from everywhere, but Sotomayor implies in Panel 2 that it’s coming from beyond Marvel’s head, because those rocks are lit as opposed to the darker rocks at his feet. I don’t know how conscious Sotomayor was of this, but it implies that Marvel can see a light source – symbolizing freedom – but he can’t reach it. When he pulls his head back in anguish as the vultures peck at him, he sees the light but can’t reach it. The page, as a mythic representation, is loaded with symbolism, and I like to think Sotomayor had something to do with that. Note, too, that Lopresti puts birds by the dialogue boxes, so the birds themselves act as markers for us to move across the panel. That’s a nice touch.
Captain Marvel was a strange little series, or series of series, as the case may be. It was David doing his thing in a quiet corner of the Marvel U., and it’s not surprising it didn’t sell too well. It’s kind of neat, though.
Next: Black and white, Wally Wood-style comics … but from this century! What could it be???? Find some actual old-school comics in the archives!