Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: Frank Quitely! Today’s page is from Judge Dredd Megazine #2.37, which was published by Rebellion and is cover dated … well, I’m not sure, but it came out sometime in 1993 (perhaps 18 September, but I can’t pin that down definitively). Enjoy!
Early on in Frank Quitely’s career, he did this story, called “Shimura.” It is written by Robbie Morrison and lettered by Ellie De Ville, and you can find it in the handy trade called Hondo City Law, which came out last year. Or, I suppose, you can find it in your old issues of Judge Dredd Megazine, but I don’t own those.
2000AD and its spin-offs (Judge Dredd Megazine being the most successful) are anthology magazines, so the stories have to be extremely compressed. Morrison chucks us right in with a kidnapping of a rich child, but we also get the police report about “techno addiction,” of which the perpetrators must be examples (why else would Morrison mention it?). There’s even a bit of class distinction in the first panel, which isn’t unique but adds a simple layer of nuance to the scene.
Quitely’s work is far less polished than it would become, of course, but he does some nice things. The giant bodyguard and the tiny child in the first panel are contrasted well, and the incongruous pink of the bodyguard clues us in that this is a slightly alien environment (not that tough guys can’t and don’t wear pink in our world, but it’s still a bit odd). Our eyes are immediately drawn down to the boy getting in the limousine, even though it’s the most cramped part of the panel. Quitely forces us to look down by placing the bodyguard’s head partly in the panel border and by blocking our eyes from moving to the right with the giant hovercraft in the upper right corner of the larger panel. It’s effective because we’re forced to look down and then move over, where the giant craft keeps us focused on the text in the lower right corner. Quitely’s backgrounds on this page aren’t great, but he manages to squeeze in some Japanese kanji (if those are indeed kanji) in the background to indicate that we are, in fact, in Hondo City (Judge Dredd’s Tokyo).
The second panel shows a great deal of activity for such a thin and cramped rectangle. One thug is slashing the bodyguard across the back, a second is grabbing the boy and somehow ripping the door off the hinges in the process, and the driver is getting out of the car. The sound effects integrated into the scene are always nice to see (and will continue in this story and become a quiet staple of Quitely’s work when they’re needed), and we get a good sense of motion and tension. The third panel is where it becomes a tiny bit confusing. The thug who slashed the pink bodyguard zips off into the distance. The pink bodyguard is doubled over on the right side. It appears that the thug flying through the air came from the back of the car and his hovercraft is ripping the door off the driver’s side and upending the driver at the same time. I assume that thug is the one in the first panel whose hovercraft is so large in the upper right. I’m going to go with that. The sound effects, again, are nicely integrated. Finally, in the fourth panel, the thug has leaped over the car and garotted the third guard with some sort of electric garotte.
You’ll notice some things about Quitely’s design work, most notably the appearance of the blocky, neckless big guy. Quitely draws this kind of person quite often throughout his career, and here it makes an early appearance. There’s also that odd sense that Quitely has of motion without kineticism, if that makes any sense. Quitely has no problem doing action, but some artists have a kinetic flow to their action scenes, while Quitely – even in tremendous scenes like those in We3 – tends not to. It’s on full display here, as the action flows from panel to panel, but each panel seems very static. Again, this is a static medium, but it’s interesting how some artists can create the illusion of motion. As good as Quitely is (and even here, early in his career, he’s good), he’s never been able to that as well as some artists.
Quitely would quickly become a certain God of All Comics’ go-to guy. The first example of this is coming up tomorrow. In the interim, you can always check out the archives of these posts.