Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from The New Titans Annual #7, which was published by DC and is cover dated 1991. Enjoy!
The DC Annuals of 1991 were, of course, concerned with “Armageddon 2001” (remember back in ’01 when Monarch took over the world?) and I bought every one of them. This was back when that was possible – they were $3.50 for 55 pages of story, and they didn’t break your bank account if you tried to get them all. But such reminiscences don’t belong here! Let’s check out this insta-classic, starring Dick Grayson’s thigh-high boots and pony tail!
What we have here, of course, is an old-school splash page, but Marv Wolfman doesn’t just recap what’s happening, he adds some intriguing (he hopes) narration: Waverider (the yellow dude) begins by thinking “I have time, but it also has me.” This has a double meaning, as he has plenty of time to get things done, but it also gives “time” some kind of agency, and with the next caption box, Wolfman makes it more specific by referencing the ouroboros – fancy mythical references aren’t just for Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, you know! Finally, Waverider narrates that he’s moving through the past to save the future. The reader still has no idea what’s going on (unless he’s read the other issues of this annual-wide event), but at least Wolfman gives us a bit of a foundation – Waverider is moving through time in some kind of loop, and he’s hoping to change the past because the future sucks. Alles klar? Gut!
Tom Grindberg draws this annual, as you can see from the credits, and he does a pretty good job with this splash page (whether you like his style or not is irrelevant). In the upper left, we see Monarch, and while we might not know his name, we can figure out that he’s the bad guy, because this is old-school superhero comics, and no good guy would cover his face in such a sinister mask. Plus, he’s grabbing something, and we all know that bad guys grab things because they’re greedy. Our eye can drift downward, where it’s blocked a bit by the credits (no one wants to read credits!), so it moves right, where we see the giant hand of Monarch enclosing … what? Who knows – it looks like a rainbow exploded, but all we know is that the hand, despite being far too big for that head, belongs to the evil dude in the blue mask. It has to, right?
From the epicenter of the explosion, our eyes move to the second caption box, and then downward and back to the left, following Waverider as he, um, rides waves. The bottom two-thirds of the page form a coherent whole, as we can’t really separate the drawing of Waverider from the superheroes coming out of his wake. But our eyes first go to the final caption box, then Waverider, then, following the superheroes, to the next page. We don’t need to know who any of those superheroes are (Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, Mr. Miracle, Flash, Guy Gardner, Nightwing, Starfire, and Starman, in case you’re keen to know), because all they’re doing is acting as guides to the next page. It’s not a badly designed page at all by Mr. Grindberg. He and Wolfman do all they can to get you to turn the page.
Adrienne Roy is the other real star of the page. She uses the basic blue and yellow for Monarch’s head, surrounding it with gray so it stands out even more, and then goes nuts with Waverider’s effect. Her colors make him both part of the wave (note the way his feet seem to blend with the waves) and separate from it (his arms don’t line up perfectly), which implies his true nature as a time traveler. Roy also uses a nice neutral yellow behind the heroes, making their colorful costumes pop a bit. Someone – either Grindberg, the inker (Blyberg, Akin, and Vey are all inkers on this book, and I don’t know who did this page), or Roy – added a nice touch of Kirby Krackle to Waverider’s hair, making him just that much more cosmic.
New Titans Annual #7 isn’t all that good a comic – Wolfman’s story is kind of dull and Grindberg’s art always seems like it should be better than it is – but that’s not a bad first page. It’s intriguing and it lures you right in. Plus, computer colors don’t look as cool as these colors do. That’s just SCIENCE!
You have a couple more days to suggest three writers you’d like to see in April. I know I keep threatening that the time is short, but one day I’ll really mean it!
Next: Man, those crazy European comics. Can we learn anything from them? You can certainly learn something from the archives!