Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Detective Comics #620, which was published by DC and is cover dated late August 1990. Enjoy!
The credits are right there on the page: Alan Grant, writer; Norm Breyfogle, penciller; Steve Mitchell, inker; Todd Klein, letterer; Adrienne Roy, colorist. This is the third chapter in a story that kills off Tim Drake’s mother and cripples his father. Tim, meanwhile, is tracking down a cyber-criminal whom he unmasks in this issue. This page shows a ransom demand for Tim’s parents, who were kidnapped in the Caribbean (this entire story is melodramatically full of voodoo crap, in case you’re wondering).
Breyfogle does a nice job designing this splash page, as it’s the first page of the story, as well. Grant gives us very few verbal clues – it’s the Gotham Outdoor Mall, and Batman “told Gordon he’d got it wrong,” although we don’t know what Gordon got wrong. But as a splash page, it works very well. Batman frames the scene with a typical Breyfoglian cape that stretches around three-quarters of the panel. Everything on the page directs our eyes toward the target – the man carrying the ransom in the gym bag. The way the buildings are drawn moves our eye down the three walkways converging directly above the target, while the motorcycle riders on those walkways force the eye in the direction they’re driving. Even the stones in the walkways angle our vision toward the man. Meanwhile, Batman’s face, in the lower left, blocks our eye and sweeps it toward his right hand, which is directly underneath the man carrying the gym bag. Similarly, the sign advertising the Gotham Outdoor Mall, as unlikely that it’s simply erected there in the middle of the walkway, blocks our eye from moving downward and to the right in order to get to the next page without first accounting for the targeted man. Breyfogle’s design is simplistic in some ways, but clever nevertheless – he knows exactly where he wants the reader’s eye to go, and he skillfully manipulates to that point. Not every comic artist is as adept at this, believe me.
This is a nice, kinetic, mysterious, and well designed first page. Grant doesn’t give us a ton of information, but the page certainly makes the reader curious to see what’s going on!
Next: Our first visit from Marvel’s most ubiquitous mutant. I fear it won’t be our last!