Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Fantastic Four #339, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated April 1990. Enjoy!
Walt Simonson didn’t spend too long on Fantastic Four, but dang, did he do some work on it. Simonson can do splash pages like almost nobody else, and he gives us a good one here. The dialogue explains what the Torch has done, but it doesn’t feel too obnoxious. Reed’s characterization, luckily for comic book writers, is always to explain the shit out of things, so it’s not awkward that he’s telling us this shit. The caption boxes tell us who the principals are, what they’re doing, and who that dude in the corner is. If you don’t know who Galactus is, at least you know his name! Simonson even has a sense of humor about the narration – remember when superhero comics had a sense of humor?
But let’s consider Simonson’s artwork and Max Scheele’s colors. We start in the upper left corner, which is a natural way to read a page, so Simonson puts Galactus right there to dominate the page. We get the Kirby Krackle, which Simonson has always dug, and he does a nice job showing the distress/desire/ecstasy on Galactus’s face, as he’s trying to swallow the universe by using a black hole. Our eye sweeps down to the speed lines coming from the vehicle, blocking us from going further and dragging the reader down to the dialogue. After we read that and the credits (with the somewhat lame title “Visit to a Large Empire!”), we can go back to the caption boxes. Simonson structures the page like a spiral, which works because the black hole functions as a kind of a drain. The vehicle, Torch’s fiery wake, and the meteors falling into the black hole all force our eye to rotate around it. Plus, the page is balanced really well, with Galactus dominating the upper left, the black hole dominating the bottom right, and the tiny heroes trapped in the middle. The problem with the scale – it’s tough to figure out what Galactus is doing in comparison to the black hole – is mitigated by Simonson’s sense of grandeur, which helps overcome that difficulty. It doesn’t really matter if we can’t comprehend how this is all happening, because it’s supposed to be beyond our comprehension. It’s enough that Simonson manages to make Torch falling into a black hole that appears to be on the same plane as a giant creature standing up. It’s slightly Escher-like, but it works because of the page layout, Simonson’s great pencils, and his sense of scale and balance. Scheele does a nice job contrasting the hotter and cooler colors – Galactus always has that balance of magenta and blue, while the yellows in the background and the speed lines help break up the dark blue of Galactus and the dark blue of the black hole. Blue and orange work well together, so the trails of the meteors cutting across the gravity well is also nicely done. There’s a lot happening on this page, but it’s never busy, which is nice.
Simonson should school some of these newbies on how to draw a splash page. He could even school some older artists, like a certain Mr. Lee, on how to draw a splash page. Come on, comic book artists – study at the feet of the master!
Next: Bwah-ha-ha! Yes, it’s true. In the meantime, be sure to give a look at the archives.