Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Tim Vigil, and the issue is Zero Tolerance #1, which was published by First Comics and is cover dated October 1990. Enjoy!
One of the problems I’ve had with these posts this year, as you might recall if you’ve been reading along, is that a single artist often doesn’t work on the art, and it’s hard to figure out who does what. Most of the time, this has to do with a penciling/inking split, but as we saw with Al Williamson, it can even mean that someone else completely is ghosting the work and not getting any credit, even in the introduction to the volume in which I found the artwork! (Sorry, I’m still pissed off about that.) We find this problem again with Zero Tolerance, which came out just as First was collapsing and features co-pencilers – Vigil and Gary Amaro. As David Barbour, who scripted this book, points out in issue #3, it’s not just a question of Amaro doing layouts and Vigil penciling them or Amaro doing backgrounds and Vigil doing figure work – Barbour writes that both of them worked on layouts and didn’t distinguish between what they drew in the book, which is frustrating for someone like me, who’s tracking the development of an artist. A lot of this looks like Vigil’s work, because Amaro never had as distinctive a look as Vigil did, but Amaro is a fine artist in his own right, so who knows what each of them did. Just keep that in mind as we move forward.
President Bone has a very “Vigil-esque” look to him, as we get an elongated face, lips that grimace weirdly, and a too-wide smile. He’s supposed to be creepy (he’s the bad guy in the story), and Vigil makes him a bit too obviously so, but Barbour’s script isn’t terribly subtle, so Vigil isn’t either. Even his hand in Panel 1 looks creepy – far too long and boney, which suits his name, obviously. In Panel 3, he looks like a pervert, so the fact that the American people voted him “president for life” in 2000 (the book takes place in 2017) doesn’t make us look too good. Considering who we actually “elected” in 2000, maybe that’s not too trenchant an insight!
The male star of the book is Turk, an old, grizzled veteran who’s introduced to us by beating the crap out of a suicide bomber. There a some nice things on this page. In Panel 2, we get the looming presence of Turk behind the bomber, and it’s a nice drawing of him reaching for the dude while we get his red-rimmed silhouette. The layout of the page is good until we get to Panel 5, where things get a bit weird. Vigil/Amaro use speed lines nicely, as they show Turk slamming the dude without drawing in his entire body, but is Turk slamming him into … the side of the panel? Turk just came out of the bathroom, but in Panel 2, we can see that the door is closed, so I’m not terribly sure what the punk is getting thrown into. Vigil, as we saw a little yesterday, likes making panels “three-dimensional,” with Panels 5 and 6 good examples of that here. The punk’s feet are “closer” to the reader in Panel 5, which shows a sweeping motion as Turk slams him into the panel wall, while in Panel 6, Turk’s foot not only kicks the punk in the jaw, but comes “at us,” making it seem more violent. Comics don’t often take advantage of this “third” dimension, but Vigil (or Amaro, of course) uses it well here.
The flying car chase in this issue, which we’ll check out for the rest of the post, is nicely done. It’s laid out well, and our artists do a nice job zipping around the page. Turk has jumped into the flying car from an office building, which is why his foot is draped over the wind shield. His new partner, Molly, is flying the car, and if you think those two didn’t hit it off when they met, well, you’ve seen a lot of mismatched cop shows in your past. The page layout, as we see, is pretty neat, as the tilted first panel leads us to the second panel, where we get an overhead view into the car, as it speeds “downward.” Then the motion lines lead us to the left and back around, where Molly shoots the seagull as she’s chasing the other car. The car touches the panel with Turk in it, leading us to that one, and Molly’s panel in the lower right is lower than Turk’s, so we naturally read that way. It’s a nice way to show the page, and the artists do a good job keeping the skies clear, which allows for large white areas against which the drama plays out.
Molly flies through a restaurant, and in true cartoon fashion, Turk manages to grab a burger while she does so. This is another nice layout – Panel 1 again tilts us, this time a bit down to the right even though its shape is leaning to the left. Turk is the last person to speak in Panel 1, and his word balloons lead us toward him, which then takes us down to Panel 2, where the swooping cars move us back to the left. Then Turk stands up, intruding on Panel 2, which takes us to Panel 3. This is also tilted to the right, and Molly’s word balloon bridges the gutter to Panel 4, which is designed so that we move from the upper left to the lower right. Despite the wide open white areas that I’ve already noted, the backgrounds are fairly detailed, which is neat. Vigil/Amaro go full bleed in the final panel, which creates a sensation of the trailing car coming in from off the page, which expands the “feel” of the page and makes it almost burst off the paper. It’s a clever device, and it’s not the last time we’ll see it.
As I noted, the full bleed here also adds to the expansive effect. The exploding car seems to be coming from off the page, while the car below Turk and Molly swoops (I’d use a different verb, but note the sound effect!) out of the panel, showing that it’s still zipping around. That’s a nice explosion, too, with the “BOOM” incorporated well into the drawing, and Vigil/Amaro remember that the car doesn’t completely disintegrate, so we see it smash into a building (which no one seems to care about – maybe in 2017 people know to get out of buildings when they start seeing cars fly by at high speeds). Of course, Turk and Molly begin to respect each other, and the faces at the bottom of the page are nicely done – Turk looks grudgingly admiring, while Molly has somewhat of a coy look on her face. Vigil/Amaro remember to show their hair moving in the breeze, too, which is nice.
Our heroes smash into a building, and once again the layout is done really well. We get no gutters, which smashes the panels together a bit and heightens the tension as Turk and Molly fly into the Transamerica Building. As we’ve seen, the tilted panels do a very nice job leading us around the page and still keeping the chaotic feel to the chase, and the artists go big with the sound effects to make the scene have a bigger impact. The final panel is interesting, as the crash in on the left side of the page, but the trail of the car leads us back to the right, which helps us off the page, but notice that the panel border also leads us that way, as its slope goes toward the right side. All of this is very nicely designed, and it makes the car chase scene good and exciting.
I know I didn’t write too much about Vigil’s pencil work, but because of the sharing with Amaro, I didn’t want to get into too many specifics. But you can see some of the Vigil touches coming through!. Tomorrow, we’ll jump ahead a decade and see how far Vigil had developed. Come on back and see what’s what! And don’t ever forget the archives – maybe you missed a day or two and didn’t read that entry!
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