Friday, August 12, 2011

The Stupidest Comic Book Panel in the History of the Universe.

This piece ran on another blog back in, wow, 2008. It more properly belongs here.

Since my recent jaunt through back issues of the Swamp Thing, the lid of that particular long box of goodness has remained open. This box also has a huge run of Superman comics, mostly (but not exclusively) dating from around the time of the 1987 revamp by John Byrne. I had a wild hair and decided to reread some of those comics this weekend. Some of them aren't bad; Byrne's take on Mr. Mxyzptlk in the eleventh issue is terrific, and there are some nice touches throughout the run. Personally, I liked the book a lot better when Byrne left and Roger Stern started writing it, but Stern has always given great value (he's one of the unsung masters of comics writing). But for all of those pleasures, Byrne still did shit like this page from the second issue:

Never mind the implied violence suffered by Lana Lang at the hands Lex Luthor and his goon squad. There's a debate over misogyny to be had in this issue, but that's not why this page sucks. It's that bottom panel. The long one where you see half of Lana's face and a whole bunch of word balloons? Let's look at this again:

I mean, WTF?

Now, Byrne isn't the only person guilty of stuff like this. There used to be panels like this all over the early issues of Chris Claremont's X-Men, in which Claremont would sometimes completely obscure Dave Cockrum's art. But this is a little bit different, because those X-Men stories were an example of a writer trying to assert his primacy over the artist. THIS on the other hand, is an artist shooting himself in the foot.

It's worth considering that, long before he began making a complete ass of himself on the internet, Byrne was considered to be one of comics' premiere storytellers. Not a great innovator, true, but he knew his way around a comic page. So maybe he couldn't figure out a way to lay this out based on the script he had been handed. Perhaps there were editorial imperatives to consider. Except...well, there are extenuating circumstances here. First, this panel has enough dialogue for an entire page. There's no reason for there NOT to be an additional page. Byrne had the clout at the time to demand (and get) TWO first issues for his revamp, so he surely could have sneaked another page into this sequence with no problems. Second, Byrne wrote this comic himself, in addition to drawing it. At least poor Dave Cockrum was at the mercy of editors and writers. Byrne has no one to blame but himself for this atrocity.

1 comment:

Mykal said...

Vulnavia: An ex-girlfriend was a comic book artist. We tried working on a comic once (once) together. I handed her my script. She smiled at me. "Where the fuck do I put the pictures?"

For laughs, she did a mock up panel. It looked like the forever-panel you've highlighted.