The use of transitions in Supreme 63

Alan Moore’s final Supreme story, Supreme 63, was published something like 10 years after it was written.  I enjoyed the heck out of it, and did write this short article providing a bit of analysis.

One thing that stands out in most of Moore’s scripts is the way he uses transitions. He talks about this in his writing comics book. I haven’t read it recently, but as I recall the idea is to have the end of a scene lead into the next scene. Moore describes this as inducing a trance state in the reader, as they are lead from one scene to the next.

I think of it as making the scene beginnings and endings rhyme. Here’s how it works in this issue of Supreme:

In an early scene, we have Supreme’s arch-nemesis, Darius Dax, trying to figure out why a comic by Supreme’s girlfriend, Diana Dane, has so much information about Dax:

Darius Dax mentions Diana

Then we cut to the next scene, which starts with Diana hanging out at Supreme’s fortress:

Cut to Diana

This is all very intentional on Moore’s part.  Knowing he was going to cut to DIana Dane next, he ended the scene with Diana Dane being mentioned. 

This next scene ends with Diana, exasperated over Supreme’s discussion of past misadventures, saying “No more Supervillains”:

No more supervillains

Then we ironically cut back to the parallel storyline with the supervillain:

Cut back to the supervillain

This transition technique is not just a matter of dialogue. Later, Supreme’s arch enemy- Darius Dax, is in the beginning of a sex scene with an evil version of Diana Dane from an alternative reality:

Supreme making out

We then cut to Supreme and regular Diana looking at a statute that evokes the lovemaking:

Supreme art

Of course you could say the statue is just there to provide a visual transition gimmick, and that’s probably true. But Moore also uses the statue to symbolically represent what’s going on in the story. Supreme says “The constant eruption of changing shapes is meant to represent art or creation itself.”

And in the the greater plot, we have an “eruption” of alternative reality versions of Darius Dax plotting to attack alternative versions of Supreme, a constant eruption of changing shapes of the superhuman/ supervillain concept.

There’s one final transition bit that’s I’d like to discuss, one of the few transitions that don’t involve a page turn. Moore uses voice over narration to connect two scenes. Diana is saying she found her perfect hero, while we see images of the evil Diana with her perfect hero:

Perfect hero scene in Supreme

A lot of comic writers don’t use these sorts of fancy transitions, in fact, if I had to guess, I’d say the majority do not, or some only seem to use them if they happen to think of a good one. 

I want to almost say that these fancy transitions are specific to Alan Moore’s writing style, but that would be taking it a little too far.  I know at least one movie writing craft book that advises writers to use them.  Still, this is a very particular and possibly optional part of the comic creator’s craft.

Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself

STORYTELLERS: Kieron Gillen and Doug Braithwaite
PAGE COUNT  5 comics, Journey into Mystery 622- 626

1. There’s a lot of life left to be mined in fantasy and mythology.

2. Anti heroes or characters with a dark edge can be a lot of fun.

3.  Lonely children can make for interesting and sympathetic characters.

4.  They do a prose-like opening describing the mission of some magical birds. This gives the beginning a mythic tone. It reminded me of this bit from Sandman where Gaiman is evoking children’s literature:

Sandman page that evokes children's literature


1. Color can really set the tone. The art works well here and makes this not feel like a super hero book.

2. I liked this bottom panel focusing on Loki’s eyes, which I think signifies deviousness.  Also its hard see see here but the top of the panel is diagonal which I think guides the eye towards the eyes.

Cool page from Journey Into Mystery


I wanted to read something by Kieron Gillen and this had really good Amazon reviews. The reviews did not make this seem like a crossover tie in that couldn’t stand on its own.  Unfortunately, that was the case (or it was just incoherent, or it just didn’t make sense to me or whatever).

The plot: Loki junior is the son of the notorious villain Loki, so nobody trusts him or wants to be his friend.  When he learns about a threat against the home of the gods, the isolated Loki needs to become a hero and save the world.

Ok, that’s not really the plot.  That’s what the plot should be. The real plot is “Loki died in the crossover, Siege, but reincarnated as a kid so Marvel could have a second Thor book since those Ares books and Hercules books never caught on, even when they did a book called “The Incredible Hercules” to try to trick Hulk fans into buying it.  Can Loki do things between scenes in other, more important crossover related Thor books? Will Kieron Gillen succeed in his heroic attempt to make something out of this awful assignment?”

This book is just a tremendous waste of talent.  There’s no reason this should be a Marvel universe book instead of a creator owned mythology based title. (Aside from marketing reasons, of course).

There were amusing scenes, but I couldn’t get a sense of any coherent plot, it seemed to be weaving between stories in other books.

There are good scenes, There are several good scenes.  Like this bit, when Loki tries to flirt with some hell girl in order to manipulate her, and she isn’t having it:

fear itself flirty scene

I don’t get what’s happening in this panel below.  I’m baffled as to why the gods are having a strategy meeting at a playground on earth, but it looks neat, so I like it:

journey into mystery playground

I guess this book is just for people reading the other Thor book and Marvel’s various crossovers.  However, you wouldn’t get that sense from the Amazon reviews.  One reviewer wrote a review titled “Good Place for  Newbie to Begin”:

I’ve always been a fan of superhero movies and TV shows, but beyond a few graphic novels adapted from traditional novels, I haven’t really read comics before now. After seeing the blockbuster film Marvel’s The Avengers, I wanted more of those characters. However, I was uncertain where to begin since Marvel has 60+ years of existing history and continuity. So, I decided to start with Thor since I at least had familiarity with the Norse myths he is derived from (and yeah, I LOVE Loki). And, I went to Wikipedia. I learned that after major events like House of M, Civil War/Dark Reign and Siege, the Marvel universe had been reimagined. Specifically, the Aesir gods had broken a cycle with a final Ragnarok, instigated by the supervillain Loki, and been reborn. And Thor found Loki as a child and, inexplicably, chose to bring him back to the newly built Asgard. That is where Journey into Mystery, Volume 1 begins, with “kid Loki”.

I guess the target audience is people who read the other books or really, really love reading Wikipedia articles in preparations for reading a book.  I still don’t see how it helps, though, because this runs concurrent to the other Thor title, you won’t know why Thor is in prison unless you read it in monthly form and the other Thor book in monthly form.
Marvel even includes their own Wikipedia article in the back (but what good does it do there after you’ve already read the book?)

journey into mystery continuity porn

(This goes on for 8 pages. It doesn’t even mention what comics its summarizing to provide context.  I ain’t reading it.)

So, unless you already own this book because you buy every crossover Marvel puts out, do yourself a favor and avoid it.  Instead buy “My Faith in Frankie” the standalone Vertigo series about a kid god who is bullied by the other kid gods, and runs away from heaven to find his place in the mortal world.

Skimming some more glowing reviews on Amazon


“This is among the finest work I have ever seen come out of Marvel, in any decade. Funny, touching, thought-provoking, full of adventure and razor-sharp continuity from the recent Thor books. If there was a time machine, Marvel would have put Gillen in charge of the Fear Itself storyline, and had Bendis fetch him his coffee, instead.”



Storytellers: Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo
Publisher: Seven Sea Entertainment (American Publisher)
Year of Publication: 2008
Page Count: approximately 178 pages

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:

1. Like many other manga, this starts out with an opening hook and then cuts back to start the story proper.  Since this is a wacky romantic comedy, the hook is nothing more complex than “guy meets crazy girl.” Page 1 sets the scene: there’s a guy named Takasu, he doesn’t have friends at school because people are afraid of his squinty eyes.  He’s on the way to the bathroom and bumps into a girl who everyone also considers dangerous:

Toradora opening Page


Turn the page and we have a two page spread focusing on the girl, who is presumably supposed to be the reason people would want to read the book, as the guy is just a misunderstood everyman POV character:

Toradora opening hook


Then we turn the page and the story jumps back to sometime earlier that day, as Takasu is getting up in the morning to go to school. We catch up to the opening scene somewhere around page 18 or so.

A lot of manga have an opening hook like this, and I take it to heart in my writing to the extent that I try to have some sort hook when I start a story, in case a reader is browsing the opening in order to decide whether or not to read on.

2.  I’m not sure if I learned anything I didn’t already know, but:

The girl, Takasu, is a character type in Japanese comics called a tsundere.  Basically a girl who’s tough or “harsh” on the outside but has a softer sentimental side to her.  Wikipedia defines it as

“”Tsundere (ツンデレ?, pronounced [tsɯndeɽe]) is a Japanese character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing his or her warm side over time. The word is derived from the terms tsun tsun (ツンツン?), meaning to turn away in disgust, and dere dere (デレデレ?) meaning to become ‘lovey dovey’.

There’s some neat characters that fit in this general character type, but the ones I enjoy tend to be characters in pulp genres.  Toradora is just a romantic comedy and not so interesting.

In comparison, in a manga I like called “A Certain Scientific Railgun”, the main character acts like a Tsundere character when around a boy she likes, but she’s also a superhero with control of electricity:

A Certain Scientific Railgun Tsundere moment

I recall reading an argument online that a lot of superhero characters tend to have two contradictory character traits, and writers milk that for a lot of drama.  Wolverine is feral but he’s also a meditative samurai,  Bruce Banner is reserved and smart but also dumb and filled with rage. Spider-man and Superman are cool or uncool, depending on whether they are in costume.  In the Iron-man movies, Tony Stark veers between responsibility and irresponsibility.

You can see a contradiction with the Tsundere character type, she’s tough but she’ll have a warm side and maybe secretly be in love with the guy she’s rough on.  These girls are often supposed to look cute and harmless (Like Buffy The Vampire Slayer) but it turns out they are crazy tough or crazy powerful.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
Not a whole lot of takeaways, but here’s something. In the first page I included above, the reader doesn’t see who the guy bumps into, and he doesn’t either. So the camera angle implies his point of view. Same here: we don’t get a great look at who is attacking and he doesn’t either:

Dark lighting in Toradora scene

I guess the POV could be called in novel terms “third person limited”.

Recommendation: B-

This really felt like it only had enough ideas for a few chapters, not an ongoing series.  Takasu meets the wacky Aisaka, she attacks him because he accidentally intercepted a love letter meant for a different boy and she’s embarrassed. They become friends, he tries to help her get the courage to talk to the boy she likes, but she’s too shy so hilarity or drama ensues.  Basically, I wouldn’t bother coming back for volume 2.

Justice League International Volume 1

Storytellers: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire
Publisher: DC
Year of Publication: 1987
Page Count:7 issues

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1.  The first issue has a pretty average “terrorists have taken hostages” plotline, which is made interesting by the mysterious new character, Maxwell Lord, who is  supplying the terrorists, but, it turns out, has given them booby trapped bombs that won’t detonate.  It turns out he’s setting the bad guys up to be taken down by the JLA in an attempt to build the JLA up. (Maxwell Lord appears to sort of be like Watchmen’s Ozymandias without the superheroing, though he’s still mysterious by the end of volume 1, so I’m not sure.)
This plot demonstrates you can build a hook into a so-so story and make it a lot more interesting than it would be otherwise.

2.  The reader needs a reason to care about the characters.  JLI failed at this- I didn’t care about the characters at all.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
1.  I didn’t like the art very much.  There were a few decent visual moments, when interesting camera angles were chosen and when the art was not drowned out with “banter”, but this was infrequent.  Here’s a good moment:

Justice League International aspect to aspect moment

Or this aspect to aspect moment:

Nice moment from JLI

Recommendation: D

Yeah… I really didn’t like this, it was sort of painful to force myself to keep reading.  The first issue was ok, but after that, it was tremendously dull. I think this page is a good example of what’s wrong with this thing:

weak moment from JLI

Captain Marvel is possessed, which I guess could be dramatic.  But this is really just a wrestling match for our entertainment. I mean, he could have just ripped Black Canary’s arms off if it was serious, right?  It’s just a game.  And there’s no tools being used to make it seem like a life and death moment.  Everything is a long shot with a gazillion characters on panel.  The artist could have used closeups or dramatic camera angles to make us feel the drama of the situation.

Batman’s reaction is just “Go get him, guys!” with a square jaw and pantomime expression.  Do the Justice League really need to be told to “Go use your powers to fight the bad guys and rescue people?”  Batman could point like that and say “Go get em!” in any situation. It’s generic. It’s boring.

Meanwhile, the sitcom banter with Black Canary and Booster, while slightly amusing, doesn’t make us feel the drama of the situation. Instead, if makes us feel like what’s going on is not very serious or important. Plus the dialogue feels more jokey than natural. 

“As the token girl on the team, I do not like being rescued by the boys!”   (She should get used to it, because she appears to be the weakest member on the team, except for maybe Blue Beetle).

Compare this scene to how drama was built when Suprema was possessed in Alan Moore’s Youngblood run:
Alan Moore Youngblood dramatic moment

Large panel, characters freaking out and nearly being incinerated.  Over the shoulder shot as Suprema looks upon the puny mortals below her, giving us a sense of her godlike power and their comparative weakness.  And there’s funny quips as well.  It accomplishes everything JLI fails to do.

I should probably note this was an extremely popular comic back in the day, and my point of view is hardly an uncontroversial one.  Whatever the larger consensus, for me, when I read this comic, it deserved a “D”.

Nana Volume 1

Storyteller: Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Viz
Year of Publication: 2000 (In Japan)
Page Count:  Approximately 176 pages

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1. This is a dual protagonist story, something I see more in manga than American entertainment. In this instance, it’s about two girls named Nana.  One is more ordinary, while the other is in a punk band.

2.  There’s an odd thing this volume has in common with Friends with Boys, in that in both books a female protagonist has a monologue at one point about how they were a bad daughter.  In Friends with Boys, this involved guilt Maggie felt over the fact that she didn’t want to do “girlie” things with her mom, and this led to her mom abandoning the family as she couldn’t bond with her only daughter.

In Nana, punk Nana mentions she was falsely accused of prostitution and expelled from school.  When her grandmother (who raised her by herself) learned of this, she died of a broken heart.  The prostitution charge wasn’t true, and Nana regrets not contesting it for her grandmother’s sake (it seems she was too depressed to fight it for her own sake).
In both stories this monologue has nothing directly to do with the plot.  (It is an explanation why the Mother is gone In Friends with Boys, I guess, but the mother never shows up again or anything, it’s just backstory.)  In both cases, it adds spice to the story, but is not essential.

3.  Punk Nana’s backstory is told through flashback recollections but also the device of Nana saying to her boyfriend “Hey, remember when we met?”  (Image of that below) I’m not 100% certain whether that’s an acceptable use of exposition or not.

What I learned about Art/Storytelling:
Err… pass? The visuals are so different from American stuff that its hard to extrapolate anything.

Recommendation C

So, this is Nana. Here’s is it’s cover:

The cover of Nana volume 1

It’s an extremely popular comic among Japanese teenage girls and other people who are not male, with 22 million copies sold, according to the back cover. Both Nanas get their hearts broken, and will both move to Tokyo to seek their fortunes in love, careers, and life. They will apparently meet and become roommates in a future volume, but they did not meet in volume 1, which is kind of lame, though a note in the back explains that the author didn’t know if the book would be picked up for a series when volume 1 was made, so designed the stories to be standalone.

Here is Not Punk Nana crushing on guys:

Nana talks about having crushes on lots of guys

Here is Not Punk Nana crying in a childish way because her friend is leaving to go to school in Tokyo without her:

Nana cries because her friend is leaving for TOkyo

And this is a sequence halfway through the trade, when the Not Punk Nana story ends and we switch protagonists to Punk Nana, who is singer for a band and is pursuing a music career:

First appearence of Punk Nana

That’s kind of cool, how she gets her own little title page, and although we start with Not Punk Nana, it’s Punk Nana on the volume 1 cover.

This isn’t the sort of comic I usually read, I don’t think anyone punches anyone at all. I wanted to use the 30 day challenge to try some stuff I wouldn’t try otherwise. I didn’t get all that into Nana, in part because I think the two boyfriend characters were rather lame, but I guess I can see why the book is important to a lot of people.

It’s about love, and relationships, and becoming an adult, and finding a job, and growing up.  In comparison, mainstream American stuff is about, well, pretty much nothing.
Most readers of Spider-man will never find themselves wandering a hall in a wrestling outfit as a cop asks them to tackle a thief.

The "stop thief" scene from Spider-man
(This has never, ever, happened and never, ever, will.)

While many readers can be expected to one day find themselves having sexy fun times with a loved one:

Punk Nana and boyfriend in bath

So Nana would at least seem to be trying to be about something real.

30 I was tempted to give this a B rating, but it feels like a ripoff that the two Nana’s don’t meet until volume 2, so C it is

Jimmy’s End and Act of Faith

Being a huge Alan Moore fan, I had to check out his recent foray into screenwriting, with the two short films Jimmy’s End and Act of Faith.  (Both are viewable for free online.)

This isn’t a review. My main interest is simply determining what these movies are about, and more directly, what are Metterton and Matchbright suppose to represent?  It would seem that they are supposed to be God and The Devil.  The names seem a clear clue:  Metterton and Matchbright.  Metterton sounds kind of like the voice of God, Metatron, and well, I guess it’s not exact but a star is bright, and there seems to be a MorningStar, Matchbright sort of similarity in the naming convention.

I think the film said Metterton was the senior partner, and God would similarity rank above the devil in a cosmic hierarchy.
In a somewhat negative review Joe McCulloch says (

“All of this is decorated by the occasional magical symbol, and a probably magical-informed color scheme; my favorite bits were anytime a character slowly walks down a mysterious hall, eternally pierced by an eerie ringing telephone. Still, it’s in the service of a fairly sophomoric ‘passage between life and death’ metaphor, punctuated by little in the way of engaging vignette, although special note should be made of a periphery character, an angry bald Scotsman painted like a clown whose propensity for amusing statements left him incapable of communicating in any meaningful way. “Recently, these days, I just masturbate. And cry. Usually at the same time.” He is later spotted playing cards with Lost Girls artist Melinda Gebbie, after which no less a deity than Alan Moore himself takes the stage as Frank Metterton, the great I AM (as in “I Am that I Am,” or, perhaps ‘I, A.M.’), a screamingly high-camp metal-painted deity in golden boots who holds all the cast rapt for a poetry recitation that whisks Jimmy away into a concluding fade to white – modesty, one can imagine, might not listed in the Alan Moore filmography, although it’s hardly the first Moore work to put its writer front and center(-stage).”

I get the impression  Jimmy’s End was initially a one off story, but Moore was asked to do more movies so tweaked the idea to allow for a series. I found an article that says

As readers of Dodgem Logic #2 will know, photographer Mitch Jenkins took a striking series of portraits of performers at a Northampton burlesque review. He decided to film a 10-minute short featuring the dancers for his showreel and, wanting to help out a friend, Moore offered to write a shooting script. It was called “Jimmy’s End”.

As soon as word got out that Moore was writing something for film, people quickly got interested. Jenkins and Moore were approached by Warp Films (producers of Shane Meadows’ This is England and Chris Morris’ Four Lions), who offered to fund a feature version of the film.

These discussions grew to accommodate the idea of spinning off a TV series from the film, in the manner of This is England ’86. Moore said that initially he’d been dubious about how the story could be extended in this way but had now figured out a longer ongoing narrative.

Laconically, he described the premise. The story concerns a Northampton writer and occultist who is trying to take over the dreamtime of everyone in the Boroughs, before extending his influence over the country and then the world. Amidst chuckles from the crowd, Moore insisted that the series would expose his megalomaniacal tendencies once and for all!

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this project is the intention to create a really immersive fictional world. Apparently there’s a young animator producing work that will feature on TVs in the background of scenes, and there’ll be a soap opera that the characters follow called (rather wonderfully) Wittgenstein Avenue. Also, Moore’s story involves an online game which British software developers may wish to develop!

It seems like a treatment has been done of the feature film, and it may be produced, but I don’t know that a TV show will…

A funny thing is that a LOT of people are saying Jimmy’s End is derivative of David Lynch and its interesting that the soap opera in a show idea was used in Twin Peaks.  (Though that subplot in Twin Peaks wasn’t that great. I’m sure the concept could be improved upon.)

Apparently the location where Jimmy’s end is set, the “St James Working Mens Club” is a real place, and that’s the venue where the movie premier occurred.  (Link)  As far as I can tell, Moore added the word “End” to the name for the movie.

Part of what he’s doing is mythologizing his home town, or the particular place he happened to be in when he decided to make the movie.  

Personally, I think my favorite bit is the devil playing cards with God and saying “You’re being childish. I can keep this up as long as you can.” (If I remember that right.)  I also like the idea that there’s a place in Alan Moore’ hometown that can now be described as “That place where the Devil and God get together to play cards.”

Friends With Boys

Storyteller: Faith Erin Hicks
Publisher: First Second Books
Year of Publication: 2012
Page Count:  Approximately 211 pages

What I learned about Writing/Storytelling:
1.  Even in a story set in high school, you don’t need to overwhelm your reader with too many characters.  The main character, Maggie, has two friends at lunch that she sits with.  She also has three older brothers she occasionally hangs with.  There is one other character at school, a jock who is a jerk.

2.  You can do a high school story without a romance subplot.

3.  You can have quirky, somewhat geeky characters who are not picked on in a stereotypical bullied sort of way.  (Though to be fair the geekiest characters are girls, so the normal cliches may not apply, though oddly enough, there are no “mean girl” characters.)

4.  You don’t have to tie your sub-plots up in a neat fashion.  Maggie is unable to find a way to stop the ghost from haunting the town, or allow it to pass on to the next life. The ghost seems symbolically tied to her absent mother  (Thought her mother left the family, and is not dead.)  (Although I just read some Amazon reviews and some people were frustrated by the lack of resolution.)

5.  You can do the “getting the band back together” sort of thing in a non-pulp story.  In this case, Maggie needs the help of her three brothers to get something back the jock character stole.  Usually this sort of thing is used for pulp stories, I think…

6.  There’s teen angst, but its actually pretty light compared to what you see among the “decadent” comic crowd (or teen lit, I think), no sex, no heavy violence, no drug addiction. So.. that’s a storytelling option.

What I learned about Art/Storytelling:
Hicks is a writer/artist so has a good command of cartooning details. Here’s some random things I observed:
A silent reaction shot of a character watching something happening, I like that sort of imagery:
A budding friendship between two girls shown just through body language signals back and forth:
Shading to guide the reader’s eye to what’s important in each panel, and maybe provide three dimensionality to the art:
By making the third tier taller, you get a sort of mini Splash image of the boy (Zander) in profile:
But most importantly, Hicks’ female characters are just plain fun to look at as they show various expressions.

Recommendation: B

This is the plot: Maggie has been home schooled up to the age of 17.  Her only friends are her brothers.  As her mother has abandoned the family, she now has to go to high school for the first time.  Maggie makes friends with a brother and sister who are social outcasts. Maggie’s own brothers don’t trust her new friends, and she gradually learns about the past of her new friends and what sort of people they are. Maggie is also occasionally haunted by a nonverbal ghost.  In the climax, she asks for help from her new friends to put the ghost’s spirit to rest.

I don’t want to oversell this book, but it’s a decent story.  It’s not the sort of pulp thing I usually read.  It’s mostly realistic, except for the sub plot with the ghost.  With the depiction of the friends, brothers and sisters, it certainly has a point of view different from most comics I’ve read.

Catwoman: Crooked Little Town

Storytellers: Ed Brubaker with Brad Rader

Publisher: DC Comics
Year of Publication: 2003
Page Count: Collects Catwoman issues 5-9.

What I learned about writing/Storytelling:
Darwyn Cooke is gone, but the motif of pages consisting of four rows remains, which suggests this might have been Ed Brubaker’s innovation, or maybe Cooke came up with it with it and Brubaker and the new team continued it.

In Catwoman #5, Brubaker does some tricky stuff with flashbacks and structure that seems worth looking at:

1.  We start in the present, on page 1, as the cops interrogate a criminal named Dexter Garcia. He begins to tell the cops his story, saying “I ain’t even sure I know where the beginning’s at…” the reader turns the page and:
2.  The text says “a week and a half ago”. We cut to Catwoman jumping on rooftops at night.  She break into a hospital and visits an unconscious boy named Brendon.  She says “Aw Brendon…You really went and did it this time, didn’t you?” This takes us to page 3. The reader turns the page and:

3. Catwoman begins to narrate, introducing an earlier scene with Brendon before he was in the hospital. She visits him as Selina Kyle, because she used to know his mom back in the day. Selina learns that Brendon is involved with drug runners, the whole backstory about how the drug runners operate is explained to her by her friend, Holly, after meeting Brendon.  This runs on pages 4-7.

4. The very last panel on page 7 takes us back to the hospital scene.  We learn the boy suffered injuries while running drugs.  The next 8 pages (pages 8-15) take place after the hospital scene, with Selina staking out the drug organization responsible for Brendon’s injuries and trying to get Dexter Garcia to turn on his boss, Mr. Dylan. Selina confronts Garcia and says “It’s time you and I had a talk” to Garcia… then:

5.  Time jump ahead, on (pages 16-18) Selina is pleased with how things turned out with Garcia, but the reader doesn’t yet know what happened. Selina is then approached by private eye Slam Bradley, who tells her Garcia did something bad.   We have an interwoven flashback of Bradley telling Selina how Dexter Garcia tortured Mr. Dylan after killing Dylan’s body guards. Dexter was then taken in by the cops.

6.  Then Selina starts explaining her conversation with Garcia to Slam Bradley (the one the reader didn’t see) and we flash back to Selina’s conversation with Dexter.  Selina was just trying to get him to turn himself into the cops, not torture his boss.  This flash back starts on page 19 and runs to page 20.

7. Page 21 and 22.  Back to the opening scene with the interrogation.  We find out the cops doing the interrogation are corrupt, and are going to kill Dexter on behalf of their boss, Mr. Dylan.   Mr. Dylan vows to go after Catwoman if she causes more trouble.  The final scene is Catwoman and Slam Bradley talking, with Catwoman mourning what happened to the boy, who is not expected to recover.

This is a really tricky structure with a lot of time jumps, but the story itself isn’t hard to follow.  I wonder if the line “I ain’t even sure I know where the beginning’s at” is a sort of meta wink wink line as Brubaker was weaving the nonlinear story.

Presumably you can only write a story that jumps around like this if you plot it out in advance.  I think Brubaker uses this structure to build drama. Why are cops interrogating this guy, we wonder, during the beginning scene,  since we’ve been thrown in the middle of the story. When  Selina breaks into hospital to visit the kid,  we wonder what happened to the kid, then later find out.  The structure allows the drama to be shown before the story’s quieter moments.

Other things learned (for the rest of the issues)
It’s the oldest trick in the book, of course, but Brubaker makes use of opening splashes (or big panels that are close to a splash), though in the following example he holds off until page 4. Here’s page 3:


Then you turn the page:

This is a cool effect, and its sensible to wait until page 4 so you can build up an opening scenario before Catwoman’s appearance.

Other writing stuff: There’s a bit where Selina and Slam Bradley come up with a plan to take down some corrupt cops. The reader doesn’t know what the plan is, and we discover it as it unfolds.  I think there’s basically two ways to do that sort of “plan” based story: You either have the audience know what the plan will be, then the plan goes wrong, or you hide the plan from the audience. In this instance, Brubaker hides it, and the reader is pleasantly surprised to see just how Selina kicks ass.

I enjoyed, in particular, that the plan revolved around Selina stealing something in a very tricky way, because it’s cool to see her villainous “gimmick” used against the bad guys.  It’s good to see her do something specific to her character, rather than just punching people.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
You get the sense the creative team is testing the boundaries of the medium.  There’s a neat sequence with Selina’s friend Holly taking an  email survey, and text appears in the background, showing the email:


This is from a sort of “day in the life” issue starring her friend. They do a montage sequence of Holly’s observations about various people. They use cursive for her narration and spread it around, which is an interesting technique:


Recommendation: B+

This comic is pretty good.  I appreciate the attempts to do some experimenting with the medium.  However, I do retain a few qualms.  When they did a day in the life story about  Selina’s friend, Holly, I was thinking “I hope Brubaker isn’t trying to get us to like her so he can do something horrible to her” and, well, she gets shot at the end of the issue, though it’s not a really serious gun shot wound, more like one of those wounds everyone forgets about once the storyline is over, I’m guessing.

In terms of the experimental tone, however, I’m not sure you can really have your cake and eat it too. If you want to do something experimental involving a day in the life of a character, you probably might want to “experiment” with not going with the obvious dramatic beat of putting the supporting characters in peril?  Granted, this is sort of a noir story, and maybe that’s part of the genre, but still…

This can cause the reader to be distracted during your quieter moments, waiting for the shoe to drop.  (On the other hand, I can see the counter argument that it’s fine, I guess my main issue is that I saw it coming well in advance…)

Brubaker is also once again hopelessly confused when it comes to superhero morality, having a character lecture Catwoman on needing a motive besides revenge, which she doesn’t disagree with (Err, isn’t that Batman’s motive?  I don’t think Brubaker is going for irony.)   He does have Catwoman do something more anti-heroish towards the end of the trade, so he may be smartening up.

Still, overall, this is a very fine comic.

Catwoman: Dark End of the Street

Storytellers: Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of Publication: 2002- 2003
Page Count: Collects Catwoman 1-4 (Later Collected in the bigger trade Catwoman Volume 1: Trail of the Catwoman)

What I learned about writing/storytelling:
The story begins like many Batman stories, with a mysterious serial killer serial killing someone.  The audience immediately wonders: who is this mystery killer, and will Batman/Batgirl/Batwoman/Robin/Nightwing/Batwing/Catwoman/whomever be able to stop this killer once they learn about them and fight them?
This works fine, and starts the book as a page turner. After the two earlier talking heads heavy non- Catwoman “Catwoman” stories it was certainly a breath of fresh air.

The comic has Catoman reevaluating her identity. She soon meets an old friend and is soon told about the serial killer targeting prostitutes. The police and Batman don’t care all that much about it.  (The police don’t consider prostitutes human and Batman considers them criminals).  It’s up to Catwoman to save the day because there’s nobody else!

This is good use of pulp tropes.  Give the hero something to protect, give them a villain to fight against.  Tell us why only they can save the day. The villain turns out to be powerful, it looks like Catwoman will lose but then she wins!

What I learned about art/storytelling:
I’m a little uncertain about the idea of reading comics specifically to learn storytelling tools to add to my storytelling toolbox, because I can see tools in a book, but they aren’t necessarily tools I would want to use.  I like some of my storytelling biases, is what I’m saying.That said, here’s a tool, for a two page spread, you force the reader to turn the book over to the side:


Not my thing.  But it is a “tool” and presumably one the creative team liked.

I like the art better than in the earlier two Catwoman stories. I’m not sure why that is, but it seems like Cooke is going for something a bit different, maybe more mainstream.  Or… could it be because he’s no longer inking himself?  (Mike Allfred is credited as inker here.)

Cooke uses four tiers as the basic assumption of how to build a page, which seems to work a lot better than the three tier stuff in the earlier stories.  The high panel count no longer bothers me like it did before, in part because it looks better and in part because its more of a page turner stort of story. This is from that boring, earlier detective story:

Talking heads. Boring characters talking about boring things. This is from the Catwoman story:


I like that page.  It’s whimsical, its fun. Selina is just going for a jog for the heck of it, sans costume.  It helps the artist is working with material that is more interesting than a detective walking around talking to people.  The word count is lower and not drowning the art.

I like this page layout which has two big panels on a 6 panel page:

It gives room for two bigger establishing images.

Recommendation: B

I already covered the plot above. It’s good. It’s fun.  Its possibly not world changing, but compared to his colleagues, I suspect Brubaker’s scripts are kicking ass.  The only part that creaks  is when there’s this “Heroes don’t kill” thing at the end, where Catwoman doesn’t kill the serial killer and Batman and his friend are all like “You’re such a good person for not killing him the serial killer.”

Uh, yeah. Do people in the real world really believe this?  Cops and soldiers are expected to kill, if circumstances arise and are considered by many to be “heroes.”  The United States still has a death penalty in some areas.  And the superhero genre isn’t exactly a place for thoughtful reflection on the use of power.

Remember when Selina killed Bane in The Dark Knight Rises?  That was badass!

Catwoman: Trail of the Catwoman

Storytellers: Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC
Year of Publication: 2001
Page Count: Backup story in detective comics 759-762. (Part of a bigger Catwoman collection, not a self contained Graphic Novel, but since I read it I’m doing a write up).
What I learned about writing/Storytelling:
There is really nothing to learn from this mediocre, under performing comic.  So instead, I’m going to highlight a sequence I didn’t like a muddled fight scene with exposition that has nothing to do with what is being drawn.  Image and Text, you are supposed to be a team! You are not working together!


I just end up reading the text and ignoring the art.  It’s not like anything interesting was happening during that fight scene.

What I learned about art/storytelling:
That art above looks kind of “muddy”to me.  I’m not sure why.  I also think Cooke tends to go for a closeup rather than communicate clearly the spacial relationship between the characters.  I dunno.  I think Dave Gibbons and many classic comic creators would have done a full profile shot of both fighters when the guitar is being slammed in someone’s face. Maybe I’m just biased against the art style.

I also find Cooke’s 9 panel pages to be overwhelming.  I’m not sure if its because he can’t do a 9 panel page as well as Frank Miller or Dave Gibbons, or if I just am not digging the story pacing so more panels of it seems unappealing, or if I’m too used to decompressed comics these days to appreciate a 9 panel page.  So, there’s a word of caution in there somewhere about 9 panel pages…

Recommendation: D

So I’m reading Catwoman Volume 1: Trail of the Catwoman, which according to an Amazon review collects three previous DC trades:
Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score
Catwoman (Book 1): The Dark End of the Street (Issues #1-4 and backups from Detective Comics #759-762)
Catwoman (Book 2): Crooked Little Town (Issues #5-9. Issue #10 and Secret Files and Origins not included here in C:TotC)

I picked this up because I wanted to read Ed Brubaker’s take on Catwoman, but first I had to suffer through Darwyn Cooke’s take on Catwoman in “Selina’s Big Score”, then Brubaker’s take on “Slam Bradley” in a backup story that ran in Detective Comics called “Trail of the Catwoman.”   (Wikipedia indicates Bradley is a generic golden age detective, rather than a generic detective Brubaker invented for the story. )
The plot involves detective Slam Bradley, who is hired by the corrupt mayor to track down Selina Kyle.  The Italian mob also puts pressure on him to track down Selina Kyle.  (Apparently Selina pissed everyone off in some previous Batman story when she was running for public office, possibly in New York City, but this isn’t really explained.)
Anyway, turns out Slam Bradley develops a crush or pulpish infatuation with Catwoman just from reading her case file, so doesn’t turn her in to the bad guys like he’s been hired to do, even after learning she’s Catwoman.

The story ends with a real stretch in logic, as it turns out the mob and the Mayor know that Bradley dropped the case and won’t share what he knows, but these bad guys don’t seriously retaliate against him. Bradley even beats up a mobster for annoying him about Catwoman as an ending “punchline” to the story-arc, because apparently the mob is sort of evil but also too lazy to go after someone who beats up one of their own, or something.

Now I can finally go on to Catwoman #1, which I expect to be better!