The splash page of a comic is always a challenging thing. It has great importance because it is in essence a single panel on a page that must move the story forward and at the same have great visceral impact. Sometimes you get the first page of a comic that is not written as a splash page but instead it is used to set up a splash that is coming (often times as a double page spread) on page 2 and 3. Then there are those occasions where you just get story and no splash until the end of the issue or sometimes not at all.
When I was drawing Ms. Marvel for Marvel Comics 7 years ago or so, I had a combination of those situations. Often times I had first pages that were story pages and were not followed up with a splash page. I have always felt (Stan Lee influence) that a story should always begin with a splash or at least a set up page followed by a splash page to immediately draw the reader in. So when I get handed a script that doesn’t mesh with my philosophy, I will often times try and turn a basic story page into a splash page. This happened to me with several issues of Ms. Marvel and I did my best to turn a non-splash page into a splash page.
Going through my files on Ms. Marvel I found a lot of splash pages that I still feel are very strong, so let’s take a look at some of those as they appeared in the initial pencil stages.
These two pages are from my first issue of Ms. Marvel, #13. Page one was a splash page of downtown Indianapolis. Looking back I still feel pretty good about how it turned out, especially considering how much I hate drawing buildings! This rather uneventful splash page was thankfully followed up with a cool splash of Ms. Marvel punching Iron Man. Now you’re talkin’!
In issue #14 we get the first example of me turning a non-splash into a sort of a splash page. I thought armored guards separating a woman from her child was not the kind of super drama I could hang my hat on so I made the close up of Ms. Marvel really large and overlapping the initial panel. The result is a faux, Ms. Marvel splash. As you can see, a few pages later I get a splash page of the Marvel Universe duking it out with each other. Certainly subject matter worthy of a splash. The issue ended with a great splash page of Modok, the surprise villain of the story arc. I love this character and I think it showed on this page.
In issue #15, again we open the issue with a non-splash but it was a set up page for a Modok storyline, so I incorporated a “background” shot of him to make the page look cooler but also reinforce the idea that the events on the page directly tied in to him. In this issue, the money shot of a mind controlled Wonder Man battling Ms. Marvel happened on the last page.
In issue #16, again, the issue opens with a panel page. This time with a conversation. I could not let this open the issue so I drew a full figure of Ms. Marvel on the side and slid the panels over slightly to the right to give her room. Even though this shot of Ms. Marvel is not written in and has nothing directly to do with conversation on the page, it lets the reader know immediately whose comic this is and gives them a reason to look twice and turn the page. Once they do turn the page, they are rewarded with a splash of Power Man smacking Ms. Marvel as the story picks up where the previous issue left off. I deliberately turned Ms. Marvel toward the reader in what is really an unnatural position for her to be in after being punched but I always try to think what does the reader really want to see and in this case I felt everyone would want a big cool shot of Ms Marvel, even it it was a little forced. It is important to note that about mid-way through the issue writer Brian Reed threw in another splash of Ms. Marvel kissing Wonder Man. Although, not an action page, it is a really important moment between the characters and a great call to make splash page out of it.
In issue #17 we find the Modok story arc coming to an end. Brian Reed opened the issue with a short re-cap of Modok’s origin. Once again, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. I balanced the origin panels with big book end shots of Ms. Marvel and Modok to frame the page. It gives this page a splash page feeling without actually being one and it can be easily justified from a story telling standpoint because the story is really about the conflict between the two characters. Later in the issue, Wonder Man saves an unconscious and falling (and physically distorted) Ms. Marvel. This was not designed to be a splash page but I essentially turned it into one by emphasizing the moment where Wonder Man catches and saves Carol. It is a bigger moment than just a rescue because of the feelings they have for one another. The only true splash page of the issue occurs on the last page where Modok’s son gets resurrected as a new super-villain. Has this character appeared anywhere since this page?
In my next blog instalment, I will continue my discussion of the Ms. Marvel splash pages where Carol Danvers faces off with the always creepy Puppet Master and takes a trip to Monster Isle! Stay tuned!