By Greg Burgas
Scratching Out the Lines
Will Eisner and Lou Fine (credited as “Basil Berold”) give us The Flame, with a fairly standard layout for the time – a big panel that acts as a semi-splash, and then two or three panels below it taking us into the story. It’s not a hard-and-fast layout, of course, but it shows up quite often during this time period. Fine does a good thing with the semi-splash – we naturally gravitate toward the tree, which frames the ship, which points to the caption box, which leads to the inlet, which shows us the “strange procession.” The entire page funnels us toward the people, and as they’re next to the first smaller panel, everything moves us that way. Of course, most good comic book artists do this, but as with a lot of stuff in the Golden Age, it’s interesting to consider how much artists already had figured out about sequential storytelling. It’s not that different from painting or other “highbrow” artistic endeavors, except that there are more panels. Fine, among others, had already mastered the way to lay out a page to move the eye, not only through the panel, but between panels. In the second panel, the banality of the punk playing solitaire contrasts nicely with the weirdness of the scene and even his attire. I’m going to assume the coloring is as close to the original as possible, which makes the use of the bold red, yellow, and green give the scene a more lurid vibe than if the colors had been “normal.” It also reminds us that even in a stranger comic like this one, coloring of this era was bolder and brighter than it is today, thanks to the primitive coloring processes used.