I’d initially planned to look at the covers of crime comics in this installment, but I abandoned that once I realized DC and Marvel were releasing their February solicitations this week. I’m timely, if nothing else.
One of the things that struck me about DC’s solicitations was the importance given to setting in at least four of the covers: 52 Week 40, Desolation Jones #9, Jack of Fables #8 and Superman Confidential #4.
More often than not, attention is focused on character or action as the protagonist strikes a pose against a blank background, or the hero and villain battle it out in front of a generic cityscape straight out of an Olan Mills studio.
Granted, most readers who pick up a Spider-Man comic probably want to see Spider-Man on the cover, not a moody, but faithfully rendered, depiction of Manhattan. Still, the setting can be key.
In these four covers — I really need to come up with a good synonym for “cover” — the settings, both real and fictional, take prominence.
On J.G. Jones’ 52 Week 40, Steel (John Henry Irons) is dwarfed by what looks to be LexCorp Tower in Metropolis, that phallic monument to Lex Luthor’s wealth and ego. I haven’t been reading DC’s weekly series, but it seems clear here that Steel — previously depicted as “the people’s hero” — is dismantling that architectural symbol of the billionaire criminal’s potency.
It’s a case of David versus Goliath amid the Metropolis skyline.
Luthor and the City of Tomorrow also loom large on Tim Sale’s cover for Superman Confidential #4, even if neither looks quite like themselves. Here, Luthor is Kingpin-esque, more crime boss than corporate executive, while Metropolis has a decidely Googie air about it. In fact, the Jetsons’ Skypad Apartments wouldn’t be too out of place there.
I particularly like the humor injected into the piece by the juxtaposition of Luthor’s shadowy, scowling face and the sign in the background that reads, “Utopia.” I’m guessing that’s the name of the casino mentioned in the solicitation to Issue 3, but it obviously works on a couple of levels.
Setting has been central to Desolation Jones from Day One: At its core, it’s the story of a stranger in a strange land, a former British agent with an aversion to sunlight who’s not allowed to leave Los Angeles.
And as with most film noir-influenced works, the urban location almost becomes a character itself, as dark, twisted and hollow as any villain.
In the cover to Desolation Jones #9, by Danijel Zezelj, we see the promise of Hollywood, represented by the Walk of Fame, marred by blood and violence. Or, as the solicitation copy puts it, “It’s a Hollywood story: nothing but sex, lies and murder.”
A grime permeates the image, from the nicotine stain-like yellow smog to the splotchy shadows to the skeletal structures in the background — reminiscent of building facades on a movie set. (That last bit probably says something about the superficiality of Hollywood.) You can almost feel the oily residue of the city.
Location also takes center stage in James Jean’s cover for Jack of Fables #8, the first part of the “Jack of Hearts” storyline.
Here, the book’s logo is transformed into the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, and the subdued, icy hues of the previous issues are blown out by the neon lights of Sin City. It’s psychedelic, surreal and a bit disorienting; like Las Vegas, really.
Everything about this cover screams “Las Vegas,” a city as legendary and mythologized as any of the residents of Fabletown.
In a modern folklore sense, it’s probably no more real than Superman’s Metropolis or Batman’s Gotham.
All in all, it’s the perfect setting for Jack of the Tales.