My Back Pages


My gal-pal Hillary walked in on me rummaging through the bedroom closet earlier this evening, frantically rooting through boxes of comics in a vain attempt to find something, anything, to blog about. “What are in all those bags up there?” she asked, pointing to the closet’s top shelf. I told her that they were mostly filled with my original art for various minicomics I’d done over the years, plus a lot of other projects that burst into flames on the runway (in other words, I got distracted and abandoned them partway through). Looking through them, I stumbled across something cool that I thought I’d lost in a move years ago—the first original page of comic art I’d ever purchased. It’s the final page of issue twelve of Legends of the DC Universe, the now-defunct anthology title from the late Nineties. This two-part tale, written by Christopher Priest and drawn by Ken Lashley, starred the Silver Age incarnation of the Justice League of America. I bought it from the issue’s inker, Ron Boyd, at my first ever comics convention in Toronto in 1999. I was determined to come home from that con with a piece of original art, and was pretty stoked that I had purchased a page featuring Green Lantern, the Flash, and Zatanna for a pretty reasonable sum. It's a swell page featuring a good old-fashioned cliffhanger ending. However, at some point, it got packed away into a bag, thrown onto a pile, and more or less forgotten. Here it is...

...and, just for fun, here's the final, coloured page as it appears in the comic:

Looking at this page, two things became quickly apparent to me. First, I really should get this framed and put up on the wall one of these days before I forget about it again. Second, it’s a bit of a relic, which makes me sad. If you were to buy a page from just about any comic published today, it would look quite a bit different. The lettering in the word balloons on this page is pasted on, whereas today it never physically appears on the original art—it’s added in digitally. The artwork on this page doesn’t make the usual allowances for digital colouring that you would normally see, leaving areas blank for computerized trickery and the like. Lots of pages are now digitally inked, or not inked at all as computer colours are sometimes applied directly to the scanned pencils. At some point, it’s conceivable that the very concept of original pages for sale might be a thing of the past, what with you kids and your Photoshop and your Wacom tablets and so on. This bums me out a bit, since I really love looking at a page of original art and seeing notes to the inker scrawled in the borders, or a telltale spot of liquid paper where somebody made a goof, or the little brown spot where a teensy bit of coffee got spilled. These little touches are what I love the most about seeing original comic pages—all the various layers of interference between creator and fan disappear. You’re no longer reading a comic, you’re looking at a drawing somebody did.

I love that, after a lifetime of reading and enjoying comics, there’s always a new angle to appreciate them from—even if it’s of the wistful, things-were-better-in-my-day variety. I’m heading up to Toronto for the Hobbystar Fan Expo later this month, pretty much exactly ten years after I bought this page. I’m hoping that when I get there, I’ll find lots of cool original art for sale. I also hope, once I’ve financially recovered from the trip, to get that damn Legends of the DC Universe page (with its newfound relevance—Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are, after all, back in action these days) finally framed and put on the wall!