when I got HAWKGUY, I was coming off of multi-year runs on big mainstream superhero books. And — long story short that maybe is worth another post somewhere down the line — I was looking to recalibrate my toolkit, or reevaluate it, anyway, as I was getting bored and antsy and, more importantly, the format of the books had changed. Prices had gone up (on some, but not all) and content had gone down (from 22 to 20 pages an issue).
It seems laughable, at first glance, to suggest the loss of two pages was some kind of sea change. It’s practically the same thing, other writers said. To me it was akin to someone saying — “here, give me 10% of your paycheck. It’s practically the same thing.”
Anyway I started to look at my toolkit.
When I started work on CASANOVA I’d just done a reread on the classic Claremont/Byrne era of UNCANNY X-MEN (as I’d been asked to pitch stuff to the X office) and was struck, one day, by how they were all seventeen-page stories. The ones you think of, when you think of those issues where, anyway. CASANOVA started off at 16. And it was the C/B stuff that influence CASANOVA’S density more than anything else, but I wanted a density that came from more modern techniques and not the necessity of writing against impermanence (so much of what dates that work so profusely was that the creators, quite frankly, believed their work lived for 28 days and then vanished forever — these guys were never thinking about permanent editions, collections, reprints…).
With HAWKGUY I wanted to steer into the skid of losing a tenth of the canvas size I’d been working at for four, five years, and go ultradense again — but in a way that made sense with the book. Committing to single or two-part stories was a big part of that; letting myself write for a higher-density page than had been in vogue lately.
That was all kinds of nerve-wracking, for any number of reasons. the biggest touchstone and confidence-builder i took with me was the old MASTER OF KUNG-FU series, primarily the Moench/Gulacy issues where they really started to play with high-density pages, high panel counts (7, 8, 9 — or more). These issues were 17 pages, too. Maybe 18 from time to time, but 17 seemed operating length then.
Then I noticed something.
Nearly every issue starts with a nondiagetic splash page — a kind of second cover. sometimes a recap would be woven in, or a monologue started, but practically every issue started with a kind of second cover that at best set tone but was not, technically, an additive or propulsive bit of story. It was a bit of flourish — a quick, cool, vamp to get you into the world of the book. Morrison did a similar thing with his NEW X-MEN run and it was a cool bit of invisible fence. Suggested a shape for the whole series, that page.
In other words, though — it can be seen as a throw-away page. The story couldn’t really move there, or didn’t really, in MoKF, but just kind of clear it’s throat and get your attention.
And these guys only had 17 pages to work with in the first place.
Surely if they could work with 16 pages, then — we could find a way for HAWKGUY with our embarrassment of riches at 20. And David was willing and ready to play…
Another master class from Fraction.