Every week on “Sunday Page” an author has to choose a single page from a comic book. It could be for sentimental reasons o for a particular technical achievement. The conversation could lose itself in the open water of the comic book world but it will always start with the questione: «If you had to choose a page from a comic book you love, what would you choose and why?».
This Sunday I’m out with Josh Tierney, creator of the fantasy comic book Spera and working author at BOOM! Studios.
A strange page from Sandman. How come?
Most of the comics that have influenced me come from my childhood. When I was a kid, I’d buy comics based on the artwork, and/or if I thought the characters looked cool or funny. I bought every Jim Lee X-Men comic I saw on the newsstand, and started reading Bone soon after it first came out. But I didn’t follow any writers, and barely understood what they were for: comics are a visual medium, and I viewed the artists as the ones telling these stories.
I’d also read Wizard magazine, and it felt like they were heaping words of praise onto Sandman and Neil Gaiman in every issue. The stories they described sounded unlike anything else I’d read in comics, and the focus of praise was almost exclusively on the writing. The fact that it was part of DC’s Vertigo line, which would appear taboo to a youngster, made it all the more intriguing.
Even without reading many Gaiman comics as a kid (my first was the first issue of Death, followed by his Alice Cooper comic), it was simply reading about him and Sandman that fired my imagination, and made me view comics as a writer’s realm as well.
Why this particular issue?
My best friend collected comics as well, and one day after school I went to his place to see what new ones he’d grabbed. One of them happened to be Sandman #64, and it was the very first time I held either a Sandman or Gaiman comic in my hands. My heart skipped a beat. I didn’t have enough time to read it, but I flipped through it carefully, and when I landed on that last page, my mind was blown wide open.
The first thing to jump out at me was the use of static, wordless panels. It’s an overused device nowadays, but that was my first time encountering that type of formal experimentation in a mainstream comic. I didn’t know what the character’s problem was, but it immediately put me in her head, and I could tell whatever she was experiencing was very different from any of the superheroes or talking animals I knew.
The second thing to jump out at me was the word “fuck”. It was a word I didn’t know was allowed to be in comics. That solitary curse, acting as punctuation to the silent, static panels before it, turned the sequence into poetry. It shook me. That was when I knew I didn’t want to just draw comics, I wanted to write them.
That sequence made comics not only serious for me, it made me serious about comics.
What about the rest of the page?
I didn’t even remember that bottom splash, but the way such a wildly fantastical image follows such an intimately human one is brilliant.
You talked very well about how the writer is manipulating the page. Shall we talk about the art itself?
I thought it was Marc Hempel, but it turns out it’s Teddy Kristiansen. I like both on Sandman, but that angular, chiaroscuro look with simplified faces has always appealed to me, like in Mignola. It’s the type of art style I tried to draw in before switching completely to writing.
It’s honestly a bit difficult for me to view any given Sandman artist as a weird fit considering how wildly different each is, starting right off the bat with Sam Kieth. I really appreciate that about the series.