Fantastic Four #60, Page 2

“Fantastic Four” #60, Part 2

I began to hyper-analyze “Fantastic Four” #60 last month to remember Mike Wieringo’s birthday. I made it through the first two pages and it took me about 3000 words.

As the math would have it, page 3 comes next, so let’s get to it. Don’t worry; this will only take about a thousand words…

Page 3, Panel 1

There’s a bit of a carry-over from page 2 we need to cover here. That page ended with the P.R. firm head telling wunderkind Shertzer, “it’s time to meet the family.”

So it makes sense that that’s what we’re doing in the very next panel at the top of the next page. We cut to a new scene, taking place in some kind of Fantasticar in an unknown place with purple skies. Shertzer is in the back seat, caught between the ever-bickering Blue Eyed Thing and Johnny Storm.

The page starts on a close-up of Shertzer’s eyes. He’s wide-eyed, sweating, eyebrows raised. He stammered when given the opportunity to handle this client, and he’s overwhelmed by the first panel already.

The scene is layered with the kind of typical banter you’d expect from two kids sitting in the backseat of a car as Dad drives to the family vacation. Johnny is already in full “Are we there yet?” mode, and the Thing will have none of it.

Shertzer is caught in the middle, wide eyed and slack jawed.

The Establishing Shot and The Claustrophobia

Mike Wieringo establishing shot

The third panel is the furthest the camera gets from the action, going to a slight overhead position to capture everyone in the car. It’s the establishing shot for the scene and it is, most remarkably, the smallest panel on the page.

Waid’s script describes the page:

[NOTE: We are INSIDE a vehicle that’s part Humvee, part spaceship–lots of instrumentation inside and no windows save for the “windshield,” but still with front and back seats–in other words, an exploratory craft that still looks enough like a car that Reed’s upcoming joke doesn’t get lost. Throughout this entire first page, we are quick-cut close on everyone inside the car, starting tight on characters at first and then maybe gradually pulling back enough to see that Reed’s driving, Sue’s sitting with him up front, and Johnny, Ben and poor Shertzer are in the back.]

Wieringo keeps this page claustrophobic. It makes sense. There’s five people inside this vehicle, sailing through an unknown space. The action is inside the car, and that sense of a lack of space helps ratchet up the anxiety of Shertzer and the short fuses of the boys in the back seat.

Look at the entire page. Wieringo changes angles constantly, but always squeezes three characters into each panel. (In the one panel with only one character, it’s an extreme closeup.  Same effect.) He packs them in very closely, adding to the claustrophobia. Wieringo moves the camera around the car on this page, keeping it mostly at eye level, but never in the same spot twice. Something is always moving across the panel, too, whether it’s Thing’s soda, or Shertzer as he tries to get up to the front seat, followed by Mr Fantastic stretching out of his seat and across the panel to see what’s going on in the back seat.

Wieringo is purposefully constraining the characters on this page, taking away all their elbow room, yet still adding motion to those confined spaces.  The reader can feel that, even if he or she doesn’t realize it consciously. It almost makes me twitchy looking at this page again.

Waid’s script calls for this, if you read between the lines a bit. Wieringo just pulls it off beautifully, with a an even tighter composition than Waid might have imagined.

The Change in Script

Fantastic Four Jennifer Garner lettering change

There is one major change from Waid’s original script to the final product. In the second to last panel, Thing gives Torch a hard time over his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Garner. He doesn’t completely say that. He’s cut off halfway through the last name in an interesting way. Albert Dechesne at Comicraft overlapped Johnny’s word balloon to cut off the part that named Garner.

It’s a great example of how comic books have their own language and abilities. You couldn’t pull this trick off anywhere else. In movies or on a television show, her name would be bleeped out, audibly. That would be the equivalent. Maybe they’d even blur the mouth a little, but that always looks clunky. Here, in comics, they’re just making use of the structure of the narrative and the tools at hand to pull the same thing off. It’s a great use of lettering to tell the story, as someone overtalking has their balloon overlapping the original speaker.

Here’s the twist: Waid’s original script didn’t include the ‘Alias’ star’s name. No, it named Namorita. The Ben Affleck “Daredevil” movie came out in 2004. Jennifer Garner played Elektra in that movie. This comic came out in the same year. I’m guessing that’s a little reference to that? Marvel and FOX were on friendlier terms pre-“Iron Man,” after all.

I can’t find any reference to Chris Evans (of FOX’s original “Fantastic Four” movie fame) ever dating Jennifer Garner, so it can’t be a meta joke that deeply…

Stretching Out

There’s a nice moment in the bottom row of the page, too, where Reed turns his head 180 degrees around to see what’s going on in the backseat, and Shertzer looks creeped out. That look only intensifies when Richards stretches his neck off-panel to let his head go out to talk to the boys.

Paul Mounts adds some nice details in the car with his colors. Most noticeably, the screens inside the car glow with classic computer screen green. They’re not just the abstract shapes Wieringo draws on the walls.  They’re glowing.  It’s a simple Photoshop effect, I’m sure, but he uses it with reason.

Speaking of lights, notice that we still haven’t seen any exterior shots or where they are exactly.  The closest we come is in the purple light you see out the windshield in the final panels.  At first, you might think it’s just filler color, but as we’ll see on the next page, it really is a look into the outside world.

Coming Soon…

In Part 4, we’ll look at page 4, as we get out out of the car, into a more open space.  We’ll take a look at how the action moves up and down, and left to right, and back to front.  Sometimes, it’s the little details that sell the action the strongest.

To Be Continued…

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