Charlie's Angels

ComiXology Excerpt:
The Page Sisters finally find a new purpose in life: restoring the Great Library. And the one place you don’t want to be is between them and one of the books they want. Meanwhile, Jack Frost has just set upon the greatest quest in a long and distinguished career of great quests!

Jack of Fables 46

While technically a nicely illustrated cover (just clean execution by the inimitable Brian Bolland), “nicely illustrated” by itself doesn’t really cut it for our purposes. This is a cover capable of standing out… And for a not-blockbuster title like Jack of Fables, might really need to do so.

There are three things, I think, that make this a great and striking cover:

The first and most important is Bolland’s allusion to Charlie’s Angels. That is really the thing that had me give this cover a second look. The Page Sisters themselves are archetypically “the hot librarian” (it even says so, tongue-in-cheek, on the top-left). “Hot librarians” as described by TV Tropes are “very attractive, but prim and prudish” … “would be gorgeous if [they] would just take off the glasses / let down the hair”.

I’m sure that you have a general concept of what a “hot librarian” is trope-wise; it is a the mayhap-unexpected juxtaposition of attractiveness and restraint, or disinterest. On this Jack of Fables cover Bolland overlays the restraint of the “hot librarian” trope with maybe its polar opposite, in staging and body language. Here the librarians trade in their ballpoint pens for ballistics and channel the teeny bikinis of the 1970s jiggle procedural… Without actually letting down their hair, taking off the glasses, or for that matter revealing a lot of skin. Because the Charlie’s Angels logo was generally stylized in black, the Page sisters can go with a utilitarian spy / ninja black leather look (i.e. avoiding a full-bore Cheryl Ladd), allowing them to be consistent with Angel without betraying the fundamental conservatism of Librarian… But hey! Black leather!

It’s all overlaps and suggestion; the intended male viewer probably likes all of it without actually knowing which things he likes, or what exactly he is looking at; hinting at “over-the-top” while not being over-the-top itself. TLDR: Shockingly nuanced.

The second is all those titles on the giant books in the background. I don’t know if you took the time to read any of their titles but they say things like The Four Little Pigs or The Adventures of Young Moby Dick… That is, titles that are familiar but at the same time nonexistent. What kind of library do these woman run?!?

Finally, Bolland himself. The whole point of using a separate cover artist (especially if you’ve got a perfectly service-able interior artist) is to draw additional attention to your book. Brian Bolland is of course the celebrated genius executor behind (or rather, in front of) Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, regarded by many to be the greatest Batman story of all time (if not YT). Bolland stacks visual technique on top of visual technique here like a layer cake: A big white chunk of negative space in the back, these sort of uniformly-boring imaginary books, a similarly-generic truck (with equally generic typeface), the Pages-by-way-of Angels in the foreground. I actually think the blah execution of everything behind the Page sisters is part of an intended look, allowing them (and their allusion to Aaron Spelling) to stand out more without having to resort to thick black lines, or, you know, a sledgehammer.


Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #18 by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

ComiXology excerpt:
Batman’s fighting off the effects of the strength-enhancing drug, so he’s locked himself away in the Batcave and instructed Alfred not to open it–no matter what Alfred hears! Now, The Dark Knight faces the monstrous challenge of battling his own nightmares.


That is what I see when I look at this Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez cover.

Desperate. Pathetic. Wasted.

None of these are words that we typically associate with The Dark Knight.

By default we think of Batman as being confident, self-assured, and powerful. In the face of not just danger but near-certain death he holds his head up straight and stares enemies many times more powerful than he is straight in the eye… Right before spitting in it. Probably with kryptonite gum.

But what does Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez give us here?

Not just desperation; not just that unkempt mop and unshaven chin (neither being signals for “billionaire” or “playboy” for the cowl-less Caped Crusader); but a lazy slouch. Bruce in this shot is barely able to stay in his chair (let alone spit in the eye of an angry Kryptonian).

My longtime collaborator (and onetime comics editor) Brian David-Marshall loves to talk about comic book art as more storytelling than “mere” portraiture; and this cover does a great job of telling a story.

Why is Bruce falling out of his chair?

Why is Bruce out of control of his hair?

Mayhap he should have enrolled in D.A.R.E.

Do you see what is falling out of our hero’s hand?


This is what comes of pills. Not even The Dark Knight is immune to their insidious effects. They can reduce a straight-backed superhero to a slouching scamp.

Neither will you, child, be able to walk away unaffected (if even you can still walk at all) (see not even Batman can).

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez communicates a shocking amount of emotion into this image, layers upon layers of meaning, without a single speed-line. His story is not reliant on a single word balloon or stray line of detail. Through body language he can give Bruce’s ripped abs a sense of desiccation rather than core strength; and the same kinds of lines that typically communicate a lack of fat around the rib cage here seem more like a lack of oxygen or nourishment. Along with the shag and beard, Garcia-Lopez’s hands tell a tale (two tales actually): the left is warily weary but the right completely exhausted. Though we see essentially only two pieces of furniture (a pretty stock, if normally luxurious, captain’s chair and a pretty cool wicker cowl-perch), the non-furniture spiderwebs in the top-left give us a setting of disuse, even ruin. One of the sharpest, fittest, most on-the-ball billionaires in the DC universe — on top of every other negative emotion already communicated — is living, or at least sitting, in a zone of neglect; abandonment.

Overall, this is just a great cover. Technically it’s really well composed; I’m fine with the inks but it’s the combination of flat color and negative space that really do it for me. I’m just such a sucker for flat color.

In case you’re wondering what you’re reading, this is Superficial Saturdays — a column I am carrying over from my original blog Five With Flores — that talks about comics covers (as in “superficially” judging a book by its cover), you know, on Saturdays. If you liked this, you can check out the previous sixteen installments over at Five With Flores.

I do hope you liked this! Thanks for checking our comics content out here at Fetchland.