Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Death in Comics - Godiva Danube

There's an advantage to writing a gag-a-day strip as opposed to those with continuing stories. Each strip is self-contained. Panel one sets up the gag, panel two puts it in motion, and panel three delivers the punchline. 

An adventure strip has a different outline. The first panel provides a thumbnail recap, panel two continues the story, and panel three is the cliffhanger (panels two and three are often combined). There's an art to pacing the story. Make the recap too detailed, and regular readers will get bored. Have a ho-hum cliffhanger, and new readers won't come back the next day. Don't move the story along far enough and everyone gets bored. And if there are no surprises, then over time there will be no readers.

Writer Francesco Marciuliano and artist Mike Manley continue their masterful run on Judge Parker with some truly innovative story-telling. Excerpts from this sequence that ran May-June 2018 are a good example. Marciuliano has several stories arcs running concurrently and uses them to great advantage.

In a long sequence, two contract killers return to the US. April and her father are both ex-CIA black ops agents. April's escaped from federal prison and is reluctant to return to the states. She's also the ex-wife of Judge Randy Parker.  

The person at left is Neddy Spenser. She's the adopted daughter of Abby Spenser. Her husband and Randy Parker were part of the same law firm. Did April unknowingly accept a contract on a family member?

The first twist: the door the assassins are knocking on isn't the one Neddy's behind. Note that Neddy lives in apartment 3G. Apartment 3G was started by Nicholas P. Dallis in 1961. He also created Rex Morgan, M.D. (1953), and Judge Parker (1952). 

So whose door were the killers knocking on?

Godiva Danube was a singer/actress/celebrity. She had been in a failed business with Neddy Spenser (see Sophie's Crash, part 2). Earlier in 2018, she had returned to the strip to invite Neddy to come to Hollywood with her as her PA. Neddy did go to LA, not as Danube's assistant, but as an aspiring screenwriter. That's why she's waitressing. Marciuliano also frames her sequences with movie script settings in the upper left corner.

The second twist: the cause of death. The casual reader might not remember that the contract stipulated the death was to look like natural causes.

The third twist: change of location. Danube switched hotels suddenly. So April and her father were at the wrong location. And Danube was using an alias she couldn't possibly know (as just an actress/singer).

The fourth twist: enter the CIA.  Early on in this story April was concerned that they were being lured to back to the US. The mystery of Godiva Danube's death will only deepen, and I suspect Marciuliano will keep me guessing -- one panel at a time. 

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