Today we take a look at two terms that tie into each other. A splash page is a term most of you are familiar with, and it really just means a page that consists of one big image. It's most often used in the beginning of a comic. Common practice will put it at the very first page, to get the reader's attention right away, as in this Steve Ditko–drawn page from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #12:
It's becoming more common though to start off with a regular page with multiple panels and then have the big money shot comprise the next two pages. That would be called a spread, such as in DAREDEVIL #2, drawn by Paolo Rivera.
|Those little panels inside the spread are called insets.|
We'll get to them at some other point.
Both a splash and a spread don't have to be confined to the beginning of the comic and can be used at any time to . Read in trade paperback form, this page from WATCHMEN is the first splash in the entire book. WATCHMEN retained a pretty constrained three-by-three grid throughout the entire piece, so this splash page was very effective in terms of emphasizing the moment.
It can also be used to emphasize motion. J.L. Bell over at Oz and Ends has a pretty informative blog post about using a single background to take place over a short span of time, with one character being drawn repeatedly throughout it in order for us to be able to trace his motion, such as in this NIGHTWING page drawn by Eddy Barrows.
There's a lot of criticism about today's comics regarding the overuse of splash pages and spreads (the entire Death of Superman issue in 1992 was all splash pages), but I think as with anything, it's all about execution. Splash pages and spreads are tools, and as long as they are used to emphasize what needs emphasizing, and obviously that's a judgment call a lot of the time on the part of the creators. Jim Steranko used a lot of spreads, but I can imagine that if the Internet had been around then, he'd have been criticized for taking up too much space for one moment. Here's a Captain America spread of his.
The most popular collection of splash pages probably belong to Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT. Eisner was working under pretty unique conditions, as THE SPIRIT was coming out in newspapers, and his first page doubled as both a cover and the first page of each story. He would use these to set the tone of his works immediately, incorporating various logos into the backgrounds (I've seen them called both architexture and logotechture, so pick which one you prefer).
So to close off this article, I figure I'll leave you guys with a collection of splash pages from Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT. All of these except the first one come from the back of Kitchen Sink's THE SPIRIT: THE NEW ADVENTURES series from the late 90s, of which I have a complete set, and the contributors to which included Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, John Wagner, Paul Chadwick, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, and David Lloyd. Note how some of them still have panels in them, but still form a cohesive single picture so as to be called a splash page.
Click to enlarge, and enjoy!