02
Mar
10

Issue #5: Talking with David, ’95

This series has two recurring story motifs: “Talking with David” and “Times Past.” Issue 5 gives us the first of the “Talking with David” cycle. In these yearly issues, Jack spends a night talking with his dead brother. In several of these chats, other dead DC heroes join the conversation. They sort of serve as spirit guides for Jack in his hero journey. In these issues, everything is in shades of grey except for two things: the dead and Jack’s eyes. It is unclear until the end of the cycle whether these instances are dreams, hallucinations, or actual visitations from David et al. Since it’s a big issue at the end of the series, I’ll wait until then to talk about it. No reason to repeat myself.

This issue opens with Jack in a cemetery. The names ([M]. Jason Davis and [J]ackson Davis) on the large monument does not ring any bells as far as comic characters or pop culture figures. Presumably they are friends of one of the creators. The figure on top of the monument is a classical female and probably depicts one of the Muses. My own guess would be Erato whose domain is lyric poetry and is usually represented with a lyre. For no really apparent reason, Jack is holding what appears to be an ivy leaf. The ivy leaf is a common motif on gravestones to symbolize eternal life or friendship.

As we walk through the cemetery with Jack, we’re afforded a good look at the design of the new cosmic rod. Even for a cemetery, this sequence is full of symbolism typical to headstones and tombs (more common prior to the 20th century). There are various angels, an obelisk, and a spider’s web (usually symbolizing human frailty). He’s directly addressed off panel, and we’re left to confirm the identity on the next page. The title splash contains more death symbolism (notably a laurel wreath: victory and immortality). The tomb of Narcissa Powers is lousy with oak and ivy as well as roses. This is the tomb David Knight (in Starman garb) is leaning against. A quick search on the web turns out that Narcissa Powers and her husband, Daniel Griffin, are/were real people buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia. Tony Harris, hailing from that area, seems to have used this cemetery as artistic reference. Though not documented, maybe the Davises from page one are authentic too.

David is going to always come off as a bit immature. He’s got a secret and he enjoys not sharing. Typical brotherly interaction. It’s worth noting that Jack’s eyes always appear brown in the interiors of the book. Tony Harris colors them blue in his covers (see issue 3 and 4 specifically). Jack’s mentioning of Ted Turner on page 7 is a reference to the media mogul’s much maligned campaign to colorize all black and white movies. Jack sees this “world” the same way that we do: shades of grey. Although Robinson doesn’t tie his David to the one in Starman vol.1, this tantrum is similar to the one he threw when he encountered Will Payton in issues 26 and 27 of that series. Also of note is that the lenses in Jack’s goggles become colorized when he places them over his eyes. A reference to the common belief that eyes are the window to the soul?

Page 11 shows an Angel of Death and what is probably a representation the Muse Euterpe: of music. Fitting with David’s immaturity, we have morbid prank. Funny that they both realize at the same time that they’ve been tearing up this cemetery. David seems to be one of those people that can’t help getting a little dig in from time to time. As we’ll see, this comes from insecurity around Jack. Another ragdoll’s head appears here on a tombstone for HARRIS. Jesse and I have been pointing out these ragdolls because they are important to Ted’s past, Opals present, and the future of the series. We’ll get some information on this in issues 9 and 11.

Surprisingly insightful of David to point out that the rage and resentment are Jack’s to deal with. David has a different set of regrets to deal with apparently. The boys pass the Knight mausoleum (last seen as a hideout for the Mist). The conversation ends at that of Burnley Ellsworth, whom I discussed last issue. I like the honesty in this last bit of conversation between Jack and David. The admission that David envied Jack for his independence and artistic nature exhibits the freedom that David now feels after death. Robinson also reinforces the idea for his readers that Jack must be his own man and his own type of hero: this isn’t going to be your grandfather’s Starman. He also established the idea that these chats will be recurring. That’s a nice image of David against the rising sun.

The epitaph on the tablet here on this last page is a common sentiment on headstones in the northeast and England. No author can be attributed. Presumably it is intended to inspire contemplation on the idea that we all must face death.

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