Silver Coin #8: The Wall Street Janitor
A hallmark of good horror isn’t what’s shown or told, the implied details that slip into the audience’s mind and linger. A stylistic choice or a clever trick of light does much more to captivate the senses than a visceral stab or stab. In comics, there’s more opportunity for this implicit horror to rear its head, using formal elements like panel compositions or lettering. The silver coin #8 – written by Matthew Rosenberg, with art and lettering by Michael Walsh, color by Toni Marie Griffin and Walsh – plays with the number’s formal elements to revel in the horror of the titular piece’s influence on seemingly good people.
Rosenberg’s screenplay opens with a skyscraper within a skyscraper on Wall Street in the 1960s and immediately sets up the theme of the problem, particularly the role luck plays in climbing to the top of the social hierarchy of the American dream. Even though the issues are separated by time and space, the progression from the previous issue’s focus on the Tzompanco is a fascinating move, as these two issues feel more thematically linked than the earlier ones. Rosenberg’s storyline feels like an echo of the Ram V story from issue 7, hitting a lot of beats from a low on their lucky persona falling under the influence of the play, to rising in a world of crime. and sin, before being drawn to their deaths as a result of the play.
The difference, however, between the two stories lies in the motivations for the carnage that occurs. In the story of V, death and violence are a sacrifice that has meaning and serves as a means to an end for the society of the Tzompanco and its modern equivalent. In Rosenberg’s script, the janitor’s death is meaningless and random, serving no purpose or more important reason. It is an indictment of capitalism through and through, crushing the working class as the rich get richer. In a story whose premise spans seemingly hundreds of years, it’s horrifying to know that the evil in the play always leads to suffering and death, regardless of the context or situation presented.
Walsh’s art remains top-notch in the issue, bringing horror and anguish to the faces of the janitorial staff forced to survive on the crumbs of the uber-rich. The opening page of the issue is a stunning example of Walsh’s layout skills, establishing a nine-panel grid using the windows of a skyscraper to form the panels. Walsh uses layout for much of the issue, only distorting in key moments of the issue, such as rendering the sickening horror of a bus running over a person. It is a fantastic way to force the mindset of an established social hierarchy in the financial world and the ability to escape this rigid structure by employing damaging and cruel acts of violence.
While the number’s composition looks like an amazing display of story-influencing technique, the real element that hones the horror of the issue is Walsh’s lettering. It is often said that good lettering is invisible to the average reader because it allows the writing and art to convey the story without distracting the reader. But in many cases, lettering can make a book difficult or transcendent depending on the merits of the lettering. This problem falls into the latter category, with Walsh’s use of a fuzzy word balloon to reflect the state of mind the problem’s protagonist enters as he is captivated by the play. The option to blur the dialogue makes the madness feel almost supernatural due to its lack of context or understanding. It’s the type of existential horror that gnaws at the reader when they realize they’re insignificant compared to the forces of evil in the world.