The first page is important. It has to grab people's attention. It has to introduce your story. It has to impress.
That's what I wanted for the first page of Mysteries of the Arcana
. I also wanted to tell a whole story on that page. I knew the slow pace of a webcomic meant that it could be months or even a year before any real information was revealed about Theresa. So, I took the old writer's adage of "show, don't tell" to heart. A scrapbook in a fire with the book open to a page showing off four Polaroid style photographs.
The four photographs are important. Except for her time with Debby, Theresa's entire life is there. In the first photograph, we see a very young Theresa riding on the shoulders of her father at the county fair, clearly having fun. In the second, we see her learning how to shoot. Her second lesson, in fact. In the third photo, Theresa's hugging her father goodbye as he goes off. He's in a military uniform and about to get onto a bus. In the final photograph, Theresa's accepting a flag from an officer as she stands near a casket.
I tried to make things as clear as possible without beating people over the head with the facts. Theresa's father was a central, pivotal part of her life. Theresa liked guns. Theresa lost her father and that loss shoved her into the frame of mind that brought her to the brink of suicide. Debby's rape/death was the final shove that sent Theresa over the edge but without her father's death and with his support, she might have endured that. The two events together were what drove her to despair.
The first page has other elements of design, too. The fire is symbolic of Theresa leaving behind an old life in preparation of embracing a new one (even though she doesn't know it yet). The words 'I didn't leave a note' were the first part of an internal monologue was supposed to hit with short, sharp jabs. The font the words are in is called 'Catholic Girls are Crazy' and I felt it fit Theresa. Deceptively "girly", the font, is looped and round without being soft.
The theme of the first page would be revisited on the last page of the story
, where we discover that Theresa went back and managed to salvage at least one picture of the scrapbook. Again, there are four pictures but, this time, three of them show off her new life.