I figured out something workable. But before getting to that, let me tell you the two proposed solutions I rejected, and why they don't work for my needs.
1) I wasn't open to considering the Flash Titles plugin, since I want to keep my site lean, quick loading, and maximally compatible.
2) I also couldn't consider changing the template files as suggested in the previous post, because most of my pages will always be headed by text rather than graphics.
It's clear that there's currently no easy way to insert graphics code in the title bar thanks to WordPress' method of parsing the title box to create a permalink. As we've seen on this thread, the only way to insert graphics into the title bar is to resort to complicated template modifications or felony-level coding violations like the one I was committing by deliberately not closing my tag.
So I got to thinking, why not just erase the contents of the Title box, and embed the graphics code at the top of the Page field instead? It works almost perfectly. The date floats to the top, which isn't optimal, but it's not a dealbreaker. Apart from that, everything's perfect. I've got clean, simple code. And if and when WordPress supports entering graphics into the Title box, I can always easily come back and move it up there. Here's how my page looks in case anyone's interested:
The only requirement for this approach is that you either initially create your page with the desired title in the title bar (to create a permalink), and then delete the title later. Or I suppose you could just enter the desired permalink title the first time you save the page.
I'm going to mark this thread as resolved. I'm also going to look into making a feature request that future versions of WordPress support embedding graphics code into titles. Thanks to everyone who chipped to help me with this issue. I could not have figured this out on my own.