Commentary: Young Justice #9 “Cold Case”

OK, I’d meant to do this about a week ago, but I was too busy for blogging, but at long last here’s my commentary on Young Justice issue 9! I’m including samples of a few pages of artwork here, but I’m commenting on close to every page, so grab your copy of the comic from your local Comic Shop or your digital copy and read along!

YJ #9 pencils pg 1

YJ #9 pencils pg 1

Page 1: This was a fun way to start the story with single-character panels showing the members of the Team bored by the lecture they are hearing, but all demonstrating their individual personalities. Connie cameo in panel two! Probably the most interesting detail on the page lies in what Aqualad is writing on his notepad…

Page 2: This page was a little frustrating to compose, as it features the Team arranged classroom-style listing to a lecture by Captain Atom. I felt I needed to show Captain Atom from the front as this full-page shot was the reveal of his character as the guest-instructor for the Team, and we needed to see what was written on the holographic “white board” behind him. I ended up doing a side shot of this scene in order to clearly include all that detail. A downshot would have been a little more visually interesting, but I was worried that the setting wouldn’t be clear  as the Mount Justice Mission Room if we could only see the floor, and I didn’t want to wait until page 3 of the scene to make it clear where we were. The biggest problem with the angle I showed is that it begs to be a panoramic *wide* shot, but has to fit within the portrait aspect-ratio of the comic book page. I tried to sandwich the shot I wanted before the overhead dome fixture that tops the Mission Room, and some space at the bottom left open for credits and/or the title.

YJ #09 pencils pg 3

YJ #09 pencils pg 3

Page 3: One of the big things in this story were these holographic displays that appear throughout. I created these images (note the ID photo, typset text, voice print, and fingerprint seen on the display in panel 3), and in any panel where the background is partially visible through the semi-transparent holographic projection, the holo-image was provided as a separate layer from the line art so it can be composited at the coloring stage. Once upon a time this would have been sent to DC comics as a vellum overlay on the original artwork for the production people to deal with, but now it’s a separate layer in the scanned art Photoshop file.

Page 4: The shots of Miss Martian in “camouflage mode” are hand-drawn rather than created the same way as some of the holo-displays, but as those figures they needed to be transparent they also were provided as separate layers.

Page 5: Yet another holo-image, this time projected from Robin’s gadget-laden gloves. It was around this time I realized how much this mystery story was turning out to be very special-effects heaving regarding the artwork.

Page 6: This flashback sequence was described in the script as being in “sepia tones,” and the scenes within the sequence were meant to be not bound by discrete panel borders. Multiple-image montages are a fun challenge when they’re a collage of figures and faces, but given that these images were individual scenes with specific background settings, I had a real challenge. My solution was to stylize the sequence so the characters are floating against an inky black background, with the figures and settings picked out in the (sepia toned) light. This let me suggest backgrounds where they were needed with bits of detail but letting the background otherwise bleed off into darkness so the images were separated but without hard panel borders.

There were some revisions on this page around the fact that the body at the center of the story’s murder-mystery was meant to be found with a knife sticking out of his chest. It was key to the plot, as the murder weapon was the key piece of physical evidence in the original trial. Even though that this storyline was in keeping with the tone of the Animated TV show upon which the comic was based (the show whose head writer Greg Weisman is writing the comic!), there was concern that this was too much for a comic considered to be part of  DC’s Johnny DC line. The price of trying to push the envelope of what we can get away with in the comic is that sometimes there’s some negotiation required and sometimes the battleground of those negotiations are art revisions. Ah, well…

Page 7: Problem: How do you do an establishing shot of the Las Vegas strip when it’s the small first panel on a page of 5? You put a couple of palm trees in front of a recognizable neon and light covered entrance to one of the iconic Vegas casinos. Problem: How do you make said entrance even less recognizable even though the name of the casino has been removed from the facade? You change the color scheme!

BTW – I’m amused by Superboy’s flippant response to the unknowing casino employee’s concerned question about his age.
Dealer: “You ARE under twenty-one?”
Superboy: “In weeks or months?”

YJ #9 pencils pg 8-9

YJ #9 pencils pg 8-9

Pages 8 & 9: Part of why I wanted a good solution to the flashback montage issue back on page 6 was I knew it was going to come up again on this double-page spread across pages 8 and 9. The biggest challenge was the 3-panel Viet Nam combat sequence, but I think I was able to successfully frame the action in the negative space within the silhouettes of palm trees. Man, the stuff you have to figure out drawin’ comics! (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the inked and colored version of this double-page spread!)

Page 10: The flashback continues! These images seemed relatively simple to deal with after the jungle combat scenes on the previous pages. Back in the present, Wally is still eating.

YJ #9 pencils pg 11

YJ #9 pencils pg 11

Page 11: The sequence with Robin and Miss Martian finding a body was fun to draw, as it was filled with lots of moody shadows. I love doing sequences like this, which I suppose is partly why I love drawing the Batman characters so much.

Page 12: Miss Martian proves telekinesis is useful when carefully investigating crime scenes. Oh look, another holographic display!

Page 13: More CSI work simplified by Miss Martian’s superpowers. When the inevitable Miss Martian Mysteries series happens, can I draw it?

Page 14: We meet Captain Nathaniel Adams’ adult children. His son was meant to strongly resemble his father and is wearing an Air Force captain’s uniform, but I didn’t want the characters to appear identical, so I added an extra little cowlick of hair to the short, military haircut, and added a slight cleft in the chin.

Page 15: Aqualad and Artemis walking on the beach. Nice, interesting color choices for this sequence by colorist Zac Atkinson.

Page 16: Another holo-display AND thermal vision. I should have taken the time to do a color guide for the thermal vision panels, as I’d have preferred to see these panels without the black line art and with brighter colors for the “hot spots” in the image. Oh, well. Next time…

Page 17: More panels with Miss Martian in camo-mode, meaning more figures drawn on separate layers so we can see background showing through them.

YJ #9 pencils pg 18

YJ #9 pencils pg 18

Page 18: Here’s our first look at Rako, the artist formerly known as The Cambodian. This guy was a villain in the Captain Atom comic series from the 1980s during the time Greg Weisman was working on it. One of the first notes I saw about this character from Greg was that he intended to rename him. I guess nothing great ever presented itself other than the guy’s given name, as that’s the only thing he’s called in this story. Rako’s look was redesigned by me from his original appearance as The Cambodian. The armor is meant to look like traditional armor of the region if it had been rebuilt by Tony Stark. I’ll be doing a blog entry on that process very soon. And oh look, another thermal vision panel!

Page 19: That’s the last camo-mode panel of the story. I was kind of surprised to see that a sound effect wasn’t added to Rako’s backhanding of Miss Martian here.

Page 20: As much back-and-forth as there was over that knife sticking out of the murder victim’s chest earlier in the issue, it was nothing compared to the negotiations around how to show the wound on Superboy’s chest. Again, a crucial plot point – Superboy is cut and bleeding. But could we show blood? Was it enough to just show energy steaming up from the wound and have the dialog indicate that Superboy’s skin had been cut? Ultimately a little blood was indicated with color with no wound being shown beyond a slashed T-shirt.

Well that brings us to the end of another issue. I’ve previously done similar reviews/breakdowns of Young Justice #7 and Young Justice #8 over at World’s Finest Online. I’ll eventually be duplicating that content here as well as going back and doing similar reviews for my first two issues on the title.

Anyone still with me after all that? Is anyone finding this level of detail in analysis interesting? I’d love to hear from you. Leave some comments!

Young Justice #9 pages 8-9 color

Young Justice #9 pages 8-9 color


  • By Christopher Adams, November 11, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

    I really enjoy reading your analyses, even though I am completely clueless about the process of creating art!

    One question, though, which you may or may not be able to answer:

    In the cartoon series, Artemis has dark brown eyes. In the comic, she has bright blue eyes, as if she weren’t half-Vietnamese but just a stereotypical white girl.

    Was this deliberate, or did colourist Zac Atkinson just not get the memo?

  • By Christopher Jones, November 11, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    That would be a question for Zac, but if I had to guess I’d say it was a detail that just fell through the cracks. Either that or you can look forward to the epic untold tale of how Artemis came by her color contacts!

    Thanks for commenting!

  • By Yojimbo, November 12, 2011 @ 3:25 am

    I love your work so far and wish there was a way for there to be two issues a month! Thanks so much for blogging about the comic, it’s great to get insight from the artist. It’s something you wouldn’t see a few years ago, even.

    For the supporting cast that appeared in this issue (ex. Randy and Peggy Eiling, the military officers like Mason or Blankly), aside from Eiling who just showed up in episode 16, did you work off designs from Phil Bourassa or were you in charge of submitting designs to Greg Weisman, Brandon Vietti, and Bourassa?

    For the JAG officer that Miss Martian impersonated, was Dr. Roquette from the episode “Infiltrator” used as an influence for her look?

  • By Christopher Jones, November 12, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

    Thanks for the blog comment and for the kind words about my work!

    Generally characters who will be appearing on the show are designed far in advance of the episode airing, so if a character scripted to appear in the comic will be on the show in the forseeable future there is an existing design by the show’s design team. Some characters who have appeared previously in DC Comics but who aren’t slated to appear on the Young Justice TV show need to be designed, so that falls to me. Randy and Peggy Eiling are a good example of that. In such cases I have some latitude to design the “Young Justice” version of those characters, but I try to keep it within the established design sense of the show and any major characters are signed off on by Greg Weisman and company.

    And yes, the JAG officer Miss Martian impersonated was meant to look exactly like Dr. Roquette from “Infiltrator”…

  • By Yojimbo, November 14, 2011 @ 1:07 am

    No problem, it’s been great having some extra content for the series.

    Interesting process. So for #9, how many design drafts did you back and forth with the staff on ones like Randy and Peggy Eiling before it was settled on?

  • By Christopher Jones, November 14, 2011 @ 3:27 am

    Randy and Peggy were just drawn right into the page art without models being approved in advance, but I was asked to change Peggy’s hair from what I’d initially drawn. I initially gave her shorter hair as we’ve had a lot of women with shoulder-length hair, and Greg wanted her hair long. Other characters have had models drawn and approved before I penciled the page art. Examples would include Rako/The Cambodian for the current issue and Talia and Ubu for the upcoming issue #11.

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