We’re looking again at an issue of The Batman Strikes!, the comic book-tie in to The Batman animated TV series.
This issue featured a story by Jai Nitz that had Joker stealing Scarface from the Ventriloquist and going on a crime spree with the dummy. Batman ends up working with The Ventriloquist to track down Scarface and defeat Joker. It’s a fun story idea. I’d have loved to see more done with the fact that Scarface is just a dummy and his personality is manifested from the personality of the individual holding him. But it’s a 20-page comic and I don’t know what went on behind-the-scenes with the developing of the story. DC often has different ideas then I do about what’s appropriate in an all-ages comic. But I digress…
I began as usual with submitting some sketches for different cover concepts. Just 3 this time.
Sketch A: This was my main idea – a leaping Joker (he was very bouncy and monkey-like in this incarnation) holding Scarface and menacing Batman. I figured it would probably have a background added (and indicated such when submitting my sketches), but I wasn’t going to bother to work out a background yet when just trying to get sign-off on which concept to pursue. It should be noted that Scarface in the comics is typically drawn as a ventriloquist dummy caricature of an Al Capone-style gangster. The Batman had chosen to update Scarface’s look to reference the John Travolta-like disco suit worn by Al Pacino in his Scarface film. I actually thought that was one of their more successful villain redesigns.
Sketch B: This one is a little hard to appreciate in sketch form, but I really liked this concept. I had subtly distorted Scarface’s features to make them more Joker-like – essentially an amalgam of the two. I indicated that I wanted Scarface colored with the Joker’s white skin, red lips and eyes, and yellow teeth. This version of Scarface was bald, so sadly there was no hair to turn green. Obviously a symbolic cover and not something literally appearing in the story, I think this close-up would have been very striking on the comic shop shelf, especially with some nice under-lighting.
Sketch C: Finally I thought it would be fun to show Joker and The Ventriloquist battling over Scarface. Not a lot of room for Batman in this design, but I didn’t think it was essential. His name was on the book.
Sketch A was chosen, so I proceeded with pencils, adding a background modeled on the Arkham Asylum rec room as seen in the animated TV show. I tried to make the setting claustrophobic and moody, with the lines of perspective working with the curve of Batman’s cape to really pull the characters together and emphasize the confrontation.
The inks were provided by Terry Beatty, who did an especially nice job on some of the background textures on this one.
This is the version of the color art that was used for solicitations. I wasn’t happy that so much of the background was washed out, and it seemed odd to me that such a bright light source was used behind the figures but the coloring on the figures themselves didn’t seem to follow that light source – or really any light source. But I liked the color scheme over all and I thought the amber tones used for the background worked well.
So at some point someone decided that it would be better if the background were pink.
Yeah, I know. I don’t get it either.
It always seemed to me that regardless of the tone of the story inside, the covers of the Johnny DC books were always geared with their logos and cover copy to appeal to 5-year-old boys. And apparently someone thought that 5-year-old boys really loved a lot of pink with their Batman.
See you next time…
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