Posts tagged: Catwoman

Title Pages: Batman Strikes #14

It’s time for another installment of Title Pages, featuring another title page from my run on The Batman Strikes! which was a tie-in comic for The Batman animated TV series. A Title Page is the page which features the story title and credits for the issue, and is often (but not always) a Splash Page, which is a full-page image, rather than a page broken up into multiple panels.

Issue #14 of The Batman Strikes! was the concluding chapter of the 50-issue series’ only 2-parter, and we opened with a full-page splash continuation of the previous issue’s cliffhanger: Batman and Catwoman under attack by Clayface!

Strikes #14 - Title Page pencils

Strikes #14 – Title Page pencils

Strikes #14 - Title Page inks

Strikes #14 – Title Page inks

 


This page is a great example of how I really tried on this book to compose pages with areas of high-contrast light and dark. And the full-page splash allowed me to frame a nice shot of good and gloppy Clayface menacing Batman and Catwoman and still gave me room for one of my more elaborate title logo designs, complete with hourglass and ripping letters, with space below for the story credits. That kind of texture work really played to series inker Terry Beatty’s strengths, and I always looked forward to seeing what he’d do on pages like this.

Strikes #14 - Title Page color

Strikes #14 – Title Page color

Sadly, this page is also a great example of why I wish I’d had more input on the coloring of this series, as I often felt like the approach used was working in direct opposition to what I was trying to do with the lien art. For some reason Clayface was given a special color treatment where all the blacks on the figure were lightened from pure black to a dark gray color. I felt this really flattened the character by diminishing the contrast of the light-and-shadow effects I was employing to give the figure weight and mass. A similar lightening effect was used on the cityscape in the background and the buildings were placed against a sky color that was tonally similar, which served to visually obliterate the skyline, and doesn’t bear any resemblance to how skyscapers in a large city look at night. Furthermore, a similar lightening color effect was employed on the clay in the foreground that Batman and Catwoman were immersed in. I feel that the coloring effect so overpowered the line art, that it’s use in the foreground, midground and background really flattened the whole image, and turned what had been a carefully composed image into something of a muddy (pun-intended) mess.

At least the coloring on the logo worked well, and the bottom third of the page really pops. I just wish that this coloring effect wasn’t used on Clayface, as it was through the whole issue!

I’ll have more installments of Title Pages soon, but until then you can check out previous installments!

Title Pages: The Batman Strikes #12 & #13

Two new Title Pages again, both from my run on The Batman Strikes! which was a tie-in comic for The Batman animated TV series.

This first page is from The Batman Strikes #12, and is an example of me trying to create a splash page out of nothing. I like to open a story with a splash page (a comic industry term for a full-page image, rather than a page broken up into multiple panels), both because there’s a tradition of comic book title pages being on splash pages, and because a dynamic full-page image creates a dramatic “moment” which seems like a nice spot to place the story title and credits. I also like splash pages at the beginning of the story because of the role they can play in hooking a reader.

A cover is critical when a retailer is deciding what to order from the catalog, or when a reader is perusing the shelves of their local comic shop, but once they pick up an copy and flip through it, I like to be sure that the first few pages have some dynamic imagery rather than a bunch of sequential panel story telling that is hopefully compelling but may have to be read more closely to be effective.

Strikes #12 Title Page pencils

Strikes #12 Title Page pencils

Strikes #12 - Title Page color

Strikes #12 – Title Page color

 


So that was all in my head when I looked at the scripted opening page for The Batman Strikes #12, and saw that it was a 4-panel sequence of fairly static images, although one of them called for Batman perched on top of a building that was surrounded by plain-clothes security. My approach, then, was to make the first three panels work together as a triptych, so we had one large image across the top of the page. I went with a super-low angle which worked to frame the action of the security guys featured in panels one and two, but leave Batman visible several stories up in panel three. I also hoped that this extreme angle would make the image more dynamic, even though it was without any real action.

The story of this issue involved the scientist who created Bane locked up on a Gotham jail cell. The GCPD have to hold off Bane who is trying to reach his creator, and the reader is unsure if Bane is attempting rescue or revenge. I tried to create a sense of menace with the logo, with broken, uneven lettering and including a cross-hair design element. I was hoping to evoke a tone like Assault on Precinct 13. Overall, I think this page was pretty effective.

Strikes #13 - Title Page pencils

Strikes #13 – Title Page pencils

Strikes #13 - Title Page colors

Strikes #13 – Title Page colors

 


Next up is The Batman Strikes #13 which again features Catwoman. The story title logo was pretty simple this time, and I laid it against the side of a building. I was again trying to open up a multi-panel page to create a more dynamic full-page image. The best I could do this time was to create a large image of towering skyscrapers in Gotham that runs across the background of the entire page with the remaining four panels floating over it.

And that’s about all I can think of to say about this page, except encouraging any fans of 1970s Batman comics to speculate whether that building with the open area in the middle and a tree inside is the Wayne Foundation Building.

I’ll have more installments of Title Pages soon, but until then you can check out previous installments!

And remember, questions and comments are welcome!

Title Pages: Batman Strikes #6

Hi all! Sorry I’ve been so quiet the last few days. Busy, busy, busy. Maybe I should do like Mark Evanier and just post a picture of  soup can on days when he’s too busy to blog. Hm, come to think of it I’m not even sure what that means…

Batman Strikes #6 - Title Logo

Batman Strikes #6 - Title Logo

Anyway, here’s a look at another Title Page from The Batman Strikes!, featuring another hand-drawn story title logo. This one features Catwoman, and I should say something about her design here. Like all the major villains appearing in The Batman Strikes!, Catwoman’s design is based on animation models from the animated TV show the comic was a tie-in for. This Catwoman costume had large yellow goggles, presumably influenced by the then-recent Darwyn Cooke redesign of the character. The animation design also had a loose collar, which could pull over her head as a hood for added stealth.  That’s one of those ideas that sounds cool on paper but then doesn’t get used much in practice. I could be mistaken but I suspect that Catwoman was first seen on the show lowering the hood to dramatically reveal her mask and then it never went back on. I’m pretty sure she never had it up in any of the comic stories I drew.

But the main thing about this Catwoman design that was – I’ll be generous and call it controversial – with fans were the ears. Now if you look at her, I see what they were going for. The ears are actually more anatomically in proportion with her head for certain breeds of cats, and the big ears I think actually add to the overall slinkiness of the figure. And this Catwoman was meant to be slinky! But whether it’s Catwoman, Batman, or a host of other costumed characters emulating those or similar animals, there has become something of a tradition that the ears are represented by stylized little triangle shapes, and it’s somewhat disconcerting to see these huge cat wars sitting o Catwoman’s head. I actually found the mask fun to draw, but much like this animated series’ version of the Joker, fans were vocal about their dislike of the design every time the character showed up.

Batman Strikes #6 - Title Page

Batman Strikes #6 - Title Page

Here’s the full penciled page. Notice the really elaborate city background and the tiny figure of Catwoman climbing over it in multiple images. I’m a big fan of Marshall Rogers work on Batman, and the biggest lesson I learned from his work is that when drawing Batman one of the main characters of the story is Gotham City. Putting the characters in a rich, detailed, vast Gotham really makes them sing.

As a bonus, one of my hand-drawn sound effects appears here as Catwoman’s whip takes apart an inconvenient security camera. The sound effect is a simple one, but I always like to design sound effects myself when I can, so I can better integrate their shape and placement into the design of the panel.

Batman Strikes #6 Title Page

Batman Strikes #6 Title Page

And finally the finished page. More to come soon!

Creating a Cover: The Batman Strikes #13

Here’s another breakdown of the cover creation process, this time diving further into the past and looking back at one of my covers for The Batman Strikes, specifically issue #13. It’s an interesting case study as a lot of things went wrong with this one.

As usual, we start with sketches inspired by the story for the issue. I knew that the story involved Catwoman and Batman working together against a common enemy, so I thought it would be fun to treat Batman and Catwoman as a Dynamic Duo, especially since Robin and Batgirl had yet to be introduced into this animated TV show continuity.

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch a

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch a

Batman #9 (1942)

Batman #9 (1942)

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch b

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch b

Sketch A was the most literal expression of this “Dynamic Duo” idea, deliberately evoking the classic cover to Batman #9 from 1942 (seen above). Sketch B was a more original design, with a leaping Batman and Catwoman with some nice underlighting and casting shadows on Batman’s cape. These sketches were drawn in marker and then I added the logo and some gray tones in Photoshop to better indicate what the finished cover would look like. As usual, I’m also trying to allow space for the UPC Code box and the cover text blurb I know will be added. You’ll notice that the masthead says #9 – that’s simply the issue I scanned to grab those cover elements for my layouts.

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch c

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch c

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch d

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch d

Sketch C had Catwoman essentially taking over the book, not only appearing solo on the cover, but with her name plastered over Batman’s in the book’s logo. I didn’t think it was likely this one was gonna fly, but I love covers that play with the logo in some way, so I thought it was worth suggesting. Finally (or so I thought), Sketch D features Batman and Catwoman framed by the shadow of the monsterous true villain of the story.

Usually four cover ideas are plenty – either one of those is chosen as is, or often an editor will want to modify an idea or combine elements from two of them, leading to the final design. Not this time. The editor informed me that they wanted to have Catwoman and Batman in a confrontational posture, so none of the ideas I’d submitted were going to work at all. I thought it made more sense to play up the unique dynamic from the story rather than a more generic situation that could be applied to any other Catwoman appearance, but that’s the nature of commercial art – you’re hired for your ideas and your skills but the decisions are up to the client. So I got to do a whole second wave of sketches!

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch e

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch e

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch f

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch f

At this point I was wanting to deliver sketch ideas that were conceptually pretty generic but still visually interesting. Sketch E has Batman and Catwoman facing off on a ledge while surrounded by cats. I thought this design had some nice depth and the cats added some interest. Sketch F featured a leaping Batman and Catwoman, but surrounded by Batman’s curling cape.

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch g

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch g

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch h

Batman Strikes #13 - cover sketch h

Sketch G had an angry Catwoman and an army of cats facing off against Batman, and Sketch H had Batman and Catwoman simply on a rooftop, using the curling shape of Catwoman’s whip and still more cats to add visual interest again.

After all that, Sketch G was chosen, so it was time to draw some cats!

Batman Strikes #13 - cover pencils

Batman Strikes #13 - cover pencils

Batman Strikes #13 - cover inks

Batman Strikes #13 - cover inks

I changed Batman’s pose slightly from the sketch to have him holding his cape up in a protective gesture, and added shadows behind Catwoman and the cats to create a bit of a sense of depth, as the drawing was looking a little flat prior to their addition. Looking back I’m not entirely happy with the Batman figure here. The art style from The Batman animated TV series that I was emulating here was stylized in ways that ever felt natural to me. There were a lot of stylizations around Batman’s cape and how it should drape and move. I always found it challenging to balance the look of the animation design from that series with my more naturalistic instincts for animation, the draping of fabric, and so on. Early on I tried hard on The Batman Strikes to stick to the rules the TV show had for how Batman’s cape should drape and move, but over time I took greater and greater liberties with it as I realized I was trying to make the cape look its best in the static images of comics, rather than in the moving medium of animation. But I digress…

I drew Catwoman to be snarling in a threatening manner. It’s always hard to keep women’s faces from looking unattractive with expressions like this, especially in a small drawing. It was further complicated here by the fact that Catwoman’s mask design included goggles that concealed her eyes, so you only have the mouth to convey expression. The expression was a little rough in the pencils, and I think was a little harsher after being inked (inks by Terry Beatty as usual for The Batman Strikes).

Batman Strikes #13 - cover colors

Batman Strikes #13 - cover colors

I was rarely happy with the color on The Batman Strikes. Batman was never colored on-model for the animation design, which used a deep, rich blue for the highlights on the black parts of Batman’s costume. For some reason in the comic based on the art for that show, Batman was always colored in grays, with little contrast between the highlighting on the black parts and the tones used for the gray bodysuit. I always thought the result was drab and tended to flatten out the figure.

The colorist chose to interpret the lighting scheme of the line art by coloring the cats in different flat colors, and then overlay a glowing lighting effect over everying behind the Batman figure in the foreground. I find the effect rather washed out and flat, and it looks like the cats are fading away like ghosts.

Most interestingly, Catwoman’s mouth has been redrawn, without input from Terry Beatty or myself. The snarl has been replaced with a smile, which I imagine was consedered “prettier”, but I consider the redrawn mouth to look a bit crude and I’d have liked to have been consulted on the change.

Batman Strikes #13 - cover w logos

Batman Strikes #13 - cover w logos

Finally, here’s the published cover with the typical masthead, UPC Code and cover blurb. The colors appear a bit darker – some of which might be the result of scanning – but I suspect the brightness and contrast have been tweaked since the previous “clean” image which was used for the solicitation of the issue to retailers.

Well there you have it! Another cover breakdown. I’ll be doing more of these as well as some interior art analysis in the weeks to come! Until then, you can check out more of my cover art for The Batman Strikes – concept sketches, pencils, and finished covers - here!

New art in the Batman Strikes cover gallery

I’ve added a bunch of new art to the Batman Strikes cover art gallery, including unused cover sketches. You can see the selection of concept sketches, then follow the cover through the pencils, ink and color stages! Check it out by clicking the image!

Batman Strikes #41 Cover Color