Posts tagged: Joker

Harley Quinn and my first DC Comics Writing Credit

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Page 1 – The Corwin O’Dooley Show!

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Page 2 – The Obligatory Monologue

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Page 3 – Enter: The JOKER!


This was the opening sequence of The Batman Strikes #35 which I co-wrote!

Russell Lissau was one of the writers contributing scripts for The Batman Strikes and I met him and was chatting with him at Wizard World Chicago. He mentioned that he’d wanted to do a story with the Joker but hadn’t been able to think of a Joker plot that could be told within the kid-friendly confines of the Strikes title. I mentioned an idea I’d had to tell a story from the point of view of someone under the influence of the Joker’s nerve-toxin, since in this continuity is was a paralytic rather than instantly deadly. The whole story would be about The Joker and Batman playing hot-potato with the victim while they were a helpless, paralyzed observer. Russell loved the idea and offered to co-write it with me, which lead to issue #35.

The concept got watered down a bit. I would have loved to tell the story literally from the victim’s POV – seeing it through their eyes, but I wasn’t surprised when it was deemed too  high-concept for an animation tie-in title. I’d hoped that we could at least limit our story POV to that character – only seeing and hearing what they would be personally aware of. But even that was considered to be a little too much.

Still, the story was a ton of fun. It introduced the show’s version of Harley Quinn into the comic, and centered on a late-night talk show host who earns the Joker’s ire when he is dubbed “The Clown Prince of Late Night” by a Gotham magazine. The character was deliberately a cross between David Letterman and Conan Obrian.

That opening page took forever to draw, but I really wanted that big shot looking from behind our host out at his studio audience – letting us share the view he would have walking onstage. I think this was one of the pages I apologized for when handing it off to inker Terry Beatty. I wanted the sequence to feel like you were seeing it from the stage floor of the studio, not from the POV of the audience or the cameras, so that meant a few more busy shots of the studio audience in the opening pages, until the action eventually led us to a chase outside the studio confines.

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Page 5 – Harley Quinn’s big entrance.

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Page 6 – Bruce & Dick sneak away.

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Page 7 – The helpless host.


As a note of trivia, I should mention that I designed the Corwin O’Dooley Show logo and modeled the theater on the CBS Ed Sullivan Theater where David Letterman’s show is done, which is on the next block over from DC Comics‘ offices in New York. I replaced the “CBS” letters on the marquee with “GBS (aka the Galaxy Broadcasting System),” as a nod to the TV network where Clark Kent served as a news anchor during some of the Superman comics of the 1970s.

And here’s a look at how some of these pages looked in print, with inks by Terry Beatty and colors by Heroic Age.


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Title Pages: Batman Strikes #16

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.

The Batman Strikes! #16 featured a storyline where the Joker steals the Batmobile (Oh, NOES!). This issue gave me a full-page splash to play with for my title page, but it was actually page TWO, and followed directly on the heels of this page one:

Strikes #16 page 1

Strikes #16 page 1

The sound effects on page one and the title page to follow were hand-drawn by me. As I’ve said before, I love doing my own sound effects lettering, because I enjoy it but more importantly because I can better incorporate the sound effects into the pages’ composition and design. I had wanted the effect in the bottom three panels of page one of the light from the approaching Batmobile’s headlights creeping up Batman’s figure. Notice the curved shape on Batman’s cape in the bottom-left panel above the sound effect. The light then reaches Batman’s shoulder in the next panel, then reaches his face in the bottom right panel. Sadly the colorist didn’t pick up on this and the dark gray colors were used for Batman’s costume and the effect was lost.

Strikes #16 - Title Page pencils

Strikes #16 – Title Page pencils

Strikes #16 - Title Page color

Strikes #16 – Title Page color

 


Here’s the full-page splash title page, where the Batmobile’s headlights aren’t even on. I was trying to do some light-and-shadow effects on Batman’s figure, but it all got colored dark, saturated blues and grays. Oh, well.

Hey, at least the logo pops! The character length of the story title gave me an opportunity to pay homage to another version of the Batman comic logo, as I’d previously done in The Batman Strikes! #8. You can see the logo I was referencing in Batman Strikes #16 in this blog entry from Todd Klein’s Blog.

I always found the really angular drawing style of the show’s animation design a little hard to work with, and I think that’s on display here. The Batman figure is a little blocky and awkward. The script called for Batman to see who was driving the Batmobile, even though in the show the windows all have a mirror finish, but that’s a minor fudge for storytelling purposes.

This was the Batmobile design from the first season of the TV show, and it would soon be replaced with something less stubby-looking in both the show and the comic.

I’ll have more installments of Title Pages soon, but until then you can check out previous installments! As always, questions and comments are welcome!

Title Pages: The Batman Strikes #9 and #11

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

Strikes #9 - Title Page Pencils

Strikes #9 – Title Page Pencils

Strikes #9 Title Page color

Strikes #9 – Title Page color

 


This issue of The Batman Strikes! dealt with a court hearing on the issue of whether or not The Joker was criminally sane, and would thereby be sent to Gotham State Prison rather than Arkham Asylum. I didn’t have a splash page to work with but rather a 5-panel sequence of a news chat show providing exposition to set up the story. Neither Batman, the Joker or other visually iconic characters appear on this page, so I wanted to find a way to present the logo dynamically and to brand the story visually as a Batman story. I was able to compress the 5-panels over to the left-hand side which gave me room to place the logo and a space for the credits against a Batman logo that runs across the background of the entire page. I tried to use a visually interesting type style for the logo and reversed the N in “Sanity” and alternated between capital and lowercase letters to give the title an uneven, strange quality to hopefully evoke the tone of a story about the madness of the Joker.

I had the luxury of delivering pages for The Batman Strikes! into the hands of inker Terry Beatty personally, and was able to clarify my intention that the outline of the bat shape should have a fuzzy, rough texture. Terry pulled it off expertly and I was happy with the overall results.

I made the five story panels identical in shape and made them proportional to a modern television screen, and even placed a logo for the “Extreme Celebrity Trials” TV show being shown in the lower left-hand corner of each panel screen. Somehow going from my pencils to the finished page the “Trials” got left off and left the remaining art somewhat confusing. I’m guessing there had been an intent to typeset the word “Trials” at the lettering stage and it got missed.

Strikes #11 - Title Page pencils

Strikes #11 – Title Page pencils

Strikes #11 - Title Page color

Strikes #11 – Title Page color

 


This issue was based on a story idea I suggested, and the concept got a little watered down in execution from what I’d wanted. The basic idea was “A Day in the Life of Alfred.” I really wanted to have everything in the story be from Alfred’s point of view – only seeing Bruce Wayne or Batman when they were physically in Alfred’s presence or during several phone conversations between Alfred and Bruce/Batman. Alfred would call Bruce to get his input on an event at Wayne Manor Alfred was preparing, and as Batman answers by saying “This isn’t the best time, Alfred,” we’d see him in a frantic action scene fighting the Pengin or whichever villain we hadn’t seen in the series for a while. The fight would continue while Batman conducts his business with Alfred by phone,  and then we’d leave the scene just as abruptly as we’d entered it when the call ends. Later in the story Batman would need Alfred’s support from the Batcave and we’d get the middle of another action scene while Batman and Alfred talked again. The story’s climax, of course, would have had Batman battle with the villain take them to Wayne Manor, where Alfred’s would have participated directly in the story’s conclusion. Unfortunately I wasn’t involved in the back-and-forth of the story getting developed and approved by our editor, and I don’t think the writer was positioned to defend the concept the way I would have had I been writing the book. The story as it was published still strongly featured Alfred, but the “high concept” aspect of the story was completely lost. I still think it’s a fun idea and I’d love to take another crack at it one day.

As for the title page itself, note the sound effects for the alarm clock in panel one. I liked the way the monotonous series of BEEPs lead down to where the beeping is terminated by Alfred’s hand reaching out to the clock. The sound effects I penciled were slightly reworked on the finshed page, but the effect is slargely the same.

This page is a great example of how I was trying to compensate for the simple, stylized animation designs I had to use with extreme lighting. I was trying to give the images weight and depth and keep it from looking more like a Batman story than a kiddie book.

Finally the story title itself appears in the large final panel on the page. I used simple, bold letters and tried to set the title in perspective to suggest that it was flush with the wall of Alfred’s bedroom. The credits followed the lead of the logo and I think the final result was simple but effective.

More soon…!

Creating a Cover: The Batman Strikes #28

OK, time for one more Creating a Cover breakdown before Fallcon!

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.

Batman Strikes #28 Cover sketch a

Batman Strikes #28 Cover sketch a

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.

Batman Strikes #28 Cover - sketch b

Batman Strikes #28 Cover - sketch b

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.

Batman Strikes #28 Cover - sketch c

Batman Strikes #28 Cover - sketch c

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.

Batman Strikes #28 Cover Inks

Batman Strikes #28 Cover Inks

The inks were provided by Terry Beatty, who did an especially nice job on some of the background textures on this one.

Batman Strikes #28 Cover Colors

Batman Strikes #28 Cover Colors

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.

Batman Strikes #28 - Final Cover

Batman Strikes #28 - Final Cover

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…

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