Posts tagged: process

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: 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: 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…!

Commentary: Young Justice #10 “Hot Case”

Hi everyone! Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. I was super-busy for a few days and then had an internet outage. But I’m back, and raring to go!

Here’s my commentary on Young Justice issue 10, part two of our murder mystery featuring Captain Atom! 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 10-01 pencils

Page 1 pencils

YJ 10-01 inks

Page 1 inks

YJ 10-01 color

Page 1 color

YJ 10-01 letters

Page 1 letters

Page 1: It’s funny how the successive stages of completing a comic book page make a page look simpler and simpler. The background for these opening pages seemed really busy with detail when I was penciling them. Of course, you have the texture of the pencil lines, and black areas are either filled with X’s or shaded in, as opposed to the smooth solid blacks you get when the artwork is inked. Then when the artwork is colored and the background is colored in muted tones so the figures stand out, what once looked seemed like a lot of time-consuming detail just fades into the background and is easy to not even notice. Greg Weisman has started listing me as “Christopher A. Jones” in the credits section of his scripts. Now it’s actually shown up in the credits on the comic. Now my middle initial IS “A,” but I try to keep my credit consistent. It’s been mentioned to my editor, but won’t be fixed until after issue #11. So if you are blogging about comics or moderating any kind of index or gallery or forum – I’ve been listed as Chris Jones, Christopher Jones, Christopher A. Jones, and Christopher R. Jones in various places and on various books. “Christopher Jones” is the preferred credit, and the “R” is flat out wrong. You’d think with a name like mine it would be simple, wouldn’t you? I wonder what kinds of problems Bill Sienkiewicz has?

Page 2: In combat with Rako, the Artist formerly known as the Cambodian. I think I’ve been drawing the characters in their stealth costume variants more than the standard versions.

Page 3: This page featured a lot of action that was kind of challenging to depict. First we have Miss Martian freezing some thrown shurikens in mid-air, and then having them clatter on the floor. Both of those action beats are hard to effectively convey in a static image. Then a tapestry falls across four charging heroes, engulfing them suddenly in darkness. It’s a bit of a jarring transition (which it’s meant to be), but I’m pressed to envision how the tapestry got from the wall to covering a flying girl, Superboy and Kid Flash without them seeing what hit them. But hopefully you weren’t thinking that when you read it. Of course, I now had to go and bring it up…

Page 4: I like the moody last panel with the silhouetted heroes looking on the scene of Robin crouching over Trang’s body. And the body count for this story continues to climb!

YJ 10-05 pencils

Page 5 pencils

YJ 10-05 letters

Page 5 final

Page 5: Bibbo! This supporting character from Superman comics runs a Metropolis diner in the continuity of the Young Justice animated series. And yes, that’s Perry White at the counter.

What’s that? Why is Miss Martian green when they’re sitting in their civilian clothes in public? Um, because Metropolis is one of only three cities in the DC Universe that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in August. Uh…, because there’s a big Star Trek convention taking place next door and she’s passing herself off as an Orion girl. Would you believe Red Kryptonite? Move along, move along…

Page 6: Cell phones, headshots, and fingers. One of the most pulse-poundingly dynamic pages I’ve ever drawn!

Page 7: How many ways can we show characters looking at pictures on their smart phones? From panel-to-panel it was a question of whether the reader had to see what was on the phone, and how large I could make the picture on the phone while showing who was holding the phone and allowing enough room for dialog.

Page 8: BOOOOM! The body count continues to climb.

Page 9: It was nice to draw Kid Flash doing his stuff. I’ve drawn remarkably little of KF moving at high-speed six issues into my run on this title.

YJ 10-10 pencils

Page 10 pencils

YJ 10-10 letters

Page 10 final

Page 10: Halfway through part two of the story, the mystery-solving is largely out of the way. Let’s get ready to rumble!

I’m going to share a trick with all of  you. Whenever possible, it’s nice to keep backgrounds simple. For one thing it actually serves the story by keeping the reader’s eye focused on the action of the page, and for another more self-serving thing for the artist, it makes the pages faster to draw. But backgrounds ground the story in a specific reality, give the story texture and can provide story information in their detail. What to do? My preference is to open a scene with a detailed establishing master shot, hopefully providing bits of distinctive detail that can be repeated throughout the rest of the scene to continue to establish the location, but without having the repeat the complex opening master shot.

Case in point, panel one of page 10 has a detailed exterior establishing shot of an abandoned airport hanger. Panel two moves us inside, and the rest of the page shows the silhouetted windows, the grubby floor, and the catwalk where our villain is standing in front of some overhead lights. Notice how those elements repeated over the next few pages are enough to maintain our sense of this place, but rarely do we see more than a reference to the detail established on this page.

Page 11: Mostly close-ups on this page as we set the stage for the final confrontation. Note how much background detail we see…

Page 12: It’s not related to the artwork, but I just wanted to mention how much I love the way Robin laughs when he disappears into the shadows on Young Justice. To me it’s a callback to the earliest kid daredevil incarnation of the character. Greg Weisman told me that he figured Batman would have taught Robin his disappearing trick, but that as a 13-year-old kid Robin would think it was so cool he’d just laugh as people freaked out over his disappearance rather than just keeping his trap shut like the old man!

Page 13: It’s interesting the kinds of things you learn how to convey in a line drawing. The script called for Artemis to fire an arrow at Rois who is holding a dead-man switch. The arrow is tipped with a canister of foam that expands up Rois’ arm and hardens so that by the time Kid Flash plows into him in the final panel on the page, it’s a hard shell covering Rois’s entire arm and part of his torso. It’s largely about texture – trying to make the foam initially gloppy with curvy smooth lines, then more angular and chunky-looking as it hardens.

Page 14: I’m really happy with the first three panels on this page as Aqualad takes out Rako with his water-bearers, but even while I was penciling it I realized that Rako’s sword and Aqualad’s water weapons are all colored cyan blue and were going to all run together a bit in this action sequence. Hopefully it plays even though the action is a bit monochromatic.

YJ 10-15 pencils

Page 15 pencils

YJ 10-15 letters

Page 15 final

Page 15: Superboy gets to play the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet game. I had to show one of the bullets bouncing off Superboy’s chest and hitting the shooter. I was really happy with the layout I came up with that draws a direct line from the point of impact on Superboy’s chest in panel 3 through a silhouette of the shooter in panel four. I had hoped the silhouette would make the action clear without having to show any kind of wound that I knew would cause problems with the folks that worry about the all-ages nature of the Johnny DC titles. I was especially happy with how this worked with the red background provided in the color version.

Page 16: Back to Mount Justice to explain the solution to the murder mystery and wrap things up. I just drew headshots for these holo-displays and unfortunately they didn’t get typeset captions at the lettering stage. The dialog makes it clear who everyone is so it’s not a huge problem, but it makes me think that next time I need to typeset that stuff myself like I did the previous issue.

Page 17: Almost all of the imagery from what Kid Flash is describing hear had appeared previously in flashbacks in the previous issue, but this time I have the convenience of placing them within panel borders.

Page 18: The last of the holo-displays from this 2-parter. Whew!

Page 19: What??? Captain Atom IS Captain Nathaniel Adams? I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you!

Page 20: I’m amazed that after all the concern over a knife hilt sticking out of a corpse’s chest and whether we could show blood on Superboy’s chest wound that we got away with a character lighting and smoking a cigar in an all-ages book. I guess it’s OK because he’s the bad guy…

Well, that wraps up another one. Check back in about a month’s time for a Commentary on Young Justice #11, featuring Batman, Ra’s al Ghul and Talia! I’d love to hear from you if you find this kind of detailed commentary interesting. Drop me a note in the comment section below!