Posts tagged: The Batman Strikes

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…!