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.
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.
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