Saturday, January 6, 2007
The Batman Year 100 trade paperback is out January 17th, followed the week after by Fantastic Four #543 (see cover below), which includes a 12 pg. short story I wrote and drew. Both are colored by Jose Villarrubia.
Working with established characters such as Batman or the FF can be very challenging, but also very interesting. There are certain things the characters simply have to do, certain notes you have to hit to make it FEEL like a Batman or an FF story. To make something new and never-before-seen out of something old and familiar, you have to somehow add to the original without taking away any of the integrity of the original, and if you fake it people will know. Within that, there is always something new you can offer. The great challenge here is to avoid falling back on what's been done a thousand times before, which is the age-old temptation of giving the audience exactly what they want and expect. A pitfall, and a lot of the fans hate it when you deviate from exactly what they want or expect. But, even with these old characters, there is always the opportunity to present a well-worn idea in a new and exciting way. After all, the quality of being "old" isn't bad in itself, and often it's an addition. There are always new ways to find new depths possible from a character or a scenario, and that's how I approach stuff like this. It is a good excercize one can take back into his or her own personal work.
Above is an unpublished piece of Batman art I did while waiting to see if the Year 100 series would be approved. Always needing to conserve drawing paper, I often flip a page over once I have one study drawn in order to do another. Since I draw with my left hand, I like to have something for the right to hold onto, to steady the drawing surface. I call this kind of stuff a "ramp-up". I do ramp-ups to get a more uniquely individual sense of a character, to help set an appropriate mood for a new story. The FF story is much more light-hearted, and a lot of the ramping-up had to do with trying to really "get" The Thing. Much more so than the others, he has proven to be suprisingly hard to draw correctly.
With Batman, it took sometime to get the mask and ears right. It seems to me his mask and ears are the notes you have to hit in order for Batman to be Batman, no matter what else you do. There are many ways to portray this character and many work well since there are so many different established versions of the character to work from. In my case, I've always preferred the "slit-V" mask of Bob Kane's original version, so that's where I started. DC was cool with my re-design for Batman but stopped me when I tried to give him the original Bob Kane pink gloves. To be honest, they did look a bit silly.