The Dark Knight Triumphant
Henri Matisse said that an artist should make drawings “which have individual invention which comes from the artist's penetration of his subject, going so far that he identifies himself with it, so that its essential truth makes the drawing. Unless he can draw Batman. Then he should draw Batman.”
(That quote is 75% true)
On Halloween I finished up Chris Samnee’s Batober drawing challenge, completing the second half of his thirty-one prompt list. It was a whole lot of fun, and taught me three important lessons which I’ll use to build EXIT CITY:
1. Block Then Cover
I made these drawings using Adobe Fresco vector files with multiple layers. This format allowed me to switch up the traditional comics sequence of pencil, ink, color. Instead, I blocked in shapes of value before adding finishing lines and details, a process I use when making paintings. It both made things more efficient and helped keep the compositions integrated.
2. Look It Up
I also inserted reference images Fresco’s layers to speed up the drawing process. In the old-school analog days, a light table was an indispensable tool for creating overlays and mashups out of multiple images, so I did the same thing in many of these compositions. If I could name a thing in a couple keywords (e.g. “William Morris plant pattern”) Google image search delivered plenty of references.
3. Vectors As Levers
I hoped that making these drawings as vector (instead of raster) images would make them easy to adjust, resize and repurpose. It worked like a charm — when a drawing was done I would export it to Adobe Illustrator, and in about twenty minutes I had:
- Exported images of the drawing at multiple resolutions,
- Used segments of the composition to make title and end cards,
- Imported the images and cards into Adobe Premiere and created a short video post for social media.
Last month I posted short videos for each of the thirty-one drawings. If you’d like to check them out, visit @exit.city at Instagram or TikTok.
Days 1–3 are included in a previous Batober post, days 4–16 in a second one.
Day 17: Batman vs. mad scientist Hugo Strange.
Day 18: Batman vs. Deadshot the assassin. Gotham City ain’t Gotham City without big rooftop signs for pouncing on criminals.
Day 19: Another homage to The Dark Knight Returns. That story implies that Bruce Wayne retired from being Batman after Robin was killed, so the Batcave contains a memorial costume display.
Day 20: I quoted a scene from this year’s film (The Batman by Matt Reeves) in which Batman captures the Penguin after an intense freeway car chase. I thought it would be fun to switch Colin Farrell’s neo-noir Penguin for the classic Burgess Meredith version from the 1966 TV series.
Day 21: Batman vs. Poison Ivy. I “borrowed” the most elegant pose I could think of from the portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) by John Singer Sargent. I also “borrowed” an elegant William Morris pattern design for Poison Ivy’s costume.
Day 22: Gotham City ain’t Gotham City without the Bat Signal. It should be clear at this point that my favorite Bat-styles and inventions come from the 1986 series The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I think Carrie Kelley, aka Robin the Girl Wonder, is the greatest of those inventions, and IMHO remains the best version of Robin.
Day 23: The second greatest invention from The Dark Knight Returns — I directly quoted Batman explaining why a nocturnal vigilante’s costume features a garish symbol.
Day 24: I drew this as an homage to Batman — One Bad Day: The Riddler, a recent book by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Its single issue cleverly transforms the Riddler from a buffoonish showboat into a terrifying menace.
Day 25: Batman shows off his 1980s parenting technique and holds the Batcycle steady for Robin’s (Carrie Kelley’s) shot.
Day 26: Batman encourages Commissioner Gordon to make better life choices.
Day 27: I think that the Batcave’s giant penny trophy has become one of the best recurring visual gags in popular culture, so I figured out how to squeeze it into this series…along with another appearance by Alfred Pennyworth. 😏
Day 28: Batman vs. three gun-toting henchmen one gun-toting henchman.
Day 29: The Dark Knight Returns ends with Bruce Wayne faking his own death to elude dystopian police and military forces (as one does). Superman’s wink confirms Batman’s passage to a new life of off-the-grid crimefighting.
Day 30: An homage to Batman: Year One, in which a memorial bust of Thomas Wayne features prominently in the story of his son’s decision to become Batman.
Day 31: One last homage to close out the series, this time to Christopher Nolan’s definitive portrayal of a Joker who’s always a step ahead of his nemesis in The Dark Knight.
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