The Dark Knight Triumphant

Henri Matisse said that one should make drawings “which have individual invention which comes from the artist's penetration of his subject…”

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.

Digital drawing reference use process
Using a botanical design by William Morris in ELEGANCE.

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 at Instagram or TikTok.

Days 17–31

Days 1–3 are included in a previous Batober post, days 4–16 in a second one.

Batman vs. Hugo Strange
Day 17: SKULL

Day 17: Batman vs. mad scientist Hugo Strange.

Batman vs. Deadshot
Day 18: GRAND

Day 18: Batman vs. Deadshot the assassin. Gotham City ain’t Gotham City without big rooftop signs for pouncing on criminals.

Batman mourns Jason Todd
Day 19: ATONE

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.

Batman vs. Penguin
Day 20: CRASH

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.

Batman vs. Poison Ivy

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: SHINE

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.

Batman explains the symbol on his chest.
Day 23: TARGET

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: CHANGE

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.

Batman and Carrie Kelley on the Batcycle
Day 25: TRUST

Day 25: Batman shows off his 1980s parenting technique and holds the Batcycle steady for Robin’s (Carrie Kelley’s) shot.

Batman and Commissioner Gordon
Day 26: FLAME

Day 26: Batman encourages Commissioner Gordon to make better life choices.

Day 27: METAL

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. 😏

Batman vs lone gunman

Day 28: Batman vs. three gun-toting henchmen one gun-toting henchman.

R.I.P. Bruce Wayne
Day 29: PULSE

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.

Bruce Wayne with a memorial bust of Thomas Wayne
Day 30: HONOR

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.

Joker fights the law…and Batman
Day 31: SIRENS

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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