A lot of fans both loved and hated issue 18 for the same reason. Damian Wayne has died, and it hurt to read issue #18. Well, it did for me, anyhow. Bruce’s suffering is pretty palpable and you can feel the pain and loss that Bruce feels wash over you the whole issue. The last page in particular was about to rip my heart out of my chest and show it to me before it ate it. It then kicked a puppy for good measure just to make sure it would take me a while to recover from the overwhelming sadness. With that said, during the interview, they asked Gleason about how he felt drawing all of this and if it was particularly difficult, since as a new father himself, the idea of a father losing his son could be difficult to draw. Like many fans, Gleason wasn’t really okay with the death of Damian and drawing that particular issue.
Yes. Absolutely. Truth be told, I’m not really comfortable with the death of Damian. I suppose it would be weird if I was. He really has become one of the most special characters that I’ve had the privilege to work on. We’ve watched Bruce and Damian’s relationship as father and son grow closer over these last couple of years. So yes, it’s hard to draw Bruce after he’s lost so much.
Now I don’t know about you readers, but for me personally, I’ve always wondered what kind of work goes into a silent issue with no dialog. Does it involve some kind of special format? Is it more difficult then a normal issue, or is it easier? How much has to be told via the visuals that we are and aren’t aware of when we’re reading it the first time through? Gleason talks a little about this.
It really wasn’t much different than the other issues. Any artist will tell you how important storytelling is in any comic. It’s always something we strive for. So my approach was very much the same as the other issues. Although, I suppose there was a bit more pressure to come through on every single panel. No throwaway images. Every panel had to stand-alone and be meaningful to the story.
When asked about the emphasized emptiness in the issue, Gleason talked about the idea of “emptiness” as a major theme in the Batman & Robin title.
It’s a major theme throughout all of our issues I think. For example, there are many shots of Damian alone in his room or in the cave from as far back as “Born to Kill.” But in #18, we really brought it all out in the open and focused on it. The lamp pole in Crime Alley where Bruce’s parents were murdered was a shot I had in my mind very clearly as soon as I read it. Giving the panel enough space to make him seem really alone was really important. Damian’s Room is another spot that is special to me. From the beginning, Pete wanted it very bare and spartan, to reflect Damian’s lifestyle. If you take the shot from page two and compare it to issue #2, you’ll see that he’s accumulated things along the way. He’s settled in. But the room is still dark and empty in many ways. In that first shot of Bruce sitting alone in his son’s room, staring at his empty bed with all of his things surrounding him in the darkness… it was just heartbreaking for me to draw.
Speaking of heartbreak, the artist mentions how hard it was getting through the issue itself while he drew it.
Just getting through it! It was an emotionally draining issue. I spent every day for a month working on these pages! I was an emotional wreck drawing that last page with Bruce. I may have even teared up once or twice. But you’ll never prove it.
After more chatting for a while about the partnership between him and Tomasi, and other artistry topics, the interview shifts back to Damian Wayne and how Gleason got to draw Damian as he changed and grew as a character. From the boy in the first issues of Batman & Robin who was killing bats out of frustration to the boy who cared and spent his free time with his dog Titus. He voices his disappointment that he only had such little time to draw a character that quickly became one of his favorites.
Grant created such an interesting character with a very specific purpose. Like most people I really hated what Damian started out as, and I think that was by design. But again, my hat is off to Grant for that. It’s really smart. Because it really allowed Damian to evolve before our eyes. As an artist it’s great any time you get to work with a character long enough to see them grow. That was our intent from the start. We knew we only had a limited amount of time to work in and it was just a matter of making every panel with Damian count. In that sense it really made the time we spent with him more pure.
I really had fun drawing the little guy, I just hope that I was able to add something to Damian’s legacy that will last. I know that for me he became one of my favorite DC characters to root for. I’m sad just like everyone else that he’s gone. There’s still so much more I wanted to do with him.
Visually, his work has also had to evolve. Previously, Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason were working on Green Lantern Corps prior to the switch over to Batman & Robin. So this evolution doesn’t exactly apply only to drawing the characters, but to Gleason as an artist himself.
I was just coming off of Green Lantern Corps, so it was literally like going from day to night. Two totally different approaches.
With B & R, I really was able to scale down and focus more on the intimate interactions between two or three characters. Shadows became my friend once again too, which is great because I really love the infinite ways you can play with lighting. Experimenting with deep, penetrating blacks and shadows can be so much fun. It’s a great rush for me.
But that’s just another aspect of it all I guess. Every day I have this great challenge to make something visually impactful. I don’t take it for granted. I really love and respect the work of so many of the great artists who have worked on Batman, so it can get intimidating. After all, there’s no end to great Batman art out there! But I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Like I said, it’s fun.
With the loss of Damian, Newsarama asked if his art would continue to change now that the book had become darker and more depressing. He spoke a little about #19, which was released yesterday to stores.
A little bit. The focus is changing. In some ways it feels like I’m drawing a whole new book. That might affect panel layouts or how I portray Batman, for example. It is important to take a step back and re-evaluate your approach. But mainly, the story dictates the choices in the art. You’ll see starting with issue #19 that Pete wrote a story that is in some ways very different than what we’ve done before. Frankenstein is in the issue! Getting to draw Batman and Frankenstein together is really great. It’s a real mad-scientist vibe. Pete is having Bruce deal with lots of surprises coming down the pipe and I’m looking forward to diving into them.
It was a bombshell a little while back that Carrie Kelley, the Robin from the classic Batman tale ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ by Frank Miller, would be appearing in the main pages of the DC Universe. She’s always been a beloved Robin figure, but she’s always been relegated to Elseworlds status, never interacting with the canon DCU at large. Gleason gives some insight into how he’ll draw Kelley as well as some hints about her character, some of which we’ve already seen in issue #19
Well, I try and let the scrip dictate the approach. Readers will see that Pete has written her in sharp contrast to the world that Bruce is currently operating in. There’s a lot of angst and brooding with Bruce right now, and Carrie Kelly hasn’t been directly affected yet. So in her scenes I tried to give her a general feel of light, and freedom. She’s very much a normal young lady as opposed to Bruce who is carrying around the burden of losing his son. So I try and portray that visually with different layouts, borders, expressions and body language… She’s different. But still a part of the Batman universe. I find that really appealing because as an artist part of the challenge is to find the character along the way. Just start drawing and try to let them come to life on the page. In a lot of ways I started out the same way with drawing Damian. It’s pretty exciting. So like a lot of readers, I want to see where she fit’s in to all of this.
With Batman in deep mourning over the loss of his son, and the future of the book still uncertain, I’m excited to see where the title goes in the future. With the introduction of fan favorite Carrie Kelley, who knows where the title will be heading next.
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