BATMAN REDRAWN, part 1 -- with Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Today, the first collected volume of Grant Morrison's epic BATMAN AND ROBIN series hits comic shops in the form of BATMAN AND ROBIN: BATMAN REBORN, the Deluxe Edition. To commemorate the event, we're spotlighting the series this week with comments and artwork from the creators that made the collection possible -- Morrison and artist Frank Quitely and Philip Tan.
We'll look at the cover for the first two issues today, with comments from Grant and sketches/final covers from Mr. Quitely. Take it away, gents:
Bruce Wayne was gone, but Batman could not die.
With Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne taking the lead roles, we wanted to make the new book instantly feel and look different from the Bruce Wayne/Tim Drake team we'd be replacing.
Since starting this run of Batman stories in 2006, I've been drawing inspiration from some of the most neglected areas of Batman's long publishing and screen history - like the 1950s "sci-fi" Batman and the '60s TV show. The color palette of the "Batman R.I.P." storyline which preceded BATMAN AND ROBIN was built around red and black and was mostly grimly funereal and somber, so we chose brighter colors for BATMAN AND ROBIN to reflect the change in tone.
Looking at the 1950s covers in particular, there's an obvious vogue for intense, clashing colors in the logos, so we were able to do something ostensibly un-Batman-like while quoting Batman's graphic past - the vibrating contrast of purple and green, or blue and yellow, and the big, flat expanses of background color that were popular during that era of design all seemed ripe for a comeback. Unlike the flowing lines and paisley fronds of '60s psychedelia, the '50s brand of op/pop art in comics was straight, no frills, linear, modernist and, we felt, contemporary once more.
The idea was to intensify the trashy, pulpy energy of the book, but where "Batman R.I.P." had been inspired by industrial music, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and pop psychology, the reborn BATMAN AND ROBIN would be fast-moving, twisty and physical, like paint flung around a room by chimps in a gabba gabba frenzy of violence without consequence - as garish, sensational and flippant as we could make it.
In publishing circles, the color yellow is considered taboo (according to market research, yellow covers sell less than any other color, while covers with a lot of red tend to sell the best), so right up until the last second the yellow background for the first issue's cover was being debated, but it went out as originally intended and was one the best-selling comics of the decade, running to four printings (each of which used a different background color).
The image had to be simple and iconic - the modern equivalent of Batman holding up the ringmaster's hoop on the cover of DETECTIVE COMICS #38 which introduced Robin as "The sensational character find of 1940!" - and, as this original sketch shows, the cover idea didn't change much from conception to publication.
The original idea for this cover was to do a visual gag based on covers like these, which depict a huge, symbolic Batman towering over the scene of his latest adventure.
It seemed an interesting twist to make the "giant" Batman a normal-sized man looming over a model city - an architect's presentation piece made of balsa wood. In the middle of Main Street, we would see a dead man's arm and hand holding a domino, flattening buildings and crushing toy cars. Somehow I failed to convey any of this to Frank Quitely, but fortunately the finished cover was still a classic, which again went through several re-printings, each with its own different background color.