Batman Eternal: An Interview with Jason Fabok
It may have taken 75 years, but Batman now has his own weekly comic. The debut issue of Batman Eternal, DC Comics’ first weekly since the launch of The New 52, is in stores today.
Much has rightly been made of Eternal’s stellar writing team, which includes a fresh mix of both Batman luminaries and talented writers new to the world of Gotham. But it’s the art that will bring their words to life and will drive the look and texture of this particular take on Gotham, and fortunately, it’s in good hands. Jason Fabok, the astounding artist who has been making a name for himself among Batman fans for his work on Detective Comics (alongside writer John Layman, who’s also a part of the Eternal team), is the first artist up to bat and will be drawing the first three issues.
Jason was good enough to answer a few questions of ours about the new series, which artists influenced his work and why Batman’s managed to stay such a popular guy for so long.
Interior from Batman Eternal #1 (art by Jason Fabok)
You’ve been drawing Batman for a little while now, and have been involved with some pretty significant projects, such as January’s extra-sized DETECTIVE COMICS #27 and last year’s 900th issue of Detective. Where does Batman Eternal rank on the scale of Bat-book awesomeness?
First, I have to say that when I started toward the goal of one day working in comics, only in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be involved in such significant projects, let alone working on Batman, period! I still geek out like a fanboy when I get a call and I'm asked to contribute to these great projects.
Batman Eternal is something very special to me. I remember when I was learning from David Finch and he was working on Batman: The Dark Knight. I thought to myself "Wow, what an amazing opportunity. Wouldn't it be great to work on a new Batman series one day?" Well, now is my chance. A new Batman series and I've been blessed with the job of providing the art. It's really been an amazing experience for me, especially working with the great writing talent, hearing their ideas and learning so much more about my craft. You can't help but want to take your game to the next level.
Now what’s the plan for your involvement? My understanding is that you’ve drawn the first three issues, but what’s the schedule after that? Will you be a regular rotating artist?
The answer is yes. After the first three issues, I’m jumping into future issues, doing one here, and one there and eventually landing on a small arc again. I'll also be providing a number of covers, which has allowed me to draw all sorts of great characters, some that I’ve never drawn before!
Usually on a comics project, when you start a story as an artist, you see it though to its completion. That may not always be how it works out, but that’s what the team typically strives for. But on a weekly comic, that’s impossible. Is it difficult illustrating chapters of what’s a much longer story?
It can be, especially when I love challenging myself on long story arcs. It's been the one and only negative about this project for me. I'm the kind of artist who likes to be consistent in delivering long streaks of books. Like you mentioned, sometimes life happens and you have to duck out of an issue, but for the most part, I felt I was able to deliver some long, consistent spans on Detective Comics.
Batman Eternal is a different beast though. It's impossible to do long streaks, unless you started years in advance. But the team has created such a great story, that even when you come into an issue a month or two down the road, you're still getting excellent, compelling stories to draw. I read a script that takes place months later and get really excited to sit down and read the in-between issues to find out how we got to this point.
The Batman Eternal cast is pretty large and includes both new and classic characters. Are there any that you were particularly excited to draw?
Batman is always the best, but I've really been enjoying drawing Commissioner Gordon. I tend to draw him like I remember him from the old Batman: The Animated Series episodes: big, burly and tough. I was also looking forward to drawing Catwoman and got the opportunity early on as well. I always bugged John Layman about putting her in Detective Comics somewhere just because I liked the dynamic between her and Batman. Plus she's fun to draw.
But when it comes to villains, there are a few I'm really looking forward to drawing. Sadly, I can't tell you who they are because they are all secrets and important to the grand story, but I'm excited to draw them and for fans to geek out when they appear!
Interior from Batman Eternal #1 (art by Jason Fabok)
Who are the Batman artists that have influenced your work the most?
There are so many I don't know where to start! I can say the artist who influenced me the most as a young comic reader was Jim Lee. It was after reading Batman: Hush that I knew I wanted to be a comic artist. Jim's art still thrills me to this day, and I keep finding myself going back to his work for influence and study. The few times I've met him, he had such nice words of encouragement to say and gave me some goals to shoot for in my art. He's an amazing artist and I learn so much from studying his work.
David Finch has been a huge influence on me as well, especially after apprenticing with him. His Batman really inspired me early on, and he was the one who gave me the shot to come in and fill in on The Dark Knight a few years back. That book helped to bring me to DC and jumpstart my career to this point. I'll be forever grateful for that opportunity and I’m proud to call him my friend.
Some of my other favorites are Lee Bermejo, Tim Sale, Gary Frank, Eduardo Risso, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Andy Kubert, Jim Aparo, Tony Daniel and of course, Greg Capullo. I remember having a conversation with Greg right before my run on Detective Comics started. He had such nice words to say to me, and really helped build up my confidence. Looking at how gorgeous his work has been on Batman, it gives me future goals to strive for as I try to get better and better with every page, every book, every month, every year.
Are there any Batman stories that are particular favorites of yours?
I already mentioned Batman: Hush and how that influenced me in High School. The Long Halloween and Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are bigtime favorites of mine and I try to re-read them once every year or so. Two great stories with gorgeous artwork by Tim Sale.
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller was a book that really opened my eyes to how deep a book could be. Miller’s big, burly, grizzly Batman is something I try to emulate a bit through my work. I love the gritty look of his universe as well.
Gotham by Gaslight by Mike Mignola is another all-time favorite of mine. Mike Mignola has been one of my biggest influences these past years and it all started with that book.
I also really enjoyed Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert's tales of Damian as the Batman from the future. I love the idea of a future Batman in a Gotham that is even worse than it is now. And Speaking of Morrison, his work with Frank Quietly on the first arc of Batman and Robin really inspired me to start working on a portfolio that eventually led to meeting David Finch.
Outside of comics, the Tim Burton Films, as well as the Christopher Nolan films have influenced me greatly. Both having their own feel and flare and uniqueness to them. I’m looking forward to what we see next on the silver screen.
As you know, Batman’s celebrating his 75th anniversary this year, and your work has been a big part of the celebration. How does that feel? Have you been a Batman fan for long?
I've been a Batman fan since I was around five years old or so. Maybe even younger. I remember watching reruns of the old 60's TV show and asking my dad, "What happened to the happy Batman?" when I saw Batman '89. I was shocked at how serious and dark the Tim Burton movie was but I've been a fan ever since.
For myself, this is simply a great honor to be attached to Batman in some way, shape and form. I'm living out a childhood dream. Batman has always been and will always be my favorite comic book hero, and to be able to have my name join the roster of the hundreds of amazing artists who have helped build his legacy through the years is humbling. I’m so thankful for these opportunities and hope to bring many more stories to life.
Why do you feel the character has remained so popular for so long?
Batman can be anything you want him to be and he works. He can be the brooding, dark knight of vengeance, or the campy, colorful smiling hero. You can set his story in space, in Old Gotham, or in a post apocalyptic future and he works. He's everything you want him to be. He's an everyman, in the sense that he is a normal human being who chooses to be proactive and help others in need. He also has a bit of a dark streak to him and allows the reader to live out their fantasy of beating criminals to a pulp. But in the end, he sticks to his morals, and does the job that no one else can. You can rely on him to get the job done, or die trying. It also helps that he's got the best looking suit, car, hideout, city, villains and toys in all of comics. You just can't get any better and I don’t think anyone ever will.