Friday, February 11, 2011

Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Comic Book Pages (Manga Edition)!

Sometimes people ask me how to get into animation. Mostly I encourage them to keep drawing, preferably from real life to get those fundamentals solid, and that's pretty good advice, I think. But the curmudgeon in me just wants to warn them away, because the truth of the matter is that animation is, by and large, a lot of work for very little reward.

By way of example, lets consider a sequence from Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases! As a transition from Bat-Mite's lair to the manga section of the show, we had to come up with a few fake pages of a Japanese Batman comic, based on the old comics by Jiro Kuwata. Legal wouldn't let us just use scans from the originals, so we had to cobble together some fakes, made to look enough like Jiro Kuwata's art to be recognizable, but not enough to exact duplicates of the original.

So I spent a couple weeks coming up with these 6 fake pages -

-and then we sent it off to legal, who had some tiny changes. Next up, inks-

-so with the legal hurdles cleared, we got Craig Cuqro to colour the pages, and added a layer of aged paper texture from Bill Dunn. We also got some dialogue translated into Japanese by Toshi Hiruma (I can't remember what it says any more, sorry) -

 -and wrapped it all up in this cover, drawn by Lynell Forestall, inked by Robert Lacko and again coloured by Craig Cuqro and aged up by Bill Dunn -

All told, the whole process probably took about a month. Now watch it go by onscreen - 

And that's after we duplicated the cycle to extend it. So in a nutshell, we compressed a month's worth of labour into three seconds of screentime. So there's my advice for aspiring animators - always remember that animation is a medium that will drain years off of your lifespan and leave you mere snippets of footage in return.

And keep drawing!

All characters and art ™and © DC Comics

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Spoilers!

I wasn't going to post anything about Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases until Cartoon Network at least decided when they were going to air it for fear of spoiling things. But now that's it's aired in the UK, it's starting to spread, so anyone who wants to see it probably has. In the meantime, if you're avoiding spoilers, and even if you're not, our background supervisor Bill Dunn has started posting some of his paintings from the show. He's working chronologically, and so far he's only up to episode 2, so it's spoiler-free. Check it out here!

As for Bat-Mite,  just to be safe -


That should do it. The spoilers will be pretty light-to-non-existent here in the first B-MP:B'sSC post, but it will get spoilerier with each following post. The details are leaking out across the internet already, what with Paul Dini and Weird Al already tweeting about their involvement with it (plus, tweet-wise, I got a nice shoutout from superstar comic book writer Tom Peyer), so I'm assuming anyone reading this far has seen the episode.

First up we have a look at the posters on the wall in Bat-Mite's lair. These posters were all drawn by me, inked by Robert Lacko, and coloured by Hector Martinez. The first poster commemorates Batman's teamup with Sherlock Holmes. You might expect a nerd like me to use the cover to Detective Comics #572 -

- and know that I tried, but legal wouldn't have any of it. In fact, the closest that I could get to an image depicting a teamup between Batman and Sherlock Holmes is this -

Long time fans of the show will probably now ask, "Hey, why not just use a screengrab from Trials of the Demon!?" to which I can only say that the legal issues surrounding the use of Sherlock Holmes are complex, labyrinthine, self--contradictory and ever-changing. In short, I tried that too, and legal said no.

Next up we have the Elongated Man. I'm glad Paul Dini put him in the script, because I actually like Ralph Dibny. He gets written off as a Plastic Man ripoff, but like many characters that have been around for four decades before being needlessly slaughtered in a company-wide crossover, Ralph's character picked up a few interesting aspects over the years, like his status as the JLA's #2 detective, and his rare-for-comics idyllic marriage.  I also liked the running gag started in Justice League Europe (I think) about how all the other characters are kinda weirded out by his mystery-sniffing nose, so I tossed that into the poster.

The next three posters weren't called out in the script, but there was a lot of dialogue to cover and I wanted to keep Bat-Mite moving, so I had to make some stuff up for him to float past. Now, DC has a lot of detectives we could have used for these posters - Slam Bradley, the Crimson Avenger, Roy Raymond, Rex the Wonder Dog, and so on - but we didn't have designs for any of those guys, and this show was already pretty design heavy, so I just pulled three detectives from the characters we already had designed. Detective Chimp was a pretty obvious choice. You can see the tracks he's following transform from human to simian, so maybe they're tracking a victim of Grodd's E-Ray, or a were-ape, or something.

Our next detective is the Question - for his poster, I leaned more towards his portrayal in JLU than our show. I mean, he's still a detective and all in our show, but by that point, we'd only seen him tied up in a giant scale and breaking into Darkseid's lair on Apokolips. Here we have him sneaking around in a much more Earthbound environment, probably uncovering some nefarious underhanded crimes by a shadowy conglomerate. Or a 32nd ice cream flavour.

And finally, the Martian Manhunter helping Batman solve some sort of mystery on the moon. J'onn, of course, is a police detective in his civilian ID, and debuted in Detective Comics, so he's certainly qualified for the wall of detective teamups.

And that's that for that. Coming up, more B-MP:B'sSC posts, unless work gets crazy again, in which case, I hoped you liked this one, 'cause I won't have time for any more.

All characters and art ™ and © DC Comics, except Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes ™ and © don't even ask