When writer Scott Snyder came up with the unusual idea for this week's Batman #44, he turned to one one of his frequent collaborators -- and former Bat-artist -- Jock.
"When I talked to Jock all the way back when we were working on Wytches, I told him this was going to be an unconventional origin story," Snyder told Newsarama. "It's going to be something that's much more about the systemic, entrenched problems in Gotham, and Bruce facing off with them in a way that's humbling. And that is going to be the origin of our villain, because our villain is basically a reflection of the anger that people feel when they're let down by the things put in place to make them feel safe and make them feel like they can thrive in a place like Gotham."
The issue touches on everything from "the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, to …the giant gap growing between the rich and the poor in many cities like New York or Gotham, to political corruption [and] lobbying," Snyder said — all portrayed through the lens of a Batman story featuring the type of multimedia art that has made Jock a fan-favorite name among Batman and Wolverine fans in recent years.
"Jock" is the pseudonym for comics artist Mark Simpson, who became well known in American comics for his work with Andy Diggle on Vertigo's The Losers. He first teamed up with Snyder when the writer was a new DC talent on DC's Detective Comics in 2010.
Newsarama talked to the artist about his work on Batman #44, his approach to making "cool-looking" images, and what he thought of Snyder's unconventional approach to the origin of Mr. Bloom.
Newsarama: We talked a lot to Scott Snyder already about his approach to Batman #44, and he said he came to you pretty early in the process to explain his idea about the issue. What were your thoughts behind portraying this type of issue — this exploration of real-world problems and concerns?
Jock: I felt very, very home, actually, straight away in cobbling out what kind of story it was. I love drawing the more real-world kind of stuff — the urban landscape, the emotion of this story. I feel that's the stuff I really enjoy drawing.
And as Scott said, he told me what's coming up, but then when the script came in, I thought it was a special script, honestly. At that point, it became about trying to do it justice.
It's a Batman comic, but you're absolutely right, there's a lot of undercurrent in there that's relevant to where we are today. That, to me, was handled very well. It was totally touching and poignant and all these things.
Nrama: I've looked around the internet for a description of your process, because you really have a lot of media represented in this issue — there are brushstrokes and inks but you've got digital components as well, yet it's not overpowering at all. I get the feeling, for you, it's a multimedia approach — whatever gets the story across.
Jock: Yeah, the only thing that I learned from being in art college, which I've carried with me all the way through, is that it doesn't matter how you arrive at the final image; it's the image that counts. That's a really obvious thing to say, but actually, it's kind of slightly profound. There are issues just done with just pen and ink. And there are a lot of digital. But if you can use other media or techniques to get to the image you're trying to get across, then I try to embrace it.
If there's anything that makes a cool-looking image or a cool-looking brush-stroke or a well drawn page — the tool doesn't matter. It's the image that matters.
But honestly, the issue was basically done with black and white pages. And then Lee Loughridge did a great job of coloring on top with digital. But it's a pretty organic process still.
Nrama: So let's talk about this issue's visual approach. Some things are obvious, like the use of newspaper type to reflect this idea of the story being indicative of current events. And I see touches of red in the brushstrokes on some pages. Can you describe your approach to Batman #44?
Jock: Yeah, there was the red, and some other things about the color, which I'll come to in a minute. But the approach was just trying to tell the story as clearly and as interestingly as possible and to have that almost real-world quality to it. I mean, with it being Batman, it's kind of grim and gritty, but it also has these fantastical elements, but I think it, hopefully, made a point in a stronger way.
Colorwise, one of the things we did was desaturate the color scheme, but give the flashbacks a little stronger color. In the present sequences, the color — as the issue goes on — it just drains out of the pages. And just little tricks like that can help the narrative. We just really wanted to do this story justice. I think we're all really, really proud of the issue, and I hope people enjoyed it.