BAT-Breakdown 3: PAQUETTE's Stylistic World of BATMAN INC.

BAT-Breakdown 3: YANICK PAQUETTE

Grant Morrison on BATMAN, INC.
Grant Morrison on BATMAN, INC.
  Bruce Wayne isn't the only one traveling the world in the pages of Batman Inc.

Artist Yanick Paquette, who's launching the comic next month with writer Grant Morrison, is also traveling the world for references and region-specific visuals, letting his style be influenced by the places the comic visits.

It's not the first time Paquette has evolved his style to a setting. When he was drawing Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3, he did tons of research on pirates and used a style for the comic that paid homage to Al Williamson's detailed illustration work as he drew the historic-looking work.

Now he's approaching Batman Inc. with the same sort of enthusiasm, letting the various settings and cultural references influence his style as he draws Bruce Wayne's globe-trotting recruitment trip.

Last week, we got details about the story in Batman Inc. from Morrison himself. But this time, we talk with Paquette, who spoke through his French-Canadian accent to describe his work on Batman Inc.

Newsarama: Yanick, we spoke a little about how, with Return of Bruce Wayne, you weren't getting to draw Batman in his costume very much. I guess you're getting to do that now. Was this an exciting project for you?

Yanick Paquette: Oh yeah. Batman is one of those books that is a great opportunity to do it. So if I only did one book, that's the one.

Nrama: Was the new look of Batman given to you, or were you involved with the idea behind how Bruce Wayne looks now? And have you put your own stamp on it?

Paquette: I'm not responsible for anything in the design. I think what we have now is [Batman: The Return artist] David [Finch] and Grant talking and creating the basic structure and design. So that's what I'm using. I'm not inventing anything. As far as drawing him, I'm just following my instinct.

Nrama: Have you talked with Grant about the overall theme of the comic, or are you just going by each of the scripts you receive?

Paquette: I haven't talked to Grant. I'm looking at scripts, and I'm learning the story as much as, I guess, a reader would. I get a few pages at a time and discover what's going on. So far, I haven't managed to paint myself in a corner.

But the great thing about working with Grant is that everything is such a creative maelstrom that, if you do interpret something which is out of his original intention, he'll just play with it and roll with it and make it part of his story.

So I'm starting to draw Issue #2 now. And I'm not sure what it's about. It makes things interesting though.

Nrama: Grant told us Batman was traveling to Japan in the first couple issues. Does that influence the style you're using?

Paquette: Yes. It might not always work, but my intention is to be influenced by every region or country's art and culture and visual element as Batman travels. First by Japan, and next we're going to Argentina.

If you look at the cover of the second issue, it's almost a manga cover, with high contrast and a lot of high design element. I just use it to feed me some new, kind of, fun visual input.

For instance, I used speed lines at some point in the book. Of course, a lot of people in America use speed lines, but I never do it. But I did it in this book at a particular very dramatic moment, like the Japanese would probably do.

Actually, it's more letting the feel of it influence me. In the background also. And when I'm talking about manga, I'm not talking about Dragonball. I'm talking about manga, which are for adults with very complex backgrounds and stuff like that. There is a lot of background in the first story arc. I'm always enforcing these elements.

Nrama: Some of the characters you're getting to draw are new, and some have been picked up from other places.

Paquette: Yeah, Mr. Unknown is, I believe, a new character. One day, somebody will discover that it's actually a reference to some absolutely obscure thing that only Grant knows now.

But the villain is still obscure but a little more documented. It's Lord Death Man. He's a perfect classic Batman villain, but he's coming from the Bat-Manga.

Nrama: Did you design the villain?

Paquette: Yeah, I went onto the Internet and tried to find everything I could on the artist who did the Bat-Manga. And also on this crazy Lord Death Man guy, which is basically a guy with a skull head.

I did what I did with Terra Obscura, which is to take a very old design and just try to update them. So I was not adding anything special. I would just draw it in a modern fashion.

So for instance, I've managed to take the skulls more realistic. In the original manga, the skull was like a bag with a skull drawn on it or something. So I kept little design for the henchmen who are clearly Lord Death Man wannabes, but cannot do it for real. They have these cheap heads, compared to the real thing.

Nrama: I noticed the artwork we've seen from Batman Inc. #1 has a lot of Japanese letters in the background. Are those just filler, or do they actually say something?

Paquette: Oh yeah, they all mean something. Sometimes it's very boring, like "food." But sometimes I've tried to put little inside jokes in there. I figure people might try to figure them out, eventually. Or not.

When you look at Tokyo reference, some of these districts I'm illustrating, it's like an arcade with type all over. The walls are full of it. So just by adding this visual element, you've already set the place. I actually put a lot of stuff. But I still need to have some kind of control on the content of what I'm writing. Google translate is my master, in that case. But also, I've picked up, here and there, a few words.

Nrama: And you're getting to draw Catwoman. You've wanted to draw her for a while, right?

Paquette: Yeah, it's a great pleasure for me to draw Catwoman. I've said before that one of my dream characters, when I was first working at DC on Wonder Woman, was to eventually do Catwoman, the monthly book. And I never had the chance to draw her. Ever. Until now, which is maybe a good thing, because now I'm ready to do it, which maybe wasn't exactly the case back in the day.

Nrama: Did you tell Grant you wanted to draw Catwoman?

Paquette: No, but every time Grant is working with me, except maybe for the Return of Bruce Wayne, he's feeding me the potential to have me draw a sexy woman. He's using that.

Bulleteer had a big aspect of physical beauty. And with Catwoman, there is this feline, sexy shape to her. So I suspect that maybe I'm some sort of an inspiration for Grant.

Nrama: I think he mentioned that when I interviewed him. Beautiful women and strong men.

Paquette: Yeah! I read that! "Macho" guys? What is that? I didn't know it. I can see why he thinks I do well with sexy, beautiful women. But macho guys? That's a new one.

But I'm glad. I mean, it's comics! Macho guys! That's great.

Nrama: Who is your inker now? We had talked about this last time, didn't we?

Paquette: Yes, it's Michel Lacombe, my tudor-mate. I've been with Michel for a year or two. We'd done Wolverine: Weapon X together. He's a wonderful artist by himself, so I'm now doing very complex shadows, knowing that my inker will understand what I'm doing. And he will have the same thought process while inking it and making it solid again.

Nrama: I've talked with other artists about Grant Morrison's scripts, and from what I understand, they are very loose. It's more of a general description of each page's story than any direction on panels or page design or dialogue, right?

Paquette: Yeah.

Nrama: You've worked with Grant several times now. Do you like working with that? Is there a certain benefit, as an artist, of working with that type of loose direction?

Paquette: You want to get involved when you are an artist. I'm trying to find the right words... I don't know how to explain...

I'll tell a long story then. I worked with Alan Moore just before working with Grant on Seven Soldiers. I was doing Terra Obscura scripts with Alan and Peter Hogan. And these were HUGE, like 100 pages and more for 22 pages of comics. And I got used to that.

And when I got to work with Grant, I ended up having, maybe, 15 pages for 22 pages of comics. I was sort of scared and thinking, "I don't have any information! I'll screw this story up! I just don't know what to do!"

But in both cases, the idea is that, when you wake up in the morning and try to figure out what you're going to do on the page, you have to be actively part of the creation of the story.

If you take a straightforward script, which I've gotten in the past. I'm not going to name names. But a script where it says, OK, first panel, this guy is drinking from a glass of water; second panel, he's looking at a journal, sitting down... You can draw that without thinking.

With Grant, you need to flesh out the stuff. And with Alan, the idea is that the script is so big that, in my case, he was giving me options for a panel. So it would say, "on this panel, you could draw a little girl crossing the street and not seeing the big truck coming, or an old lady about to fall from some stairs because she doesn't see a ball..." It would have all these options, and it would ask that you choose or do whatever you want, knowing the intention. You know what's going on, and you can be creative with that knowledge.

Working with Grant Morrison's script is more like working with Master Miyagi, where there is just a little information missing that you have to feed in your own input.

But I should say, there's nothing missing that is important. The dialogue is missing, and that could be scary. And any description of the panels is missing. Not all the time, but that's what it usually is.

And when there is so little, I have this compulsion of putting in more, somehow.

So they are both ways to be a part of the story. That's a long way to explain it?

Nrama: No, those details are very interesting. It probably works well for an artist who likes to come up with their own interpretations.

Paquette: You have to be ready to play ball. You can't just get there and say, "Aw, yeah. Whatever. It's a job." You have to be part of the story and be ready to think about what you're doing all the time. And it works well for me. I like to be part of the creation.

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