BATMAN & ROBIN Artist On CARRIE, DAMIAN & the Silent Issue

Batman and Robin #18

When Peter Tomasi was faced with writing Batman and Robin #18 — the issue released just after Damian Wayne's death — he got halfway through the script and realized he hadn't written a single line of dialogue.

He had to decide: Could he write the entire issue without any word balloons?

Tomasi's choice to make #18 a "silent" issue was made easier by the reliability of his collaborator's art and storytelling abilities. His artist on the title, Patrick Gleason, is so trusted by Tomasi that when the writer left his collaboration with Gleason on Green Lantern Corps to take over Batman and Robin, he brought the artist along with him.

Tomasi's decision to trust Gleason's storytelling abilities paid off for Batman and Robin #18, with the issue's silent approach winning enthusiastic positive reviews from critics — and forcing even some of the most jaded comic fans to shed a tear.

Batman and Robin #19

This week, Batman and Robin will change its title to Batman and Red Robin for issue #19, with DC revealing last week a surprise guest by the name of Carrie Kelley.

DC's announcement has fans asking: Will Carrie be the next Robin, taking Damian's place?

It's a possibility, although Gleason and Tomasi are also utilizing other Bat-family characters as guest stars in coming months, including issue #20 being titled Batman and Red Hood, and issue #21, Batman and Batgirl.

Whatever happens, Tomasi has made it clear that the intensity of the comic won't be lessened by Damian's absence. Tomasi told Newsarama that the title will go from "uber-story" to "uber-epic."

"Big plans for the title in the next year," the writer said. "Seeds are sown and a kick-ass emotional story shifts into an even higher gear."

What does that mean for the art? Does the change in title mean a change in visuals? And what does Carrie Kelley bring to Gleason's artistic approach? Newsarama talked to Gleason about the future of Batman and Robin without Damian, and we picked his brain about his art in last month's all-silent issue.

Newsarama: Pat, now that readers have seen Batman and Robin #18, what did you think of the choice to go all silent? And was it daunting to think you had to tell the whole story without dialogue? (Or is that always your approach?)

Pat Gleason: First off, let me say that I can't imagine it was easy for Peter Tomasi to take a step back and put all of his trust in the art to deliver his script. I give him so much credit for making the decision to go this route. Not to mention DC comics for letting us do it! I'm really proud of how it turned out.

Batman and Robin #18

Batman and Robin #18

As far as it being daunting? Not at all! As a matter of fact Pete has had to put up with me begging him to write a silent issue of Batman and Robin since we started. I've always thought it would be the perfect book for it. I just never imagined it would be this kind of story. But when it came around it made so much sense to us. It served the story and reflected what we were all feeling. Pete is so great at finding that emotional core. He had so many great ideas for scenes that when I heard them I knew they would translate into something really special on the page. I was all for it.

Nrama: I don't think there were very many dry eyes among comic readers who picked up this issue. I know you're a new dad yourself, so was it tough for you to draw some of this stuff?

Gleason: Yes. Absolutely. Truth be told, I'm not really comfortable with the death of Damian. I suppose it would be weird if I was.

Batman and Robin #18

Batman and Robin #18

He really has become one of the most special characters that I've had the privilege to work on. We've watched Bruce and Damian's relationship as father and son grow closer over these last couple of years. So yes, it's hard to draw Bruce after he's lost so much.

Nrama: Let's talk about the art in #18. What overall approach did you have in mind as you drew the issue?

Gleason: It really wasn't much different than the other issues. Any artist will tell you how important storytelling is in any comic. It's always something we strive for. So my approach was very much the same as the other issues. Although, I suppose there was a bit more pressure to come through on every single panel. No throwaway images. Every panel had to stand-alone and be meaningful to the story.

Nrama: Some of the panels seemed to emphasize a sense of emptiness, like showing Alfred as a tiny figure in the library, or the empty space around Batman when he's on the light pole. I assume this was what you had in mind? And did it play into other shots you chose?

Gleason: It's a major theme throughout all of our issues I think. For example, there are many shots of Damian alone in his room or in the cave from as far back as "Born to Kill." But in #18, we really brought it all out in the open and focused on it.

Batman and Robin #18

The lamp pole in Crime Alley where Bruce's parents were murdered was a shot I had in my mind very clearly as soon as I read it. Giving the panel enough space to make him seem really alone was really important. Damian's Room is another spot that is special to me. From the beginning, Pete wanted it very bare and spartan, to reflect Damian's lifestyle. If you take the shot from page two and compare it to issue #2, you'll see that he's accumulated things along the way. He's settled in. But the room is still dark and empty in many ways. In that first shot of Bruce sitting alone in his son's room, staring at his empty bed with all of his things surrounding him in the darkness... it was just heartbreaking for me to draw.

Nrama: I think you just answered this question.. but I wanted to ask you, what was the biggest challenge in drawing issue #18?

Gleason: Just getting through it! It was an emotionally draining issue. I spent every day for a month working on these pages! I was an emotional wreck drawing that last page with Bruce. I may have even teared up once or twice. But you'll never prove it.

Nrama: Then let's focus on the positive. Is there any page or layout you think turned out particularly well, and can you share how you interpreted the script into the images we saw? (I loved the layout on the two-page spread that showed a montage of Batman attacking villains...)

Gleason: Thanks. Yes, anytime I get to do a spread of Batman is a good day!

Batman and Robin #19

Batman and Robin #19

I always like getting to draw Commissioner Gordon. And his page was a nice break from the soul-crushing sadness of the others. I enjoyed adding the little details to his room. Little things like the shotgun on the bedside, and the peanut shells on the nightstand. Just artistic indulgence, really. The last shot on the page with the bat signal was fun and such a cool Batman moment.

As far as how I interpret the script, I tend to run with ideas or tweaks if I think they will work. Little details or extra panels that I can add in are often part of the process.

Overall, for this issue, I was keeping in mind that that the reader could end up moving through the issue faster than a normal issue with dialogue. So I really tried to find ways to visually pace the pages and make them have a definite rhythm. So some panels were added or moved around a bit to give room for certain images to linger or have more space. The light post scene, for instance, really needed the space for that first shot. So I moved panels around to the next page.

As for the pages that I think turned out well, I leave that up to the readers to decide. I personally don't really have a favorite page. I really look at #18 as a whole. So I'll probably be keeping all the original artwork from this issue together.

Nrama: How much were you involved in the color choices for issue #18? Any meaning behind the palette used?

Gleason: Well, from the beginning of our run of Batman and Robin, I definitely set out to have more involvement in the color. I spend a lot of time looking at a page and visualizing what it will look like colored. But John Kalisz is the real star. He absolutely kills it every issue! We talk on the phone quite a bit about the pages and he gets my notes. But he always goes way above and beyond the call of duty. I think people can see it in the colors and palettes he used on this issue.

Nrama: Yeah, this issue and the "Death of the Family" issues were impressive. How would you describe what your inker and colorist have brought to the comic overall, and how closely do the three of you work together to achieve this look?

Nrama: It's great. We work very closely. It's really my preferred method.

Batman and Robin #19

I can't tell you how important it is to have a team that shows up for the long haul. That's why I work with them. As any art team can tell you, putting a comic book together every month isn't easy. There are highs and lows. We have fun one day and pull our hair out on others. But the bottom line is I trust them. Mick Gray is a master ink slinger! I also love the passion for the work that he brings. Page after page comes in looking fantastic and better than the last. John is such a pro and has so much skill it's awesome. I know for a fact that they put their best into each page like the true professionals they are.

Nrama: You've obviously got a good thing going with Pete Tomasi. What is it about this collaboration that makes it work so well?

Gleason: What can I say? We really like collaborating.

I've learned a lot from Pete. With our history there also comes a lot of trust and honesty between us. Those two things alone make a huge difference. Not to mention that Pete's top priority has always been telling great stories with quality characters. He looks at the big picture and painstakingly lays down quality tales in such a way that you see how important each brick in the wall is. We spend hours on the phone just throwing ideas around. He's always trying to find a way to make the next issue better. It's a great way to work.

Nrama: I once teased Pete Tomasi about making you draw a dog, because most artists don't like having to draw animals. But I think Titus has become a beloved part of the comic. Will you guys keep him, do you think? And what's drawing him been like for you, especially as you drew him in issue #18?

Gleason: Really? Artists don't like drawing animals? I love drawing Titus. A dog was one of the things I asked Pete for when we were starting the book. I used to have a dog and someday I'd like to get another one, but for now Titus is like my own imaginary pooch. I found it surprising, once I started drawing him, that you can get so much emotion out of an animal onto the page. Some of my absolute favorite pages of my career are of Damian and Titus just hanging out together. He's a real character and part of Bruce's life so readers don't worry! Titus wont be going anywhere soon. Now with Damian gone people can look for him to take on a new role in upcoming issues. I can't say much more, but it is important.

Nrama: Looking back at the last year and a half since you launched Batman and Robin, what's it been like for you as an artist to draw Damian's evolution over time?

Gleason: Grant created such an interesting character with a very specific purpose. Like most people I really hated what Damian started out as, and I think that was by design. But again, my hat is off to Grant for that. It's really smart. Because it really allowed Damian to evolve before our eyes. As an artist it's great any time you get to work with a character long enough to see them grow. That was our intent from the start. We knew we only had a limited amount of time to work in and it was just a matter of making every panel with Damian count. In that sense it really made the time we spent with him more pure.

Batman and Robin #18

I really had fun drawing the little guy, I just hope that I was able to add something to Damian's legacy that will last. I know that for me he became one of my favorite DC characters to root for. I'm sad just like everyone else that he's gone. There's still so much more I wanted to do with him.

Nrama: When you first came to Batman and Robin, what was your hope for the comic's visual style, and how did you specifically try to accomplish that?

Gleason: I was just coming off of Green Lantern Corps, so it was literally like going from day to night. Two totally different approaches.

With B & R, I really was able to scale down and focus more on the intimate interactions between two or three characters. Shadows became my friend once again too, which is great because I really love the infinite ways you can play with lighting. Experimenting with deep, penetrating blacks and shadows can be so much fun. It's a great rush for me.

But that's just another aspect of it all I guess. Every day I have this great challenge to make something visually impactful. I don't take it for granted. I really love and respect the work of so many of the great artists who have worked on Batman, so it can get intimidating. After all, there's no end to great Batman art out there! But I feel like I'm getting the hang of it. Like I said, it's fun.

Nrama: Now that you're working on the post-Damian issues, will your approach be changing at all? Is your portrayal of Batman different?

Gleason: A little bit. The focus is changing. In some ways it feels like I'm drawing a whole new book. That might affect panel layouts or how I portray Batman, for example. It is important to take a step back and re-evaluate your approach. But mainly, the story dictates the choices in the art.

Batman and Robin #19

You'll see starting with issue #19 that Pete wrote a story that is in some ways very different than what we've done before. Frankenstein is in the issue! Getting to draw Batman and Frankenstein together is really great. It's a real mad-scientist vibe. Pete is having Bruce deal with lots of surprises coming down the pipe and I'm looking forward to diving into them.

Nrama: Now that we know Carrie Kelley is in the comic, how would you describe your visual approach to Carrie Kelley?

Gleason: Well, I try and let the scrip dictate the approach. Readers will see that Pete has written her in sharp contrast to the world that Bruce is currently operating in. There's a lot of angst and brooding with Bruce right now, and Carrie Kelly hasn't been directly affected yet. So in her scenes I tried to give her a general feel of light, and freedom. She's very much a normal young lady as opposed to Bruce who is carrying around the burden of losing his son. So I try and portray that visually with different layouts, borders, expressions and body language.

Nrama: What appeals to you about Carrie as a character, and what do you think she brings to the comic overall?

Gleason: She's different. But still a part of the Batman universe. I find that really appealing because as an artist part of the challenge is to find the character along the way. Just start drawing and try to let them come to life on the page. In a lot of ways I started out the same way with drawing Damian. It's pretty exciting. So like a lot of readers, I want to see where she fit's in to all of this.

Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about drawing Batman and Robin?

Gleason: I really want to tell them thank you.

Besides getting to work with such talented people on this book, it has been the fans that are so encouraging to me when I sit down to work every day. The genuine enthusiasm and response that we have gotten all along the way from them is really, really touching. Especially the feedback from #18. I am absolutely floored by the response! It is truly humbling. Every month I get to see how much our book means to people and that really fuels me. I draw for them.

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