Since DC launched Grayson last year — its new super-spy approach to the former Robin Dick Grayson — the comic has been surprising readers and critics alike. Much of the credit for the success can be credited to Mikel Janín, who's defined the '60s-inspired style and kinetic energy of the comic.
The July, 2014-debuting comic is being co-written by Batman Eternal scribe Tim Seeley and former spy Tom King.
Janín first broke into DC with a couple one-shots in 2011, after working for years as an architect in Spain. Since then, he's been building quite a resumé as a DC artist, working on best-selling comics Justice League Dark, Trinity War and Batman Eternal.
Newsarama talked to Janín about his work on Grayson, how manga has influenced his approach (no, really), and how he keeps the energy level high for the comic.
Newsarama: Mikel, DC fans are getting to know your work through these last few issues of Grayson, and I've been looking at the way you portray movement in the comic, which is really important with an acrobatic character like Dick Grayson. How would you describe your approach to portraying that character's abilities and movements, as well as the action in the rest of the comic?
Mikel Janín: Well, action is indeed an essential part of a book featuring Dick Grayson, so I've been forced to up my game here, and try to use as many resources as I can to keep things and bodies moving along the panels with energy and dynamism.
I've been studying some manga artists (Japanese motion in comics is incredible) such as Otomo and some classic American comic masters too, like Kirby or Alex Toth. Spanish artist David Rubin has been a big influence too, since when I began with Grayson, I was reading his incredible Beowulf (which I avidly recommend), a blast of emotion and energy.
Nrama: We really got a good look at your approach to movement in this month's issue #6 during the battle between Grayson and Midnighter. Can you point out a few of the techniques you utilized in that issue, and how you worked with Jeromy to portray that fight?
Janín: One of the graphical resources associated with Dick Grayson's moves is the use of several positions on the same panel to describe his moving. I stepped this up in a double spread having Midnighter and Dick moving while fighting along double page wide panels. Also, I used classical manga motion lines in the background of some panels to accentuate the motion and energy of punches and kicks.
Jeromy is a true master, so he knows what to do. He uses some muted colors to establish the scene and the mood, then some flashy colors to give energy and emotional impact when fists are flying around.
Nrama: You've also gotten to portray some mind-bending concepts, like SPYDER and the God Garden. What's your design process like?
Janín: Tim and Tom enjoy throwing these weird concepts, but their depiction is very detailed on the script, so translating this to images has an immediate impact. Then I give it some details to add reality or weirdness as required. The icing on the cake is when Jeromy brings his magic to the table, and they take life. It is really a team process.
We've reached this stage where we just keep rolling, so there's no need to debate or discuss things for long. Tim and Tom leave some room in the scripts so Jeromy and I can have fun, and we all go forward in a pretty smooth process.
[In issue #6], we have that zombie orca with robot legs, an homage to the Junji Ito manga Gyo, a nice start to set up the weirdness surrounding Spyral world.
Nrama: What's been the biggest challenge as you've been working on Grayson?
Janín: I think the biggest challenge was in issue #3, when we had a darker and more emotional story about the use of guns where people are killed, but at the same time, we are in this crazy spy world and we need to keep some fun around Dick. I think we managed to balance this story well, avoiding falling into too dark or too light.
Nrama: What's been the character or concept that you've most enjoyed drawing and why?
Janín: There are really lots of characters and I enjoy all of them, but I would lie if I said other than Dick Grayson. I love drawing him. He's such a fantastic character.
Nrama: How did you and Jeromy land on the color palette you use? Were you involved in that conversation?
Janín: We have been working together in 21 books to date, so we have a clear idea of what we are doing. Jeromy is a very collaborative person, and indeed we talked about our vision of the coloring in the first issue and trying different things until we all were happy. Now I have little to say other than good words for his beautiful pages.
Nrama: What can we expect from upcoming issues of Grayson, particularly from your interiors and the rest of the art team?
Janín: Fun and sexy Dick Grayson action! Need more?