As DC's new "Rebirth" launch of Batman has moved into its second story arc, as Bruce Wayne fights his former back-breaking foe Bane, writer Tom King is working with Mikel Janín, his former cohort on Grayson. But the artist, who's drawing the "I Am Suicide" storyline that gives Batman his own version of the Suicide Squad, says he's tweaking his art on Batman to flow with the artists who've come before him on the title.
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.
But it was Grayson, which he created with writers King and Tim Seeley, that brought Janín into the spotlight. The comic, which focused on former Robin/Nightwing Dick Grayson as he became a super-spy, was acclaimed for Janín's '60s-inspired style and portrayal of the character's kinetic energy.
Newsarama talked to Janín about his work on Batman, his portrayal of villains like Catwoman, and how his style on this comic is influenced by David Finch.
Nrama: Mikel, you've worked with Tom before on Grayson. What's unique about the way he forms scripts?
Mikel Janin: Tom has a very particular way to write, and it's very recognizable. The structure is capital on his writing, it's a lot like music, with chorus, repeated schemes and variations, and with crescendo and surprises in the right moments. We already know each other well, so it's a pleasure working with him and it's very easy to make the story work with his scripts.
Nrama: What's the overall mood you guys are trying to create in this Batman story?
Janin: I think working on Batman is the biggest career opportunity for both of us, and we're pulling out all the stops. I feel like we're trying to push our limits as far as we can. That makes it easier to fail at some point, but also makes the risk worth every bit. I'd say we're enjoying it a lot, and suffering it a lot too at the same time.
Nrama: What are the key differences between your approach on Grayson and on Batman?
Janin: Batman is really a very different business than Grayson, so I've forced myself to make some stylistic changes. The most obvious is the use of heavy blacks and shadows, but also there is a more visceral approach, from layouts to inks. I'm taking more risks here, cause I need to get out of my usual resources and I'm experimenting a lot. This leads to more inconsistencies, but at the same time I feel like the results are more 'punching', bolder.
I'm still at the process, learning a lot of things.
Nrama: Can you describe how you drew the action sequence between Bane and Batman in issue #10? Any choices you made about layout or framing in that scene that you can explain?
Janin: To make Bane as menacing as possible, I took out almost everything. There's little background, and Bane is built as a silhouette on negative space. He's not on venom, so he's smaller than usual, but I think I've managed to make him scary and daunting. And Batman is there, with all his presence and power diminished, like a puppet in Bane's hands.
Nrama: What page that we've seen already, in issues #9 and #10 do you think turned out particularly well — that you're happy with the way you approached them?
Janin: It's a bit difficult, because I'm not very happy with any of them. There are things I like, but others that I feel I failed at. I think [I make] the shadows of David Finch and Greg Capullo too heavy sometimes. I don't have their experience and skills, and but I try to mimic a bit their styles. I take more from Finch, since we're sharing this Batman phase. I try to give Batman [that great] weight and volume, especially in the chest, with heavy shadows as he does, but it's not my natural language, so I'm learning on the fly.
Nrama: In Batman #10, there's quite a difference between the detail on some pages and others. What were you trying to communicate in those differences?
Janin: I'm not sure, I guess part of it is due to the inconsistencies I mentioned before. Also there's a deliberate intent of making the interior of Santa Prisca claustrophobic. I imagine that place not only dark, but with dense air, difficult to even breath normally there, so I used less detail and more atmospheric effects, with splatter textures, trying to make this vitiated air almost visible.
Nrama: How much do you work with the colorist on the mood you're trying to create? What notes did you share about issue #10?
Janin:June is really awesome and brings to table a lot of resources to express the right notes. We share our thoughts, but there's no discussion, since she captures perfectly the intention at first sight, and she always surprises me with some brave palette choices here and there. I'm really happy to have her on the team.
Nrama: We haven't seen a lot of action from the villains of Batman's Suicide Squad yet. Can you tell us about how you're approaching each of them? What design work did you do?
Janin: I did some new designs for Punch and Jewelee, while the rest are mere reinterpretations of their usual look. I enjoy particularly drawing the Ventriloquist. He looks like a regular guy, but at the same time he's the most scary from the team.
Nrama: Catwoman in particular appears to be getting some revamping for "Rebirth." Can you talk about how you draw her and why?
Janin: Oh, Catwoman. I've enjoyed every panel I've drawn her. I really love that character and she's so elegant that she makes the pages draw themselves.
We've gone with her classic Darwyn Cooke style, or Jim Lee's in Hush. I think that's my favorite look ever for her. I draw her in black silhouette, with a few white strokes here and there to give a shiny look to her suit, and that's all. Also I play with the opacity of her goggles. Sometimes the reflections make the eyes invisible, but sometimes I let the eyes be visible to express her emotions. Also, I've made the goggles structure a bit 'alive', they take a bit of a different shape to reinforce her facial expressions.
Nrama: Anything else you want to share with fans about the work you're doing on Batman?
Janin: Only a huge thank you for the great response we're getting from fans. I feel a big responsibility working on Batman, and seeing that people are enjoying my work on it is just wonderful, and a relief. There's some pressure being on such an important title and character, but also a lot of joy and happiness.