The Big Comic Page was lucky enough to have a chat with Jonathan Case, the Eisner Award-winning artist who will be handling the first three stories of DC’s upcoming “Batman ’66” project. Here’s what went down;
Big Comic Page: First off Jonathan, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Now, for those of our readers who may not be familiar with your previous work, just who is Jonathan Case, and where might we have seen your work before?
Jonathan Case: Dear Creature (Tor Books) is the first graphic novel I wrote and drew, and probably what most people think of if they know my work. It’s a comedic take on the 60’s monster flick, told from the atomic mutant’s perspective. I also did the art for Green River Killer, by Jeff Jensen, and after that, The Creep with John Arcudi (Dark Horse). Beyond that, I’ve done art and script duties here and there around comics. Mostly with Dark Horse.
BCP: You have a very striking visual style. Who would you say your artistic inspirations were, or is it a style you developed on your own?
JC: I didn’t know a lot of names when I started into comics professionally, but I grew up reading a lot of newspaper comics, like anybody. Bill Watterson is probably the biggest comics influence, even though I don’t draw anything like him. The rest of my style pretty much came about from looking at movies, animation, and pre-1970s comics.
When I started Dear Creature, I made the choice to eliminate hatching and rendering from my comics work. That choice has pretty much stayed with me. I like to look at efficient line work, so I try to draw that way myself.
BCP: Now obviously, there’s a huge amount of buzz surrounding DC’s Batman ’66 project. How did you end up getting involved? You and Jeff [Parker, writer of the series] knew each other through Periscope Studios, right?
JC: Yeah, we were out fishing with our kids last summer when he told me about it. We share an affection for the era of the show, and Jeff knows I love to do whimsical stuff (and after a couple dark projects, I was sorely needing something lighter). So he looked over and said, “Hey I’m working on this Batman project based on the 1966 show- would you want to do some of the art for it?” That was pretty much it!
BCP: This is probably a fairly obvious question, but were you a fan of the show when you were younger?
JC: I think I watched a couple episodes growing up, but we mostly didn’t have TV, so it had to be either in a hotel room or at a friend’s house. When we did have TV, I watched a lot of the early nineties animated series.
BCP: You’re doing layouts, inks and colours for the first three stories of the series. Is it important for you to have that level of control?
JC: Sort of. I requested that DC either let me handle color or give it to someone with a sense of the era. It’s such a big part of what’s going to make Batman ’66 work, I wanted to make sure we got it right. There are plenty of colorists that would do a bang-up job on this, but DC saw from my work that I could do it, so they just gave it to me. Keeps it simple.
BCP: What’s your working relationship like with Jeff? How hands-on is he with regards to the visual style of the comic?
JC: He’s very hands off. He knows I want to get it right, and I think he trusts me. Jeff does have great visual ideas though. He doesn’t want it spread around, but he’s a fantastic artist himself.
BCP: From the artwork that has been released already, it’s pretty clear that you’ve absolutely nailed the style of the show, with the faintly-moustached Cesar Romero Joker in particular being absolutely spot-on. Do you have a favourite character from the series to draw, and are there any you wished you’d got a chance to draw?
JC: Julie Newmar Catwoman is where it’s at. Robin, with his weirdly elfin shoes is also fun. I’d like to draw Vincent Price as Egghead (because, Vincent Price), but that probably won’t happen.
BCP: So what can we expect from the comic? What kind of style are you guys going for?
JC: It’s not going to be aping the show every chance it gets, but it will have a lot of the stuff you remember, blown up to the infinite budget of comics. It’s going to be FUN.
BCP: DC is doing extremely well with their line of ‘digital-first’ comics. We recently had a discussion on the page about the subject, and it seemed like most people fell into two distinct camps; those who preferred the accessibility and convenience of the digital format, and those who needed to feel the paper in their hands. What are your thoughts on the medium?
JC: I like both, and I think they’re a compliment to each other. Digital comics have a lot of room to grow, a lot that can be done. We’re still at the beginning. Right now, it’s less a medium and more a delivery method- but it’s a great delivery method. Print will always be desirable for its own qualities.
BCP: Finally, besides Batman ‘66, what can we expect to see from you in the future, and do you have any plans to visit the UK?
JC: I hope I’ll stop in at some point! One of my upcoming books is related to travel, so…
Right now I’m writing and drawing a piece for Eerie, and writing script for another graphic novel set in the ’30s. Comedy-caper stuff, ala Billy Wilder. That’s a fun one. Definitely a lot more creator-owned material, and more stuff that’s appropriate for young readers. I’m ready to ride this FUN comics wave for a while.
BCP: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us, Jonathan. It’s been a pleasure, and I think I speak for most of our readers when I say that I absolutely cant wait to see how Batman ’66 turns out.