Below you'll find thoughts of Adventures in the DC Universe by the artist, John Delaney.
When the talented Steve Vance got signed and sent in his first script I had only 11 days to draw the full 22 pages so we wouldn't miss our first shipping date. Unfortunately by hitting the first deadline on time we were now trapped into that cycle leaving me literally only 11 days for penciling each issue up until # 5 by which time we had finally caught up. It's very hard for me to look at those first year of issues because all I see are what I would change and how I could make it better.
One thing that caught me by surprise was the fan reaction both positive and negative. When we started this book I was a huge fan of Bruce Timm's style but what I liked best was how when he did a comic book ( Mad Love, Batman Adventures Annual) he would allow his more cartoony sensibilities to come to the surface. Really fun pushed expressions and a strong Kirby and Toth influence in the staging and strong use of blacks and speed lines. Being a HUGE fan of both Kirby & Toth I glommed on to this and pushed those influences further to give the book it's own personality. Many fans were very in sync with what I was trying to do but others felt I was moving too far away from the Timm style and they didn't like it. This is why when I worked on Justice League Adventures I stuck so close to the Timm style. Many people didn't understand that my more "pushed" style on Adventures was deliberate, and as an animator who has had to work on every different kind of style of show I was determined to show the unhappy fans that I could give them what they wanted if I chose to.
Another factor of the difference between my style of drawing the DC Animated style on Adventures and what was happening on the Batman Adventures and Superman Adventures was that our book started as Bruce Timm was redesigning his style for the New Batman and Robin Adventures. The model sheets I was getting were a lot more angled and sharp edged than what was being done in the other books. Seeing the way the new show was going to look I moved in that direction. Unfortunately our first 8 books came out before anyone else saw anything of the new shows and I think some people didn't get what I was doing. As the first two books had set out a blue print for what they should look like I was fighting a pretty tough battle to try something new. After the Batman & Robin adventures came out I think people were more receptive to the idea of changing Bruce Timm's style around a bit more and I think we could have gone in some different directions had the book continued. I certainly loved the liberties Aluir Amancio took with the Superman book.
Like any artist, one tries their best to inject some of their own style into what they are working on and many of the different layout things I did I am very proud. Comics are a very collaborative effort and sometimes a penciller will draw something with a very specific idea of how it should be colored and/or inked, then when it comes back it's very different from what you expected. This can be very exciting as well as hard at times. In the case of Adventures I had a great friend in Ron Boyd on inks who was very open and receptive to whatever I was trying to do. He was working on two books at the time (Legion of Superheroes & Adventures) and still found time to try and incorporate some of my more elaborate layout ideas and thick n' thin approach. My feeling now in hindsight is that our styles didn't mesh as smoothly as I would have liked. This is not a criticism of Ron at all. He's a very very talented artist himself but sometimes two people, as well matched as they are personally, don't necessarily match artistically. I think that was the case here. On issue #15 I had a guy named Dave Cooper (who also inked me on several Scooby Doo issues) ink the back up Aquaman story and I felt his style and mine meshed more fluidly than Ron & mine (of course he wasn't under the same deadline crunches that Ron was under). More than the problems of mesh with pencils and inks though was the colors.
On Batman Adventures they had the amazing Lee Loughridge and on Superman Adventures they had Marie Severin. Both these colorists were very in sync with what was happening on the animated TV shows however I never felt Adventures got the same treatment. I would make extensive notes on each issue about what I wanted in specific panels and they were always ignored. Even simple things like if we were in Gotham the sky should be red would never happen. Probably two of the most frustrating examples are #5 the Martian Manhunter issue and #6 the first Aquaman issue. In the MM issue he is inside a burning building and the walls are monochromatic blue? with red and orange flames. Anytime you want to see a room on fire you need only pop on a Batman TAS there's practically one in every second episode but there was no care to giving it that look. I think the colorist was still stuck in the old school 4 color format. While Batman Adventures was taking advantage of all the colors and effects available in Photoshop we were getting silver age color styling. Check out Aquaman in #6 not only is his uniform in monochromatic blues for some reason; the background water colors are too! The only time they aren't is the splash page were the water is a flat green and no consideration is given to all the individual bubbles that Ron & I labored on. This was probably the single most frustrating thing about working on the book. Every time I would pick up an issue of Batman Adventures I'd get so jealous.
I would like to stress that I'm not taking any shots at the talents of the main colorist on the book. I just think he was going for a more silver age look as opposed to what the other animated books were doing. I don't think he was that familiar with the TV shows and the color approach used. For example if you look at the coloring of the Aquaman back up in issue #15 by Grafe (with inks by Dave Cooper (great inker)) or Tom McCraw's colors on issue 10 (the Legion) you can get a picture of what the book could've looked like on a regular basis if the full range of pallet and effects were used on each issue. I have nothing but the utmost respect for everyone who was involved in the book and I know how tight deadlines were for everyone so while I know that it was far from my best work, I wish we had all had more time to tweak and improve each of our contributions. Unfortunately that was not possible on that book.
There are a great many things I hold very dear about Adventures in the DC Universe. I got to design and draw nearly every character in the DCU in the animated style. I still love the Blue Beetle & Booster Gold story. I felt that one and the Shazam stories really worked with my more cartoony take and Steve's writing on those issues was really fun. Getting inked by the legend John Byrne on my Dr.Fate story in the Adventures Annual was an enormous thrill. Recently I picked up a book on Catwoman at Chapters and in it there was a the panel of her sneaking Wonder Woman's lasso out of her hotel room from issue # 19. That was very cool to see. It was my first professional comic penciling job so I know I had a lot to learn and it did provide me that opportunity which I am eternally grateful to KC Carlson for taking a chance on me and encouraging me to find my own artistic voice on the series.
FAVS - Issue # 4 (Loved Kyle Rayner) Issue # 7 (Shazam!) #8 (Blue & Gold) #10 (Legion) #12 (JLA) #18, #19 and I loved Steve's story for # 16 but I felt the colors were so off we lost all the intensity in the art the Ron & I tried to capture.
Personally I felt my best work of that era was the Superman VS Lobo one shot I did with Mike Manley inking and Stu Chaifetz coloring. There are a few panels I drew that I’d like to change but overall I'm very pleased with that book.