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No stranger to the "animated comics" line of DC Comics, now dubbed Johnny DC, Christopher Jones has become a recognized name in the industry. The current artist for The Batman Strikes!, the comic based on the hit series The Batman, Jones has found himself working in a whole new style, much different than what he’s worked on in the past. With the first year of the title almost over, Jones reflects on the visual style that accompanies this bold new take on the Dark Knight.


The World's Finest (WF): The big question has to be the change in art style between the "Bruce Timm" animated work and the new "Jeff Mattsuda" animated work. Based on your artwork in Justice League Adventures and now The Batman Strikes, what is it like to work on both?

Christopher Jones (CJ): The Batman Strikes! art is a bit more detailed, a little more time-consuming to draw. I little bit of that is because the character designs are a bit more detailed, but a lot of it is because the backgrounds are so dense. I don't need to make every panel look like a screen capture from the show or anything, but you want to get across the flavor. And the show has amazingly lush and detailed backgrounds.

 It's been an interesting learning experience working in both styles, and I've definitely picked up things I'll take with me into future projects.

WF: When starting The Batman Strikes!, did you have any difficulty in adapting your artwork to fit the new The Batman style?

CJ: I had similar experiences with both, actually. The first issue or two involved a lot of following animation model sheets slavishly and trying hard to capture the style of the design. After a few issues, I
felt I had more of a handle on the style and it allowed myself to loosen up a lot, and I saw my drawing getting more graceful and fluid.

And now I'm at the stage where I'm filtering more of my own style back in, and you're ending up with a real hybrid of my sensibilities with those of the TV show.

The biggest challenge with The Batman Strikes revolved around the fact that it was a brand new show. I hadn't seen these characters move or heard their voices. They were just static designs on a model sheet. With Justice League Adventures I knew those characters. I'd seen lots of Bruce Timm's drawing style and he was doing pretty classic versions of the Justice League. And Bruce's drawing has a real constructionist logic to it. His characters are built up out of these blunted, rounded off geometric shapes, and it's really easy to wrap your head around how they work in three dimensions.

Jeff Matsuda draws nothing like I do. His designs live a little bit more on the two dimensional plane, and are very angular and pointy and have lots of convex curves to them.

When I say that the artwork I'm doing now on The Batman Strikes is a hybrid of my sensibilities and his, I really mean it. Aside from the fact that the page layout, the composition, the storytelling are all me, even the rendering is a real hybrid. I've read some flattering comments about my art saying it looked like "screen captures from the show", but when I look at Jeff's covers for the comic I always think "Wow, that looks NOTHING like what I'm doing." They're gorgeous, but they're really different from my pages.

WF: What aspects of The Batman's visual style appeals to you? Does this visual style work on a character like Batman?

CJ: I think it's a great look. I was as big a fan of the previous animates series and the Bruce Timm designs as anyone. And I was blown away when I got an advance look at the character and background designs for The Batman in preparation for doing The Batman Strikes!. Gotham City is fantastic and I think The Batman has my favorite Batcave design ever.

I'm especially impressed with the way they use CGI on the show for vehicles and other elements and so seamlessly integrate it into the cel animation. A lot of other shows that try to use CGI don't integrate it as successfully. But that's all off-topic from my work on the comic...

WF: A major villain has been featured in every issue of The Batman Strikes! so far. Do any stand out for you?

CJ: I've enjoyed the variety and like a lot of the new designs. If I had to pick one favorite it would probably be Bane. I like the massive bulkiness of the character, and enjoy drawing his extensive battles with Batman. Characters like Scarface tend to be a little talky. I just drew my second stories with both the Joker and Penguin. It was great getting to revisit those characters now that I'm more "warmed up" on the title. I'm much happier with I did with both of them the second time around. Although after the Penguin story I'm really sick of drawing birds...

WF: Back to style, are there any pros and cons from going from the "Timm" animated style to the "Mattsuda" style? Anything you miss drawing, etc?

CJ: Well I wasn't working on Batman Adventures, I was working on Justice League Adventures. So I wasn't getting to draw the Batcave, or the Batmobile, or Alfred or any of that stuff. I got to draw Batman, and the Joker and Two-Face showed up briefly in the Phantom Stranger story I did. So mainly I miss drawing Green Lantern, The Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and the other Justice League members. I'd love to revisit them on the new Justice League Unlimited book sometime.

But that was a great Batman design. I think I liked the The New Batman Adventures design a little better, but it's all great stuff. The Mattsuda designs I'm working with on The Batman Strikes! are great designs and its such fun to have so many issues to develop the imagery of Batman, and on top of that have different villains to play with each month. I'm having a great time!

WF: Are you given more creative freedom when it comes to working on this title, or do you have to follow the same guidelines similar to the previous animated comics you've worked on?

CJ: I can't say that I felt really restrained on either The Batman Strikes! or Justice League Adventures. You have to stay on-model with the animation designs, of course, but that really hasn't been a problem for me. I've taken some mild liberties with the staging of some action from the way it was scripted on The Batman Strikes!, just to get it to flow a little better on the page, and both my editor Nachie Castro and the writer Bill Matheney have been very supportive.

WF: The Batman Strikes! seems to be moving smoothly for you, then! As a reader of the comic, I have to ask this - what can we expect in upcoming issues of The Batman Strikes!?

CJ: The Joker will be returning and having a court hearing to determine whether he really belongs in Arkham or the state prison. That one was a lot of fun.

After that there is a fill in issue that the powers-that-be at DC wanted to get a little more padding between where we were in the production schedule and the publication date of the comic. It was a long-in-coming adjustment due to the fact that when the comic started we had to get into print sooner than everyone would have liked from the time that we started writing and drawing.

The issue after that is our second Penguin story, who hasn't been seen in the comic since our first issue. I did much better with the Penguin this time. I also had more fun with the Kabuki twins this issue, since in the first issue they never got out of their Kimonos. This time they do a lot of leaping around with those bladed fingers of theirs – lots of fun to draw.

Going out beyond that, we'll be seeing Bane and Catwoman returning, and we'll finally get to use Clayface. And then hopefully we'll have everything lined up to use a bunch of the "season two" villains like the Riddler, Killer Croc, Ragdoll, and Solomon Grundy. DC really wants to see us use them first.

We also want to bring in some original villains and villains from the comics that are NOT being used in the TV series, but that will all have to wait until after we've used the season two villains.


The World's Finest would like to thank Christopher Jones for his participation in this Q & A. To check out more of the pages that Christopher Jones provided, check out our Backstage. Past works include Justice League Adventures, Young Heroes In Love, Kolchak, and a host of DC specials.To find out more about Christopher Jones, please visit his official website.

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