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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 returns in this third Q & A session where he talks about his work on The Batman Strikes as well as Justice League Unlimited.


The World's Finest: First off, you've been working on The Batman Strikes for nearly four years, given the odd fill-in. How have you seen your work evolve and what have you learned?

Christopher Jones: I keep doing the math in my head of how many issues - how many pages - I've drawn of this book, and it seems unreal.

It's hard to separate how my work has evolved in general over the last four years and the impact of having four years to develop my take specifically on this material. My work has never stopped evolving, and from project to project I've changed my style a lot. I've done other animation-style work like Justice League Adventures and my own Dr. Blink Superhero Shrink that I do with John Kovalic. But I've also done a Kolchak graphic novel (Fever Pitch) and a (sadly unpublished) project based on Gerry Anderson's UFO that are both drawn in a much more photo-realistic style. Plus a bunch of other superhero work that lands somewhere in between. All the variety makes it a little hard to track the through-line of the evolution of my drawing style.

As for The Batman Strikes, I've definitely settled into the groove. For all the years of comics work I've done in the past, this is by far the longest stretch I've had doing a monthly book, and I think that shows up in the work. The early issues I was just trying to learn the Jeff Matsuda drawing style and the character designs. I couldn't draw a page without constantly looking at visual reference. Now in the fourth year, I can draw all the regular characters in my sleep, and I've found a balance between my own drawing style and the look of the TV show that is pretty comfortable.

I used to get asked a lot "what's it like having to draw like Jeff Matsuda"? The fact is that I don't draw anything like Jeff Matsuda. If he drew an issue of this comic it would look nothing like my work.
The trick is to find a way to interpret the character designs in your own drawing style. As I've gotten a handle on it, I think the art has become a lot looser - more fluid.

You've worked with a host of different writers so far on The Batman Strikes. How do you deal with having to work with different writers, sometimes, on a month to month basis.

It's interesting seeing a variety of writers rotate through the schedule - each with different styles and all on the same material. When the book started, we had Bill Matheney every issue, and he tried to emulate what the TV show was doing in its first year and emphasize Bruce Wayne's youth. Alfred would constantly be showing up with snack foods you'd expect a 12-year-old to eat and not something you'd expect either a Billionaire Playboy or a relentlessly training athlete to be dining on.

A lot of that's changed, and I think most of the writers we've got now are just trying to tell classic Batman stories within the confines of what you can do in an all-ages book. You can't have the Joker kill dozens of people - but he can TRY!

The thing I find interesting in contrasting the writers is not just the content of the story but the separate element of how they script a page. Some writers leave me a lot more room to play with the visuals, with an average of 4-5 panels per page and fewer lines of dialog per panel. That gives me a lot of opportunity to make the visuals flashier. Other times I get 6-7 panels a page and frequently you have two or more characters exchanging dialog in a panel, which forces you into a certain confining geometry in how you can lay out a page and still make everything fit. And those extreme approaches usually have nothing to do with how good the STORY is. Either can be great and either can be lousy. As the artist I just try to make the most of what I'm given and sell the story with the visuals as best I can.

Since you've been on The Batman Strikes! since the beginning, you've not only seen the comic evolve, but the show, as well. Was it difficult to adapt to the shows' changes (ie, Batman's slight redesign, Robin, the new "Brave & The Bold" type theme in the coming months, etc.

I think Batman's redesign was an improvement, and the redesign of Bruce Wayne was a huge improvement. Bruce originally had a curved nose and a pointed chin that looked OK if you drew it just right, but if you got it wrong he looked like Jethro. But now he really comes across as the handsome, swave, young executive type, and is a pleasure to draw. I enjoy drawing the sidekicks as well. I'd love to expand the supporting cast further! Bring in Harvey Bullock! Bring in Montoya! Let's find out what happened to Detective Yin!

I'm delighted that the book is opening up to the rest of the DCU. We're going to be getting guest appearances by not only some of the heroes and villains who've made their way into Season 5 of the TV show, but some who are straight out of the pages of DC Comics and haven't appeared in this "universe" before. And in those cases I get to design our version of the character which makes it an extra treat. My tastes run towards pretty classic versions of the characters, so I wouldn't expect radical departures from what's come before, but it's nice to be able to create my own interpretation rather than looking at someone else's model sheet.

The Batman Strikes #44 brings a guest-appearance by Superman. Were you excited to finally bring The Man of Steel into The Batman Strikes universe? How so?

Of course! Batman's always been my favorite superhero, but you can't argue that Superman isn't the most iconic hero there is. When I started on the issue, I was having fun drawing Superman although it wasn't a brand-new experience since I'd drawn Big Blue in several issues of Justice League Adventures and in some JLA work for the regular DC line. But the first time a sat down to draw Clark Kent I got one of those "I love my job" moments. Here's a bit of insight into the kind of detail I think about that 99% of the readers will never notice. There's a panel in that issue where we see Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent shake hands. In the panel, Bruce is just slightly taller than Clark - but Clark is slouching slightly, and you can see that if he straightened up, he'd actually be just a hair taller than Bruce. Is that a detail that is going to make or break the story? No. But it's an accumulation of stuff like that that lets the art sell the story being told and hopefully makes it a richer visual experience. And it entertains me...

With the "Brave & The Bold"-type theme the series will be taking, what characters are you itching to get a shot at? Can you reveal which DCU favorites may be stopping by?

I know we have a Wonder Woman and Bizarro have been mentioned, but I think those scripts are yet to be approved and scheduled. I don't usually know too much about future issues beyond the one I'm working on!

I'm sure we'll be seeing The Flash, Green Lantern, and other characters from the TV show soon. I'd love to see Green Arrow. I think that issue should actually be called "The Brave and the Bold", don't you?

My personal wish list includes The Phantom Stranger, Captain Marvel, The Question, Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, Doom Patrol, and Metal Men. Those are characters that I would personally love to draw and who I think would work well in the title.

So, as you close in on your fourth year on The Batman Strikes, do you have any thoughts on the past and what you hope working on this title will accomplish for you, and what opportunities it may hopefully bring?

I've definitely established a track record of being reliable, having done a monthly book for four years! We've had a few fill-ins, but that's been an editorial policy choice and not driven by any lateness on my part. I think my storytelling and composition have strengthened over the course of the run. I really enjoy both the material and the style. The only concern I have about doing this work is that comic book editors can have short memories, and they forget I can do anything other than animation-style work. Most of the work I did before coming to DC was mystery and horror. I did the comic book adaptation of Re-Animator, for Pete's sake!


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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