BATMAN’S Tom King Talks Collaboration in Comics

Creating comics is a constant collaboration between writer, penciler, inker, colorist, and letterer, not to mention multiple editorial voices and the time-consuming but often thankless role of flatter. But since the turn of the 21st century, the comics conversation has been largely centered around the writer. Though there has been a recent push for more artist credit, it’s often missing from comics coverage. During our recent interview with Batman writer Tom King, he bucked that trend and really dived into the collaborative side of the new Batman Annual #2. It was not only enlightening, but a total pleasure to hear King wax lyrical about his fellow creators and the parts they play in bringing the world of Batman to life.

The upcoming Batman Annual #2 is split between two illustrators. First up is veteran Lee Weeks, who handles the initial 30 pages. Tom King’s praise for Weeks spills over, especially when it comes to his vision of the Caped Crusader. “There are probably a billion people who know who Batman is and I think when they close their eyes and imagine the platonic ideal of Batman, that’s what Lee draws,” King said. “He taps into that and draws the perfect Batman—the Batman of our dreams, the one we dream of when we’re two years old, the one we carry with us for our whole lives. He taps into that in a way that I don’t think anyone really has since Mazzucchelli in Year One.”

On a more personal note, King added, “Beyond that, he’s just a joy to work with. He’s one of the great storytellers in the history of the form, where he takes small moments and makes them intimate and human.”

Creating sequential art is a completely different beast than, say, sketching still-lifes, and for King, one of Weeks’ greatest talents is the way that he brings the pages to life with expressive action. “He draws movement better than anyone I know,” King said. “He doesn’t draw so many lines to show movement, but he draws the moment before the movement so you’re anticipating what’s coming. He’s a genius of the form and has been for 30 years.”

The colors on Lee Weeks’ pages are provided by Elizabeth Breitweiser, whose work King was excited to laud. “I’m bad at describing what colors are, but I know what works,” he said. In celebrating the often unheralded colorist role, King also gave a shout out to one of our favorite talents: “I work a lot with Jordie Bellaire—she’s like my ideal colorist—and Elizabeth brings the same thing Jordie brings,” King said. “Rather than making the pencils look like they exist in a different world, she makes them seem like they exist in our world. She grounds them, you know? There’s a little dirt to it, a little grime, which suits Batman’s world. That’s what good coloring does, it brings you into the reality of it.”

The book’s final chapter is arguably the hard hitter. Though it’s only eight pages long, it’ll be an emotional ride for fans, with noir mainstay Michael Lark illustrating and June Chung delivering colors. For King, receiving the art from Michael Lark was a truly revelatory experience. “I write comics and I make this stuff up,” King said. “It doesn’t exist and then I put it down. But for the first time, when I got the art back from Michael Lark, I had tears in my eyes. It was the first time… I’ve gotten art back where it’s just hit me on an emotional level, not just a creative level. When I got that art back from Michael Lark, there was just something in it. I tried to put the meaning of life in a comic book and I got close to it.”

Will you be picking up Batman Annual #2? Love hearing more about the creative process of comics? Just enjoy seeing colorists getting the love they deserve! Let us know in the comments!

Images: DC Comics

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