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Aaron Lopresti has been drawing comics for 20 years, but the project that comes out this week is something he’s never been able to do until now.
With DC Comics’ digital-first series Legends of the Dark Knight, the veteran artist of Wonder Woman and The Amazing Spider-Man was given a chance to write a draw a Batman tale on his own terms. Titled “I… Batman,” the story finds Batman at the mercy of a Murderer’s Row of villain, with Lopresti able to depict the rogues in the signature styles of some of their most popular artists. Brian Bolland’s rendition of the Joker from Batman: The Killing Joke, Bruce Timm’s Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series, and more. And for Lopresti, he gets to dream up a twisted Frankenstein-like version of Batman as seen above.
Lopresti spoke with ROBOT 6 about this unique assignment, his burgeoning career as a writer/artist, and the homages in this three-part story.
Aaron Lopresti: I am really terrible at condensing a story into one or two compelling sentences. That’s why I could never be a Hollywood pitchman. The story is really about obsessive hero worship or idolizing heroes and how it can be a self-destructive process. But since I wrote the story, it should be no surprise to anyone that there is a monster involved with a Frankenstein slant.
You’ve drawn virtually every hero at Marvel and DC, as well as several Batman books, but I believe this is the first time you’ve drawn the Joker for comics. Tell us about that.
I was never really a Joker fan until The Killing Joke came out and Alan Moore made the character more than just a goof with a gun. I never liked the visual design of the character, either — until Brian Bolland re-imagined him in the same story. Since that time I have always wanted to take a crack at drawing the character using Bolland’s design as a template. It was great getting to draw him, but also intimidating knowing my work would pale in comparison to Bolland’s. Oh, well …
But as this is your first big Batman story you’re writing and drawing, you’re not just bringing in the Joker … you also have Killer Croc and Clayface. I really enjoyed how for Clayface you drew the Bruce Timm version from Batman: The Animated Series, showing how wide a latitude DC gives these out-of-continuity digital-first books. Can you tell us about bringing that guy – and that style – into the book?
I’m a strange dichotomy in that I like monsters — but not overly gross or horrifying monsters. Bruce Timm’s Clayface has the monster appeal without being too grotesque, and it’s always fun to take an animation design and then adapt it to a modern comics version. Also, having the action figure on a shelf a couple of feet away makes it easy.
You’re a veteran in comics, but this is your digital-first debut. What do you think of the experience creating work to premiere in this venue first, and also as a pro seeing this new delivery venue developing?
The format takes a little getting used to in that one printed page is actually two digital pages. Finding a happy medium of satisfying both mediums with the proper amount of content per page was challenging. Overall, I am very impressed with what DC is doing with their digitals. I most recently saw the Batman ’66 comic and thought some of the special effects they were using were really terrific. I think you need to use the tricks available in the medium to make the digital experience different from the print experience and DC seems to be doing a great job of that.
After years of being primarily known as an artist, you’ve been doing a series of great stories as writer AND artist here at DC with the likes of Weird Worlds, My Greatest Adventure and now this arc on Legends of the Dark Knight. Is writing something you’ve been pushing to get into on a regular basis for some time?
Yes, it is. As a kid, I always spent as much time writing as drawing, but those opportunities are not always as readily available as a professional. I actually started at Marvel writing and drawing humor stories for them and then later wrote and drew some issues of Sludge (Malibu comics) as well as some Xena (Topps) stories. When I came over from Marvel to DC several years ago, that was one of the points of emphasis for me. Dan DiDio said he would give me some opportunities to write and draw and he’s been good to his word. I find it much more liberating drawing my own stories and look forward to more opportunities in the future.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but as of yet the only artist you’ve worked with as a writer has been yourself. Any chance you might collaborate with another artist at some point down the line?
The only way I would do something like that is if an artist came to me with their project and asked me to write it for them. It would be hard to take something I generated and give it to someone else because I enjoy the drawing part so much. However, there are artists out there that I am such a fan of that just getting to collaborate with them on a project would be worth the sacrifice.
The third part of this story, Legends of the Dark Knight #68, goes on sale Thursday as a digital-first release.