NYCC 2019: Chris Burnham Looking Back On Batman Incorporated
by Tito W. James
Tito W. James: I really enjoyed your work on Batman Incorporated with Grant Morrison. Some of the visual techniques you pulled off looked impossible to script. What was the process like from script to page?
Chris Burnham: Grant would give me a script that I would draw from and then he would do a second pass of the script based on my art. The script could change radically but it was always to make sure that we were hitting the mark emotionally. If I hit the mark he would pull back and let the images speak for themselves. If there was something that I’d missed, he’d punch up with scene with dialogue.
Often Grant will describe in the script what kind of vibe he’s going for. He’ll start a sequence with a list of inspirations or themes he’s trying to communicate. It’s an amazing working relationship with the best writer in comics and the fact that he has faith in me is really neat!
TWJ: You have distinctive linework and iconoclastic paneling. What are some of your artistic influences or inspirations?
CB: I honestly love Frank Quitely’s work, he’s amazing. I really like Tetsuo Hara, the Fist of The North Star guy. I’ve got a full run of Fist of The North Star in Japanese and I don’t speak Japanese. I spent a very long time just looking at the pictures and following its panel to panel storytelling. One panel will flow right into the other without the words getting in the way. That affected me on a pretty deep level, especially in fight scenes.
Moebius is also huge, and Jack Kirby. You know anything I look at whether I love it or hate it, it always effects me. In fact hating someones art has just as much of an effect on me as loving someone’s art. There are artists who’ve turned in such horrible drawings that I’ve based my entire career on defeating that drawing. Every time I draw a reflection its to spit in the eye one particular artist to bails on their reflections, they just reverse the image in photoshop. I take reflections very seriously for some reason.
TWJ: Do you have any advice on choreographing fight scenes in comics?
CB: The bare bones of it is that if you’re hitting with the right hand in one panel you have to hit with the left hand in the next panel. If you have two right punches in a row it looks to me like a weird “jump-cut.”
I pay a lot of attention to the vectors; where readers’ eyes are going from panel to panel. That line of action should be the same as the direction of the characters. So when your eyes are moving across the panel they are participating with the punch or kick.
For me it’s not always a left to right flow. When you’re moving down the page from tier to tier, you should probably have a right to left vector moving diagonally across the page to lead the eyes.
I’d like to thank Chris Burnham for taking the time to do this interview.