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Batman Reincorporated: Nathan Fairbairn Presents A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Revised Art For ‘Absolute Batman Inc.’

Writer Grant Morrison undertook a major magnum opus with Batman Incorporated. As the culmination of his seven-year-run on the character, working in collaboration with artists including Cameron Stewart, Frazer Irving, Yanick Paquette, and Chris Burnham, he offered up his definitive deconstruction of the character of Batman through the creation of a global Batman franchise.

Yet as series colorist Nathan Fairbairn tells us, Batman Incorporated experienced an unusual road bump in the form of a line-wide DC Comics reboot (the New 52) that potentially undermined a major thesis behind the whole series — that every Batman story that had ever been told was still canon. Writing exclusively for ComicsAlliance, Fairbairn reveals how some pages were re-drawn for the book’s Absolute collection, which arrived in stores this week.

 

By Nathan Fairbairn

 

When I started work on Batman Incorporated with Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette, it seemed to me that the concept driving it (and, by extension, all of Grant’s Batman work) was that all of Batman’s long, byzantine history was in continuity, and that if you just gave Grant a chance he’d show you how all of those pieces fit together.

Unfortunately, halfway through this series that was based on the idea that everything is in continuity, word came down that The New 52 would be happening, and that none of it would be in continuity anymore. Batman had never duelled Ra’s al Ghul in the desert. He’d never had his back broken by Bane. He’d never been a prisoner of three worlds with Kathy Kane’s Batwoman. Heck, there was no Kathy Kane anymore. No Stephanie Brown. None of that happened.

Damn.

Fortunately, Mike Marts, the excellent former group editor of the Batbooks at DC, knew that Grant had been working towards something special for a long time, and didn’t want to cheat Grant or his readers out of the conclusion they deserved. So Batman Incorporated would become the only book to survive the sea change that was The New 52.

But it wouldn’t survived wholly unscathed. The entire second volume was done with, at best, a sideways nod to New 52 continuity. It was a part of the New 52 continuity, for sure, but if you squinted your eyes just right, from a certain angle, in the right light… it really wasn’t.

As far as creative/editorial tightrope walks go, it was pretty impressive. Grant basically had to tell the second volume of Batman Inc. in such a way that it seemed of a piece with the first, while simultaneously embracing the challenge of The New 52, which was to abandon the shackles/foundation of hundreds of issues of continuity and to invite new readers in with new (or at least rehashed) stories.

For the most part, I think Grant and Mike pulled off the balancing act between old and new, but there were certain things we just couldn’t get around. Some of these things were minor, like the sudden de-aging of Jim Gordon. Others were more major, like Dick Grayson’s sudden and unexplained (in our book, anyway) switch back to being Nightwing, or a flashback of Batman wearing his New 52 costume to rescue Talia from the League of Assassins.

 

 

Along with the new challenges presented by The New 52 came the same old challenges of getting a book out on a monthly schedule. Getting a comic book out on the stands on time month after month is an incredible achievement, and my hat is completely off to any team that can do it. Seriously, given how much thought and time and effort can go into just coloring a single page, I’m amazed that these things ever come out at all.

On Batman Incorporated, it became necessary towards the end for series artist Chris Burnham to regularly turn on the bat signal and call for help getting the thing out the door on time. Several artists, but primarily Jason Masters — a great artist and friend of Burnham’s — were enlisted to help out with anywhere from 3-6 pages of interior art per issue. Jason and the other fill-in artists were working from Burnham’s layouts and thumbnails and producing fantastic work, but, as good as Jason and the others are, they all simply draw differently from Chris, and the stylistic consistency of the book suffered. A lot of readers felt jarred out of the story by the shifting art styles (and let us know it).

And so it was with a good deal of excitement that the creative teamed learned that the series would be getting the Absolute treatment, and that there would be time and a budget to revisit the series, and for Burnham to redraw every single page that he’d needed help on.

Here now is a selection of some of Chris’s redrawn pages, along with his original thumbnails and the originally published pages (all colored by me, natch):

 

Click to enlarge images.

 

Heck, even Yanick wanted a crack at drawing the two pages he’d needed help on!

 

 

I’m glad we were able to make up for some of our struggles and to offer fans of the series a reward for buying this story in yet another format. Like most of Grant’s work, it’s a book that is well served by multiple readings, and you just can’t beat the Absolute series for quality and care of printing. This story will never again look as good as it does here.

Plus, now the flashbacks even make sense!

 

 

Absolute Batman Incorporated is available in stores now from DC Comics.

 

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