Saturday, January 21, 2012

Killing Joke - Cover Replica

Batman: The Killing Joke
By Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

Here's the original by Brian Bolland

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Well, I **FINALLY** finished my big project: a 20" x 30" recreation of "Batman: The Killing Joke".

Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and snapped the picture about 10 minutes before I took it out the door to deliver; it looked just fine on the thumbnail preview on my camera, but when I got the picture ready for upload, the colors seem washed out and there was a reflection on top.  Alas, PhotoShop can only manipulate so much before the fixing in one spot completely distorts another.  Sigh...  Oh, well. I guess the pic is good enough for our needs.  :-)

Anyway, for those who are interested, here's the step-by-step:

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STEP ONE:  As I usually do for these cover recreations, I glued down a 22" x 30" sheet of 140 lb. Stonehenge paper (100% cotton rag) to a 20" x 30" hardboard and trimmed off the excess paper.  I then used a mixture of size (glue) and gesso to prepare the painting surface.  I drew out a 2" x 2" grid and started drawing the cover.

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STEP TWO:  After getting the pencils and layout finished, I did some outlines in black acrylic and filled in large areas so I could still see it after I started laying in colors.  It almost looks like a Frank Miller drawing at this point.  Either that or a "Scarface" poster.  :-)

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STEP THREE:  Next, comes the flat colors in acrylic paint.  I choose the color scheme used in the Bolland-colored 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.  And, once again, I must ask if it has really been 20 years since I first bought my copy of "Batman: The Killing Joke", hot off the shelves?  (Of course, I also got the 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, as well.)  Time flies...

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STEP FOUR:  I next added some shadows and highlights on the colors.  I tried several times, after LOTS of trial-and-error (mostly "error", alas) to mix the paint for all the changes in value and try to match the air-brush techniques used in the PhotoShop coloring of the color.  Sometimes acrylic can be a bit temperamental, streaky and difficult to blend... and trying to match colors after they dry can be quite a pain.

However, in this case I got an idea to use a drybrush technique, as I don't have an airbrush.  I used a No. 14 round hog-haired brush, dipped it in the paint color you want to use as the highlight/shadow, then brush off most of the paint with a newspaper or some other paper leaving a little bit of paint remaining on the brush.  Then you lightly brush the remaining paint on the picture and slowly build up lights and darks.  In my humble view, it looks a lot like an airbrush effect without actually having an airbrush.

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STEP FIVE:  Lastly, it was time for the linework.  Lots and LOTS of linework.  Almost all lines were done with a No. 3 and No. 4 round brush, with a mixture of black acrylic paint and ink.  I did use an Ultra-Fine Sharpie for some of the straight edge and circle templates used on the camera.

Normally, I also include all the lettering on the cover and the logo.  However, in this case I decided to leave off the logo, with the image of the Joker just holding the camera and saying "Smile!".  It's so iconic, I didn't think many people would miss the logo.  I called it done (FINALLY!), sprayed the painting with an acrylic sealer, and took it in to my pal, Jim. 

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This was done with acrylic paint on 20" x 30" gessoed Stonehenge paper glued to hardboard.


  1. Replies
    1. Hello Sisifo, :-)

      Thanks much for your interest. Alas, it is already sold to my local Comic Book Shop, Jimmy Jams Comics and Cards, here in Winona, MN. All the previous Cover Replicas were sold to him as well, and I have about 6 more on order. I'm going to be quite busy for the rest of the year and part of the next doing Cover Replicas. ;-)

      I'm currently working on the Dave Stevens cover for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #1, for those interested. :-)