In this, the third installment of our ongoing series, we are going to take a look at the art of Patrick Gleason. The above image was taken from Batman and Robin #3 which was entitled “Knightmoves” and was written by Peter J. Tomasi. Gleason pencils were aided by the colorist John Kalisz and the inker Mick Gray.
This was perhaps my favorite panel thus far. To provide a little context, Batman is out “heightening” the defensive perimeter of Wayne Manor. While inside the manor young Damian, also known as the new Robin, is engaged in a game of Chess with Alfred Pennyworth the trusted butler. Batman senses an increased danger to the manse, one that directly involves Damian. Hence, Batman pursues his defenses without his son for his own protection.
As I said above this is perhaps my favorite image so far. Batman, like any good chess piece, is at rest where it has its greatest potential. The possibilities for movement and to capture an opposing player are limitless as long as, as in this case, Batman controls the chessboard of his property. To further illustrate the chessboard analogy our panel is heavily accented in red and black like any standard board is colored.
Sitting atop a stone vulture gargoyle, Batman also represents a major playing piece on our chessboard. Despite being our Dark Knight, Batman, with the added height of the vulture, is more like a King or Queen playing piece the most valuable and dangerous of chess pieces. The symbolism of the granite vulture is of note also. The vulture is not a bird of prey as one might expect from a scene associated with Batman. Rather, the vulture is a feeder of carrion, the dead meat of a victim killed by another predator. In this case the predator being the defense system of Wayne Manor. Batman, like the vulture, awaits the victim of his stout defenses.
The lack of movement on Batman’s part in this illustration is singular also. Quite often Batman is pictured swinging into action. His dynamic movement is crucial to his reputation as crepuscular creature. (Say that five times fast.) But here his stillness adds a certain menace. It’s as if Batman could remain motionless forever awaiting the instant to either strike or feed.
The lack of over wrought musculature is significant also. There is no brazen chest thumping here to intimidate any opponent. Rather, Batman looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie. The funeral folding to Batman’s cape is eerie and it looks as though Batman is some sort of other worldly demonic priest about to preside over some ghastly interment. The blood red sky in the background with its dead eye full moon further accentuates this.
As I’ve noted before, Batman is surrounded by what I call a “perfect storm” of bats. In this particular case the bats add a sense of fluidity to the frame. While Batman is at rest the situation behind him is a molten whirlpool of danger. Such is the life of our Caped Crusader no matter what the dynamic.
Lastly, most of Batman’s face is in shadow. There are no bared teeth to reveal anger as we often see. Even the eyes are blackened. We only see the arched eyebrows of the latent anger from a broken childhood. It’s as if this portrait of Batman is that of an empty dead husk, all folded within itself without any life. Without any soul. Truly a fearsome image.
Posted by Dave Healey