If there is one Batman run that doesn’t get enough praise, it’s the strand of highly entertaining stories published in Gotham Adventures #15-60, from 1999 to 2003, written by Scott Peterson, mostly with pencils by Tim Levins, inks by Terry Beatty, and colors by Lee Loughridge. Adapting the characters and visuals of The New Batman Adventures animated show, these were action-packed comics that steadily delivered exciting standalone tales without talking down to their audience. The ultra-compressed narratives – effectively carried by taut dialogue as well as by an art style of crisp lines and low average of panels per page – were a lesson in minimalistic storytelling, spinning twist-filled yarns that were rich in characterization yet never felt overloaded.
Of the many outstanding features of this run worth pointing out, today I want to focus on Tim Levins’ ability to bring to life ‘silent’ (i.e. wordless, without even sound effects) sequences that go on for pages. Scott Peterson clearly trusted his artists to convey all the necessary information and knew that readers enjoyed visually-driven set pieces, so his scripts provided Levins (and the rest of the creative team) with plenty of chances to shine.
Levins rose up to the challenge.Damn right he did.
Tim Levins’ deft pencils inject this sequence with peerless vitality through tilted angles and, in the second page, tilted borders (as the layout smoothly establishes the scene’s rhythm). Notice how Levins uses a small number of panels, letting the pages breathe, yet suddenly multiplies the images of the Caped Crusader, which gives the impression of a quick (yet clear) succession of graceful movements. Besides creating a loop for the readers’ gaze as it follows the action across the page (thus further increasing the dynamism of the reading experience), this neat trick efficiently illustrates an incredible acrobatic feat, underlining how athletic and cool Batman is.Spot on. I'd add that in addition to all that, Tim notably refrained from having any elements breaking the panel borders, a technique which can be extremely effective in adding excitement to a layout, but which would have completely unnecessary here. Moreover, it's frequently used incorrectly even by some very good artists, because if not done just right, it can easily lead the reader's eye away from where it's supposed to go and into an area it's not. Such common gaffes are not for the likes of Monsieur Levins, however.
Without exception*, Tim took whatever I asked for and made it ever so much better than I ever could have imagined. After working together on just a handful of issues, I started paring my shot descriptions back further and further because there just kinda was no point—I could describe in the minutest detail what I was looking for and he would deliver it perfectly and it would look spectacular...or I could write "Batman and the bad guy fight" and he would deliver something even better than merely spectacular.
Tim's going to hate this post, incidentally. That's another reason I'm so happy about it.
[*there is actually one exception. Tim knows what he did.]