I have been wanting to read this collection forever.
There’s definitely an aspect of reading and discussing comics where you realize that the work as a whole is more than simply the sum of its parts. It’s more than just writing, and it’s more than just artwork.
Then again, there will undoubtedly always be comics that are read and appreciated where one individual aspect is higher-up than the other in the mind of the reader. And while Dough Moench’s story is bone-chilling, spine-tingling, and absolutely amazing…to me, Kelley Jones’ art is what MAKES this collection.
I can’t remember where the interview was so I’m going to paraphrase the shit out of it, but listening to Jones talk about his take on drawing Batman once was pretty interesting. As he said (as I remember and paraphrase), he didn’t understand the more modern artistic takes of Batman in comics. According to him, they visually take away from the “urban myth” and terror aspects of Batman, psychological weapons in the fictional character’s arsenal against crime blah blah blah…
Jones said in this interview that he felt that Batman should never look realistic, because it’s not something he feels the character strives for. Any sense of realism would expose the humanity and weaknesses of the character (lacking any sort of superpowers and depending solely on his own wits, his human physical limits, and this technical prowess). Thus, he instead draws Batman on the move and in action as Batman would WANT to be seen;
And as an almost surreal-looking figure, physically imposing and near-demonic with tall bat-ears and a flowing wing-like cape, the bat-logo in the center of his chest drawing your attention almost instantly, it’s an incredibly striking depiction, almost one-of-a-kind. It brings to mind the uniqueness of Hellboy when Mike Mignola draws his signature character himself, or even that impossible-to-forget Neil Adams Batman-in-action-running panel.
Anyway, this alternate artistic interpretation, where the flow of everything, from muscles to almost surreal poses amongst a VERY grotesque/Gothic setting to the nearly-impossible proportions of Batman’s cape filling whole swaths of panel space…not to mention the fact that the expositionary text in the boxes being in cursive (seriously, who letters comics in cursive anymore?) by letterer Todd Klein…this entire book is a visual feast, one of the best horror comics I’ve ever read.
And yeah, at it’s heart the concept of Batman fighting Dracula could be boiled down to a simple cheap ploy to celebrate the Internet meme-ness of “How AWESOME Batman is, you guys!”, but consider;
“Batman: Red Rain”, the first of the 3 parts, debuted in 1991. Not the current heyday of Tumblr-fueled “Batman Is AWESOME” back-patting and out-of-context (and art-uncredited) panels and animated screenshots, but just 8 years after I was born, and I’m 27 right now. There was no Internet or self-aware online fan community or any sort of inkling that people would seriously respond to questions by just saying they’re Batman and since Batman is “Awesome”, that’s a sufficient answer.
Yes, Batman is fucking awesome. And you know why? Because in this masterfully-written series with subtle nods to Stoker’s original novel scattered throughout, with visuals that are scary as shit and with shifts between blood-curdling horror, grotesquely-gothic action, and intense moodiness, an amazing story emerges, a singular interpretation of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s character.