Banner: Support Extra Life @ Dungeon Masters Guild

My Maker Mantras: ‘Happy Batman Day!’

My Maker Mantras

‘Happy Batman Day!’

Nerdvana presents Small Press Saturday – aka, Lessons Learned Self-Publishing Comics

I mean, EVERY day is Batman Day for me. Batman comics, toys, and memorabilia consume a significant percentage of my living space, because he is, as I often answer when asked, my favorite superhero. I already liked Batman in high school, but I have a fond memory of my speech and debate coach letting me borrow his copy of The Dark Knight Returns, and that seminal graphic novel by Frank Miller sealed the deal.

As I’ve grown from fan to storyteller, Batman the CONCEPT has become just as inspiring as Batman the CHARACTER. Where he came from is just as important as who he is. In this installment of My Maker Mantras, I’m going to break down some of the things I’ve learned from the Dark Knight, and how I implement these lessons in my work today.

A Bob and A Bill

For decades, popular opinion touted that Batman was created by Bob Kane, but, in recent years, the contributions of other artists, specifically Bill Finger, have become more well known, at least to the dedicated fan community. Bob Kane was guilty of the creative crimes some attribute to Stan Lee – but, while Stan often credited his co-creators amidst his media-friendly bombast, Kane declared himself a solo act most of his life. Now we know, Batman and Gotham City were the result of development by committee.

Creators have a lot to learn from this history. Most collaborations have a Bob and a Bill. One person usually takes a bit more credit than they’re due, and the other person usually ends up pursuing credit where it’s owed. A modern vernacular might call this an “alpha/beta” dynamic, a social construct as prevalent for artists as it is anywhere. Remember, any group of people working toward a common goal needs a leader, or an organizer, or a spokesperson. Sometimes, their best interest isn’t the work, but themselves.

It’s easy to paint Kane as a villain, with the benefit of history – and, in many ways, he was – but he was also a visionary. At the beginning of the superhero genre, Kane knew he might’ve been ONTO something with “the Bat-Man.” He recognized the value in putting his name on it. The lesson is, if you’re aiming to create something bigger than yourself, be prepared to boast yourself just as bigly – or live in squalor in its shadow. Don’t be Bob OR Bill – be BOTH.

Curate Your Own (Caped) Crusaders

In comics, Batman has a reputation for being a loner – which is laughable, because I think he’s broken a record for most sidekicks ever.

Considering the torrid Kane/Finger history, working alone may seem like the best way to go, but being an auteur doesn’t require loneliness or isolation. Your “collaborators” aren’t always fellow creatives with hands on your work – they’re encouragers, or sponsors, or the people you trust as a second set of eyes to edit for you.  Curate this support system in your creative life, because they’re the most valuable resource you can have.

Writer Grant Morrison debunks the Batman-as-loner concept by reminding us of a seminal scene in the comics story Batman: Year One. Bruce Wayne is disguising himself to fight crime, but he isn’t Batman yet. When thugs fight back and wound him badly, Bruce comes home to his study, with the choice of ringing a bell for Alfred’s help or dying. Suddenly, a bat crashes through the window, inspiring Bruce with the guise of fear he needs to keep these wanton thugs at bay. Morrison explains, when the bat arrives, Bruce finds his identity and rings the bell.

In other words, the first act of the Batman was to ask for help.

Iconography Is Everything

What do Mickey Mouse, Batman, and Bart Simpson have in common? Obviously, they’re global icons, but one of the contributing factors? They have distinct SILHOUETTES. Just the SHAPE of any one of their heads evokes instant familiarity. I’m sure you can think of a dozen other examples, but Batman is definitely on top of the easy-to-recognize list.

If you’re in the business of creating original characters for comics, like I am, this is a critical component to remember – design characters that can be reduced to their most basic shapes. Speed Cameron is the lead character in my minicomic series, Amazing Arizona Comics, and he has a speed camera on his head. This blocky accessory and its pentagonal visor are pretty distinct – an intentional detail, I assure you. If you can draw your character clearly as a cast shadow, you’re on the right track.

This visual rule is applicable narratively, too. Despite thousands of appearances in comics and film, Batman’s story remains a simple one: A wealthy orphan seeks revenge on crime for his parents’ murder. I’ve seen the Waynes murdered so many times, at this point I should be Batman! Still, creating a character that can be reduced to a mission statement contributes to a timelessness, as we’ve seen in pop culture over and over again. That mission statement establishes your character’s origins and motivations, and as the character’s creator, it might inspire more stories or help you overcome writer’s block, too!

Among the many lessons I’ve learned from Batman over the years, these are the most prominent. Of course, I can talk about doing what’s right, protecting the innocent, and being resourceful, but I’m not one of the guys putting on the utility belt every night to fight crime. I just tell their stories, and that alone, is a good life. Good enough.

My Maker Mantras aka Small Press Saturday: Lessons Learned Self-Publishing Comics

Support our work - it's free!

We need our faithful audience to keep Nerdvana going. Won't you subscribe to our email newsletter? It won't cost you a thing!


View previous campaigns.

Powered by MailChimp

Nerdvana Media will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. Please let us know all the ways you would like to hear from us:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.