How Richmond Lewis and BATMAN: YEAR ONE impacted THE BATMAN


Batman: Year One is the kind of comic we talk about with respectful and muted tones. The four-issue miniseries is often included under the “best comics ever made” banner. And it’s also one of the few stories that deserves this praise. But while many have praised the genius of artist David Mazzucchelli — and his collaborator Frank Miller alongside letterer Todd Klein — not enough has been said about the colorist behind the book’s striking palette, Richmond Lewis. . The light at The Batmanand the massive impact that First year and the colors Lewis had on film, it’s a great time to revisit the book and celebrate the woman who colored and recoloredBatman: First year.

Batman: Year One (Batman #404-407, 1987)
DC Comics, Frank Miller, David Mazucchelli, Richmond Lewis, Todd Klein

It’s hard to overstate the impact of this comic. If you already have read any Batman, you’ve probably read this story. Went to a comic book store and wondered what comics to read to get into Caped Crusader? It was almost certainly the delivered which has been placed in your hands. Corn Batman: Year One is more of a mood piece than an in-depth character exploration. It’s a glossy noir tale that feels textured and gritty, shimmering neons and ever-changing shadows. And that’s thanks to Lewis’ extravagant and unexpected color choices.

Pink skies and teal highlights make Gotham feel like a living, breathing city. Jim Gordon lives in the dark blue shadow with yellow highlights, hinting at his ally’s future costume. There is an unreal quality to the colors that make every page stand out. And that’s what makes First year so special. Working within the four-color printing system that defined newsprint comics should have limited Lewis, but it instead challenged his painterly spirit to think outside the box. And it wouldn’t be the last time Lewis would reinvent the palette of Gotham and his most famous son.

Batman: Year One Hardcover Collection (1988)
A page from Batman: Year One shows the colors painted over by Richmond Lewis from 1988. On the page, we see Bruce sitting on his parents' grave and Jim Gordon driving in a police cruiser.  These colors are more textured and realistic
DC Comics, Frank Miller, David Mazucchelli, Richmond Lewis, Todd Klein

In 1988 Lewis recolored the entire four-issue series for the first collected edition. There was a simple reason behind the choice: hardcover printing would use color rather than the four striking colors of unique numbers. It’s a testament to Lewis’ skill and dedication that she painted the comic by hand, having fun with a wider range of choices. Its powerful choice to limit certain palettes to certain pages makes it a truly polished adaptation of the original four-issue series. One of the most interesting things to note is that it was here that Lewis started leaning more towards reds and oranges than pinks. It’s something that ended up shaping the color scheme of the Batman and influencing the visual aesthetic of Reeves’ film.

In the DC Direct solicitations for this edition, Lewis shared his reasoning behind painting the story. “I wanted to bring a sense of drama to the story, from simple to complex color,” she shared. “But overall, it’s pretty limited. I tried to use a limited palette, so you won’t see every color on every page except where the full gamut is required. DC reprinted this version for years, including the early 2000s with a slight remaster, where our comparison image comes from.

Lewis’ Impact on Batman (2020)

An image from The Batman shows Batman gazing at Gotham during a sunset
Warner Bros.

From the first days of talking about the BatmanReeves mentioned First year as a source of inspiration. It’s something that shaped not only the aesthetic but also the narrative. That’s why the movie follows a young Bruce Wayne. The neo-noir detective story seems ripped from the pages of First year. But it is these colors of Lewis that will immediately come to mind for those who have read the story. It’s not just the red lights that bathe the wet pavement, but also Selina Kyle’s version. In original Richmond colours, Selina is a creature of the night. Kravitz even wears the same costume that Richmond and Mazzucchelli present to him. Their depiction of the apartment she shares with a young friend is nearly identical to what we see in The Batman. And Richmond’s pastel shadows and neon highlights often seem to leap off the screen.

In a cinematic age defined by comic book movies, it is increasingly important to recognize the artists who make these films possible. And in The BatmanReeves has given us the opportunity to revisit and celebrate some of the best comic book colorings of all time.

The featured image: DC Comics


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