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Interview: Drawing a Conversation with Mick Gray

Mick Gray, the inker for Batman and Robin in DC’s New 52, visited Flying Colors Comics in Concord, California, on Saturday, March 23, to sign the latest installment, Batman and Red Robin #19. Gray wanted to let Batfans know that, after the death of Damian Wayne, Bruce Wayne’s 10-year-old son, the next few issues of Batman “will focus on the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.” 
 
Throughout #19, Bruce Wayne lives up to the first stage in the Elizabeth Kübler-Ross model. Early on, Alfred worries, “I’m sure you don’t realize it, but…you keep referring to Damian in the present tense.” After Batman kidnaps Frankenstein in order “to resurrect my son,” the monster counsels, “Let the boy rest in peace,” but Batman is determined to “find a way to bring Robin back” from the dead. Now that’s some mighty denial. 
 
Batman and Robin #18

Batman and Robin #18
 
 
The death of Robin, aka Damian Wayne, the young assassin-turned-crimefighter, envelops Batman in wholesale grief as recorded in the silent pages of Batman and Robin #18. Gray admits that #18 was “the most emotional book I ever inked,” but this grief is punctured in #19 by a Batman who wallows in denial thinking he can recreate his son by dismembering the abomination Frankenstein to discover life’s secrets. By the way, this reporter got a look at what was really under the sheet beneath Batman’s scalpel and it wasn’t pretty.
 
Gray has enjoyed drawing 17 issues of bonding between Bruce Wayne and his newfound preadolescent son. “Bruce Wayne does not know how to be a father, and Damian does not know how to be a son.” In spite of the tight production schedules, these books were “labors of love” for the experienced inker. 
 
Working closely with scriptwriter Peter J. Tomasi and penciller Patrick Gleason, Gray enjoys exploring the inner workings of Gotham City. His favorite scene in this Batman series is when the young Damian Wayne finds one of his murdered grandmother’s pearls in the sewer and returns it to Bruce Wayne, who drops it to hug his son. You’ll need tissues to get through the silent Batman and Robin, especially that last splash page where a tearful Wayne falls to his knees, clasping an empty Robin suit to his chest. How do these guys ink through tears?
 
Gray’s experience with Batman doesn’t end there. He is proud of his work on The Joker with writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo, two years of work (talk about a labor of love). Gray reminds readers, “The Joker and Batman are yin and yang. The Joker is screwed up, but so is Batman.” Gray also worked with Alan Moore on Promethea (32 issues), another long-haul project.
 
“Comics often lead or foreshadow current events,” Gray says. The hardcover Joker took two years to create, and when it showed up at comic book stores, The Clown Prince of Crimelooked eerily like The Joker in the soon-to-be-released movie The Dark Knight.
 
 
Mick Gray

Mick Gray
 
Gray is spreading his love for comics and teaches inking at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. As a kid he liked to draw, but at around 12, he decided there was no way that he could make money creating comics. His dad encouraged his love for drawing, making him a homemade drawing board, and in high school he took drafting classes. At age 16, he started working for an electronics firm in Silicon Valley doing technical drawings. He has a degree in technical illustration and owned his own business for many years. His first comic job involved inking backgrounds --- the stuff other artists didn’t want to do, like hub caps and buildings --- and he worked his way up to DC comics. He’s been inking comics for 25 years.
 

-- Doré Ripley