The BMD Interview: Justin Erickson, For Mondo’s BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES Showcase

In which one half of Phantom City Creative walks us through the best in show.

Disclosure: BMD and Mondo are both owned by the Alamo Drafthouse.

This past weekend, the Mondo Gallery threw open its doors on a brand-new showcase based on Batman: The Animated Series, with a parade of gorgeous new prints from Phantom City Creative's Justin Erickson. As has been the case with Erickson's previous Batman: The Animated Series posters, each print in this showcase was based on a different episode of that classic '90s series, and the results were - as you'll soon see - absolutely spectacular. 

I took a few minutes to sit down with (okay, stand next to) Erickson at the show, and he was generous enough to walk me through how some of the showcase's best pieces came together. Here's what he had to say for himself...

Tell me a bit about your history with Batman: The Animated Series. I have to assume you're a giant fan.

Justin Erickson: Oh, yeah. I grew up watching the show. It aired right when I was at that age where, if you watch something special, it has the ability to keep with you for the rest of your life. This whole thing started with that poster [I did] for Mask Of The Phantasm, then we started talking about doing a whole show and that sounded like fun. This gave me an opportunity to try something new, stylistically. I mean, you can't do anything with Batman: The Animated Series without addressing the style of the show. It's got a unique look.

It's gonna look like the series no matter what.

Right. It's still gonna look like the DC Animated Universe, you can't get away from that. So, it was fun to see what I could do within that style. I wasn't trying to copy it or reproduce it, I was trying to do something different and see where I could go with it. Also, when all this started, I hadn't watched the show in a long time, so it was interesting to come back and see so much of it again with adult eyes. It was sophisticated in a way I hadn't noticed the first time around. It really holds up.

Also, Mask Of The Phantasm is one of the best Batman movies.

It's the best.

You think?

Oh, yeah. 

You're gonna get Dark Knight Bros on you for saying that.

It would be a tough one to debate. I'll say my all-around favorite Batman is still Animated Series Batman. 

How long have you been working on this showcase?

This one was faster than the last set. That one was kind of fragmented - I'd do a few, wait a few months, do a few more. But this one was more disciplined, I guess: I did it pretty much constantly for three months.

All this in three months? Good lord.


So, is there one here that you'd consider a favorite, or that you're particularly proud of?

Well, for one, definitely The Demon's Quest. In the first series, the style I tried to establish with the posters was meant to pay tribute to Bruce Timm, yet put a new spin on it. The more posters you do in a series, the more the style will tighten, or advance. It gets more realized. I tried to challenge myself on these [new] posters to see how far I could push that style without breaking it. I wanted to let the episode decide where the poster would go. For example, on Demon's Quest, it's totally Indiana Jones, '40s, pulp, adventure-style story, so I wanted the poster to reflect that. Whereas most of the posters are simply accomplished with some light shading, I went all-out painterly on this one but still within the family of that Bruce Timm style. 

Which one took you the longest?

Oh, Trial, absolutely. 

I think that one's my favorite.

Thanks! I knew people would be looking at that one quite a bit, just because the episode's great and, y'know, with all those villains present. I think I spent a lot of time on the bare bones of it - the poses, positions, and lighting - which was really tricky, lighting all these characters well. Whereas with most of these prints I had a pretty good rhythm going, on this one I spent almost as much time on the roughs as I did the final art, the color studies, all of that. I'm really happy with how it turned out.

Were there any episodes you watched, wanted to do a print for, and just couldn't crack a concept on?

Heart of Steel. Originally Heart of Steel was supposed to be in this show, but every concept I came up with seemed like [what I'd come up with for] His Silicon Soul. If I had to choose, I think I like His Silicon Soul as an episode more, but Heart of Steel has that excellent, Blade Runner-esque aspect to it. I came up with ideas for both, but then I went to Mondo and said, "I know you asked for Heart, but a lot of these concepts work better for Silicon Soul, what do you wanna do? We do both or we do one?" So, we decided to just do the latter.

Prints that weren't already sold during the Mondo Gallery's Batman: The Animated Series showcase will be made available for purchase online at some point in the future. Stay tuned for more info on that as it becomes available.

(Header photo: Alison Narro)