Noir meets reality

Graphic novel

Comic/ Graphic Novel Research Part 6 (Philip Hampson)

This next style is from a comic called Back to basics by Dylan Teague. I feel it combines the styles of The Blue Lily Lawless. With its thick edges and dark bold tone to it gives the distinctive noir look. The detail in the characters is particularly interesting as it shows the emotion of each character. (Figure 1)

Style 6

(Figure 1 Back to basics by Dylan Teague)

This image is from the from the front cover of the book that most of the above images are from Comic art now by Dez Skinn. Unfortunately the artist isn’t credited but I feel it is a perfect example of noir Comic styles. With the bold shadows and Femme Fetal style female character the image has so much character it would make a perfect Graphic novel. (Figure 2)

Front cover

(Figure 2 Comic art now by Dez Skinn (Illustrator unknown)

Figure 1 and 2 from Comic art now  By Dez Skinn


Sin City – Frank Miller (Laurie Dix)


Sin City is a comic I had previously overlooked, although perhaps foolishly.

Created by Frank Miller in 1991, Sin City was a series of 6 stories (spread across several comics), which all mimicked and exaggerated the ‘Noir’ style. Most of the illustrations appear as white on black, often highly textured and detailed, which is something I find intriguing.

Not only is the visual style an enhanced representation of how Frank Miller perceives ‘Noir’, the six stories overlap, having certain crossover points.

Unwittingly, I think that what we have ended up creating with Johnny Noir, is a not-so-stylish Sin City; The story crossovers, the style, the fact that in 2005 it was made as a film which sparked off more interest in the comics, so there were now comics and a film existing alongside one another… We’ve basically ripped it off without meaning to. Although our story is incredibly different, I am now looking at Frank Miller’s products and thinking ‘There is no way we will not be directly compared to this’. All I can hope is that the comparisons are good.

I like Frank Miller’s layouts, often using up entire spreads with one image which contains several fluid panels, so there are no spaces between the panels, but several images on one page.

I especially like the graphic style, using white on black rather than black on white, the heavy use of texture and the contrast. I think this is a direction I would definitely like to go with the comics, inviting more comparisons, but with the understanding that we all draw inspiration from somewhere.

Why Batman is Noir (Laurie Dix)

Batman comics have undergone many, many different styles and stories, from the original 1940’s comic strips, to the 1970’s ‘Adam West’ TV series, a number of darker graphic novels (Frank Miller’s ‘Year One’, Alan Moore’s ‘The Killing Joke’, etc.) a number of Animated series, computer games and films.

The basic elements always apply: Batman is the superhero guise of orphaned multi-millionaire Bruce Wayne, who supports James Gordon in the Gotham City Police Department and whose enemies include a number of colourful characters including the Joker, the Penguin, Poison Ivy and Catwoman amongst several others.

How ‘Batman’ can be considered ‘Noir’:
(see reference: Raymond Durgnat’s ‘Paint it Black’ for the list of ‘Tropes’ I will be comparing to)

  • Being created in the 1940’s by Bob Kane, this was around the same time that the ‘Noir’ style really became identified. As mentioned in earlier blog posts (Notes on Film Noir and Film Noir Tropes) America was undergoing the depression, and so the mood of the films and stories at the time often reflected this, being downbeat and focusing on ‘Real Characters’, and occasionally needed some hope. This is what Batman represented: hope in a world where there was none.
  • Noir stories are often associated with Detective Fiction or ‘Hardboiled’ fiction, which is precisely what Batman is. Batman is often referred to as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’, and there is often call for ‘Captions’ in comics, which have a tendency to relay as internal monologue, something Noir is famous for (see Raymond Chandler and his character Philip Marlowe).
  • Noir tends to take place in dark alleyways, places where there is little light but a lot of shadow, which adds to the overall aesthetic. Gotham City is a world where every street is a place with the potential to be a crime scene. Indeed, the Bat Signal only works in a world where the sky is always cloudy, and the world is always dark. Gotham City represents a world where everything is enshrouded in darkness all the time.
  • The protagonist is a maverick, who goes by his own rules. Although he does everything in the spirit of upholding the law, he is not afraid to break the rules in order to maintain justice.
  • The Femme Fatale: This could be a number of people, although most commonly Batman is paired with Selena Kyle (Catwoman) who is a thief. Although not a true femme fatale, the relationship between Batman and Catwoman is a complicated one which could be compared to some of the relationships between the lead Male and Female in several of the Noir films.
  • Gangsters are among some of Gotham City’s villains, mostly the Falcone family and the Maroni family. One of the common themes of Noir stories is the Gangster element.
  • ‘Portraits and Doubles’/The Figure in the Mist; a common theme in Noir, which revolves around dopplegangers and switches. In the Batman universe, there are a few villains whose stories mirror that of Bruce Wayne’s (rich family, orphaned, inherited millions) but that stray where Bruce chose a life of justice and truth, they perhaps followed a different path. The character ‘Hush’ has a story which revolves around him trying to give himself Bruce Wayne’s face in order to make it appear as if Bruce was committing certain crimes, allowing him to walk away free.
  • Sexual Pathology: the relationships between many characters could be drawn against this trope: Joker and Harley Quinn have a variation on The Florence Nightingale effect, wherein Dr. Harleen Quinzel was mesmerised by her patient, The Joker, to the extent that she freed him from Arkham Asylum and became his sidekick. Batman and Catwoman, as mentioned before, have an interesting relationship which could fit here, and it may also be noted that Catwoman’s primary weapon is a whip, which may relate to the idea of the exploration of Sadism in Noir. In terms of homosexuality there have been many theories about the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson (Batman and the original Robin). All of these themes link back to Noir.
  • Psychopaths: See every Batman villain, and even Batman himself.

In short, every trope identified with Noir can be read in the Batman series, and although it will change depending one whose version you are reading, there can be a number of comparisons drawn.

Although Marvel did their own series of ‘Noir’ comics, taking characters who already existed and turning their stories into the ‘Noir’ style, I believe Batman to be, at heart, a noir, and whereas it is occasionally masked, all the elements are there, and it has been obvious to several artists, writers and directors that this is at the heart of Batman.

The Random Adventures of Brandon – Edgar Wright & Tommy Lee Edwards (Laurie Dix)

The Random Adventures of Brandon is a project set up by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced) for Microsoft which brings comics into the era of Web 2.0.

The premise is simple:

Brandon is a writer with a coffee addiction and dreams. After struggling with writers’ block, he drinks too much coffee and eventually falls asleep, having insane and unsettling dreams, and upon waking finds that a story has written itself.

Edgar Wright wrote the set up, and is now asking the people of the internet to continue telling the story. With a team of animators and web-techs, he picks and chooses ideas proffered by the internet, and weaves them together to create a story which, in essence, is writing itself.

It’s an incredibly ambitious project, and one I like the idea of a lot. Crowd sourcing can be potentially hazardous, but when you have the potential combined minds of everyone in the world, the stories that could be told could be amazing.

The idea for crowd sourcing stories has been around for ages (I recently re-visited some of my old ‘Directors works’ DVD’s and watched a short documentary about how Spike Jonze was trying to get members of the public to write their own Oasis video) but only now, with the rise of the internet and the capabilities now offered, crowd sourcing ideas is entirely feasible. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the internet, as well as having the potential to tap the minds of some of the most creative people in the world, there is also the risk of having to deal with a barrage of hate and, honestly, some really bad ideas.

I thought that this idea for a comic was something innovative and exciting, and whereas I would never want to experiment with something like this for myself (I don’t like relenting that much control over my stories, at the moment. My stories are my own, and even now I have people offering ideas to me which are dreadful, and I just have to try and respond politely and pretend I’ll take the idea into account), but I thought it was incredibly relevant to us, especially when we were considering adding voiceover to our comics.

Comics for the next generation.

Comic/ Graphic Novel Research Part 5 (Philip Hampson)

This style was what I had planned for my hypothetical 3rd comic. It has very realistic looking characters and almost looks like a photograph. This comic is Echoes of Dawn by Cliff Richards (Figure 1). This is similar to the style I used for a previous project. It was making a point and click game, but we used real photographs for the visuals. I then took these images and edited them in photo shop. The game is called Caedus Mysterium.( Figure 2)

Style 5


(Figure 1 Echoes of Dawn By Cliff Richards)



(Figure 2 Caedus Mysterium. Photography by Fred Iles. Edited by Philip Hampson.

Figure 1 from Comic Art now by Dez Skinn

Comic/ Graphic Novel Research part 4 (Philip Hampson)

This next style is closer to what I wanted for my comic. This is created in Adobe Photoshop. It gives the images a glossy and bold look with its thick lines and bold shadows. This is from the comic The Blue Lily by Angus Mckie. (Figure 1)

style 4

(Figure 1 Blue Lily By Angus Mckie)

As a comparison here is a section from my comic Eddie Jones illustrated by Lauren Saunders. (Figure 2)

Page 1 prison phil edit Jpeg version


(Figure 2 Eddie Jones By Philip Hampson (Illustrated by Lauren Saunders)

Figure 2 from Comic art now by Dez Skinn


Comic/ Graphic Novel Research part 3 (Philip Hampson)

This is similar to the  style of November By Robert Deas but with black and white colouring. This style has a more traditional noir feel to it due to the strong shadows(Figure 1)(Lawless by Sean Phillips). This is similar to Laurie Dix’s comic Detective Raymond Phillips. (Figure 2)

Style 3


(Figure 1 Lawless by Sean Phillips)

Detective Raymond Phillips style


(Figure 2 Detective Raymond Phillips by Laurie Dix ( Illustrated by Darren Kay)


Figure 1 from Comic art now by Dez Skinn