James Bacon reports on the Panel Gallery’s latest exhibition, art from Batman: One Dark Knight by Jock, open now in Northampton…
It’s a warm April morning when I walk into Northampton’s Panel Gallery. The sun is nice and strong, outside, and cheering… but inside, with Batman art by Jock on the walls, the mood might be considered a little darker!
The Batman: One Dark Knight mini-seriesis quite an impressive comic in its own right and has proven to be a very enjoyable read, but here in the Panel Gallery, where we’re treated to walls full of stunning pages, and it’s even more impressive.
Jock’s art itself is very large, drawn to a scale that allowed for its production as in a large format comic by DC Comics, and this lends itself even more to being displayed.
The presentation of the art is skilfully presented and works really well for comic book readers, displayed in page order, and your eye scans the panels easily.
As you walk in, we have pages on the left hand wall drawing you along the story, continuing all the way down to the back wall, where we have huge large double page spreads. These are really incredible pieces of work. It’s hard to know which of the four are the most impressive, but I am, of course, drawn to the shot with the train from the second issue. But others – the skyline and the Batplane, or the map with Batman coming through it, or the incredibly well done cityscape with the spectre of Batman over the whole horizon, are all phenomenal.
As one considers each page it’s just such nice art in itself, too. The brush work gives a sense of intensity, while so smartly done, the newspapers spread out, the map, the characters, the vehicles. There is an economy with the line in certain places, detailed and clean while sufficient for the reader to really get a very clear picture, then block blacks are used effectively particularly when the Dark Knight himself is involved.
Pages get busy: five panels can indicate a quickening of action. But there is no shortage of splashes every few pages, including one half pager that’s absolutely unbelievable. As a reader it was a great read, but here in stark raw black and white, so large, it’s absolutely incredible.
Jock captures the character of Batman so well, the first imagery we see of him we just have eyes and logo, and the second image, too, a narrow shot of the city where his eyes are piercing; and then a huge beautiful shot of him in flight, striking fear into those he is about to fight.
The whole of the first issue of comic, except for four pages, 12, 13, 21 and 46, are featured, but two of the spreads from a later book make up for the missing pages. In essence, we have nearly all of Dark Knight One here, the cover of issue two on an easel.
Adding to the background of how this comic came about are a number of folders which contain Jocks original thumbnails. It appears that the art came first and then the script followed. This material offers the viewer a really unique opportunity to see the process that Jock engaged in as you get to see four pages per A4 page. While it’s rough, it’s absolutely clear that the story was vivid in his mind.
There’s also a sequence of character sketches, setting out different angles and views of those who would be in the story and then one is offered the actual script.
For comic book readers who like to know what went into a comic this is offers an added uniqueness to the exhibition, which delighted me. I wasn’t anticipating this, or another version of the thumbnails that sets out each page, next to some information offering further insight into the process, helping the viewer to appreciate the overall creativity involved in this comic.
I really enjoyed this comic when it came out, but I have to say to stark beauty the contrast of the black on white really impresses me for sure, I’m left hoping for a noir edition.
Jeff Chahal who is running the show, also had two posters from Mondo available, although the incredible black and white very high quality reproduction of the cover art is already sold out, but the colour reproduction of the cover, signed, is available for in person visitors to Panel Gallery.
The comic is of course available from Close Encounters a few doors away, and also in the gallery are copies of The Art of Jock, signed with a remarque.
Another exciting and excellent exhibition.
• The Panel Gallery: Batman: One Dark Knight by Jock 1st – 29th April, 2023 3 Abington Square, Northampton NN1 4AE | Opening hours Tuesday to Saturday 11.00am – 4.00pm) | Free | Web: thepanelgallery.com | Facebook
The Panel Gallery is the first art gallery in the UK to specialise in original comic art. Showcasing comic art from Marvel, DC Comics, 2000AD and many more publishers.
Opening to the public in 2021, Jeff Chahal, the owner and curator of the gallery, has always felt that comic art doesn’t receive the respect that it should, which ultimately lead to the idea of starting Panel Gallery so that comic artwork might at last be showcased in a fitting environment.
Having worked in comic retail for 20 years, and with a background of running the hugely respected NICE Comic Con in Bedford, Jeff applies the same criteria to both his comic convention and the new Panel Gallery. For him, it is essential that the focus of both are on the art itself and also on all those that are involved in the creative process of producing comic books.
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