Chris Burnham: His Nemesis and His Water BuffaloA comics interview article by: Jason Sacks
Chris Burnham is totally loving the ride. He's the artist on the much-loved Batman Incorporated, where he gets to live a dream and work with the great Grant Morrison. Chris will be part of the reboot of the Batman line, Leviathan, which means he'll get to have lot of fun for a lot more time. I had a great time talking with Chris at Comic-Con last month.
Sacks: I'm here with Chris Burnham. I actually work with a guy named Chris Burnham, at Microsoft.
Burnham: In Seattle?
Sacks: Yeah, he's a buddy of mine.
Burnham: Yeah, I know that guy.
Sacks: He works at Emerald City Comicon and stuff. We're always giving him crap about that.
Burnham: He is my all-time arch-nemesis. I'm going to force him to change his name, one way or another.
Sacks: Yeah, you guys probably run in the same circles and stuff. Kind of awkward! It's got to be exciting working with Grant Morrison, especially on a hot title.
Burnham: I mean, a dream come true and it all happened really, really quickly. I mean, just a year ago I'd never met him. I'd never worked for DC at all, and I was wondering to myself, "When, how, is it possible that I'm ever going to get to do this?" And now I'm working with my favorite writer. I'm working with my favorite colorist. It’s awesome.
Sacks: How awesome is that?
Burnham: It's crazy.
Sacks: So how do you work with Morrison? Is he as crazy as he seems from his stories?
Burnham: No, really he's a sweetheart. He's a real nice guy. I met him actually for the first time at the show, at a Batman panel. He and his wife Kristin are both super-nice. I mean, I was expecting him to be an imposing, godlike figure floating six inches above the Earth or whatever. I mean, he's a guy. He's a really nice guy. He just happens to be bald and write crazy comics.
Sacks: Sounds like you've loved his stuff for a long time.
Burnham: I'm a big fan. I've got and read just about everything.
Sacks: What's your favorite, aside, obviously, from Batman Inc.?
Burnham: Aside from Batman Inc., I think my favorite is probably The Filth. I've only read Flex Mentalloonce, and I think of it as the Grant Morrison-est Grant Morrison comic. If I read it a couple more times, it might move up in the ranks among my favorites
Sacks: I was just rereading Doom Patrol . It's all there in the beginning. All that crazy stuff. It's awesome.
Burnham: Yeah, he's been building on it for 20 years now.
Sacks: You just mentioned you have a couple more years on Batman Inc. It's rebooting with all the other titles in the DC line. I'm not sure that's the right term to use...
Burnham: Whatever. We all know what you mean. Renumbered, relaunched, umm, whatever.
Sacks: Should we pretty much expect the same thing, just a little different?
Burnham: The Batman universe is largely unaffected by the renumbering. I'm sure there are some little things that I'm not aware of, but by and large it remains unaffected. I've read the pitch for Leviathan, which picks up right where Inc. #10 leaves off thematically. There's a gap of time and there's a story reason for it. I've read the pitch. It's awesome. It's mind-blowing. I can’t wait to draw it. I think people are going to love it. I'm going to love drawing it.
Sacks: It's obvious that you love drawing all these locations around the world on Batman Inc.. How much do you get to design the new characters?
Burnham: I designed the new Cassandra Cain Blackbat. I designed her. I did the first pass at Batwing. I was the first guy to draw him. They've since redesigned him for the relaunch, and fair enough. I like the redesign better than my design, so have at it. That's fine.
Sacks: I gotta say: he's the real WTF guy in the relaunch. Is there a reason for him?
Burnham: I think it’s gonna be cool. I think Grant just put him in as just one more guy, but everyone at DC editorial and the marketing folks and a lot of fans were just like, "This is interesting." There's going to be a bit more of a real-world feel to it, though without getting preachy and political. I think it’s going to be one of the grittier Batman books. I'm super excited for it. I've seen the art for it. It looks awesome. Judd Winnick's a great writer. I think it's going to be good.
Sacks: You got to extend yourself with Batman Inc., too. You're getting to draw animals, exotic locations...
Burnham: Animals are hard, man. Animals are hard.
Sacks: Hey, you draw a mean water buffalo.
Burnham: Well, thank you. That was a lot of effort.
Sacks: It's got to be an interesting set of challenges: geography, animals…
Burnham: Lots of photo reference. Google Images is the greatest invention in the history of mankind.
Sacks: How hard is it to take those images and get them down to two dimensions? It's different, you know?
Burnham: It's definitely a challenge to take stuff that's purely from my imagination and meld it with stuff that I'm looking at a picture of. It's a challenge but I think I'm getting better and better at it.
Sacks: You obviously love drawing this book, though. It's in every panel. You're putting a lot of work in it. What about it appeals to you so much?
Burnham: It's everything. I mean, I love Batman. He's easily my favorite DC guy. I love drawing, and I love Grant Morrison comic books, and getting to draw one, I just want to do a good job. Grant's worked with some great artists and he's worked with some that don't quite meld with him. This is the biggest opportunity I've ever gotten and maybe ever will get, if I don't do it right. So I'm gonna do it right, you know?
Sacks: Might as well kick ass on it.
Sacks: Officer Downe was great. Does this mean we won't get any more Officer Downe?
Burnham: There's a director's cut of Office Downe coming out around Christmastime.
Sacks: It's an awesomely crazy book. I just loved it.
Burnham: Well, thank you. Very directly, that's what got me Batman.
Sacks: I believe it. It's got the same intense, awesome drama at the same time that it's got a fun touch to it. Because that's the other thing, too, Batman Inc. is kind of the fun Batman book on some level. It's not as intense as some of the others.
Burnham: There's intense levels to it, but hopefully it's all fun rather than grim and depressing and awful.
Sacks: I remember first seeing your work on Nixon's Pals.
Burnham: Nixon's Pals.
Sacks: A group of dysfunctional, crazy villain guys.
Burnham: Yeah, parolees at large supervillains.
Sacks: Was that the first project that you did?
Burnham: That was my first big project. It's the first thing I did with Joe Casey. Before that I'd done someElephantmen and also some small stuff for Moonstone. Nixon's Pals was one of the first big things that got reviewed and people actually saw. That sounds mean. It's not meant to be mean.
Sacks: There's a big difference between Nixon's Pals for Image and Batman Inc. for DC, after all. Anything else you want people to know about Chris Burnham?
Burnham: I'll say that Officer Downe: Bigger, Better Bastard Edition is coming out towards the end of the year. If you're impatient, I believe it's sold out on the single issue level but you can order it onComixology. Nixon's Pals is on iVerse, the Comics+ app, though you really have to search for it. You have to go to "Publishers," and then go through the titles till you get to "N." The search doesn't quite work these days. It's worth 20 seconds of effort.
Also, check out chrisburnham.com. On twitter I'm @theburnham. I swear a lot.