I believe in Tim Sale.
He was a singular talent who sadly left us this year. He often used a fine line style, reminiscent of many European comics artists, I usually associate it with Hugo Pratt, mixed with a decided use of simple geometry and shadow like Alex Toth and some abstract character construction like Steve Ditko. It was a beautiful blending that resulted in his gorgeous, unmistakable style.
I know that I definitely encountered his artwork in the Comico Grendel series. I’m certain that I read his “Blades” arc with James Robinson in Legends of the Dark Knight and “Misfits” in Shadow of the Bat, I still have the complete runs. Yet it wasn’t until the Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials that I can say I truly noticed his art and decided to follow his work. Saw it polished and refined into the beauty of the maxi-series Batman: The Long Halloween from Sale, Jeph Loeb, Gregory Wright, and Richard Starkings & Comicraft.
While the series was an outgrowth of those Halloween Specials, thus making the name The Long Halloween make sense in regards to an extended series, it’s also a nod to the primary influences and overall tone of this book, hard-boiled mysteries, film noir, and The Long Goodbye. It’s true that the story is filled with cliches from the genre—and from mafia films, complete with an opening scene that walked straight out of The Godfather—but that’s part of the charm. And Batman operating a noir style mystery, working through the holidays and a roster of his rogues gallery along the way, is compelling in premise alone. The execution made it an all-time classic.
The storytelling conventions of the first-person narration, of Batman’s early casebooks, allowed Jeph Loeb to easily fit in the style of the hard-boiled detective into the story, with Starkings & Comicraft continuing the tradition of the mixed-case font in rounded narration boxes for it. The simple, somewhat old-fashioned looking cars and clothing present in the Year One approach fit Sale’s style immensely and make it feel both timeless and fitting within the past of many of the film noir pieces in memory. The pacing and framing for each page, the panel compositions with long shadows or extreme close-ups. The overall flow of Sale’s visual storytelling adding to the tension and mystery. And the colour decisions from Gregory Wright, from the sequences with a single colour wash, to the black and white murders, help it stand out even further.
The Long Halloween beautifully sets up a mystery of who is murdering members of the Falcone crime family, utilizing the monthly format to focus on a holiday each month, setting up clues to the identity of the killer, working through a highlight reel of Batman villains in the process, remaining true to both Batman and crime storytelling conventions. Batman: The Long Halloween by Loeb, Sale, Wright, and Starkings & Comicraft is a masterpiece and a testament to the brilliance of Sale’s legacy that he left us.
Classic Comic Compendium: The Long Halloween
Batman: The Long Halloween
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Colourist: Gregory Wright
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Publisher: DC Comics
From the early days of Batman’s crimefighting career, this new edition of the classic mystery involves a killer who strikes only on holidays. Working with Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Gordon, Batman races to discover who Holiday is! Collected from the original 13-issue series!
Release Date: October 12, 2021 (deluxe hardcover edition)
Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!