The Sandman comic book series introduced me to both Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Gaiman’s writing and McKean’s artwork set a high bar for what can be accomplished in comics. The story was epic. Whenever the narrative journey turned away from its title character, it always added thoughtful complexity and dimension to Morpheus’ world. McKean’s covers always pushed the boundaries, utilizing every digital and traditional tool at his disposal. A number of artists worked on the comic’s interior pages. One of my favorites was Kelley Jones, who had a fantastic way of distorting the human form and drawing incredible, billowing capes.

Morpheus’ helm reminds me of H.R. Giger’s Alien, so when I made this collage of the Sandman in the late ’90s, I wanted to take a stab at redesigning it. I came up with a squid-like tribal mask, that exudes a stringy smoke when worn. Likewise, the cloak, when worn, would engulf and distort the wearer’s body.

In 1999, I started to think about blind contour drawing as a means of achieving a fluid and gestural illustration style. I first drew this figure in my sketchbook as a nondescript man with some undefined weight bearing down on him. I then added the S-shaped cape to make the subject a superhero, instead of an everyman.

While in graduate school at Parsons, Union Square become the hub of my life for a number of years and I added details from the park and the surrounding buildings to make it look like the cityscape was becoming displaced like water and threatening to come crashing down on the superhero. Given the complex relationship one can imagine Batman has with Gotham, I added the details of his cowl and gauntlets when I darkened the sky.