For the graphic novel Batman: Earth One, illustrator Gary Frank (Supreme Power) collaborated with author Geoff Johns to tell the story of a younger Batman from an alternate reality trying his hand at crime-solving. Frank schooled io9 on his design philosophy for creating a costume for a Batman who has absolutely no idea what the hell he's doing. Some spoilers ahead.
Gary Frank: The costume was not really thought of as a costume so much. The idea of the costume — which will continue through the rest of the books — is not traditional. It's a piece of equipment. It's something that he patches together, and there will never be a finished article. The costume will evolve with Bruce's needs. We won't have a definitive Earth One Batman costume. It's not something Bruce has designed because he'll have a line of action figures — it's simply something he puts on to achieve his goals.
We started with a simple design. He's wearing a pair of Doc Martens and pointy ears. It's deliberately amateurish. It's the costume of somebody who has no idea what he's doing, the costume of someone who's unsure if he'll ever wear it again. When we go into the next book, he has a clear idea of what Batman's costume should be. He'll adjust it accordingly.
At this stage, I didn't want any armor, I didn't want anything that looked invulnerable. Bruce is quite vulnerable here. He is just a guy. It doesn't have this idea that he'll become a dark avenger and fight criminals. At the beginning of the book, he walks away from a shop being robbed — he doesn't think of himself as a superhero. Without spoiling too much, the thing that needs to be put right in Batman: Earth One is Gotham. The villains in this book are just symptoms — the corruption of Gotham will become more evident as the story continues.
As for Alfred, it was important to look like he could take care of himself. He was in the Royal Marines, like my grandfather. We kept him British, but I didn't want the clichéd, pencil-mustached type, like Higgins from Magnum P.I. I wanted him to be a guy who could genuinely be intimidating. When we begin the book, he's tougher than Batman. Batman eventually surpasses him, but we meet him as a protector figure for both Thomas Wayne and Bruce.
I don't know when the next volume will come out, but we're already talking about it. Geoff is very enthusiastic about it. I can't really tell you much about The Riddler [who will appear in the second book] — there's still a lot of evolving with the character and corners that need to be snipped away. There are so many twists that we base that book around, so we can't give much away. I'd like for people to go in with as few preconceptions as possible.
Batman: Earth One is out now.