20 November 2014

Happy 50th to the New Look Batmobile!

In 1963, BATMAN comics weren't so hot.

There are conflicting reports regarding motives, some focused on low sales, other speculate about leveraging the Bob Kane studio off the books.  Nonetheless, the facts remain the same: editor Julius Schwartz was brought in to revitalize the Batman and he did so with sweeping mandates.  Gone were most of the (now 20 year-old) villains.    Good bye Batwoman, Bat-Girl, Bat hound, and Bat-Mite alien cosplayer.  Hello new artists Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.  Hello new costume designs.

Hello new Batmobile.

BATMAN #164 (May, 1964)

Artist Carmine Infantino bucked 20 years of Batmobile design tradition with an open sports coupe, flared rear fenders and a minimalist bat head decal on the hood to replace the bat shield.  I loved it so much, I had his collaborator Joe Giella re-create the following panel, with the Dynamic Duo in costume:

New Look Batmobile (Giella, 2003)

There were two artists who worked on the BATMAN comics, with Giella finishing the black and white ink art for both: Shelly Moldoff drew most of them, and his interpretation of the New Look Batmobile is pictured above.  Infantino, in contrast, NEVER DREW IT THE SAME WAY TWICE!  He was always tweaking his art and I loved that.  I flipped through all of his comics and decided to pick one issue to base my version -DETECTIVE COMICS #351- which featured the Batmobile racing against a new villain, the Cluemaster.

Infantino's New Look Batmobile, circa 1964.  It always looked like it was propelled.

More often than not, he drew this view of the car

Great side and front shots

I based my model on a 1953 Corvette.  The front end was modified to capture the Batmobile hood and fender design and I added resin wings and rocket tubes to the rear fenders.  

A few details from the Corvette were retained, especially the interior and windscreen chrome.

The interior was flocked.  I picked grey upholstery to stay consistent with my ongoing Batmobile garage.

The angle of the bat fins were never the same twice!

This is my favorite Batmobile from the 60's comics and I am especially happy to have Mr. Giella so willing to re-create it's dynamic debut!

Joe would later go on to design the next Batmobile, which first appeared in the BATMAN newspaper comic strip.

Happy 50th to the New Look Batmobile!  Enjoy!

13 November 2014

Thankful for Strange. Adam Strange.

All the cowhands here at the Flying Batmobile Ranch love settling down after a long day in the shop and watching another episode of BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.  They were bright, entertaining blasts of Batman awesomeness with guaranteed guest heroes and villains in each and every episode.  Among those guest team-ups, Adam Strange gets big votes.

Adam Strange was DC Comic's sci-fi answer to Buck Rogers mixed with Flash Gordon: An archeologist gets zapped to a galaxy far, far away, where he is the hero of every story.  He grabs a rocket jet pack, teams up with the local scientist and his lovely daughter, and shots things with a ray gun.  Every now and then, the zap wears off and he finds himself back on Earth.  Boom, that's the pitch.

My first memory of an Adam Strange comic was when the Justice League came to visit Adam and were dissolved by his Evil Villain, Kanjar Ro:

I liked how he could dissolve the Super Heroes, but left behind the super suits.  I was five.

As you can imagine, that's a perfect fit for Batman ha ha.  Sure enough, it really could work:

  Adam Strange never really joined a super hero team, probably because of that zap thing to the galaxy far far away thing, but he was always fun.  Hence, we had to make his Brave and Bold figure:

Adam was made from that clean-shaven Aquaman figure that is now on sale in most Target stores, along with a Black Manta holster and two resin cast Christmas light bulbs for his jet pack.  Mrs. Bosslady figured out where the caps to the toothpaste tubes went and we went looking for that zap beam to the galaxy far far away thing.  Ray gun courtesy of Captain Action.


In Adam Strange's early appearances in MYSTERY IN SPACE, he wore a helmet.  We found some of Miss 8's gum ball trinkets and constructed accordingly.

Our favorite Batman now gets another favorite Batman toy.  That's something to be thankful for!


31 October 2014

Bat Manga! Meets Lord Death Man

Fans of the site know how much I like the Sixties Manga of Batman comics, drawn by the legendary Jiro Kuwata.  What I like about the manga is best exemplified by the super villain "Lord Death Man".

As Adam West was doing the batusi, Japanese manga publication house Shōnen Gahōsha licensed the right to make Batman manga, which they did between 1966-1967.

I don't think Batman and Robin made sense to the Japanese manga makers and Kuwata-san took the basic outline of the BATMAN comics published in 1966 and ... made some changes.  For example, Batman looked a little more devilish:

Jiro Kuwata, 1966
 My most favorite "tweak" was taking a rather nondescript story about a bank robber who could not die and transforming it into a nightmare of a story about Lord Death Man:

Manga and Western editions of the Death Man story
I urge you to enjoy this panel-by-panel critique of the two versions.  Needless to say, Kuwata-san's versions of these American comics are a great perspective on the two cultures.

When the producers of the BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD cartoon wanted to make a Bat Manga! episode, they (of course) choose the Lord Death Man story.  It's my all-time favorite episode:

Lord Death Man, from the BATMAN show
When I first made the Bat Manga! statue, I had in mind a set of four statues, with a special "variant" fifth statue.  Saul Ferris, the BATMANGA! co-editor, was always interested in a Lord Death Man statue and now I can finally oblige him:

Lord Death Man statue (2014)
I certainly took the color palette of the show and tried to sculpt a death head that was a combination of Kuwata-san's art and the animated work.

Saul had asked for "aged" works, and so the base has been scuffed up.  The skeleton was hand painted to give a sense of a "knock off" kind of job.

I hope Saul likes it!  I am looking forward to getting one with my set of five statues, as I now understand that there is to be a full collection of the Kuwata Bat Manga! stories.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Next up: Boy Wonder Manga!

21 February 2014

A Brave and Bold Valentine v2.0

Digging that ARROW show?    We've written about our love for the Emerald Archer here and were very excited to see a familiar face make an appearance on the show: The Black Canary!
The Black Canary might be one of DC COMICS' best characters who has survived over 70 years of publication.  She was a featured character in the BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD show and she was one of the first female characters we made for the show here.
The challenge of our Brave and Bold female figure sculpt is what to do with that outstretched arm: originally meant as a Catwoman figure showing off her claws, we tried having The Canary hold her old mask with it.  Still, there's always room for improvement...
We've played around and decided to try a hands-on-hips sculpt! Additionally, we decided to go for glossy boots and leather jacket.  The Black Canary is so much fun, we just had to make her twice.

24 December 2013


Oh, the pitch-perfect wonder of the BATMAN THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD show.  A fantastical re-invention of a childhood of bright colors and brighter imaginations driving the stories of Batman and his friends.  We couldn't get enough of it, so of course it was cancelled.
The only disappointment?  Lousy toys.  Sure, toys designed with features that children could play with may appeal to children, but how am I going to develop my line of adult collectibles around that?  And, of course, NO WOMEN.
After perfecting a female buck, ideas started coming to mind about other heroines to join the B&B team.  Who better to start that off with than Black Canary?
Black Canary was trained by the legendary Wildcat and the Justice Society of America.  Eventually, she took off her mask and decided to fight crime on her own!
I decided to pay tribute to that moment in designing our Black Canary figure:
Eventually, Black Canary meets the brash Green Arrow and the two decide to team up.
This figure was a long time in coming and I hope the recipient enjoys it!  Our next heroine shouldn't take as long to join the team!

09 July 2013

Batmobile History III: The Atomic Age (1950-1963)

It's 1950 and the future is now!

In our last chapter, we saw how the Golden Age of superheroes shaped Batman's crime-fighting arsenal, as artist Jerry Robinson created the sleek sedan known as the Batmobile.

By 1949, Batman and his symbols were so established that it was time to upgrade.  Batman as a dark avenger was gone.  Batman and his ever-present partner Robin were about to enter the stream-lined world of law and order, battling crooks with a dizzying array of the latest in crime-fighting technology.

It's a good thing Dick Sprang was on the job.

"The Batmobile of 1950"

DETECTIVE COMICS #156 featured the Batmobile itself, as it's predecessor was destroyed by a mortar round.  In contrast to the stalwart sedan of the Forties, the Batmobile of 1950 was laden with hi-tech gadgets, including no less than a fully-stocked criminology laboratory in the back of the car.

Batmobile of 1950 (Horizon Models)

Artist Dick Sprang clearly expanded on his ideas from his previous 1949 design: The separate fenders were replaced by a larger sedan.  Instead of an amphibious car, the 1950 Batmobile was fitted with powerful rocket tubes and a portable Bat-signal.  As Batman proudly exclaimed, "It's 10 years ahead of it's time!"

By 1955, Futurism was rampant in Batman stories.  Stories with grotesque rogues were replaced by increasingly more fanciful adventure tales.  Batman and Robin expanded their crime-fighting partnership to include Batwoman, Bat-girl, and Ace the Bat Hound.  When they weren't busy using novel Batarangs or mulit-coloured Batsuits, a magical imp named Bat-Mite would show up, perhaps to play match-maker between Robin and Bat-girl.

An age of outer-space pursuits and Bat-Men of Zur-en-ahh and hallucinogenic apocalyptic sensory deprivation studies required two things: A new Bat artist. And a new Bat-mobile.

1955 Batmobile

Much has been said and even more speculated about the mercurial facts behind the true origins of the Bat-Man and exactly how much credit should be paid to Bob Kane, both in the writing and amount of art he actually contributed to the comic.   It was evident that Kane used a studio to supply DC with Bat art, with Dick Sprang the clear talent of the lot.  Sprang became so popular DC hired him on directly.  Shelly Moldoff was another story.

Ghosting for Kane since early DETECTIVE COMICS issues, Shelly took a private "gentleman's agreement" with Kane to draw Batman "forever", which hit full stride in the mid-Fifties.  Shelly's boxy style took Dick Sprang's design to more exaggerated extremes- Batman's lantern jaw became more angular, his barrel chest more pronounced.  

As of Detective Comics #223 (Sept, 1955), the Batmobile was affected as well.  Gone were the sweeping lines of the Sprang Batmobile, replaced with a simplified bat fin.

And a bubble top.


Meanwhile, WORLD'S FINEST had been publishing new adventures of Superman and Batman, separately, since the Forties.  By 1954, the two began appearing in the same story.  This disparate pairing obviated the inherent genre and power differences of the two characters by heading even deeper into science fiction and super-heroics.  Until the WORLD'S FINEST team-ups, Batman had only made a brief appearance with other superheroes, fighting alongside the Justice Society in the mid-Forties.  Now, directly paired with Superman, Batman would have to rely more on his amazing intelligence and bat-equipment.

1958 Batmobile

While Shelly Moldoff and Lew Sayre Schwartz now held court in issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, Dick Sprang illustrated the Superman/Batman and Robin team-ups.  For Batmobile aficionados, the artists were distinguishable from each other- Schwartz drew the Forties car, Shelly drew his "Bubble-mobile" and Mr. Sprang?

By the 1958 issues of WORLD'S FINEST, Dick was streamlining his 1950 design.  Clearly influenced by the 1957 Chrysler 300C, he had decided on the next generation of Batmobile. 

Gone were the rear windows,  the fin gradually enlarged, and then the front end was re-surfaced:  The Batmobile that would end the Atomic Age was now established.

Dick Sprang’s run in WORLD’S FINEST marked a momentous occasion: Disparate personalities had joined forces to forge the world’s strongest friendship.  Unfortunately, the cost of this union was at the expense of an ever-evolving readership, one that found such tales of amazing fiction to be out of place with their conceptions of The Caped Crusader.  Science Fiction Batman would continue on for another 6 years, beset with a litany of repetitive scenarios that stretched beyond the limits of acceptability.  Sales plummeted below tolerable levels.  A Batman that faced down alien encounters in collaboration with mischievous imps and golden-clad female counterparts was a concept as out-dated as the hulking car he drove.

The Batmobiles of the Atomic Age

DC Comics had one last chance.

If Batman was to survive cancellation, he would need a bold New Look.  

COMING SOON: Batmobile History IV: The New Look (1964-1969)

09 June 2013

Look, up in the sky: It's a bat! It's a plane! It's a Bat Plane!

In all of the stacks of old comics the cowpokes would leave behind at the ranch, we couldn't get enough of this ad:

Aurora model advertisement (1966)
The Batplane model was a "holy grail" of un-obtainable model kits, practically unheard of at flea markets and dealer conventions... until it was republished by the Polar Lights company.

Batplane (Polar Lights, 2002)
The Batplane model was likely based off the "Batplane II", the jet fighter that Batman flew from 1950-1963.  With slight artistic variation, the model is very accurate.

Batman No 146 (March, 1962)
Over the years, many hobbyists have painted the batplane model according to their own interpretation.  Mostly blue, some black.  Sometimes they use red pin striping a la the George Barris TV Batmobile.

We decided to throw our cowl in the ring, too:

Our rendition of the Batplane (2013)

We kept with the comic-inspired dark blue (in high gloss, of course) with matte black bat head motif.  The Barris-inspired decals were used, but with a USAF nod.  Red pinstripes?  You bet, but in a new way that also made the bat head pop.

The Polar Lights Batplane (2013) 

And Chrome.  Planes fly faster in chrome.

Scalloped Atomic Bat-Landing Struts?  Check!
If Adam West and Burt Ward ever needed to get supersonic, this would have been the thing.