30 March 2011


I think my most exciting Bat-development of the past few years has been the discovery of BAT-MANGA! THE SECRET HISTORY OF BATMAN IN JAPAN (2008), edited by Chip Kidd and Saul Ferris, with pictures by Geoff Spears.  Chip Kidd and Geoff Spears have done a bunch of Batmania related books, in addition to some nice collections of Alex Ross' work.  This time, they turn to collector Saul Ferris to unearth a series of Batman Manga that were published in 1966 by Manga Sensei Jiro Kuwata in the wake of the American TVshow.

The book is the best insane translation of Batman ever.  Kuwata was given American scripts, which he adapted loosely for Japanese tastes.  The Manga are at their best when they let go of Western story conventions or model guides for the characters.  In this, I found my inspiration for my next figure.

As a guide, I wanted a Manga-related 6" action figure that I could base my work on.  I had to look no farther than the BATTLE OF THE PLANETS line, which gave me great options for the Caped Crusader.

All of the basics are here, proportionally, and it has a Manga-influenced face that I wanted for my Bat-Manga.

The majority of details were removed and the costume was sculpted in place.  This was very basic work, consisting of modifying the boots, belt, chest and gloves.  Instead of creating a new cape, I used one from the DC Direct SILVER AGE BATMAN AND ROBIN boxed set.

The biggest challenge for this work was the colour.  The Manga were usually done in grey tone on manilla paper.  It appeared that Bat-Manga had a two-tone cape (most likely to allow for detail in the artwork) and stripes on his boots and gloves.  I took my best guess and went for a combination of black, blue, and grey.

I searched in vain for colour work from Japan that portrayed the figure.  Most Japanese Batman toys were heavily based on American comics, so the majority of them have artwork that is very close to models of American artists.

Book co-editor Saul Ferris listed his contact information and he was very enthusiastic about the figure.  He provided wonderful insight into the art, along with some images from his vast collection.  He wanted a Bat-Manga! Man Statue based on the colour data from his collection.

I enjoyed working on the statue, because it gave me the opportunity to change the sculpt and create a mold of the character.  I designed a base platform using the colours and imagery from the Manga and re-tooled the costume to match the art.  I had to be careful to level the mold correctly to get a good flow for the resin.

Originally, Saul wanted the figure to have the standard Batman look and to have the statue aged.  I'm glad he went with my alternate look, which emphasizes the differences in cultural interpretation of Batman.  I found aging the statue challenging.  In looking at his collection, most pieces from 1966 hadn't aged all that much.  Plus, how would you exactly get a lot of paint rub on what is ostensibly a statue?  I decided on gently rubbing the paint on the base, and selecting a washed out orange that might convey some age.

Finally, I decided to hand paint the statue, to give it a sense of age.  I'm not so sure this last part worked.  I will probably use my airbrush to re-paint the original.

Saul gave some wonderful art direction, which really improved the statue.  I think his colour palette works much better than my original one.  I intend to re-paint my original figure, possibly lightening the grey tights a bit more.

The best part of the deal has been making Saul's acquaintance.  He wants more- Robin The Boy Wonder and my favorite villain Lord Death Man.   I had planned a set of four characters, so perhaps I should make a few more...

   Will Bat-Manga continue?

   Will Lord Death Man haunt Bat-Manga from the    
   grave (or the next toy shelf)?

   Will we learn the identity of the fourth statue?

Tune in to the Flying Batmobile,

Same Bat Blog,

Same Bat Artist!


  1. Looking forward to getting my hands on one of those babies. Must have it...

    Also, have you seen this?:


  2. Awesome!

    Wow, take a look at some of those designs! Most of them are so dark I can't see the detail of the car. Some very interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I hope BATMANGA will continue!!

    Really looking forward to seeing the others and there is something so satisfying about your colour choices and how you did it, I really like the pale grey. My favourite work of yours to date.