26 April 2011

Comic Art Tuesday: Moldoff, Mooney, and Mandrake!

I'm a big fan of goofy Batman.

Batman as a gorilla, Batman in Scotland, Batman as a zebra.  Batman, Batwoman, Bat-girl, Batman's dad in a Bat-suit, Bat hound.  Flying Bat Cave, Bat Mite.

Shelly Moldoff ("It's Clayface!")
Shelly Moldoff.

Shelly Moldoff is the admonition of Batman.  An entire career spent in the service of Bob Kane's narcissism, Shelly drew a significant portion of Batman-related comic publications for years without credit or a contract.  Unlike other comic creators, who employed a studio of artists to accomplish the required about of artwork on a daily and monthly need, Kane hired people out of pocket while taking full credit as the sole creator and artist of Batman-related material.  By some reports, Shelly "ghosted" for Kane as early as the first year of publication.  By the time The Powers To Be created the "Bat-Family" era of comics, Shelly was the primary artist.  When the "New Look" era ended and Bob Kane was removed from all input at DC, Shelly's livelihood vanished.

Jim Mooney (Batman and Robin)
Jim Mooney faired far better.  Jim worked on Batman in the Forties and became the artist for the Robin feature in STAR-SPANGLED COMICS.  He then became a regular Supergirl artist and did many of the Legion of Superhero appearances.

Jim's Batman and Robin is one of my favorites from the 1940's.  He distilled Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson's work into a perfect amount of action and detail.  Jim did Batman and Robin as "super-citizen", The Batman and Robin who were duly-deputized servants of public well being.

For all of the contemporary recollections of comics of the Forties as grim, Batman and Robin smiled a lot...

Tom Mandrake (Batman)
Tom Mandrake was the counterpoint to Gene Colan's Batman artwork in the Eighties.  Tom wields a thick brush, which I never thought the printing process could reproduce just right.  The amazing surprise of his art is his pencil work, which shows an amazing amount of grace.

This, from the guy who likes to draw zombies.

I loved his SPECTRE work, probably the best version ever published.

His Batman is equally scary.  

19 April 2011

Comic Art Tuesday: Mills, Rogers, and Steve "The Dude" Rude!

Scott Mills (TV Batman)
Sometimes, it's fun to get a fresh perspective on Bat things.  Indie artist Scott Mills grabbed me with his TRENCHES book, a story about WWI, and then entertained me with his SEAMONSTERS & SUPERHEROES.  He did a bunch of little 3 x 3 colour illustrations for me and I included a request for TV's Batman.

I like how Scott reduced Adam West's appearance to this perfect line art.  You know it's Batman, you know it's Adam West, and you know it's fun.

I use to see his commissions of 70's comics and I love his appreciation of Bronze Age stuff.

His aim is true!

Marshall Rogers (Batman)
C'mon, you totally dug BATMAN in the Seventies when Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin tore off and created a string of issues that have reprinted a bat-bunch of times.  Englehart wrote great stuff- he revisited classic villains such as Joker and Penguin, introduced Clayface III, and made Hugo Strange awesome.  Best of all, Silver St. Cloud was a Bruce Wayne flame of value- perhaps the best?

The art team of Rogers and Austin brought a panache and layout that hadn't been seen before.  The world was still shaking over Neal Adams' romantic style of Dark Knight and Rogers/ Austin introduced a cartoon illustration style that retained all the "dark" atmosphere.

The bottom line? Comics could be comics and still work.

Steve Rude (Batman)
 Steve Rude has got to be a man out of time.  He co-created NEXUS, one of the most recognized indie comics of all time, and is the love child of Jack Kirby and Homer Winslow.  He digs superhero comics, but of 1966.  You can find "The Dude" on line pumping out commission after commission of Stan and Jack's best creations.

I loved his WORLD'S FINEST, a Superman & Batman story written by Dave Gibbons.  It has every beat right.  Luthor and Joker are pitch-perfect.  Superman and Batman's relationship is varied, and the art is gorgeous.

What I find interesting is Steve's expressed desire to NOT draw Batman (or Robin or Green Lantern, it seems).  I have always wanted a commission from The Dude and he posted an art sale on his site.  Despite the statement regarding the Dark Knight, I asked if he would reconsider.  He did and I think the piece is breath taking.  The colours are perfect.

Sure enough, it became the cover to his sketch book and his calendar.

Batman sells, baby.

13 April 2011


I love the new animated BATMAN: THE BRAVE & THE BOLD show.  It mixes decades of Batman comics, from the absurd to the intense, into 30 minutes of pure Bat fun.

Ah, if only the toys didn't suck.

Granted, there are some people who think toys should be for playing.  By children.  These "some people" happen to be toy company execs and they figures said children would probably want to play with toys from this show, so "some people" decided to make the toys "playable".

"Playable" meant that each figure was based on a stock body that had octogonal plugs in the legs and arms to allow various toy accessories to added for "play value".

Sure, my kid can "play" with Batman.  But what about Batman's visual aesthetic?  Isn't a crappy looking Batman figure hurting my kid's chances at an Ivy League education?  Doesn't corporate America care about my child?

This is where WHEN BATMOBILES FLY comes to the rescue:  Saving children from childish things.

Yes, children like playing with their toys.  Yes, children like beating the living crap out of their action men.  Yes, children do not understand what is good sculpting and anatomy and that is why these toys are rotting the hearts and minds of our children.

Thankfully, we here at WHEN BATMOBILES FLY understand that children don't buy children's toys. Grown men, with an empty void inside them, buy children's toys.  These Grown Men need toys that look good on the shelf. 

The show brilliantly re-invented Aquaman, who has to be one of the most boring characters of all times, and made him a bombastic adventurer with a heart of gold (fish).

Additionally, to address the issue of "& Robin The Boy Wonder", the writers borrowed from a 70's story which depicted a Robin who had grown up, moved on, and made a costume that included pants.

This adult Robin, designed by Neal Adams (him again), is gaudy and ridiculous, and 1000 times better than contemporary comics which had The Boy Wonder grow up to become a moody Batman knock-off.

It also just so happens that my complete run of BATMAN THE BRAVE & THE BOLD comics has to be one of my most favorite.  Every month, Batman teamed up with another hero to solve some world crisis, or a street crime.  The show borrows from the comic by selecting some of the guest heroes who made frequent appearances, and in a similar manner avoids team ups with the bigger DC heroes, such as Superman and The Flash.

It's just that the toys suck.

One of the shows best decisions was to be more inclusive of Plastic Man into the Dark Knight's world.  Plastic Man never quite made it in the DC comics, most likely due to the lack of imaginative writing.  In the show, he's every bit as unpredictable and fun as he was when written and drawn by his creator Jack Cole.

He just needed a better action figure.

The toy line is now all but dead, as is the show.  I've decided that the figures represent the best possible medium to enjoy an expanded Batman collection: they're small, affordable, and easy to work with.

70 years of Bat fun awaits.

Get ready, get set,


12 April 2011

Comic Art Tuesday: Nowlan, Seth, and Neal Adams!

Ahhh, the book sketch.  Who amongst us wouldn't succumb to the offer of: "Ayeh, I dig yur stuff, wouldyuh drawl uh purty pit-ure innt?" if it meant another sale of that golden publication?

It just so happens that I've been persuaded by three said book deals, and they all happened to be Bat-related.

Kevin Nowlan (Batman)
The world needs more Kevin Nowlan.  What an amazing brush!  He floats into a romantic world of dark realism and then puts in all these goofy people, like his Boy Wonder.  I would love to go for a bigger commission of the Bat family from him.  His faces are so distinctive that it was hard to pass up the opportunity to buy his recent paperback sketchbook collection with the offer of a head sketch.

His inking is wonderful and I see that he's been accompanying Jose Garcia Lopez on recent BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL work and the Metal Men pages of WEDNESDAY COMICS?  Is it overpowering the Don Jose?  Perhaps.  The JGL/ Nowlan work has a unique look- neither JGL nor Nowlan alone create those layouts with those shadows.

Seth (Batman)
The whole wide world needs more Seth.  Seth is the best thing to ever come out of a Canadian time machine, set back some 50 years ago.  I adore his comics, buy every sketchbook or project (or half-completed project.  Hello CLYDE FANS?).  I think you can spot his cartoon work from 100m away.  Luckily, he came to town one day and so I told him just that.

He loves comix and I think he even has a spot in his heart for Super Hero stuff, although I suspect it is the TIMELY and NATIONAL/DC stuff of 70 years ago.  I grabbed two of his book, VERNACULAR DRAWINGS, and had him personalize them for my brother and I.

Bonjour Batman!

Neal Adams (Batman)
Finally, if you grew up in the Seventies reading Batman and you live on the East Coast, there's no one closer to The High Holy Bat than Neal Adams.  There's so much to say about him, his careers, his artwork, and his influence on Batman, that it will take multiple postings.  His insane BATMAN ODYSSEY is worth about three blogs and a dozen clozapine.

Neal's artwork is priced high.  It's lovely stuff.  It's rare, however, that I see something Bat from him that has screamed BUY ME!  This year, Neal started doing profile commissions at cons.  Then, he published a retrospective of his entire career- comics, animation, etc.  THIS is the book I've been waiting for- something that will cover his strip work, the comics, and beyond.

Then I saw a wav movie of him doing a Batman profile in the book.  It was perfect. Exactly the Batman from those BRAVE & BOLD issues.  My brother wrangled a great two-fer deal and lo and behold: I now own a Neal Adams.

Thanks, compadre!

05 April 2011

Comic Art Tuesday: DeStefano, Broderick, and Giella!

Stephen DeStefano (ZING!)
Stephen DeStefano represents the storyboard artist at his best- a guy who can belt out perfect lines and make it look soooo easy.  He did MAZING MAN for DC and some fun stuff with My Hero: Bat-Mite.

The Zen of Bat-Mite is simple: Pure hero worship that makes fan-boys seem subtle.

This illustration could be a 5th Dimensional smack down, or the latest DC NATION panel at COMICON.

You be the judge.

Pat Broderick (Batman &  Two-Face)
Pat Broderick had the tough act to follow Michael Golden on my childhood worship of MICRONAUTS comix, but he also gave us the introduction of one Timothy Drake, Esq. into the world of Batman.  I always dug his classic Batman and Two-Face.  

Pat went all-out on this commission and delivered the amazing amount of ink-work that you see before you.  Has digital colouring screwed us out of a black and white world?  Is texture now an option on a paint software?

Not in this man's Gotham.

And of course, the man who united the New Look for Batman: Joe Giella.  I would give my Adam West cowl to have been a Bat-Radio Tracer on the wall when DC gave Bob Kane the news that "he" would no longer be needed to create all the Batman comics for DC.  Some cite low sales (which I don't believe), some imply a leveraged buy-out of the "Kane Ghost Shop", no matter who you believe, suddenly Mr. Kane was no longer "drawing" monthly issues of BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, allowing Julius Schwartz and artist-EIC Carmine Infantino to give Batman a much needed make over.  The deal was that artist Joe Giella would be retained to ink/finish all the books, to give them a "coherent look". 
Joe Giella (1964 Batmobile)

Now, anyone who thought the Moldoff/Giella and the Infantino/Giella books had a "coherent look" were probably blind, but Joe did it all.  Infantino takes credit for designing the New Look Batmobile and I'm willing to believe it, but it first appeared under the pencil and brush of Team Moldoff/Giella.

Whoever thought Batman and Robin would strike terror into the hearts of criminals by driving a Spyder?

01 April 2011

The Saga of the Golden Age Bat-Mite: Fini

After Pops rendered his front end of the Bat Mite, I went to work getting the body shell completed.  First up was getting the number done.  I took my best guess on the font and created the decal using Word and custom decal paper.  To make life easy on myself, I coloured the inside of the "0" using the computer.

Next up was the bat head on the front grille.  After getting the two-tone colours finished, it was easy to tape up the bat head.  It turned out rounder than I had imagined, given the curve of the front end, but it looked great.  We hadn't considered the "V" shaped front bars, but it still looks like a Batmobile!

The Bat Mite
The biggest challenge was the bat symbol.  I computer generated a white circle with black border and then attached the custom decal.  Using a PITT pen, I carefully inked in the bat symbol.  The hood vents didn't make this easy, but I think it worked.

It's remarkable how little car is around the driver.  You were really exposed when throwing one of these around a dirt track!

Finally, the kit came with a trailer and I couldn't resist doing it up in the midnight blue I use for my Golden Age Batmobiles.  I had created a car based on Dick Sprang's work from 1949 and it matches the timeline of this Kurtis Midget perfectly!  A nice use of blue and yellow throughout both cars!

Can't you just see Batman pulling up to the track on a Saturday night?

Now, do I make one for The Boy Wonder....