24 June 2011

Gene Colan: 1926-2011

The world lost a maestro today with the passing of Gene Colan.

It's a cliche, but very true in my case: as a kid, I didn't like Gene's MARVEL super hero comics.

The art was dark, moody, and the images flowed in sync with the pace of the story.  In reality, I had no idea what I was looking at and was too young to appreciate Gene's ability.  When he arrived at DC COMICS, drawing THE SPECTRE or BATMAN, I was in heaven.  Here, the content and Gene's ability were a match made by a higher power.

Simply put, Gene had the singular talent to watercolour in graphite.

Gene Colan (2007)
I don't think we have the technology to convey how Gene put depth into a two-dimensional pencil image.  Current comic artists don't understand the value of ink.  The ability to use texture to convey depth in the same way Milt Caniff, Hal Foster, or Will Eisner did.  Somehow, Gene Colan could do the same thing with pencil.

My favorite work of Gene's is PLOUGH AND STARS.  I look at this and see a Scorcese shot play out.  I can hear the train rumble, the crunch of the snow, and feel the heat of that kiss against the cold wet bite of the snow.

Gene Colan (2009)

I knew Gene in the good times, which is to say I knew Adrienne.  At any gathering, there would be a huge crowd and to the side was Gene, quiet.  In the center court was Adrienne, animated, vibrant, and full of humor.  This scene could describe an entire generation of comic artists- he would draw and she would run the show.

There's an upcoming collection of Gene's BATMAN work coming out and I can't wait.  At the time, DC and MARVEL were printing newsprint and the colour quality was lousy.  This volume should be a wonderful celebration of his talent.  His Batman was a dark and moody adventure, something I hear that is popular with the kids today.

I wish I could see the world the way Gene did.

His artwork is the closest thing we have and I'll treasure it always.

22 June 2011

Good night, my hero: Lew Sayre Schwartz, 1926-2011

In sad news, the man who drew my childhood favorite issues of BATMAN has passed away.

I had the great pleasure of spending a fall Manhattan afternoon with Lew Sayre Schwartz in 2005.  It was nothing short of a dream come true- I adored his 1981 documentary on Milton Caniff, he did a cool edition of MOBY DICK, and he tolerated Bob Kane.  

Lew was jovial and we had a great conversation about Caniff, the military, and of course Batman.  We thumbed through a hard cover collection of BATMAN comics and pointed out several pieces of his work which were mis-attributed to other artists, which made him laugh.

Mike Mignola's cover to Batman #700, featuring DC's most recent L'enfant terrible, The Red Hood, is a loving tribute to Lew's original cover to DETECTIVE COMICS #168.  With all respect, Lew may not have done the more graphically sophisticated job of the two, but he did the one that drew in children.  Different jobs for different times.

What drew me to Lew's artwork as a child was his brush- his people are full of distinct character.  The Catwoman he portrayed was dangerous ( an interesting move away from Catwoman as a potential Batman love interest or reform-advocate), his Joker was expressive, and his henchmen were distinct.  In what could have been a boxy spoof, Lew illustrated the "The Gorilla Crime Boss of Gotham City" with panache and lush ink.  I was a lad in Detroit with piles of BATMAN reprints and I was hooked.

 Lew clearly had an impact on others, most eloquently Eddie Campbell.  

I am so grateful I had the chance to meet with you and learn from you.  You mixed grace and affection and talent.

Good night. 

10 June 2011

The end of JONAH HEX?? DCnU makes me sigh...


I love JONAH HEX.  When I close my eyes, I see a Jordi Bernet vision of acrid gun smoke and foul death.

Seriously, this is the DC Universe comic that I run to the store every month to get.  I swear by it to anyone who can tolerate me suggesting comix that they haven't tried.  Gill got this lovely piece from Bernet and it is now sadly lost in the international post.  

JONAH HEX will be ending this August.  In it's place will be the all new ALL STAR WESTERN:

"Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Featuring back-up stories starring DC’s other western heroes, ALL-STAR WESTERN #1 will be written by the fan-favorite Jonah Hex team of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and illustrated by Moritat." 

Shoot me now...

I know, I can't complain.  JONAH HEX doesn't sell.  I think Jordi Bernet is a living genius and most Americans have no idea how to even pronounce his name, let alone who he is.  The fact that DC kept JONAH HEX going for 70 issues is due to the grace of Dan DiDio.  I appreciate that there will be more Jonah after August, but jeez, owlhoot- Jonah sure never traveled so far Nor' East.   

As far as back-ups, Palmiotti and Grey have written outstanding pieces about El Diablo, Bat Lash, and a bunch of cool DC Western characters.  I love 'em all, but Hex is best.

I'm mostly miffed about Bernet.  I love the rotating artists that have graced JONAH HEX, but Bernet's work is what I see in my mind's eye.

The artist known as "Moritat" is excellent.  I urge you to check out his SPIRIT work.  "Moritat" strikes me as an interesting cat because I know A) "Moritat" is not his name B) He served in Viet Nam and C) his artwork is beautiful.  That's about it.  

I miss Bernet already. 

I don't know if even Darwyn Cooke VIGILANTE art will cheer me up...

Cowboy Sunrise!

02 June 2011

Neal Adams Flying Batmobile: BATMAN ODYSSEY

Batman Odyssey #1 (2010)
If there’s one thing we here at Flying Batmobile love, it’s flying Batmobiles.  Historically, there have been very few Batmobiles with wings and it’s our goal to celebrate every last one of them.  The one that caught our eye recently was by the Legendary Neal Adams in his story BATMAN ODYSSEY.  Funny how things are reinvented over time, as this flying car looks awfully familiar...

Interior art, BATMAN ODYSSEY #1 

Now, there has been much said about BATMAN ODYSSEY the story (my favorite is here), but not so much about Neal’s re-design of the Batman Universe.  Whereas Neal was not the first artist to propose using real-world sports cars as a Batmobile in the Seventies, his was the best, using a C3 Corvette with a stylized hood.  IN BATMAN ODYSSEY, Neal revisits his 40-year old Batmobile with some contemporary upgrades.

Gull-wing doors, bat-stylized hood vent, and a (shudder) rear spoiler.

Oh yeah.

He makes it fly.

The Flying Batmobile (2010)

The Flying Porsche of Nick Fury
The first flying car was designed by the greatest superhero comic artist of all time, Jack Kirby.  In the Sixties, Jack was illustrating a espionage comic for MARVEL entitled: NICK FURY AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D., in which the main character was heavily influenced by the current pop media fascination with gadget laden spies such as JAMES BOND and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.  Soon into the development of the series, Mr. Kirby decided his Secret Agent Nick Fury needed a gadget-laden car and turned to his son’s collection of car magazines.  The Porsche 910, meant for European racing, was then utilized as a civilian sports car that featured a shocking method for avoiding traffic jams.

Neal clearly based his Flying Batmobile from Kirby’s S.H.I.E.L.D. flying Porsche 911, merging his original Corvette Batmobile with some additional features.  Thus, our first stop is the Hobby Shoppe for a quick grab of a C3 ‘Vette.

The initial build is all basics: transmission, engine and interior cockpit.  Whereas the kit calls for attaching the wheels onto spokes, we sand off the edges to allow for removal during the later transformations.

The modified Corvette Stingray Batmobile!
The body requires light work, removing the hidden headlamps and door lines.  The gull wing door lines were then scribed in and the rear spoiler was fabricated from sheet styrene and attached.  Tamiya TS-15 Blue was used as the body color.

Modified headlights, hood intake

The most labor-intensive work for the car body was the hood, which required the original air scoop sanded down and the bat-hood created out of sheet styrene.  The model came with the optional hardtop, which was featured in BATMAN ODYSSEY.

Door panels modified for gull wing, hard top option

The kit came with chrome finishing features, which were applied.  A decal was created to suggest the new headlamps.

All that was left was to make it fly.

Hard top option, with rear spoiler- look at that sag!

                                                              TO BE CONCLUDED