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.




28 May 2013

Bat Manga! meets Chip Kidd

After getting my first version of the Bat-Manga! statue built, I've always wanted to go back and do it again, based on the color palette from his debut in BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD:  The washed out greys and yellows are perfect.  If anything, I needed a reason to get back into the resin and fire up the airbrush, when all of a sudden...


... came the note from Chip Kidd, asking for a Bat-Manga statue for his own collection.  That got me motivated, so out came the molds again and off we went!  Thankfully, Pops was around to help get the yellows and greys right.  What a huge difference: 

Batmanga v1 for Saul Ferris
Batmanga v2 for Chip Kidd

We worked out a deal where I would bring his statue down to his Manhattan apartment that features his Batman / Captain Marvel collection, which was pretty cool.  It was crazy, because I was leaving New England and the summer was winding down and time was running out, but we finally got a time that worked for both of us and I ran into the city to see his place.

Basically, it's everything you've seen from his books and more.  The walls are covered in original art and shelves of the collection.  He asked me why I liked the Kuwata stuff and he showed me the remaining original artwork, which is in gorgeous shape.  He showed me his original Frank Quitely artwork from BATMAN AND ROBIN and ALL STAR SUPERMAN that he had bound, which looks great in person.  We talked about his latest release, BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN, and all of  it's art influences.  I showed him my History of the Batmobile project, which was just about done through the Fifties at the time.  He had some very nice custom Batmobiles from Argentina on his desk.  Chip professed a dis-interest in most things custom-made, so my Bat Manga statue has now made it to the big leagues.  I even warranted an entry in his blog

Party at Mr. Kidd's
The most fun moment was when he shared with me a reprinted volume of an intact BATMANGA story that wasn't included in his book, complete with a translation!  We talked about how to sculpt the villain of the story and Chip picked out the pose from the artwork and gave me pointers on the color scheme.  I got to make copies of the story for myself, which was very generous of him.  I think I've finally figured out how to make the character's cape, so it will probably be my fifth Bat-Manga statue of the proposed collection.

All in all, I tried very hard to behave: I brought my copy of Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006 and Death by Design to get autographed but left behind the rest of collection of his books.  I stayed a polite time, but didn't ask to see the guest cot.  

Most importantly, I didn't sweat or drool on anything.

It was a blast.

It's had some cool consequences: It got my artwork out there a bit more, made a few contacts, and I had a nice follow up request from James Tucker, the producer of BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD.
It was, as my brother said, the perfect way to leave New England.  

Now, on to some villains, yes?

25 May 2013

A Brave and Bold Man of Steel? Super Idea!

All the Buckaroos at the Flying Batmobile Ranch love us some BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD cartoons.  The only thing better is a hot plate of new Brave and Bold figures.  Sure enough, the fine folks at TARGET complied with our requests and released a whole new lineup of figures...

... with no hex bolts!

New and Improved BRAVE AND BOLD figures!

It sure looks like a big box of fun.  The only problem?

They got the costumes wrong.

"nU 52" and "Superman Returns" Figures

The first Superman figure produced was based on the drab color palette from SUPERMAN RETURNS.  This new "Justice League" version has a darker blue and has big mistakes about the costume (The Man of Tomorrow lost his super-trunks!).  Thankfully, we all here at the Ranch have a big stack of ACTION COMICS and were happy to get 'em just right!

A classic Superman!

Superman debuts our new experimental Plasti-Cape technology.  We're very happy with this prototype and hope to do much more with the process.

Will you believe a man can fly or that a comic book could be fun?

Four down, four to go!

Who's next up from the box?

21 March 2013

Tom Ziuko and The Dark Knight Returns

"Batman and Robin" by Tom Ziuko (1980s)

Can you remember the world of Batman before Frank Miller hit the scene?

In the mid 1980s, as the summer convention schedule was nearing, DC editorial handed colorist Tom Ziuko a reproduction of a sketch by Frank Miller.  In Tom's words:

"... [I]t was to be used in a slide show presentation at upcoming conventions; and was only intended to be seen on screen for a few minutes, and never published or used in print - hence the loose (sloppy?) look of the color. Since I'm extremely meticulous with my coloring, I'm somewhat mortified now that this is under the microscope.
In fact, I seem to recall that they needed this done at the last moment, and I sat down and colored it in the production department with a borrowed set of [Dr. Martin] dyes, as opposed to taking it home and coloring it in my studio. (Which also accounts for the somewhat 'gritty' look of the greys on Batman - my dyes at home were much 'cleaner')."

Whereas Tom may be mortified by this promotional piece, I think it's amazing for those reasons: It's fast and loose, which adds strength to Tom's artistic impressions of color.  It also shows us the world before anyone had heard of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.  Carrie Kelley was unknown as Robin (hence the dark hair color) and Tom used his own interpretation of Batman's costume, as Frank had not blacked out the Bat symbol.

Brilliant.  A wonderful snap shot of Batman history.

More recently, Tom has done a considerable number of color jobs for TwoMorrows Publishing.  Tom also included this print from a George Perez sketch used as the cover of Back Issue #1

"Batman and Captain America" by Tom Ziuko (2012)

Tom, a long-time colorist for DC and MARVEL, has taken ill.  He is currently offering his deep collection of hand-colored production art from DC and MARVEL to offset his mounting healthcare costs.

You can preview his artwork on his facebook page, where you can contact him directly.

The world needs more color and Tom Ziuko.  Please consider an addition to you art collection and keep a good thought for this talented artist.

We love Brave and Bold Kamandi and Andy Suriano!

The only thing better than BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD shows are BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD comics done by the kind folks who made the animated show!

BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD was a great comic, with monthly issues that told fun and exciting adventures in the spirit of the original comic book series of my childhood and the upbeat and offbeat show.

Andy Suriano, Emmy-award winning animator, did double duty with both the show and the comic.  His pages are posted on his art blog here!

I couldn't resist and grabbed a great page, featuring the Awesome Brave and Bold Batmobile and Kid Eternity!

"Batman Brave & Bold" Andy Suriano
I asked Andy which character was his favorite to animate on the show.  His response?

Kamandi and Batman (2012)

Kamandi!  We always suspected Suriano had good taste, but now it's confirmed!  Santa delivered The Last Boy on Earth to the Suriano Studio and everyone was happy.  Hooray!  Andy will be appearing at the Motor City Comic Con in the Spring of 2013.  Perhaps he needs another figure...

31 January 2013

The Noir of the Golden Age Catwoman, with Terry Beatty!

"Hell could have opened for me then, and it wouldn't have made any difference.  
 I had to have her, if I hung for it."
    -James M. Cain.  THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1934).

Catwoman (2012) by Terry Beatty

Whereas early BATMAN comics featured a wide array of gangsters and grotesques, a truly unique comic relationship was created with the advent of The Catwoman.

In 1939, the Bat-Man was a hard-boiled, two-fisted dark avenger of justice.  He beat criminals savagely and even dispatched monsters with the cold resolve of a .45.  If the authorities were impotent to stop lawlessness, Bat-Man was a final solution.

Until he met Selina Kyle.

With the introduction of The Cat, Bat-Man was shown to have a fatal flaw: he patronized  her cunning because of her beauty.  Her earliest appearances in BATMAN #1 began a theme in which Batman relented, often to the frustration of The Boy Wonder.  Yet, his flaw was shared by her; quickly, the jewel thief abandoned the success of her clever disguises for an outlandish costume.  For her part, Catwoman refused to kill and was at odds with The Joker because of it.  Thus began the doomed romance of 80+ years.  

Terry Beatty is a master illustrator, having co-created the pulp comic Ms. Tree and has drawn MICKEY SPILLANE'S MIKE DANGER and JOHNNY DYNAMITE.  He is currently the artist for the Sunday episodes of King Feature's classic comic strip THE PHANTOM.

The evening dress/ cat-masked Catwoman was short-lived, but it represents the core of the noir relationship between Dark Knight and the jewel thief.

Perhaps Michael Caine's ALFRED feels relived to see Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle together.  

The rest of us know such resolve is short lived at best.