22 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas Day 5: Holiday Knights

Everyone has a favorite Batman.

Mine is the animated show from the Nineties.
The show had wonderful production values, mixing deco art style with a dark color palette.  The writing nailed a ton of Gotham's finest characters, often employing comic writers to base episodes on their fan-favorite issues.  The assembled cast of voice talent (Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as The Joker) lead by director Andrea Romano just made it... perfect.
And the designs.  Ah, the designs.
Several years into production, the art team lead by Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami completely re-did their character designs in THE NEW BATMAN ADVENTURES.  Soft lines were completely eliminated, the color palette was reduced, and designs were minimalist.
Thank goodness there were toys.
KENNER made most of Batman's Rogues, with only a few missing favorites, including Clayface and Poison Ivy.  Thankfully, I found some online resin kits to make up for the absence.
My favorite New Adventures episode, you ask? HOLIDAY KNIGHTS, which was three episodes in one:
As a starter, Batgirl is holiday shopping when she notices some kids acting up.  Turns out they're all Clayface.

The kit arrived and weighed a ton..

 In the second story, Poison Ivy and gal pal Harley Quinn use mind control lipstick to take Bruce Wayne’s bank accounts for a holiday shopping spree.


Finally, an exhausted Batman beats the Joker on New Year's Eve and toasts with Commissioner Gordon. 

Just a few more figures to finish off the main set.
I think we have a great Christmas to look forward to...
Catch up with our Christmas Count-down:
Day 12 is here.
Day 11 is here.
Day 10 is here.
Day  9 is here.
Day 8 is here.
Day 7 is here.
Day 6 is here.

19 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas Day 7: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells

What's a blog site about Batmobiles writing on Christmas topics gonna do?

It shouldn't come as a surprise that my childhood favorite BATMAN artists all came from the Fifties. Shelly Moldoff's boxy figures, Lew Sayre Schwartz's inky faces, and Dick Sprang's ...

...well, everything.

Dick Sprang designed my favorite Batmobile model and is the subject of today's holiday greeting card.  The 1950 Batmobile model kit from HORIZON is the best model out there, bar none.  I have written before about the fun of building this kit and I urge everyone to try and find one.

I wanted to do something as a holiday diorama and realized I had no idea how to make a diorama.  In fact, all I knew about staging scenes was from my tour of a Hollywood back lot, which was pretty much NEVER LET THEM SEE THE HORIZON and HEDY LAMARR SELLS TICKETS.

Christmas magic debunked: Holiday ruined
I grabbed my BATMAN RETURNS BATCAVE COMMAND CENTER, which has the Penguin's Arctic Lair as a scale back piece and tried to make an alley-way store entrance based on some screen shots from... BATMAN RETURNS.

The Gotham Alley actually came together pretty quickly with two types of sheet styrene, with a little foam core around the edges to promote the illusion of depth.  More foam core was used as a street and sidewalk.


The big purchases for this build?  A 1/24 scale battery operated street lamp and a jar of artificial snow.  The snow nicely hid the street lamp wire and forgave all sins regarding the foam core.  Some spare parts were quickly glued together to approximate a tire jack.

I played around with a prop that really cemented the visual for The Joker line of the rhyme.  I sliced off the head of a PVC animated Joker figure, located a spare spring from the parts box, and made a box out of sheet styrene.  Some lead weight held it all down.

The final detail was lighting.  As you can see, the flash blew out "the magic" of the diorama.  Lighting that came from opposite the street lamp made no logical sense as well.  It took a while to get a lamp at the right distance to support the street lamp.

Flash floods everything
Light from the wrong direction sucks too
After 10 blurred shots, we get a good one.  Time to buy a tripod.
Finally, a little cropping and post-production smearing of the edges:


Finally, I spent 13 months agonizing over font.  After careful deliberations, I selected Black Chancery.

I'm glad I can make the tough decisions.
Have a cool yule from the Flying Batmobile Ranch!

Catch up with our Christmas Count-down:
Day 12 is here.
Day 11 is here.
Day 10 is here.
Day  9 is here.
Day 8 is here.

17 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas Day 9: All I want is an Andy Suriano O.M.A.C.!

You can't go wrong with the BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD animated show.  30 minutes of action, adventure, and fun.  Batman usually teams up with 2 characters from the DC Comics Universe and the character selection can be ... diverse.

O.M.A.C. was a 1970's Jack Kirby-created science fiction comic where grey-man Buddy Blank is transformed into the powerhouse One Man Army Corps, who receives logistical support from a computer satellite, Brother Eye.  I always thought O.M.A.C. was an awesome idea.  In many ways, I dig him as a dystopian Superman.  As of December 2014, Ryan Carey is writing a great deconstruction of the series at Sequart.  In it, he reveals OMAC was Kirby's vision of a futuristic Captain America.  That kinda blows my mind and I see it.  I love this book. 

Andy Suriano is an Emmy award winning animator, who has a long-time love for Jack Kirby comics.  And Plastic Man.  He drew a few issues of the BATMAN BRAVE AND BOLD comic.  I made him a Kamandi figure here.  He agrees with me that Kirby is King:

When Warner Bros released the 7-figure Justice League set in the Brave and Bold style, I took one look at that Superman figure and knew what to do:

I used a series of high gloss metallic flake paints to give OMAC the sheen that Kirby's artwork portrays.  I make his chest symbol have a gem ala ULTRA MAN, 'cuz it looks great.

Do yourself a favor this holiday- grab the OMAC comic, read Ryan's great essays, and get your mind right- KIRBY IS KING!



Countdown Day 10 is here.

Countdown Day 11 is here.

Countdown Day 12 is here.

15 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas Day 11: Chris Burnham's Batwing

Our 12th Day of Christmas countdown is here.

It's getting to be that time of the year, here at the Flying Batmobile Ranch.  The holidays are coming and with it, the wish list of kick ass Batman toys that never got made.  We all loved that Grant Morrison's BATMAN INC so much, the boys hunkered down and made up a bunch of the figures that got lost on the way to the toy shelf, like El Gaucho or the super-cool Batman of Japan by that talented kid Chris Burnham.

This year, they decided to make Chris' character, "Batwing, the Batman of Africa".  The best part of Batwing is that he originally appeared in a great 70's classic BATMAN story, "THE BATMAN NOBODY KNOWS" (BATMAN #250).

Bruce Wayne takes a couple of Gotham kids out camping (don't ask) and they all sit around the campfire, telling tall tales of what they think the Batman really is.  This guy is right on target:


Grant Morrison liked that Dick Giordano artwork so much, he had Chris mix it into the BATMAN INC story and boom:

Now we're talking.  Chris certainly took most of the design from this one page and integrated it into the armored Bat-suit the character wore:

"Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Shaft, and Super-Fly all rolled into one!"

"Sweet Christmas!"

Batman, Inc

Countdown Day 10 is here.

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!