Tag Archives: Batman

Here’s Another Great Cover

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This is a great cover!

Yes, I know. I’ll get to the elephant (or should that be elephants?) in the room soon enough. First, I want to heap praise on Adam Hughes, creator of this month’s featured cover. His work is amazing. He and, fellow comic book artist, Alex Ross have brought an incredible sense of realism to comic book art (elephants notwithstanding). The work Hughes and Ross do is top level illustration that can set along side such great illustrators as Norman Rockwell and NC Wyeth.

The design and composition of this cover (Catwoman #45, September 2005) are perfect. Hughes’ color choices make clear it is night, but not just night. A moonlit night. This is shown brilliantly through the use of the sheer window treatments reflecting the blue/silver glow cast by the moon. Batman being in almost total silhouette displays one of his greatest weapons: the dark of night. Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot, so using darkness enhances their fear, making them more vulnerable. Hughes’ use of color and shadow add so much to the drama of the scene.

But what has Catwoman in such a state of shock?

Her pose suggests that she was doing her typical flirting with Batman, but something has interrupted her. Her right hand on his face indicates the flirtation, but the look on her face and her dropping her mask shows the mood has been unexpectedly broken. Is it, in fact, not Batman?

Perhaps her shock doesn’t involve the Caped Crusader. Look at her eyes (they’re up here, fellas). She’s not looking back at our hero. She’s looking off to her right. What is she seeing?

It’s breathtakingly brilliant.

Now for the, shall we say, ample breasts that are impossible to not notice. Yeah, let’s say that.

I know there are people who object to the objectifying of women. And they’re right, it can be dehumanizing. I don’t mind seeing sexy looking people whether real or just drawn that way. Sometimes, it gets more than a bit much, though. Tone it down a little, eh?

This cover approaches the line, but I don’t think it crosses it.

However, as I stated at the beginning, Hughes’ sense of realism in his illustrations is one of his greatest attributes. The way he depicts clothing fitting these super-beings looks right. I forget which comic book artist said it, but he said when drawing superheroes the artist draws them essentially naked (the superheroes, not the artist). Well, Hughes and Alex Ross don’t take that approach, not fully anyway. The costumes have creases and folds and really look as though they are inhabited by a body. A hot, sexy body.

In the interest of realism, though, how realistic is it for a cat burglar to be as stealthy, elusive, quick, and flexible as Catwoman while carrying around two elephants  on her chest? (Why do I keep calling them elephants?) I would think they’d just get in the way. Well, she is a super, so it appears she can handle them.

Yes, I said handle them. I didn’t mean it that way. Settle down.

Packing Peanuts!

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Check Out This Month’s Great Cover…

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Well, it’s time to take a look at a cover by one of the undisputed great illustrators in the history of comic books. Neal Adams brought a sense of realism to comic book art that hadn’t existed before in the art form. Adams’ influence on the Silver Age (1956 – 1969) and Bronze Age (1970 – 1985) is undeniable. If only it had reached the 1990s and saved us from certain artists.

*cough cough cough Rob Liefeld cough cough*

Sorry. A little hack in my throat.

So, let’s look at the eye-catching cover of Batman #251 (Sept. 1973). It focuses on the looming terror of Batman’s archest foe the Joker. Look at that. One of the greatest  superheroes ever plus one of the greatest supervillains ever drawn by one of the greatest artists ever all combining to make one of the greatest comic book covers ever.

Hyperbole! I love it!

Adams also draws the story art, which includes the Joker throwing Batman to a hungry shark. It’s some really good stuff.

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The best portrayal of the Joker…

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Is Heath Ledger’s, of course. His was the most plausible version of the Joker in film or television so far. I have to admit I have not seen Jared Leto’s Joker yet, but from what I’ve heard he’s barely in the Suicide Squad movie anyway. Ledger’s performance was based on how such a character would be in the real world. He wasn’t dropped into a vat of nasty chemicals that bleached his skin and snapped his mind. His mind was snapped somehow, the audience is never told how, but I’m certain a vat of chemicals wasn’t involved. His clown look was achieved with simple, mundane makeup.

In fact, until I read Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke many years ago, as I started getting interested in Batman, I had no idea the Joker didn’t wear clown makeup. I had been a Marvel kid for most of my life, what did I know about DC’s universe?

However, I’m not going to heap more praise on Ledger’s Joker here. No, I’m going to praise the creepiest Joker. Cesar Romero’s Joker. To my mind, that was the most creepy and scary version. Of all the portrayals of Batman’s archest villain, Romero’s was the most clown-looking one. And that clown look is pretty unsettling.

I’m also taking into account the fact that the Batman TV series in the ’60s was my earliest exposure to Batman and Robin, Batgirl (Yvonne Craig – yum), and all those villains. And being a kid when I first watched that great series, I took it seriously. I didn’t realized the campy take of the show. Adults watching the show caught it and liked it for that. But we kids didn’t pick up on the humor. We believed it!

So, the fact I was a naive kid watching Batman, taking it all so seriously, probably still plays into how creepy I think Romero’s Joker is. There was something about Cesar Romero’s voice and laugh that really felt like lunacy. And I think that Romero’s insistence to not shave his mustache and have the clown white applied right over it also added to the creep factor. Of course, adult fans of the show at the time probably felt the makeup over mustache look just added to the camp factor of the show.

Regardless, Ledger may have made the Joker seem real. But the Joker I get skeeved out the most by and still like the most is by the originator: Cesar Romero.

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You know who is great? You know who isn’t?

This was originally posted on my blog over at dimland.com way back in June 2010. I have updated it a bit.

I know there are lots of fans of Todd McFarlane’s artwork out there. I am not one. The following is my comparison to one of McFarlane’s contemporaries who, in my opinion, should be counted as one of the all-time greats. Again, this is just my opinion…

You know who is great?

I’ll tell you. Alan Davis.

Who is Alan Davis? Alan Davis is one of my favorite comic book illustrators, that’s who! Back when I was still buying new comic books (I stopped years ago), I discovered Alan Davis when he was penciling Detective Comics for DC. His Batman was terrific. On par with Neal Adams, I’d say.

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Davis’ style is fluid and graceful. It’s every bit as powerful as comicdom’s other greats: John Buscema, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Will Eisner, John Byrne, Jim Lee, Alex Ross and the like.

When he finished up on Detective Comics on the middle of a story run (he was replaced by the extremely overrated Todd McFarlane, I’ll talk about him in a moment), he moved over to Marvel Comics. He went to work penciling Excalibur. And I went to work buying them.

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You know who isn’t great?

Todd McFarlane.

Now, I should say that these fellows’ greatness is only pertaining to their artwork. McFarlane might be the nicest guy in the world and Davis a complete jerk. I don’t know, I’ve never met either. My critique is only of  the art, not the artist.

I think Alan Davis was, unfortunately, overshadowed by the Todd McFarlane craze. I must admit I was impressed with McFarlane’s work for about five minutes, but, as a life-long student of comic book art, I quickly saw McFarlane’s deficiencies as an artist.

His work was dramatic and eye-catching, but his anatomy drawing was poor. His proportions were off and his women all looked wrong. His characters all looked like they were in danger of falling over (always leaning and their bodies severely tapering toward their feet). McFarlane’s line work was also way too busy and lacked weight and definition.

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Just how big is Spider-Man’s butt?

Alan Davis’ work, on the other hand, was lush and disciplined. His line work was simple, flowing, elegant and expressive. His eye for page layout and design was outstanding. A mark of a really good comic book artist is being able to follow the story without having to read the narrative and dialogue. Davis’ pages never left you confused as to what was going on, while McFarlane’s often did.

And the way Alan Davis drew women… AHEM.

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Davis putting the Vampirella in va-va-voom!

Maybe I suffer a little from the sour grapes when I look at McFarlane’s work. I spent years trying to get into the comic book biz, but no go. Sometimes I’d get some praise, “You’re good, but you need work.” Sometimes I’d get slapped, “Have you had any drawing lessons?” (This was asked of me by an editor after I had spent three years in art school.)

Often I would hear that my work was a little too cartoony. I’d work on improving my drawing and then I saw McFarlane’s drawings. Cartoony?! Talk about cartoony! Are you looking at his stuff?!

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Eye-catching to be sure, but just not quite right.

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That’s more like it!

I know art is in the eye of the beekeeper, or something like that. It’s subjective, so there might be a person who thinks the exact opposite of me when it comes to these artists. That person would be wrong, but they might exist. And they are entitled to their opinion.

And so as not to be too harsh toward Mr. Mcfarlane, he has succeeded in an industry that many have tried to get into, but just couldn’t, including myself. And that is remarkable. Of course, Rob Liefeld also made it in… Don’t get me started.

I, also, have to say that although I don’t care much for McFarlane’s drawing, the line of toys he later produced were fantastic!

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Just a mess.

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It’s when I see art done this well that I say to myself, “Put down the pencil. Let’s the pros handle this.”

Whenever I see great work, I marvel at the artist’s ability. I revel in it. I feel as though I’m witnessing something special. It’s a beautiful thing.

And I think Alan Davis produced many beautiful things.

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