Tag Archives: superman

70 Aspects of Batman: 30

JACK KIRBY

From Wikipedia:

Jack Kirby (August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American comic book artist, writer and editor. Growing up poor in New York City, Kurtzberg entered the nascent comics industry in the 1930s. He drew various comic strips under different pen names, ultimately settling on Jack Kirby. In 1941, Kirby and writer Joe Simon created the highly successful superhero character Captain America for Timely Comics. During the 1940s, Kirby would create a number of comics for various publishers, often teaming with Simon.

After serving in World War II, Kirby returned to comics and worked in a variety of genres. He contributed to a number of publishers, including Archie Comics and DC Comics, but ultimately found himself at Timely’s 1950s iteration, Atlas Comics, later to be known as Marvel Comics. In the 1960s, Kirby co-created many of Marvel Comics‘ major characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk, along with writer-editor Stan Lee. Despite the high sales and critical acclaim of the Lee-Kirby titles, Kirby felt treated unfairly, and left the company in 1970 for rival DC Comics.

While working for DC, Kirby created his Fourth World saga, which spanned several comics titles. While these and other titles proved commercially unsuccessful and were canceled, several of their characters and the Fourth World mythos have continued as a significant part of the DC Comics universe. Kirby returned to Marvel briefly in the mid-to-late 1970s, then ventured into television animation and independent comics. In his later years, Kirby received great recognition for his career accomplishments, and is regarded by historians and fans as one of the major innovators and most influential creators in the comic book medium.

In 1987, Kirby, along with Carl Barks and Will Eisner, was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

As with Will Eisner, it can’t be overstated how important Jack Kirby is in the history of American comics. In a career that spanned seven decades, Kirby created hundreds upon hundreds of characters, worked in almost every conceivable genre and produced tens of thousands of pages of comic art.

And yet, over the course of that career, Batman was a character Kirby rarely tackled. In fact, most of DC’s most well-known characters were hardly, if ever, depicted by The King.

Kirby’s most notable DC stints were in the 40s and 70s, respectively. Both of those periods saw Kirby (and during the 40s, his creative partner Joe Simon) mainly creating new characters rather than working on pre-existing ones. In the above cover for Detective Comics, Simon & Kirby creations The Boy Commandos appear alongside Batman & Robin, but only the Commandos were drawn by the pair. Batman artist and Joker co-creator Jerry Robinson handled the dynamic duo.

It wouldn’t be until the early 70s, after his revolutionary work for Marvel in the 60s, that Kirby would actually draw Batman. Strangely, this initial depiction was featured on the cover of The Comic Reader #100, alongside Captain Marvel, Superman and his own creation, Captain America.

By the 1980s Kirby was doing a lot of work in animation, and the comic work he was doing was creator-owned, thanks to fledgling indie publisher Pacific Comics. But in the middle of the decade, Kirby returned for what would be his last period of work for DC.

DC made a deal with toy manufacturer Kenner to produce a line of action figures in the wake of He-Man’s massive success. Dubbed Super Powers, Kirby’s Fourth World antagonists (like Darkseid and Desaad) were chosen as the line’s villians. According to the Super Powers article on Wikipedia, Kirby’s redesign work he did for the line on the characters he created led to some of the only royalties he received during his career.

As a tie-in to the Super Powers toys and Saturday morning cartoon, DC approached Kirby to work on mini-series based on the concept. This was the only time Kirby drew not just Batman, but also Green Lantern, The Flash and other DC icons in actual comic stories.

Although Kirby’s work on the series was perhaps not his best, due to worsening eyesight and old age in general, it still contained the unmistakable energy he was known for. Still uncollected, the Super Powers miniseries have long been clamored for by Kirby’s most devoted fans.

And, as a bonus, here’s his take on The Joker and The Penguin, too.

Jack Kirby: The once and future King.

G.

A literary recommendation: The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus

The Death and Return of Superman (1992-1993)
written by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Karl Kesel, and Jerry Ordway
illustrated by John Bogdanove, Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, and Butch Guice

Death and Return of Superman Omnibus

This 750 page book was released by DC Comics only a little over 2 years ago and is already out of print. Such is the fucking habit of comic book publishers these days. The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st Century deluxe hardcover omnibus released by Dark Horse only last fall is already out of print. Why are you companies such stupid pieces of shit? Anyway, back to Superman; this book was released with a $75 cover price which was way, way too high. Yes, there are 750 pages, but the paper stock is basically newsprint and the binding isn’t the reinforced stuff you’re used to. I have nothing against this format but $75 is silly. Fortunately, it isn’t rare and I got it new on eBay for around $40.

Wow, what a long and agonizing intro. Anyway, this book collects the famous/infamous storyline from 1992 in which Superman was killed, replaced, and resurrected. The story was released over the course of 12 months in an era when Superman starred in FOUR monthly titles, so there are a total of 48 related story issues, plus a couple of crossover issues with JLA and Green Lantern.

This book does not quite contain all of those issues but does collect most of them. Two issues that focused on Supergirl have been omitted completely and a few issues from the mourning period have been truncated. I believe these edits were made to aid the flow of the story but it’s a bit strange when Ma and Pa Kent come to Metropolis and then return to Smallville about 2 pages later, stating, “It seems like we’ve been away from home for a million years (PS Not a direct quote).” I’m actually in favor of leaving out pages or issues that are redundant in the overall scheme of things and I think more pages should have been cut, especially those that annoyingly repeat previous plot points.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the story it goes like this: a big dude escapes from some chamber and just fucks up everything he can, including the JLA. He and Superman have a cross-country fight during which he is laughably named Doomsday (“He can’t be stopped. It’s almost like . . . like Doomsday is upon us!” PS – Not a direct quote). Superman and Doomsday make it to Metropolis where they kill each other. Everyone is sad and gets emo for awhile. Clark Kent is presume missing/dead.

Four self-appointed replacements show up. “The Man of Steel” is basically an Iron Man-type, wearing a super suit of his own design. He’s the only replacement that does not claim to be the actual Superman. “The Last Son of Krypton” is actually a Kryptonian relic personified. His gimmick is that he’s basically a cross between Superman and Punisher, killin’ villainz. Next is the Cyborg, who looks like a cross between Superman and Terminator. Finally, we have Superboy, a clone of Superman with somewhat different powers and a very annoying personality (he seems to be something of a parody/statement on Marvel’s trend of young, bebuckled and bepouched heroes of the time).

The replacements bicker and bitch and moan amongst themselves. Superman is somehow revived, though weakened. The alien Mongul turns up and destroys an entire city. The Supermen plus Superman team up and fight the aliens and a super surprise villain. The End.

The storyline is deeply entrenched in the comics continuity and the trends of the time. Lex Luthor is a young dude sporting totally womanly red locks and a mega gay beard. Supergirl is his bitch for some reason. Some pony-tailed douchebag that I guess I’m supposed to know keeps trying to fuck Lois. Best of all, Jimmy Olsen repeatedly wears Spin Doctors shirts in issues illustrated by John Bogdanove. When Superman is resurrected, he sports a MULLET. EL OH EL!

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Several writers are present, including Karl Kesel, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, blah and blah, although I suspect the editors pulled most of the strings. Four pencilers combine to illustrated about 90% of the book. John Bogdanove rises above the rest due to his strongly stylized work. Next is Dan Jurgens, not exactly exciting but certainly competent. Beneath him is Tom Grummett, also quite competent but a little boring. Last is Butch Guice, who likes to draw everyone pretty ugly. The others draw Superman and his lookalikes as Bruce Campbell types, with jutting chins and pointy noses but Guice’s Superman looks like a mediocre boxer that failed to block many punches.

All in all, it’s actually a pretty fun story. I enjoyed most of it even if I had a lot of questions, which were probably answered in later stories that I will never read. If you read this don’t expect to understand what the fuck Doomsday is or where he comes from. That thread just goes away. Don’t expect to understand how some dork made an Iron Man type suit in the basement of his building (without the benefit of billions in R&D that Iron Man has at his disposal). Still, the writing is pretty even and the art is always at least decent, sometimes pretty great, and usually pretty good. Usually I would read a comics story for the art or writing or combination thereof but this one is really about the EVENT itself.

For such a big epic created by a bunch of cooks in a small kitchen, the whole thing is surprisingly even and shows quite a bit of discipline. I liked it!

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DC launches new Earth One line of graphic novels

Speaking of Batman…

So DC’s giving the whole new reader-friendly line of comics another shot. This time it’s called Earth One. Can it succeed where All Star only partly failed (All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, I’m looking at you). Well, I don’t know either way, but find out more here!

G.

70 Aspects Of Batman: 16

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TONY HARRIS

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From Wikipedia:

Tony Harris (born 1969) is an American comic book artist. He is most famous for Starman, winner of the 1997 Eisner for best serialized story, Iron Man, and currently Ex Machina, winner of the 2005 Eisner for best new series.

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Harris debuted in the comics in 1989 and rose to prominence in 1994 with the publication of DC comics’ Starman. Co-created with James Robinson, Starman led the two to critical acclaim and eventually a Will Eisner comic industry award for the Sand and Stars story arc.
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Current projects include Ex Machina with Brian K. Vaughan, published by Wildstorm Comics and War Heroes with Mark Millar, published by Image Comics.

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As I mentioned in the earlier 70 AOB post about Mike Mignola, Starman is one of my favorite comic series. Tony Harris’ artwork is a big part of why I love it. His earlier style was dark and angular…it makes sense that he began his career in horror comics. This style instantly set Starman apart from the rest of the superhero comics published at DC in the mid-90s. Harris co-created the world of Starman Jack Knight with writer James Robinson, and was the regular artist on the book until #45. Toward the end of his run, he had the chance to depict Batman in his distinctive manner, as can be seen above in this painted cover.

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But to date, Harris’ most notable work on the Dark Knight can be found in JSA: The Liberty Files, an Elseworlds story that plunges Batman, Superman and various JSA characters into a World War II espionage scenario. This series, from the early 2000s, showcases Tony Harris’ evolved style, where the formerly jutting angles have become curved.

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It’s a good read, I suggest tracking it down if you can.

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G.

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70 Aspects Of Batman: 14

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ALEX TOTH

From Wikipedia:

Alex Toth (June 25, 1928May 27, 2006), pronounced with a long “o,” was an acclaimed professional cartoonist active from the 1940s through the 1980s. Toth’s work began in the American comic book industry, but is best known for his animation designs for Hanna-Barbera throughout the 1960s and 1970s. His work included Super Friends, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, and Birdman. Toth’s work has been resurrected in the late-night, adult-themed spinoffs on Cartoon Network: Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

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Toth’s contributions to the comics medium are not widely known among casual fans. He did much of his comics work outside the current mainstream of superhero comics, concentrating instead on such subjects as hot rod racing, romance, horror, and action-adventure. His stint on Disney’s Zorro is highly regarded and has been reprinted in trade paperback form several times. Also, there are two volumes of The Alex Toth Reader, published by Pure Imagination, which focuses on his work for Standard and Western publishing. Otherwise, the bulk of his shorter stories can be difficult to locate. Nonetheless, he is widely regarded as an “artist’s artist” and is often lumped among such greats as Will Eisner and Jack Kirby as one of the undisputed masters of the sequential storytelling medium.

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Journalist Tom Spurgeon wrote that Toth possessed “an almost transcendent understanding of the power of art as a visual story component,” and called him “one of the handful of people who could seriously enter into Greatest Comic Book Artist of All-Time discussions” and “a giant of 20th Century cartoon design.”[2] He was formally inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1990.


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In spite of the fact that Toth’s design of the Super Friends Batman would arguably become the one most familiar to the children of the 70s, his work on any actual Batman comics was almost non-existent. In fact, Toth only drew one solo Batman adventure:”Death Flies The Haunted Sky”, written by Archie Goodwin and featured in Detective Comics #442 from September, 1974:

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This story was reprinted in Batman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told.

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Toth did draw Batman on other occasions though, as seen below in a page taken from a Superman Annual, published in 1983:

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Toth’s final Batman piece appeared on the cover of Batman Black And White #4 from 1996. As you can see, Toth’s design excellence is on full display here, as he turns the picture of Batman in the spotlight into a configuration of shapes and shades.

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Alex Toth…a true comic book visionary.

G.

P.S. Here is a link to the full “Death Flies The Haunted Sky” story, from the always amazing Grantbridge Street & other misadventures blog.


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70 Aspects Of Batman: 11

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BRIAN BOLLAND

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From Wikipedia:

Brian Bolland (born 1951)[1] is a British comics artist, known for his meticulous, detailed linework and eye-catching compositions. Best known in the UK as one of the definitive Judge Dredd artists for British comics anthology 2000 AD, he spearheaded the ‘British Invasion‘ of the American comics industry, and in 1982 produced the artwork on Camelot 3000 (with author Mike W. Barr), which was DC’s first 12-issue comicbook maxiseries[2] created for the direct market.[3]

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In addition to the above credits, Bolland is most widely known as the artist of one of the definitive Batman stories, The Killing Joke. Created in collaboration with writer Alan Moore, The Killing Joke explored the unique relationship shared by Batman and The Joker, providing a template that would underline almost every subsequent portrayal of the dynamic between these characters (up to and including 2008’s Dark Knight film).

Years in the making before its eventual release in 1988, The Killing Joke is, sadly, one of the few complete interior art jobs that Bolland has done in the past 20 years. As you can see, his art style is incredibly detailed and, presumably, incredibly time consuming.

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As such, he mainly sticks to covers. Here is a gallery of various Batman-related covers he’s illustrated over the years, many of which come from his extended run as cover artist for Batman: Gotham Knights.


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Unlike most comic artists (who still use the traditional pencil and paper illustration method), Brian Bolland has exclusively utilized a Wacom tablet for producing his artwork since the 90s. This allows Bolland more control over the artwork in all capacities, from drawing to coloring. Unfortunately, it also means there is no original artwork for the collectors to search for.

Bolland has also had a Black and White statue based on his work…

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…and figures based on his Killing Joke work.

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So yeah, I love this guy’s work. It’s a tragedy that he hasn’t done more interior stuff, but I guess I must learn to appreciate what I get, which is a regular stream of some of the best comic covers being produced today. I’ll defintely do another Brian Bolland themed post down the line, but I’ve still got a million 70 Aspects Of Batman posts to do. Y’know, I guess sometimes it’s

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P.S. Here’s a link to a short story Bolland both wrote and drew for the Batman: Black And White anthology, entitled “An Innocent Guy”. He has said of this story that “if anyone were to ask me what is the thing I’ve done in my career that I’m most pleased with, it would be this.” Enjoy.

G.

70 Aspects Of Batman: 7

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DARWYN COOKE

Darwyn Cooke began his Batman association not with comics, but with animation. Having worked for years in his native Canada as a graphic designer, Cooke wanted to break into the professional world of his first love, comic books. However, the industry at the time was less than responsive to his Jack Kirby meets Alex Toth style, as enamored by Rob Liefeld clones as it was then. He did however get work on the great Batman: The Animated Series as a storyboard artist.

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He finally broke into comics with a Batman one-shot he both wrote and drew, called Batman: EGO.

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He really broke through with his Elseworlds miniseries DC: The New Frontier, a story that imagines what it might be like if DC continuity matched up to when its characters were introduced. This allowed Cooke many opportunities to draw 50s and early 60s inspired art-deco designs, clothing, etc., which is a bit of a fetish with him.

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He also drew the Jeph Loeb-scripted Batman/Spirit one-shot, which saw the Caped Crusader meet Will Eisner’s beloved masked avenger, and which also acted as a prelude to his own relaunch of the character.

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And his version of Batman got a toy.

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D. COOKE!

G.