12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 10: TALIA

Batman’s war on crime leaves him little room for romance. Mutual attraction to Catwoman aside, Batman seems to have forsworn love for justice. Of all the women in Bruce Wayne and Batman’s life, I believe Talia, daughter of his enemy Ra’s al Ghul,  is the one he truly loves, and the only one who’s ever tempted him away from the dark.

Created in 1971’s DETECTIVE COMICS #411 by Denny O’Neil and Bob Brown, and later refined by Neal Adams, Talia was later revealed to be the daughter of the demon, Ra’s al Ghul, criminal mastermind. Talia and Batman fell in love almost immediately, but out of loyalty to her father would not leave him side. Over the years, Ra’s and Talia both considered Batman a worthy suitor for Talia, but of course Batman wouldn’t join them. Not until Batman and Ra’s joined forces and, by the laws of Ra’s (ill-defined) forebears, Batman and Talia were instantly wed and soon conceived a child. But to keep Batman fighting their common foe, she faked a miscarriage and the marriage was annulled. This story was later ruled out-of-continuity, a Bat-Son considered too big a loose end.

Until writer Grant Morrison revisited the idea with Damian, Talia and Bruce’s son, whom she raised in secret and trained as an assassin. Renouncing his evil heritage, Damian becomes the latest and most aggressive Robin.

Morrison also refashioned Talia to be a darker character, a subtle manipulator and head of the worldwide terrorist organization Leviathan. Now a full-fledged villain in her own right, she and Batman fight over the soul of their child across the globe.

While these changes have given Talia a lot more agency as a character- she was often merely a pawn for her father’s schemes- I think it’s robbed her of what made her most interesting before: her unconditional and contradictory love for two irreconcilable forces. She couldn’t choose either, because to choose one was to betray the other. Her resolve to remain true to both was as unwavering as Batman’s own resolve to honor his parents’ memory. Maybe more so.

I tried to give Talia fuller features and a straighter nose, suggesting Ra’s North African heritage. Hair by Bruce Timm, always.

Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and time for the next million-dollar installment of 12 Days of the Batman.

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12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 8: POISON IVY

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Late at night when you’re sleeping, Poison Ivy comes a-creepin’ around.

Pamela Lillian Isley was created by Robert Kanigher and Sheldon Moldoff in 1966’s BATMAN #181. Over the years she’s been portrayed as a vamp, a militant feminist, a mere criminal, and an ecological terrorist. Writer Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean created an eerie, extremely-self aware Ivy in their series BLACK ORCHID. Locked in Arkham Asylum’s vaults, she created plant-animal hybrids to keep her company.

Unlike Catwoman, Batman and Ivy don’t share a particularly strong attraction to one another. They seem like genuine antagonists, and Ivy would just as soon be rid of Batman for good.

Once again BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES informs my depiction of Ivy. As designed by Bruce Timm and Lynne Naylor, Poison Ivy is short, curvy, and has some fabulous red hair. I gave her a growing sprig of her namesake vine,  to which- like all poisons- she is immune.

Who will appear in tomorrow’s  installment of 12 Days of the Batman?

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 7: RA’S AL GHUL

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In 1971’s BATMAN #232, writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams- the team that had brought Batman back to his noirish roots after his campy, TV series era- introduced Batman’s most formidible foe to date, Ra’s al Ghul (literally “The Demon’s Head”). Ra’s immediately deduced Batman’s secret identity of Bruce Wayne, but found it irrelevant. He saw in Batman a potential heir to his vast criminal enterprise, one with the seemingly noble goal of halting ecological catastrophe, but at the price of human civilization. He was as wealthy as Bruce Wayne, as smart and dangerous as Batman, and he was seemingly immortal.

There were obvious allusions to Fu Manchu and James Bond villains in his world-dominating archetype (Ra’s trying to marry his daughter Talia off to Batman seems lifted directly from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). But it gave Batman an adversary who could match him in every way, and took him out of Gotham City for jet-setting adventures around the world.

Neal Adams designed Ra’s with no specific ethnicity in mind, made him of indeterminate, perpetual middle-age, and without eyebrows (a detail other artists frequently ignore). I sculpted him with a typical “Who Dares?” imperious kind of expression.

Hope you’ll return when tomorrow’s installment of 12 Days of the Batman comes creeping up!

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 6: KILLER CROC

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Cursed with a genetic skin condition, Waylon Jones grew up as tough as his hide, and gained the alias Killer Croc. Although more recently depicted as some kind of reptilian mutant, in his earliest appearance, 1983’s BATMAN #357, creators Gerry Conway and Gene Colan made him rugged,but very human.There’s not a lot to Croc: selfish, petty, homicidal, and monstrously strong.

I like him best that way. While Batman has handled sci-fi menaces before, his best villains are usually humans, capable of all the evil humans can do.

Although I  picture a more down-to-earth Croc, I do think he spends his time in prison filing his teeth.

I hope you’ll head back her tomorrow for the next installment of 12 Days of the Batman!

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 5: ROBIN

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Raised on the high-wire, the boy who never looks down!

Robin the Boy Wonder, Batman’s most faithful sidekick, was “the character find of 1940!” when he debuted in DETECTIVE COMICS #38 in a story by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. He was added to give the solitary Batman someone to talk to, a Watson to his Holmes, and was a child so readers- then assumed to be entirely young boys- would have a character with whom they could identify. A circus boy orphaned by crime, he became Batman’s ward, and a chance for Batman to restore to someone the childhood he himself never had.

I like Robin because he’s the son who can never grow up to be his father, but eventually learns what his own unique strengths are. He is light in the darkness. He makes Batman smile.

This is Dick Grayson, the original, my favorite, in Tim (Robin III) Drake’s Neal Adams-designed costume, a la BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (much as I love Robin, that short pants look is just… No).

Tomorrow a killer (for real this time!) installment of 12 Days of the Batman!

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 4: THE PENGUIN

Waddling through a Winter Wonderland, it’s Oswald Cobblepot- The Penguin!

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With his squat stature, tuxedo-and-umbrella motif, monacle and cigarette on a long holder, on paper it seems unlikely that the Penguin is one of the Batman’s more enduring foes.  He was created in 1941’s DETECTIVE COMICS #58 in a story written by Bill Finger and drawn by Bob Kane. Kane was inspired by the Chesterfield cigarettes penguin mascot.

Often depicted as  a gangster with one foot in legitimate enterprises, he’s usually somewhat buffoonish and not very threatening. But my feeling is all Batman’s repeat foes have to be formidable; why else would Batman waste his time? I see the Penguin as deceptively small but physically dangerous, dirty fighter, and  completely ruthless in eliminating his competitors. (Have you ever seen actual penguins? They’ll walk over their own mothers for a scrap of fish.)

I updated his classical look somewhat, swapping out his usual top-hat for a derby and giving him an overcoat with a feathered collar. His slightly more rugged features, still exaggerated, give him a kind of Al Capone look. This is a man who could beat someone to death with an umbrella.

Hope you’ll return for tomorrow’s high-flying installment of 12 Days of the Batman!

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 3: CATWOMAN

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Catwoman: the one that got away.

Batman’s tumultuous relationship with Catwoman began in 1940’s BATMAN #1, written by Bill Finger and with art credited to Bob Kane. Originally a burglar called the Cat, Selina Kyle’s costumes, methods, motivations and origin over the years changed more than any other Batman villain. The only constant has been the mutual, usually unfulfilled attraction between them.

(Usually. In recent years their relationship in the comics has been more explicitly sexual. In DC’s alternate “Earth 2” Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle married and produced a child, Helena Wayne, who became the crimefighting Huntress.)

This piece depicts her in the most-recent version of her costume, designed by Darwyn Cooke and taking a page from Emma Peel, it’s my favorite of her many looks (except for the Doc Marten boots: how’s she supposed to sneak around in those?).

I hope you’ll come back for tomorrow’s black and white installment of 12 Days of the Batman!