12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN: Boxing Day Postscript

And that was 12 Days of the Batman. Thank you for helping me put some Batman back into this holiday season!

As with Mighty Marvel May, I would like to thank the creators of these characters I’ve been celebrating. Without Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, Dick Sprang, Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, Bob Brown, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Bruce Timm,Grant Morrison, and SO many more, they wouldn’t exist.

They created a Gotham City we can all play in. Let’s keep fighting for justice for all.

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 12: THE JOKER

JOKER 006Christmas with the Joker.

Batman first battled the Joker in 1940’s BATMAN #1 in a story by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. The Joker was poisoning wealthy men, leaving their corpses with an eerie rictus grin, and baffling the police in the process. His first fight with Batman ended with the Batman tossed into a river, excited at the prospect of an adversary who could really hit. The rematch ended with the Joker apparently accidentally stabbing himself in the heart, laughing maniacally as he died. A last-minute editorial decision saved his life, as the medics in the ambulance were shocked that the Joker was -somehow- still alive.

Over more than 70 years, the Joker remains an enigma. Different versions hinted at his life before Batman unwittingly dropped him into a vat of bleaching chemicals, but whoever he was before is unimportant. He is the Joker; deadly, anarchic, interested only in what makes him laugh, no matter who’s hurt in the process.

My take on the Joker is fairly traditional (I’ve sculpted him before). I dislike when he’s depicted as  a physical monster. He’s hideous because he chose to be,  not because he’s disfigured. I gave him a look like he’s just thought of an especially wicked joke.

And so the Joker gets the last laugh. Thanks for looking. This has been 12 Days of the Batman. 

12 DAYS OF THE BATMAN! DAY 9: THE RIDDLER

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Edward Nashton was an unscrupulous carny who rigged games of chance to always have the upper hand.  Smarter than everyone around him, he mastered every puzzle and brain teaser Soon he became Edward Nygma- E.Nygma- and turned to crime to enrich himself as he outsmarted the police. Which, of course, lead him to the one puzzle he couldn’t solve- the Batman.

People debate whether Batman’s presence truly prevents crime or encourages bizarre criminals to commit more elaborate and outlandish crimes. In fact most of Batman’s rogue’s gallery would exist whether or not he was there to oppose them. The Riddler may be the major exception: while he might still commit crimes if Batman wasn’t there to challenge him, he could just as easily make a fortune in legitimate enterprise.

The Riddler first appeared in 1948’s DETECTIVE COMICS #140, in a story written by Bill Finger and drawn by Dick Sprang, and wasn’t a particularly popular or memorable character until the first episode of 1966 BATMAN TV show with actor/comedian Frank Gorshin in the role. Offscreen, Gorshin had an insight into the character I liked, seeing the Riddler as a genius who did whatever he wanted for kicks:  he’d play piano at a concert level; he’d perform Shakespeare in the park; he’d fight the Batman. I didn’t necessarily like Gorshin’s hysterical line readings, but I liked his thoughts on who the Riddler was.

My take on the Riddler is fairly traditional, although I incorporated the receding hairline introduced by artist Alex Ross. Suave and self-satisfied, the Riddler is one of the few criminals who rivals  Batman’s vast intellect.

Tomorrow a mother of an edition of 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

Catwoman01

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!