Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Summer 1989 - When We Were Bat-Maniacs

Doug: So I pack-ratted a bunch of Batman stuff. What's it to you?

Doug: I've been taking advantage of my holiday break to move past comic books and into other books and memorabilia in my attempt to "cull the herd", so to speak. In fact, here's a plug for my auctions -- lots of new stuff goes live tonight (12/30) at 7:00 pm CT here in the States. In addition to the lot you see above, you'll find some Marvel Masterworks, various trade paperbacks, comic history books, etc. But back to this stuff -- yeah, I was that guy who grabbed whatever I could in a fit of Batmania ahead of the June 1989 release of Tim Burton's first Batman film. I was so excited that Bats was going to get the silver screen treatment. I had just loved Superman: The Movie and Superman II and had very high hopes for the Batman movie, too. Count me among those who were skeptical about Michael Keaton as the choice to play our hero... Now some 26 years later, he looks even better in the role!

Doug: But the real reason -- the real reason -- I wanted to discuss Batmania today was the hidden gem you see below. Yes, I saved the funny pages out of the Chicago Sun-Times from Sunday, November 12, 1989 when Marshall Rogers's newspaper strip began. The plot spun out of the events of the first Bat-film. NOTE: You may notice that the image is spliced -- my scanner was just a wee bit small to accommodate the width of the paper. But this is awesome! Who doesn't love themselves some Rogers Batman? Please enjoy.

UPDATE: Many readers in our comments section have noted that they did not know this strip even existed. Well, after a not-too-strenuous Internet search, I've found a blog with lots of great scans. Enjoy, courtesy of Scans Daily.


Redartz said...

First time I've ever heard about that newspaper strip, Doug! Thanks for posting it; you're quite right: always love some Marshall Rogers Batman. How long did that strip run?

And, like you, I was quite anticipating the Batman film. Especially with the prospect of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and neither the movie nor Jack disappointed me. Can't say how many times I saw it, but my sons and I went about trying to complete the trading card set. It still remains my favorite Batman film...

Oh, the 1989 Batman film also has another personal memory link tied to it: about the time it was to be released, I had a little medical procedure (let's just say, to forestall the addition of any more little Redartzes to the world). That day I spent on my back recuperating in some discomfort, but kept the mind occupied by watching coverage of the film on tv. That's another one I owe the Caped Crusader...

david_b said...

Wow.., didn't know about the Rogers strip (I was still stationed in Germany at the time..). I didn't get much stuff, other than the stickers, etc that were reminiscent of the 60s/70s Batman.

I immediately became a believer after seeing Keaton as Bruce Wayne, excellent choice although initially controversial. Like Adam West said, a lot of the acting's in the eyes.., when you're wearing a mask.

I'm still bummed that Eddie Murphy could get that Green Hornet film made, he was going around different studios trying to generate interest after the '89 film hit gold. Totally hated that more recent GH film...

I remember my Dad buying me the VHS of the Batman flick and sending it to Germany where I had my own VCR. I'd pop it in to watch over several nights and would promptly fall asleep after the first 10min, I was just so tired from work. Soooo, for the first month I had it, I couldn't tell you whether I liked the film or not, but I had the first 5 minutes down pat. :)

Graham said...

Didn't realize that Marshall Rogers drew the Batman strip, not that it would have mattered in my neck of the woods. Our comic strips were limited to the soap opera types or the funny types. They even got rid of Dick Tracy in the late 80's. Would love to see more of that. I was fortunate enough to be able to read most of Rogers' work as it was happening in the 70's and 80's.....even enjoyed his stint with Doctor Strange, which was not usually one of my regular reads.

I enjoyed the Michael Keaton Batman movies, probably more than any of them, to be honest (liked the Nolan movies, but just can't get past Christian Bale's "Batman" voice). I remember really looking forward to it at the time, even though my comic reading days were about five years in the rear view mirror at the time. It wasn't perfect, but it was the best we had at the time. My brother really got into it and he did a little collecting.

Glad as I was to see it, the movie was just a little past my time, which still makes me sad. Even now, if I'm in a toy store, I have to check out all the action figures. They're a big improvement from the Megos that I had. :)

MattComix said...

I've always said with '89 the Batman aspects of the movie I like. The Tim Burton aspects much less so. I was not thrilled with Keatons casting either but I thought he was great as Batman and a kind of lousy Bruce Wayne.

Even that is only because there are some scenes where you're accidentally reminded that yep, this is the same guy from Gung Ho and Mr. Mom. But there are also moment's where I think he really does capture the character out of suit enough to be able to roll with the films premise that Bruce Wayne is a seemingly unimposing fellow that puts on the persona he created. Keaton has an intensity to his eyes (perhaps enhanced by his eyebrows and how his mask is sculpted with them in mind) that lets you look past things like his funky lips.

The story suffers a bit from deviating from the heroic into just being two crazies on a collision course. I remember the creators of Batman The Animated series saying that at the time they were creating the show they had a love/hate thing with the Keaton films and I kind of think that's where I'm at to though probably more love than hate. In some ways I think the perfect Batman film for me would be something that took the TAS sensibility with some of the visual design of the Burton films and the equilibrium of the Bronze Age comics. Where Batman is still the Dark Knight *Detective* and doesn't think recognizing this friends or having a smile will crack his precious aura.

I didn't like Returns very much at all but I would say both films are the only instance where I've liked the black armor look mainly because those designs were trying to look less like armor and more like it could actually be him. In shadow the suit and the man would blend together creating the desired "Creature of the night" effect.

..and head turns be damned I like that they tried to keep to the Neal Adams style silhouette with his mask and cape connection. Seeing big clasps holding on his cape and having that line of his neck and head cut up never looks right to me.

I also like the Danny Elfman score because this was the *first* time he did it. I wish his other superhero movie scores didn't sound so much like this one. But maybe that's what he gets told to do.

Edo Bosnar said...

Wow, I never even knew there was a Batman newspaper strip coming out at that time, and by Rogers to boot. That's incredibly cool - and cool that you saved that. I'm assuming it's never been collected and reprinted.
Otherwise, the 1989 Keaton/Burton film is still my favorite Bat-movie (I kind of put the one from the 1960s in a separate category).

Doug said...

Thanks for the comments, friends.

For those only following along here in the comments section, I've placed a link on the post to a blog that hosted A TON of dailies and Sundays from the 1989-1991 Batman strip. But since I'm a kind sort of fellow, here is the link in this forum as well:



Martinex1 said...

I don't recall that strip at all, but the Rogers' art is outstanding. That's a lot of detail and backgrounds and nice layouts for a newspaper strip. Thanks for sharing. Will be watching eBay.

pfgavigan said...


Remember awhile ago when we had a discussion about what inkers do? Some of us felt that they should have the option of free interpretation while others at the other end of the spectrum seemed to argue that exact reproduction should be the goal. I think most of us felt that the best consideration fell somewhere in between, as faithful to the originals while allowing the inker room to improve the final project.

It just so happens that I had an inside view on this particular project.

During this time I was living in Madison WI and had become friendly with a certain John Nyberg. Don't know the name, well, you should. He was one of the finest inkers to lay brush upon paper. Books he worked on? Try Doom Patrol and Nexus!! Incredibly talented and generous with his time and opinion he mentored several of my acquaintances into the professionals. Of course one of them wound up working on Rob Liefeld's New Mutants as an assistant, but we all gotta pay our dues.

So one fine day I was visiting his State Street studio and he invited me to take a look at his latest job. He sprung the news that there was going to be a Batman comic strip with Max Allen Collins writing and Marshall Rogers penciling while he handled the inks. Sounded good, I said. He just smiled and added that he had just gotten the first set for the series, the ones that have been reproduced above, and asked if I wanted to see them. Being a big Marshall Rogers fan I immediately agreed.

They! Were! Terrible!!!

Oh, the layouts are what you see, but the renderings . . . They were so soft, weakly defined. It was like seeing a young fan doing their best Rogers impersonation . . . but this was Rogers himself. I can't begin to express my horror at seeing those pencils. These were going national???

For a few minutes we talked about what had happened. Was Rogers unable to adapt his style to the newspaper format? There were already rumors regarding his health, was this a manifestation of them? Perhaps he just wanted off the strip and wasn't giving it his all!!

John said that the office had already made the decision to replace the creative team at the end of the first story arc, but didn't yet know if he was going to be kept on.

So looking at this train wreck in motion I asked him what he was going to do. He said he was going to do his best to make it look like Marshall Rogers had drawn the strip!!

That's what he did, he made the artists he worked on look their absolute best . . . even if he had to improve upon their original work. He gave Steve Rude a sense of fluidity that Rude approached but never quite achieved.

John has vanished from the comics scene and I've been unable to track down his location. I know that his ambitions were many and perhaps he's found something that he prefers doing.

Oh, and John was the sole member of the creative team that was kept on the strip. It didn't run for a particularly long time, just two years, but he was on it. It ran mostly with Carmine Infantino on pencils, which I've gotta tell you are really strong when seen in the original. John was one of the few inkers who could really capture that!!



Martinex1 said...

That is a great story pfgavigan. Would love to hear more.

I remember John Nyberg from Badger, Flash, and Doom 2099

Doug said...

PFG -- thanks so much for sharing that tale. That is what is known as an oral history of the industry. Great stuff!


William said...

Why has that strip not been collected into a TPB by now??? It would be a surefire seller, because -- BATMAN!

R.Lloyd said...

I'll never forget that summer! I really liked the movie. So much so that I saw it multiple times. Liked Batman Returns, however I liked the first one much more. It was disappointing that Joker bit the dust after the first movie, however I am surprised they didn't find a way to bring him back again. Keaton didn't want to do a third movie, but if they brought back the Joker I think it would have been a sure fire hit with the fans. With the success of the first one, it makes me wonder why the producers couldn't have Joker return. He was a villain that was unmatched in all of the early Batman films. If only they could have teamed him up with Danny Devito as the Penguin with Cat Woman it would have been more of a block buster.

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