about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

Stories That Never Were: Marshall Rogers' concept art for an untitled mystery Bat-project!

Another quick post today. Real life is too busy and hectic with the holidays coming up, and all my free writing time has been devoted to working on something more personal over at my neglected original LJ, thehefner. Sadly, I fear that I may not be able to whip together a Batman Returns review in time for Christmas, as I'd hoped! Well, until I can pull together anything new, let me at least tide you over with something cool and mysterious I've found, with the hope that maybe some of you might be able to shed light on this.

In my search for rare art by artists like the late, great Marshall Rogers (Strange Apparitions/The Laughing Fish, the Batman comic strip, Dark Detective), I've found four pieces of what is clearly concept art for a Batman project which never happened. More than just art, they include liner notes which hint at story details and show how this take on the characters stands out from the rest.

Thing is, though, I have no idea what the hell this project might have been! There are no details online, no clues, no hints. The only possibility that comes to mind is that maybe they were for the Dark Detective sequel which Rogers had only started at the time of his death, but nothing about these images really jives with the scant info that Steve Englehart himself has provided. So what the heck was this? Let's try to figure it out together!

Holy crap, a legacy Clayface based on the original, non-shape-shifting Basil Karlo slasher version?! That seems so obvious in retrospect! Would that make him Clayface II II? It's an interesting concept, too, having him be a murderer of "beautiful" people, although it would take a deft hand to make that meaningful rather than gimmicky and--dare I say it--superficial. But hey, when it comes to villains who embody vanity and physical insecurity run amok, I'd rather see someone like Collin!Clayface in that role rather than Two-Face, so he could at least serve that purpose, if nothing else!

This... is the ONLY time that Tweedledee and Tweedledum have ever--EVER--seemed like interesting characters. I would totally read a story with the Tweeds as villains if they were like this. Really, it's such a perfect, simple concept: one's the brain, the other's the brawn, and even the brawny one isn't exactly stupid himself! They actually have something a writer can work with here rather than just being a creepy pair of twin crime bosses, and the fact that they employ their own gang through Jem'Hadar-style means gives them potential to be both frightening and formidable. Of course, that could change depending on just who those employees might be:

Wow, I didn't know that it was possible to make Mothy look sillier, but there you go. I actually like the uncolored sketch, and I think one could get away with a slightly modified version of his original green/purple/orange color palate. But the colorized one... dear god, no! Not only do the colors hurt my eyes, but the design is just so damn busy, rather in keeping with the current Jim Lee aesthetic of "SEAMS! SEAMS EVERYWHERE!" Beyond that, though, I'd love to see this dangerous mob enforcer Killer Moth in a story. Still, I have to admit, it's a less interesting, more humdrum hook for the character than being the underworld's own Batman. Come on, SOMEBODY can make that work!

Finally, I've found just one more concept drawing, this one for a new vigilante:

Okay, aside from the fact that it'd be awesome to have another non-white hero in Gotham, every single thing about this character is so goddamned cliche and yawn-inducing. Then again, maybe it wasn't such a cliche went these drawings were made. I initially assumed that they were recently done for a project that never happened due to Rogers' death, but they may be way older than that! The fact that Killer Moth is still being thought of in terms of being the underworld's Batman rather than a joke makes me suspect that these are from the 80's, and if so, then this "Urban Archer" would have been less of a tired old trope.

Still, when it comes to this basic concept, I think that it was roughly done better in Rogers and Max Allan Collins' own Batman comic strip with their reinvention of Catwoman. Say, I wonder if these were meant to be for the future comic strip story lines which never happened? Nah, the Clayface and Killer Moth bits draw from too much comics canon to fit into that strip's own original continuity. This had to have been for the comics, but there's no clues as to what the story was, or if anyone besides Rogers was writing it, or who else might have been included. Anyone have any ideas?

Speaking of Rogers and Collins' comic strips and Stories That Never Were, I found something else interesting in my search for rare artwork: a quintet of convention sketches by Rogers done around 1990-1991, right around the time that the strip was running! Considering the time period and the fact that the Catwoman here is clearly Rogers' own unique design, could these drawings be hints of where the strip might have gone if they'd been able to stay on? If nothing else, I find the inclusion of the Tweeds here very interesting in light of the above concept drawing. You be the judge.

Tags: art, catwoman, clayface(s), joker, killer moth, marshall rogers, penguin, stories that never were
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