Thursday, November 28, 2013

Coming up with an attractive and functional helmet/mask for Cass is a fun process...

I wish I had time to scan the sketches I'm doing, or at least snap some photos with my iPhone.  I think I've got a new-look Batgirl/Black Bat costume for Cass I'm fairly happy with, but her headgear is another matter.  I've experimented with full-head helmets, anime Batgirl-inspired regular helmets with goggles, flared cowls with an open area up top and around her nose and mouth and even a strange mask that's reminiscent of the cat/butterfly mask worn by the character Noodle from the animated band Gorillaz during their most recent phase.

The suit is a sleek, one-piece affair with a larger and more stylized bat-symbol on the chest.  The color scheme is a very dark gray that you can either read as something close to charcoal or else a matte black, with the bat outlined in yellow and completely blacked in.  The belt is yellow but thinner and features rounded pouches in the back, out of the way.  Cass was never one to use a lot of tools-- all she really needs is that grappling gun and some batarangs and she's good to go.  None of that requires giant flopping pouches, but she can add any that become necessary depending on her mission.  The boots have a kind of flapped or hinged ankle arrangement.  No cape.

The first helmet I came up with for her really clashed with the suit's sleekness.  It made her look clumsy and top-heavy.  So I decided that wasn't the way to go, unless I wanted to bulk up her boots or add some visible padding at her elbows or knees, but then we're cutting down on her mobility, which was the basis for the entire design.  Another issue was I wanted her to have a little mouth opening and a simple rectangular one is too Iron Man and expressionless, but when I went for an inverted delta or crescent, the design looked too Star Wars stormtrooper for my taste.  Eventually I took a design cue from the fangs real bats have, with some triangular openings suggesting a vampire bat in the abstract.

After that I played around with the flared mask, which looked menacing but a little too alien.  I 've always admired Jamie Hewlett's Gorillaz designs, but just as I wanted to avoid duplicating Annie Wu's work on Batman Beyond, I also wanted to do something more me.  So I modified that into an open-topped cowl but I haven't worked out the way it wraps around Cass's neck and the back of her head, or a functional hairstyle to go with it.

This probably sounds like a lot of work for a fan drawing project, especially one for a character who doesn't officially exist.  But I do this during big group meetings here-- they're all in Japanese and I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm hearing anyway-- and it keeps me entertained.  Rethinking character costumes is fun stuff.  I've got a couple of ideas for both Superman and Wonder Woman, too!

This weekend I'll post some of my efforts here and we can all have a good laugh.

Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm redesigning Cass... again!

Back when Cass first found herself undergoing a heel-turn (as they say in professional wrestling and podiatry, I believe), I took it upon myself to invent my own version of Cass who was quiet and deadly and all those things we liked about her in the first place.  Only I put her in a retro-style outfit with a very short cape which would be more visually symbolic, I suppose.  Both the graphic novel Watchmen and the Pixar film The Incredibles show the drawbacks of having a cape, and with Batgirl's hyper-active fighting style, I just figured a cape would be more of a hindrance to her than its supposed intimidation/distraction/confusing factor (or whatever reason the Bat-family relies on capes) could offset.

I also gave her a mouth-less mask with no stitching because 1) it offers more anonymity, 2) she doesn't particularly feel the need to blab about with either friends or foes and 3) even if she should decide to make a speech, a mouth-less mask never stopped Spider-Man so why should it stop her?  And then I promptly discarded the mask in almost every drawing because I like drawing her facial expressions and Cass wasn't concerned with protecting her civilian identity anyway.

Her Batgirl uniform is pretty dramatic, in all black with those big stitches around the mouth (you'd think Batman would have bought her a new mask at some point with a detachable mouth-covering using Velcro or something less obvious, though) and a simple contour line bat-symbol.  Whether it's some kind of stretchable "ballistics cloth," leather or PVC is up to artistic interpretation, but however we have it, it looks might cool.  The cape, though, I felt was a bit much.  Looks cool, but-- once again-- impractical.

Working out the curve and perspective on those comically exaggerated belt pouches drives me up the wall, though!  And other than a batarang or that grappling gun, has Cass ever really pulled a lot of equipment from out of them for use?  I mean, maybe she has fingerprint or DNA swabbing kits in one of them, but I can't think of any stories where Cass scoured a location for those kinds of clues.  She usually just goes for the obvious stuff like a note for Spoiler to read to her, then grabs a punk and beats the necessary info out of him.  But I digress.  It's still a great costume.

But I also like Cass' Black Bat outfit.  Mostly, I like the pointy domino mask which reveals most of her face.  It helps reader identification and even though artists like Damion Scott would give the faceless mask some wild expressions that more or less accomplished the same thing, I like seeing an actual see a face there, or most of one, so we can see how artists draw Cass' "acting."  That's an important part of storytelling.  The elements I'm not so keen on are the long, loose hair, the scarf-like wrap-around cape (ask Isadora Duncan why that's a worse choice than even a traditional superhero cape) and the occasional addition of pointy claws.  I've never really understood the white, bandage-looking arm wraps, either, but that's just me.  Pull back her hair so it's out of her face and eyes, ditch the scarf and the arm wraps and you'd have something super-slick.

And it was with that thought-- and the impending return of Stephanie Brown to the New 52 DC universe, which means a costume change for her-- I set to work coming up with a plausible Batgirl costume for a New 52 Cass.  Minus the cowl stitching, the cape and the big pouches, the original Cass Batgirl costume would look an awful lot like a female version of the Batman Beyond suit.  That's fine but too easy.  Doesn't require much thought or creativity.  Annie Wu's recent futuristic Batgirl design is perfect for that character, and I love the bat-symbol shoulder pad effect, but I don't want to copy her.

My idea is Cass as a razor-sharp fighter who is willing to trade a certain level of protection for mobility.  After all, she "reads" her opponents' moves and goes into pre-emptive defensive postures and moves before they can even attack.  So I thought she's going to need a sleek yet amply-protected look that ditches the cape but replaces the cowl with a stylized but very light helmet that covers her entire head.  Yeah, kind of a fanciful notion, but no more so than the idea Superman needs a high collar and gladiator boots.  The ears are larger and more accurate to a real bat, there are menacing lensed eyes and there's a small mouth opening so she can breath.  Plus, she can take it off and kick it to the side when she's in the mood not to hide her face.  I really don't think she cares about that kind of thing.

I've modified the fins on the gloves for use as offensive weapons and defensively as shown in the recent Christian Bale Batman flicks.  The suit will have visible seams so you can see it's made of some kind of imaginary flexible protective material-- not PVC, not leather, not movie-style armor.  Her boots are martial arts inspired-- I think heavy treads look cool but take away her climbing ability and some of her "feel" for whatever terrain she's fighting on, but old school superhero type thin boots are kind of silly for this "realistic" style Cass.

This consists so far of exactly two sketches, both executed on the fly at work.  The rest has been largely a thought exercise.  And I haven't figured out the damned belt yet!  When I do, I'll start drawing some colored sketches and put a few of them here even if they look like crap.  That's what I do!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Earlier today I got into an Internet scuffle with someone who became very angry with me because I couldn't bring myself to admit Frank Miller and his version of Batman is the greatest.  I just don't think so, but I don't think that's something to get all huffy about either.  So I drew this horrible drawing in about 6 minutes flat, which has nothing to do with Frank Miller's Batman and a whole lot to do with fun.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Adios, Fearless Defenders!

Much like with Katana, Fearless Defenders was a lone offering from one of the Big Two superhero publishers that I bought with any regularity.  And now it's cancelled.  To be honest, I didn't like it quite as much as I did Katana, but Fearless Defenders featured a character for whom my dedication is true.  Dani Moonstar.  I usually follow creators or series rather than single characters, but Dani Moonstar was my Marvel Cass Cain.  She's one of those characters I will buy stories in which she appears even if they stink.  She and I just kind of hit it off when I read Marvel Graphic Novel #4 The New Mutants the year it came out and in The New Mutants regular series.  She was my "in," the character I identified the most with and one I tend to write a lot about when I'm doing the comic book fan blog thing. 

And Fearless Defenders certainly did not stink.  While I could never match the love its hardcore fans hold for  it (I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who loved Katana; a fandom of one!), it does bum me out we won't have new issues.

I need new Dani Moonstar adventures, but I'm not too worried about her future.  Unlike DC, Marvel tends to keep its characters around.  They may not appear in a book for a while-- they may even be killed at some point-- but you can rest assured they will come back at some point and if you ask about them at conventions, editors won't treat you as if you'd just murdered a puppy in front of them.  Dani Moonstar is, if anything, a survivor.  She's survived all kinds of crazy codename and power changes, lost her powers, gone from one team to another, emerged unscathed from the bitter ending of multiple titles and even has her own (albeit hideous) plastic action figure now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

5 minute marker Cass!

Look, Ma, no hands!  I did this today trying to warm up a little.  I haven't drawn in a while and it shows!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The penultimate issue of Katana

I bought Katana #9 last night on Comixology and it made me feel a little wistful.  I haven't had time to read it because I also bought The Walking Dead #116-- the series title of which is also kind of apt for Katana, huh?-- and that one is an absolute must-read-immediately for me with this big jerk Negan about to get his comeuppance.  We hope.  Wistful is not an emotion I'd associate with The Walking Dead.  But I will give Katana its reading this weekend.  Just one more issue to go and the coolest looking redesigned character in the New 52 DC universe will go back to being a supporting player in everyone else's comics rather than a star of her own.

That's a shame, but it's not as if there aren't other comics out there to read.  Boom!, IDW and my beloved Dark Horse put out comics that appeal more to my sensibilities than DC's New 52 books-- and Dark Horse's especially feel like better value for the money even at $3.99.  Even so, at that price, I still don't buy new comics like I used to. $2.99 seems to be the uppermost limit of my comfort level and a book has to be something really special to make me pay more.  I've spent more than I care to disclose on $1.99 back issues and .99 sales issues, but I'm down from buying 10 or so new comics a month to two or three.

One of those just happened to have been Katana.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jesus, Dan DiDio, I was just speculatin' about a hypothesis. I know I don't know nothin'.

Apparently, there's this All Access video that shows a whiteboard in an office over at DC (NYC or beautiful downtown Burbank?) with the names of some prominently MIA fan fave characters on it-- Donna Troy and Wally West.  While I like both those characters-- the 1960s-era Teen Titans Wonder Girl (the "clean" version with the upbeat, hedonistic outlook, before they turned her character history into so much narrative spaghetti) is number three on my list of beloved DC characters after Cassandra Cain and Superman and one spot above Big Barda-- the reason we're here talking about this isn't that Stephanie Brown's name is there alongside them.  We already know she's coming back.  Our reason is Russ Burlingame at floats a possibility for a certain "blank space."

Cassandra Cain.

Well, absent any clues-- is this for a comic, something they're going to present to the TV side of things, are they characters returning or characters they're thinking about banning any mention of at an upcoming convention because they're sick of answering the same questions the same way?--  a blank space could represent any character whose name isn't already on the board, whether or not that character has made a New 52 appearance yet.  So Cass seems like a reach. 

On the other hand, that still leaves the possibility it's Cass.  And while some of you reading this may or may not be rolling your eyes (don't deny it; I can actually hear them and they sound like balls rolling around on a pool table) at how dumb I must be, it's still vastly more entertaining to think they're doing this deliberately to stoke this very kind of speculation as a way to hype what will be one of-- if not THE-- most talked-about reappearance of a former character.

And that talk will mostly consist of, "I don't see what's the big deal," "She's way over-rated," "I never really cared that much for the character," "They're just going to wreck her again," and "Her fans are completely insane."

Well, until we get more information, just call me Chief O'Doole.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The future of this blog...

Approximately six people a year read this blog.  I don't think the problem is lack of interest in Cassandra Cain.  It's been a while since she appeared in a comic but you can still find people talking about here online here and there and most of the time their comments are positive.  And with Stephanie Brown coming back to comics, it's only a matter of time before Cass does as well.  That will generate an upswelling in Cass conversation.

No, the problem is this blog is pretty boring and I don't update it regularly enough.  I could add interest by generating controversy (easiest way) or by writing better posts (most difficult way), or I could just quit altogether (I doubt anyone would care). 

The problem with generating controversy is it cheapens the dialogue.  We comic book fans are already touchy enough without someone deliberately trying to irritate everyone just to get some blog traffic.  Occasionally we will accidentally do this, but that's okay.  That's bound to happen if you have an opinion on anything.  I'm just not the kind of person who particularly enjoys making people angry, especially not on purpose. 

And while I'm very lax in updating here (and in generating detailed, interesting posts), I'm not really much for simply quitting.  Plus, I'm too much of a Cass fan simply to take off the Bat-suit, hand it to my friend and then slink away in the rain wearing only my underwear.

Anyway, the point is, I've been writing these crazy Cass match-ups, which I get a big kick out of doing (even if no one particularly enjoys reading them).  I think adding some original artwork would improve them.  Or, almost as fun, make them even stupider.  I don't have much time for drawing these days (I work 12 hours a day, six days a week and there's this whole being married thing that also takes up a lot of time I used to spend reading, thinking and writing about Cass) so I don't know how often I'll be able to produce posts with original illustrations.

I don't seem to have the ability to knock out "cartoony" stuff that looks anything other than rushed or slapdash.  That's fine occasionally, but when I see some of those people who can produce art that looks deceptively simple posting away on semi-regular schedules, it makes me feel artistically inadequate!  So that's largely out unless I'm just in a mood.  And drawing something more detailed, which I am actually fairly competent at doing, takes a massive investment of time.  Which I have little of (see above).

There may be some reviews of things I think appropriate, too, but if I'm not reading a whole lot, I'm not going to be reviewing that much, either.

Anyway, that's the scoop.  If there's a big Cass announcement, though, all bets are off!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Cass mention in a cosplay article!

You know I'm a fan of cosplay.  The Star Phoenix has a short and sweet article on cosplayer Kristin Spearey where she and her son dress as a female Joker and Arkham Asylum Robin, complete with "recipes" for both costumes at the end.  Nice costumes!  The female Joker is fantastic idea and she carries it off very well.  I mean, why not adapt a character and make him or her your own?  But the main reason I'm telling you this is because of this bit:

Kristin's favourites are a Cassandra Cain bat girl, a Harley Quinn she made herself and a Hello Kitty mascot costume.