Monday, November 3, 2014

I'm moving this blog to Tumblr...

I've got it all set up.  I've done this because there are a lot of Cass/DC Comics fans tumbling all over Tumblr.  Time to migrate there and join the multitudes and tumble along.  Blogger or BlogSpot is still a wonderful place and I've enjoyed my time here (and resisted the change for the longest time out of loyalty to the platform), but Tumblr is more active and it's easier to post art-heavy entries there and engage other people's Cass commentary.  Please join me there where I'll be joining YOU!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cass thinks Batman has lost his mind!

I have a great deal of difficulty drawing "straight" superhero adventure stuff.  As much as I love Cass the character, I can't help but put her in ridiculous situations to explore her potential for comedy.  Even though I prefer DC's official version to feature in dark stories (as opposed to cute ones), her straightforward, no-nonsense attitude and taciturn demeanor (at least she's supposed to be taciturn, even after she learns to talk) and her unpredictability all mean she makes a wonderful comedic foil for other costumed people.  Especially ones who are her personality or skill-level opposites.  The contrast can make comedy gold.

I don't see her as telling jokes or playing the clown so much as causing other people to do so.  She herself is far too serious for that nonsense.  The other characters can gab it up and try to banter, but then Cass will glower or frown and wordlessly cut through the nonsense to make them look foolish or to punctuate a joke, or do it with some abrupt and scene-stealing action like knocking someone out without warning or leaping off a building. 

Also, slapstick is her forte.  As in, she might slap you with a stick.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This may be the first time I've ever drawn Stephanie Brown...

Maybe.  Maybe not.  I decided it was time to draw something pleasant.  Steph's having a blast, Cass is putting on a front.  Later they'll go out and beat up some thugs or do some reconnaissance work for Oracle or Batman, but for now they're just hanging out.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The bestest buddies in the whole wide world!

Cass' expression sums it up for all of us, I think. This is another in a series of fake Batgirl comic book covers I'm doing, and it's a work in progress.  Line weights to be futzed, blacks to be spotted, various things to be cleaned up and neatened, a few more details to be added and some Batman dialogue.

I'm still working the old school Cass costume, although I like the armored team look she, Steph and Tiffany Fox wear in Batgirl #1: Futures End, or, as I like to call it, Batgirl Futurama.  You've seen them by now.  All three Batgirls wear what appear to be slimmed-down costumes left over from the Robocop remake, but with Bat-family modifications.  Pointy ears, bat emblems and the like.  They're color-coded, as well.  Steph has her purple, Tiffany her pink and Cass kind of a golden hue.  Their hair pokes out the back of their masked helmets or cowls, which seems impractical but soften the look and give a continuity to the classic Batgirl look of yesteryear. 

Armor is a nod towards "realism," the kind of thinking that leads artists to add wrinkles and seams to their costume designs.  Or raised super-emblems to copy the movies.  Padded and stitched leather was the design of choice a few years ago, but now it seems that lacquer-look plate armor out of the Star Wars universe is the current thing.  That the armor then functions as if the characters were still wearing stretch-cloth bodysuits or even completely naked edges the designs back towards the fanciful.  And in the quest for trendy coolness, artists don't really seem to think things through, or else they just botch the design phase.

Out of all the New 52 super-suits, many of which look like crap to me, the updated Katana costume looks sleek and stealthy.  She's a whirlwind sword-slashing badass in her black, white and red samurai-inspired gear.  When you consider these Batgirls are non-superpowered martial artists and detectives, you might conclude they need similar protection of whatever imaginary alloy or composite make up these suits, which remind me a lot of Katana's.  It's ridiculous these Batgirls can move the way the artist depicts them while wearing such stuff, but on the other hand, they good.  They look damn good.  So we're back to the fun side of comic book costume design.  Put your characters in things that look good and we'll do the rest with our imaginations.

But... I dread drawing Cass in this suit.  It will take forever.  I'll never be happy with the way I render the black reflective surface.  I tried to do a Katana piece and her greaves kept coming out like plastic planters and I gave up.  I can see myself facing no end of frustration trying to get all these new angles and curves and little details down!  Oh, I'll no doubt give it a whirl.  No one's forcing me to, and no one really gives a rip about my art, but I'm compelled. 

In the meantime, enjoy Classic Cass and my own special blend, Doofus Batman.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More on Batgirl #1: Futures End: The New (52) Save Cass/Bring Back Cass Campaign...

Oh, and allow me to point out if Batgirl #1: Futures End sells well and there's a link between that and the appearance of this New 52 Cass, that would be a pretty nice incentive for DC to find a way to insert this character into the regular New 52 continuity.  Not "five years" from now, but in the now as you, the reader, know it.  To set up a possible future of this particular Cassandra Batgirl or something or someone similar the differences hardly matter running around and doing so well all those cool things we enjoyed Cass doing so much.

Buying the back issues of Cass' regular series on Comixology is a positive way to send a message to the powers-that-be (and to ensure DC keeps that version available to us for the foreseeable future), but getting onboard now is another way, one that will more than likely pay off in the form of new Cass adventures.

I don't think you should go nuts and snap up every New 52 book out there.  And by all means, do not buy this comic if you're legitimately not interested in it.  It is $2.99, after all, and you can always buy an issue of the original Cass Cain Batgirl series and have a dollar left over to contribute to some other purchase.  I bought it out of curiosity, and Gail Simone convinced me what she'd done with this Cass was right, or as right as possible at the moment.  Which means the time to make some noise is now.

So if you agree, and you want Cass back in action on a more permanent basis, then buying this comic and telling DC how much Cass' appearance lead to that purchase is the best way to tell those people who can make that happen for us.  Buy it, shoot DC a nice, friendly email or message, talk about it all over the Internet, be positive about how much Cass they were able to salvage (from what I read Simone gives some hints this New 52 Cass contains enough "classic" Cass for other writers to pick up on and give us that Cass-loving feeling all over again) and keep fighting the good fight.

You know, Cass never gave up (unless poorly written to do so).  Neither should we.  How about it, gang?  "GO CASS" on three...



Batgirl #1: Futures End... and there she is!

Well, there's (for the most part) the Cass we all know and love.  In Batgirl #1: Futures End, written by Gail Simone and drawn by Javier Garron, we find a very Batman Begins/The Dark Knight Rises-style story unfolding that takes place 5 years later in the current New 52 narrative.  I don't want to spoil the main thrust of the book (which I found effectively shocking and then moving in the way it's meant to be), but since everyone has already seen the preview art showing a team of younger Batgirls-- which a number of Cass and Stephanie Brown fans have clamored for over the past few years-- I feel it's safe to at least show you this.  Which you've no doubt seen.  I'm not a regular New 52 buyer or even an occasional one at this point, and I rarely if ever keep up with anything that goes on at DC due to the absence of the person this blog is all about.

When I do look into anything at DC, it's either old stuff or I'm doing a Google search for "cassandra cain."  That's the extent of my involvement.  But a comment here piqued my curiosity, as did that preview so I took a chance.

And there's Cass.  Also Stephanie Brown and Tiffany Fox.  We know this because they use their names, and this time we get several Cassandras and Casses.  Note, however, we don't get a single Cain.  This cagily leaves open the New 52 Cass' origins.  It's unlikely she has the exact same background as the original Cass (but I'm frequently wrong in my guesses), but Gail Simone peppers the dialogue with a few hints many of the important things remain.  You have to read it to understand what I'm talking about.

We may not see Cass again for a long time after this Futures End stuff winds up (haven't the faintest idea what their plan is; I take my DC one Cass at a time), but a team of these three Batgirls makes for a little lighter, more enjoyable fare than a lot of the stuff I've seen that put me off so much of DC's current product.  Simone gives each Batgirl her own distinct voice, works some chemistry magic between them all.  And if you're more of a Steph person, I think you'll dig this even more than this Cass fan did.  I'm not jumping up and down screaming, "SHE'S BACK SHE'S BACK SHE'S BACK!"  Not yet, anyway.  But I did pay 3 bucks for this and that should tell you a lot.

That's right-- I'm recommending you read a New 52 book rather than just go back and read the original Cass series.  I feel confident the rest of you Cass fans will enjoy this (but please also read the original Cass series if you haven't and prevent her fade into obscurity).  I never thought there would come a day.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A bit more on that imposter Black Bat from Batwing #1...

I read a few comments about this to the effect of, "Well, maybe the artist slipped Cass in and some editor or higher-up at DC said the colorist had to change things so it wouldn't be her."  This has happened before

Artists do slip in little background jokes, parodies and commentary.  Some see print and we get a laugh, or else they become infamous, such as the ones that are insults or criticisms aimed at other companies or professionals.  Sometimes the legal department gets into the act when some extra in a scene violates another company's trademarks or other touchy issues that might lead to cease-and-desist or litigation.  Or a well-meaning artist drops in a small tribute to a beloved character without first clearing it with the company.  For whatever reason when the people involved deem a character's appearance inappropriate, the word comes down to modify the art.  Some lines added here, some subtracted there, one or two colors swapped for one or two others.

That's certainly a possibility here.  The artist drew Black Bat Cass and DC balked and said, "Bleach her hair and add some purple or something on there to make her look at least a little different." 

On the other hand, there's a difference between some small background element or dialogue-less extra in a crowd scene and a character with some word balloons attached who appears in multiple scenes.  If you have a character talking and interacting with other characters, more hands have touched the material beforehand.  Meetings or at least emails between editors and writers, writers and artists and all that kind of collaborative jazz.  Character design sheets passed back and forth. 

No one's working in a vacuum here and it's not as if the writer and artist simply get together at Starbucks, make a comic and then mail it off to the publisher with a note saying, "SURPRISE!"  At least I don't think they make comics that way.  That would be a very cost ineffective way for a Time-Warner company to work, especially in these days of corporate narrative control with all these planned crossover events and whatnot.  You might get something that completely doesn't fit and have an entire domino-effect set of changes throughout the line, wasting time and money.

I could be wrong-- I have been before-- and I don't mean to suggest an anti-Cass conspiracy or any kind of insidious intent.  I think it's more likely this is meant to be a Black Bat that's not Cass.  Or, if it's meant to be the return of Cass herself, it's simply been botched.  Which would make me sad because I'd love for her to make a triumphant return in a recognizable form rather than have us stuck with a Cass who is about as un-Cass-like as any of those latter Cass Cains that got us into this mess in the first place.  Because I don't see any form of Cass going from silent fighter to dyed-hair chatterbox in a mere five years.  This new character could turn out to be plenty cool in her own right, or she might be a one-off they kill at some point and we never see her again.  Either way, she's just not Cass.

And one or two have mentioned that the purple costume elements and the character's dialogue remind them of Stephanie Brown.  I don't know.  I'm not reading these things because there's no Cass, but I could see a future scenario where Steph takes up the Black Bat costume rather than Cass, especially if there's no Cass and never has been one.  After all, Steph took the Batgirl costume post-Cass.  If the DC universe needs a Black Bat (and that's debatable), then Steph would be the most logical choice for filling that role at some point in her crime-fighting career.  I think this is a pretty neat idea, but I also don't think this character looks that much like Steph, at least none of the pre-New 52 images of her with which I'm familiar.

Anyway, I'm about as far out of the loop as anyone can be, so it could be all these points have been addressed within the story or some interview and I'm as wrong as can be about all of it.  That's cool.  For the record, as one of those vocal Cass fans you hear so much about on the television news, I'm not angry about any of this.  I'm not out 2.99.  Not picking a fight.  I'm just happy to have something Cass-related to think about way out here in space.  Although drawing endless Cass sketches is fun as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It might be Black Bat, but it's not Cassandra Cain...

And then things break loose and we have something to discuss.  Batwing: Future's End #1 hit the stands this week.  I haven't read a New 52 story since DC cancelled Katana, but here's the log line for it: 

Luke Fox has rejected his father, which leads him to rebuilding a more deadly and dangerous Leviathan!

It's set five years in the future, I gather.  Bleeding Cool has a short piece by Rich Johnston with an intriguing snippet of art in which we see a very familiar costume.  It's essentially Cass Cain's Black Bat outfit with more purple.  According to Johnston, the story never identifies who this person is, but she doesn't look anything like the Cassandra Cain we're all familiar with, the one erased from DC's ongoing narrative.  Ordinarily, I'd say don't make a snap judgment based on a single image, but she's got brown hair rather than black, she's the only person speaking in the panel, plus she's got a big smile on her face.  None of those seem very Cass-like to me.

You can take this as the New 52 version of Cass or take it as a sign DC still plans not to include her and-- just to emphasize the point-- will put an entirely different person in the costume and give her Cass' last known codename.  Or this character could be someone called Cass Cain with a few of her characteristics, but with a largely different background and personality.

If it's the former, kiss even the idea of a New 52 Cass goodbye for a few more years.  If it's the latter, it's still not our favorite character, given the alterations.

As I've written before, given the age reduction in Lady Shiva there's a chance in reviving Cass DC would give her different parents entirely.  The brown hair suggests that, although it's certainly within the realm of possibility Cass could dye her hair.  Again, though, that seems like a very un-Cass-like flourish and only hints at even more changes that take her farther away from the character we want to see back in action-- the (largely) silent, super-ass kicking Cass who isn't concerned much with appearance.

Unimpressed.  Unexcited.  This is what I have to go on in making my decision about buying into this series and nothing I've seen says, "Here's what you've been waiting for, loyal Cass Fan!"  I'm not spending 2.99 on this because this is not Cassandra Cain no matter what they choose to call her.

Although the art by Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira and JP Mayer is pretty nice.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yet another Cass Cain drawing by me...

No mask, bad perspective on her belt pouches, poorly drawn cape. It started out just fine, so lovely, but I went crazy and over-worked it and lost the form. The belt pouches were just wrong right from the start. I kind of like her intense facial expression, though, and the overall line quality.

Wish I had some Cass news for you. Of course she got her obligatory mention at a recent DC panel. It followed the usual script. A fan asked about Cass-- which may now be the DC panel equivalent of the old "FREE BIRD!" joke rather than sincere interest (I don't claim I'm the first to wonder about this, either)-- and a DC staffer responded noncommittally. And I didn't bother to post any of those "she's coming back" rumors from a few months ago because I didn't give them any credence from the start. Hence nothing much going on.

  I should probably get back to writing issue-by-issue reviews of her series, but it's easier just to draw or sketch Cass. I've got about 10 more Cass drawings in various stages of development from the initial sketch concepts to rough pencils to partially inked and I'll be posting them as I finish them!

Oh... I have this vague idea for a couple of pages of Cass action. I've drawn portraits, fake covers and pin-up style pieces but I've never really done anything sequential with Cass other than a few thumbnailed pages of this Cass and Supergirl go to Apokolips idea I had a while back. That turned into a marker sketch of Cass fighting a generic Female Fury (multiple versions, none exactly finished) and a 1970s-style Supergirl versus Darkseid image (more or less a "semi-comp" rather than a completed piece). Lately I've been toying with this short fight sequence where Cass takes apart a small group of armed thugs on a Gotham City rooftop. Pretty clich├ęd idea, I admit.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cassandra Cain Batgirl versus Mikey from "Teen-Age Strangler"

This is the masked version.  I'm not just a comic book fan.  I also love Mystery Science Theater 3000, and one of my favorite episodes was the one where Mike and the bots demolished Teen-Age Strangler.  As the movie's most memorable and fascinating character, Mikey bears the brunt of most of the wisecracks.  I'd already drawn him for kicks, and I didn't want to let the image go to waste.  Plus, I had a strong desire to draw something in one-point perspective.  I drew this within a comic book-sized box and left room at the top for a logo and all that good stuff, as if this were the cover of an actual comic.
Continuing with the comic cover mock-up them, here's an unmasked "variant."
Mikey plays himself, but a popular Japanese singer-actor plays Cass because why not?  This thing is already so silly it could hardly be made sillier.  Unless it's by coloring it, which I may do over the weekend.  Or you can, if you like.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An absolutely beautiful Cass Cain painting!

This capeless (YES!) version of Cassandra Cain leaping joyously off a building comes courtesy of Samantha Dodge and her Doodleblog.  According to Ms. Dodge's autobiographical info, she's a second year animation student at SCAD.  Appropriately, the first thing that came to mind when I saw her rendition of Cass was all those pre-production paintings I've seen by Mary Blair when she was at Disney.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict great things from this Samantha Dodge in the future and also give her extra points for ditching the cape.  "A cape is useless," I'd always say.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A nice chat with Scott Peterson...

Wow!   It's been a long time since I posted anything here, hasn't it?  There's just not a lot of positive Cass stuff (other than fan creations and artwork here and there) to talk about.  But now there's this short and sweet interview with Cass co-creator Scott Peterson conducted and posted by Max Eber.  Peterson and artist Annie Wu also created the future Batgirl for Batman Beyond, and she was yet another well-received character.

Well, you've probably already read this but I'd feel like a jerk if I didn't post something pleasant here once in a while.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Another Cass Cain costume design from me!

This one is less interesting than the one by someone else I linked to below.  I was thinking along Kirby lines as far as the costume goes, but the drawing itself is pretty shabby.  I tried to work out a few kinks in those "background" images, but I was really freezing up for some reason.  That's Cesar Romero as the Joker to the left, and to the right there's Hayley Kiyoko, a multi-talented entertainer (she sings, she dances, she acts, she does it all!) who I think looks a lot like Damion Scott's original Cass at times.  So I "cast" her as Cass and tend to model my Cass' facial features after hers.

You wanna see a really cool sketch of Cassandra Cain?

No, not one of mine!  Mine aren't cool.  This one is.  Because of the way Tumblr attributes things with all the reblogging and whatnot, I don't know who gets credit for drawing it, but whoever that person is can really draw the heck out of Cass.

It's just a simple sketch with a very organic line.  Gestural, very alive.  Interesting pose, very intense facial expression with a lot of serious personality, good feeling for weight distribution.  Even the hair treatment is nice.  I like the forms making up the body, too.  There's nothing about this sketch I don't like except for the fact I didn't draw it!

Is it by a professional?  A fan?  Is it just from someone's sketchbook, and, if so, is there a place where I can find the artist's finished work?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

At least one person thinks Cass is coming back in Batman: Eternal #9 (June 2014)

And I agree.  I agree there's a ghost of a chance there's a smidgen of a slight possibility that it could be a thing that may or may not happen.  I'd be glad.  It would mean I have to buy a Nu-52 DC comic, which is something I stopped doing after Katana #8.

Checking out Eternal artist Guillem March's art on his blog.  Wow, he's been around practically forever, but I'm so out of the DC fan loop, I'd never even heard of this guy.  Damn, I quite like it, though!  I love the line quality and the way he handles dramatic lighting and figure construction.  He knows how to twist bodies, doesn't he?  Lots of energy in the rendering and lots of life.  Little bit of Kaluta, little bit of Kubert, little Buscema, little Wrightson, little Bissette/Totleben.  There's a kind of classic quality to what I'm seeing there, like he could have done a few covers for The Witching Hour back in the 70s.  I love comic book drawings that look like drawings rather than super-slick fashion magazine photos.  This guy definitely needs to draw Cass.

But whether or not he is or already has... that is the question, isn't it?

One of my many Cass Cain costume redesigns...

This one features a helmet with a vampire bat teeth motif for the mouthpiece area.  And a katana because swords are cool.  I doubt she carries it around.  She probably picked it up after beating up someone who uses one.  No clumsy cape.  Cass doesn't need something that would just wrap around her in a fight and inhibit her movement.  No bright yellow belt with giant pouches full of junk she never uses anyway, although I imagine there's a grappling gun thing attached to the back of the more subdued belt she is wearing.  There's a self-portrait of the exhausted, disappointed artist, Cesar Romero Joker, confused Luke Skywalker and a tiny Superman hidden among the faces and figures in the background.  Actually, that's all random stuff done for inking practice.

"BATSUIT" - Batman Music Video feat. BATMAN, Nightwing, Catwoman from "J...

Okay, wow! I have to admit this isn't what I expected when I got a comment asking me to check it out and post it here. I thought it was going to be one of those videos with images from the comics set to some melancholy emo tune (wait, is there another kind of emo tune?). Or a fan film with more enthusiasm than skill in the execution. I'm in favor of both of those things, actually. Instead, it turns out to be a slick music video with some surprisingly well-executed fight choreography to go with the beats, plus some excellent cosplay.

 The catchy song is one of those "come on" songs, which is a traditional theme in pop music. "Let's Do It" by Cole Porter may edit itself by making the "do it" refer to falling in love, but you know what you're supposed to think it means during the lines about birds, bees and educated fleas. These days, we can be more explicit and this song's lyrics make no bones (hee hee) about the singer Jennifer Zhang's passion for Batman's body.

And I'm completely cool with that, as well, although someone appears to disagree with Zhang's spy-flick flirting methods about halfway through. Give it a watch and find out who it is. Here's a spoiler-- it isn't Spoiler.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kinda Teen Titans...

This morning I was drawing the Hulk, then switched to drawing a line-up for what I think would be a fantastic group of Teen Titans.  It consists of Cassandra Cain (naturally, for this blog), her pal Spoiler (in the hood; I don't know how her costume works yet), the original Wonder Girl before they angsted her up then made her disappear and a very serious Supergirl as their leader.  I think it's fun to draw Supergirl with freckles, by the way.  I'd probably stick Robin, Cyborg and Changeling on the team, too.  Hellboy showed up to ask me to stop being an idiot.

Why did I draw four fingers on his hand of doom?  That really was the act of an idiot!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Today's Black Bat exercise...

I don't have a lot of time for drawing during the week, but I still try to fit some in every single day.  This drawing is based on an image I created a while back.  Every so often I learn something new about art and then revisit previous sketches/roughs and see if I can apply the new knowledge to them.  This was fooling around with a certain line quality, and then I worked on some dramatic under-lit faces and cross-hatching experiments.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

You don't even want to know how long it took to ink Cass' costume!

Oh, you do?  About 10 minutes.  It's not that long, really.  It just seemed that way.  And in the end, she still has lumpy, misshapen legs I regret.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cass Cain Batgirl ink wash sketch...

I did this yesterday.  It's Cass as Batgirl, surrounded by a bunch of faces.  Who are the people in the faces?  Some are characters from my imagination, some are characters created by others.  This isn't the best drawing I've ever done, which is obvious.  I can't even say it's a particularly good drawing by any standard.  Cass is kind of anatomically disproportioned and I put about three different light sources on her face because I was playing around.  But I like this drawing because I learned something valuable from it.  Something exciting!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cass gets her obligatory DC comic convention panel shout-out

DC's top Bat-creators convened at Wonder Con last Friday (April 18, 2014) and asked once again if fans want to see Cass back in the funny books:

Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next?  [DC talent relations director Larry] Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received a fairly healthy applause.  "Duly noted," Ganem responded.  --Hit Fix

What this means probably has a lot to do with how you interpret the phrase "fairly healthy applause."  The adverb suggests an audience response less than thunderous, but the adjective tells us it was more than feeble.  Which part of that did Ganem "duly note?"  I feel confident Cass will show up again in some capacity, at some point.  Maybe a wildly enthusiastic response complete with a twenty minute chant of "We want Cass!  We want Cass!" would have moved up the schedule for her reappearance, but one of these days, maybe even this year, DC people will start dropping hints and building anticipation.

The day that book hits the stands is when I next buy a new DC monthly.  Not a moment before.
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. "Duly noted," Ganem responded.
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. "Duly noted," Ganem responded.
Next fan up to the microphone asked since Stephanie Brown is back in "Batman Eternal," is Cassandra Cain next? Ganem asked the crowd if they wanted to see Cass back, and received fairly healthy applause. "Duly noted," Ganem responded.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rape threats have no context in which they're even remotely acceptable--

I don't care who you are or what you think you're trying to prove, but there is no possible justification for making a rape threat against anyone.  There never has been and there never will be.  And for what it's worth, that is all I have to say on that matter.

On critiques...

Okay, I'm not a professional artist.  I'm a hobbyist.  I started out to become a pro illustrator, made the mistake of going through a graphic design program focused on typography and magazine page layout, worked in graphic design, did little art jobs locally here and there (art for newspaper ads, covers for some tabloid-sized inserts, spot illustrations for a regional magazine, a couple of t-shirt designs for a band, fringe stuff like that) before packing it in and moving to Japan to teach English for a lot more money than I ever made doing any of that stuff.  These days I chase art for my own purposes and to entertain people online.  I'm always trying to improve because I believe education in any subject is a lifelong pursuit.  I'm too shy and self-aware to push myself on working artists, but I have gotten some advice from time to time from some professionals.

Critiques.  As opposed to criticism, which is another discipline.  Criticism is what Roger Ebert used to do to films.  A critique is what artists do to other artists.  Go to art school and you'll receive critiques.  I did.  Some critiques come from the teachers.  Some come from other students.  Either way, they're meant to be a learning experience.  While it's nice to receive a lot of positive comments in a critique-- which is what happens usually if you've done everything correctly-- on occasion, you're going to get negative comments.  Some people will point out your mistakes and tell you how to fix them.  We call this "constructive criticism."  Sometimes constructive criticism comes soft and sweet.

But not always.

Allow me to give you a sampling of some of the comments I've received during critiques.  And keep in mind, these were almost all in front of my peers, as opposed to one-on-one or privately.  Other people watched and listened while teachers told me these things.  Some of these will be word-for-word, but all of them happened years ago, so I'm going to paraphrase the specifics on the ones I can't remember verbatim.  Even so, I'm going to give you a feel for the tone.

"You faked this.  You thought you could get away with it.  Look at these marks on this rug.  These marks are totally meaningless.  You got lazy, violated the rules of the assignment and you're not fooling anyone."

"You know what your favorite color is?  It's gray."

"Look at these two side-by-side.  This one you rushed is a lot better than the one you spent so much time on.  That's why you didn't finish these assignments.  Poor time management and getting all finicky.  And the results aren't worth it."

"This is a mess.  I don't want you turning in things like this."

"You should have just stopped here.  If you had, then you could say, 'I'm finished,' and be done with it."

"Your imagination has outstripped your drawing ability."

(In a very disapproving tone):  "Hmm."

Those are the ones that stuck with me, even if I can't remember every word exactly.  There were plenty of others, too, that have fallen back into a jumbled mass.

The point is, there is no rule that says critiques have to be polite, or positive.  Or even encouraging.  Sometimes the point is to discourage you from doing shitty work.  Especially if you fuck something up.  Read that first one again.  I did fake that assignment.  It was homework for an advanced studio drawing class and our professor was a working fine arts painter who had been a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.  Super cool guy.  He had us doing memory drawings, where we were supposed to look at a room for a specified amount of time, then rush to our drawing board and draw gesturally (the teacher was big on gesture drawing and what he called "moves") for another specified amount of time.  I found it tedious and decided to cheat.  The next day we put our assignments on the wall for a group critique and the teacher zeroed right in on mine, no doubt using the same sharp vision he had used while flying under combat conditions during wartime.  He called me out in front of all my classmates and shredded my work.

Shredded my WORK.  Not me.  Although I suppose there was a little of that in there, too, because he was pissed I'd cheated and he knew it and knew I needed some correction.

I could have shriveled from that, but I didn't.  I was left awe-struck.  This guy knew what he was talking about.  It wasn't bullshit.  The light clicked on and from then on, I excelled in his class.  I learned more about drawing from a semester with that guy than I had in the whole of my life up to that point.  The one about gray was right on target, too.  No, gray isn't my favorite color, but I sure used a ton of it in that class for some stupid reason.

Are these critiques, and others like them, the reason I never turned pro?  Not at all.  I may or may not be skilled enough to do professional work, but I made a lot of choices and didn't push myself or sell myself enough because I was too busy expending my energy in epic booze binges.  I was lazy.  I lacked follow-through.  I'm working on my own thing and it's taking forever.  Because I'm some sort of freakish art monk and I do art for the sake of the thing itself and the spiritual benefit of pursuing perfection even though it's an impossible goal.  Japan called and I answered.  There are a lot of reasons and none of them are, "Some teachers tried to help me by pointing out what I was doing wrong and weren't nicey-nice about it."

Shoot, while I prefer everyone love me and gratify me with praise and self-esteem building compliments, and sugar-coat their constructive criticism, I WANT people to kick me in the ass when I need a good ass-kicking.  Sometimes I need harsh words or I won't learn.  Now you can say nice things in a critique, and you can offer constructive criticism and advice in a polite, soft, Nerf-covered way, and that's all well and good.  But as far as there being some set of rules that say you must do it that way?


And if you're so insecure you think a critique has to be some re-affirmation of just how awesome you are, then maybe you're too fragile to be doing art for public consumption in the first place.  Maybe you just don't want to learn and grow as an artist.  Or maybe you do and you're just a little thin-skinned.  That's fine.  You're missing out on a lot of learning opportunities, though.

Whatever it is, just don't tell me there are these definite rules for soft-soaping a critique.  A critique can be as easy or as harsh as it needs to be.  And sometimes, like the ones I'm recalling here, a critique has to be a sharp slap in the face to wake you up when you're sleepwalking through art.

Now go read that infamous Alex Toth take-down of no less than Steve Rude and tell me again just how harsh or unfair Janelle Asselin was about that Teen Titans cover.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Batgirl versus Stubing progress!

This is all I managed to accomplish last night.  There's my photo reference for the hallway tacked up to the left.  The guys know someone's inside that room, rummaging around the ship's files, but they don't know it's Batgirl!  Gopher, Doc and Isaac run away, but Stubing stands his ground as a captain should, and gets kicked for his troubles.  But don't worry-- Cass didn't hurt him.  She held back most of her kicking power.  She's demonstrating visually why no one should interfere with her.  That's why she chose such a spectacular move in a confined space rather than just choking out Stubing, which wouldn't have the same psychological impact.

I still need to add the doors along the walls and some of the paneling.  Then I'll start fixing the figures, adjusting their proportions here and there and adding details, plus working on the Stubing likeness a bit more.  I haven't decided how I'm going to resolve this-- simple and a little cartoony the way it appears now, or hyper-detailed and realistic.  I'm not a big fan of photo realism, but once I start adding lines I tend to work in that direction.  Digital inking also lends itself to that style.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cass Cain Batgirl versus Captain Stubing!*

Here's my next fiasco.  First, the rough pencils.  Very rough.  It doesn't really matter how rough since I'm inking this myself and I'll be doing most of the actual drawing in that phase.  Mistakes become apparent with a quick glance, but that's to be expected.  Lots of anatomy to fix on the figures and to figure out on Stubing's uniform.  I'll be fixing the ceiling and the doors, too.  Notice how the doors don't line up correctly on opposite sides!  I'm thinking about doing a diamond pattern on the hallway carpet, but I'll need to check some Love Boat photo reference to see if that's appropriate.  It would be very nice if the Pacific Princess sports simple single-color carpet!

Here's the first stage of inking, blocking in the figures and background.  I do this digitally in Adobe Illustrator because I've never been happy with my skills (lack of, actually) at traditional inking.  Simply put, I suck at inking.  Also, being a lefty, I tend to drag the side of my hand through wet ink no matter how many precautions I take or how many times I tell myself to slow down and pay attention!  Using Illustrator means I can make changes to anything, at any point in the drawing process, without resorting to whiting things out or-- horrors!-- starting over at the beginning.  After this, the actual drawing begins.

Some will say, "Why Captain Stubing?"  To them, I say, "Why not Captain Stubing?"  Others will say, "Of course Captain Stubing."  To them, I say, "Let's party!"

*I like Gavin MacLeod.  He was in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Andy Griffith Show, McHale's Navy, The Sand Pebbles, Kelly's Heroes as well as The Love Boat, after all!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Having a Tumblr is pretty nice,but you can learn a lot just from hanging out in the right places!

For one thing, there are all kinds of Cassandra Cain-related discussions going on at any given time.  And some amazing art.  My Tumblr feed or page or whatever it's called has attracted a couple of followers, too.  The strange thing-- and also very flattering and gratifying-- is the popularity of my "Batgirl versus the Joker" drawing.  It's strange in that the one shared is the one I put on Deviant Art, rather than the slightly corrected version found on my Tumblr.  Well, whichever one, that someone, anyone, finds something I drew pleasing enough to show others is humbling and leaves me feeling very appreciative.  After all, the whole point of posting stuff is for people to see it and enjoy it.

So far my Tumblr is very Cass-heavy itself.  I tend to doodle or sketch her when I have no inspiration but feel the need to make marks on paper anyway.  Which happens every single day.  That's a lot of Cass!

And now for the other.  One of the coolest things about the Internet beyond the way it gives you a platform for showing off and garnering likes and shares is it gives you the opportunity to interact with working artists or to be a fly on the wall when they discuss their craft.

I've learned (or re-learned) a lot from reading some expert-level discussions on some John Buscema and Jack Kirby fan feeds on Facebook.  Another artist whose work I admire posts structure drawings on his Facebook just about every day and you can learn a lot just from looking at those.  Another educates her followers with some hair-raising personal experiences inside the business.  The other day, a pro whose work I'm a huge fan of (he co-created my favorite non-Cass comic book character) saw something I'm working on and took it upon himself to gift me with some direct-on-target advice.  It's proven to be incredibly helpful.  That certainly recharged my drawing battery, which was running a little low on power after a long weekend of putting down lines!  Last night, using his tips, I started revising the piece and I think it's going to be a stronger work.
Remember, these are busy people.  Don't be pushy, demanding, annoying or rude of their time and expertise.  That's what paying for classes is for, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of perfectly useful "how-to" books available.  You can also find a lot of helpful tutorials all over the place online.  YouTube is a great resource, for example.  I'm way too shy to ever ask for free advice, so I tend to stick to reading and observing and trying to remain unobtrusive.  But if you find yourself in a position to receive some words of advice from a professional or any very experienced artist with teaching ability, or you find yourself reading shop talk where people who do this stuff in earnest every day discuss figure drawing, perspective, page layouts, composition and storytelling, take it to heart and learn as much as you can.

Whether you want to be a professional artist or you just draw for likes on Tumblr, you owe it to yourself to improve.  And if nothing else, learning something new is fun, especially when you can take it and use it to make cool art.  Open your mind to learning experiences wherever you find them--  then go and practice, practice, practice it on your own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I started a Tumblr...

That's where all the cool kids are hanging out these days, right?  It's not a Cass Cain Tumblr.  It's for my art.  Which means there will be a lot of Cass Cain drawings on it, but I'll be posting those here as well.

One thing I've learned about Tumblr this week is there are many, many Cass fans there.  Searches for "cassandra cain" and "cass cain" bring up a huge wall of Cass and Cass-relate imagery.  It ranges from fairly crude fan art to pages from actual comics. If you're a Cass Cain fan, it's a visual feast.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A new Cass Cain Batgirl drawing I'm working on...

Still a lot of work to do on this one.  I need to fix the contour lines, finish rendering her hair, cape, belt, costume, the foreground bricks and the background buildings.  What a weird pose!  I may go back in and re-work her face, but for now I'm considering that part completed.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Batgirl Incorporated

Apparently over on Tumblr there's been this "Batgirl Incorporated" fan comic going on since June 2012 and I'm only just now becoming aware of it.  What is this thing?  It looks to be someone's homebrewed effort to use all the Batgirls in a single comic.  Sure!  That's a great idea!  I want to read it, but I can't figure out this Tumblr thing and so far all I'm seeing there is a lot of art, some of various Bat-characters, some for something called "Shutter," all of which looks fantastic, by the way.

As a Cass-fan, I'm going to support this even though I've yet to read it.  And maybe one day I'll understand Tumblr enough to do so.  Anyway, I've added a link to it on my blog list there on the right for easy access.

Speaking of "fan canon," years ago when Batgirl went evil, I came up with my own version of the Teen Titans centered around Supergirl, Cass Batgirl, Donna Troy Wonder Girl, Tim Drake Robin and Cyborg.  I still think it's a pretty cool idea.

Batgirl versus the Joker is finished!

It took longer than I expected, but there it is.  I'm going to color it this week or maybe next weekend.  Obviously Cass pulled her punch or the Joker would be flat on his back.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Batgirl versus the Joker almost complete!

Still have to finish the Joker's left arm and leg and shoes, then refine the wrinkles and highlights.  After that, I'll color it.  I'm probably going to change the text, too.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Batgirl versus Joker progress update

Still working on this.  I think I'll have it finished by tomorrow night.  It's Cass knocking the Joker sillier.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A color Cass Cain Batgirl!

Just trying out something new here. You know, there just aren't enough circles. One of the first digital drawings I ever did was Cass at Batgirl, and now here she is again. I like the solid blocks of color without modeling.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cassandra Cain Batgirl versus Gilotina

I've long had this idea for a Cass Cain versus the Female Furies story.  Cass would end up on Apokalips and spend time sparring with the Furies, becoming fascinated by their martial lifestyle.  She'd be outclassed and take a whalloping, but she'd learn a lot from them and, in the end, earn their respect.  Mostly because she never, ever gives up no matter what the odds, but also because she's without fear.

I wanted this Gilotina to be wearing Jack Kirby-designed armor, but I couldn't find a drawing that showed her entire body.  And the post-Kirby renderings tended to supermodelize her and emphasize the sexy at the expense of the furious.  Not what I wanted.  So I faked her outfit, and badly.  And Cass' costume looks like footy pajamas.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cass Batgirl and Conan yet again!

Here’s another version of Cass swinging in to rescue a cartoon mouse.  Why is Conan attacking such a cute li’l critter?  I don’t know.  Just a whimsical idea I had.  This is still pretty crude, done in a hurry over the “bones” of a previous version.  I still need to fix Conan’s right pectoral muscle, but this isn’t too horrid a drawing.  It’s not great, or even good, but it’s almost to the level of an especially clever monkey holding a pencil with his tail.

Yesterday during a meeting I did some beautiful drawings!  My linework flowed and the results were very pretty.  I’m slowly getting back into practice, trying to draw a little every day.  Let this be a lesson—you do lose abilities you don’t use.  I don’t have a lot of time for art these days and my skills suffer for it.  Practice, practice, practice.  Draw every single day.

Last week I read a couple of message board discussions about Cass fighting Conan and Karate Kid. 

I have to admit I know next to nothing about Karate Kid.  I do know enough about Conan to say this fight is problematic for Cass even though Conan doesn’t have Cass’ predictive or evasive abilities. 

Conan greatly exceeds Cass' strength, weight and reach, plus he also has more than enough practical fighting experience to more than match her in hand-to-hand skill, even if he lacks her finesse.  After all, Conan was literally born on a battlefield, spent his entire life practicing every type of combat imaginable in his era, showed considerable tactical brilliance in commanding troops in battle, has been depicted as single-handedly defeating entire groups of armed warriors, giant snakes and even a strange man-ape named Thak in a hand-to-hand fight, albeit with assistance. 

The last happened in the 1934 story "Rogues in the House," by Conan creator Robert E. Howard.  Comics creators have adapted this story at least twice and a scene based on it appears in the 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Conan the DestroyerConsider Conan versus Thak for a moment.  We're not exactly sure what Thak is other than a "man-ape," but it's safe to say he's strong.  In the real world, there isn't a human alive who can take an adult ape.  A gorilla or even a fully-grown chimpanzee could rip the strongest man apart.  I think it's fair to assume Thak isn't as powerful as a gorilla or chimp, but he's probably many degrees more so than any given human.  As unlikely as it is, this is all in the Conan canon (hee hee!), so we have to take his success-- aided or not-- into account.

However, because she has speed and defensive skills far in excess of Conan's, Cass's position isn't completely hopeless.  If she has some time to observe Conan in action before engaging-- which would be a best-case scenario and highly variable depending on the circumstances of their meeting-- Cass will soon realize her best chance is to keep her distance and try to incapacitate Conan via some tranquilizing chemical agent and trap him with a very strong net or ropes.  Otherwise, Conan will beat her when it comes to actual one-on-one combat.  Possibly with a broad sword or even an axe.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cassandra Cain Black Bat digital inking...

It's about 75% complete.  Just need to adjust a few things here and there.  Proportions, the Kirby dots, some of the shadows, snaps on her pouches.  I haven't done a full-fledged finished piece in a LONG time, so I'm pretty jazzed about this one.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cass Batgirl versus Conan the Barbarian: The Inkening

Zooming in with a little ink experimentation.  About 3% of this is good and 97% of it is garbage, but there ya have it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Batgirl versus Conan the Barbarian!

Godawful amateurish crap drawn by me!  Check out that bent broadsword!  Marvel at the scattershot light source!  Despair at the slapdash barbarian mouth!  I'll fix it in inks!  Yeah!  I kind of like the mouse's Jay Leno chin, though.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Black Bat

What a disastrous mess!  It's Cass as Black Bat!  And yet I am not ashamed to admit I drew this.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Here's yet another impressive Cass Cain Batgirl re-design...

This one is by Zoe Maxine, who I don't know.  I just found her work doing one of my Cass Google searches, and I like it!  It works equally well with Cass' Batgirl or Black Bat identities.

The mask and bat-symbol on this one are similar to some ideas I've been knocking around.  The treatment of the ragged cape with contrast lining is brilliant, as is the subtle bat-outline design when she closes the seam across her chest.  That's definitely one I wish I'd come up with, although I'm working up something entirely minus a cape.

Another thing I like in Maxine's design is the "sans belt" thing she has going on here.  I mean, why does Cass particularly need a belt with gigantic pouches anyway?  It's a pain in the ass to get the perspective on those right, and it's not as if she uses anything more than a few batarangs and a grappling hook and line.    Over on Marvel World, Daredevil gets away with just a billy club device, so there's no reason Cass couldn't do the same.  It's fists and feet with Cass.

Fantastic work!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Once again, the Mary Sue is your source for exhilirating Cassandra Cain discussion!

It's really past time for DC to bring Cassandra Cain back.  There never was a good reason for any of the lousy decisions they've made regarding her, from the cancellation of her solo title, to her "heel turn," to putting out a badly-written miniseries recapitulating said "heel turn" after it had already been disposed of as offhandedly as such a stupid character development deserved, to her strange and illogical absence from the "Death of Bruce Wayne" storyline, to the way she was forced to give up being Batgirl for a truly lame in-story reason, to her continued absence in the New 52.  If anything, this is a lesson on how not to treat a character.  Any character.

The comments following this article made a lot of those points in detail.  I do want to take a little time to address a few points raised in it and those comments. 

First, I agree absolutely it's mean to pit one character against another.  The whole "why not both?" attitude really resonates with me.  While I think it's fair game to tease a character or make some fun of any of them-- and that includes Cass-- at the same time, as fans, we should be past the "either-or" mentality. 

You don't have to love one character by hating another.  Everyone is free to love or hate each and every character on his or her own merits, or their perceptions or misperceptions of those, but hating one character specifically because one loves another is silliness.  They're not rivals.  They're not sports teams.  There's no reason to pit them against each other, or fans against each other.  I like Cass more than I like certain other characters, and I dislike a few characters, but none of that has to do with only having a place in my fan-heart for one and only one character.

If that were so, there would be no way I'd spend time drawing cartoons of Supergirl and Wonder Girl teaming up with Cass-Batgirl, just to give one example.

You can like more than one character.  That's all I want to say.  And it's in no one's best interest to wage war on other fans just because they're not as into your character, or because you feel their favorite character is somehow unworthy.  There's room for every character.  Not everyone can be a Batgirl.  I'm completely fine with, say, Stephanie Brown becoming the Batgirl of record.  But explain to me why that means there can't be a Cassandra Cain as Black Bat in some other DC city.

Second, I would like to know why Cass ended up shunted off to Hong Kong as Black Bat.  Was it because she's bi-racial and part Asian?  As someone pointed out, she doesn't speak Cantonese and her mother is from Detroit.  Hong Kong is a spectacular setting for an adventure series, but wouldn't a Black Bat series set in the DC version of Detroit be just as gritty and exciting?

Third, a couple of commenters write of not liking Cass because she's "dark and broody."  I think she was written that way towards the end of her solo series run, but dark and broody were never the main thrust of her characterization.  I will forever champion the idea of a more violent, Kill Bill-esque Cassandra Cain series, but at the center would be that forceful, never-give-up, never-say-die-although-she-has-a-deathwish version of Cass we first met under writers Kelley Puckett and Scott Peterson

There weren't too many stories in the original run under Puckett and Peterson where Cass was moping around emo-style.  There were moments where she sat around a bit wistfully, and some where she got upset because she couldn't be Batgirl anymore.  But brooding was not really part of her make-up.  She was more likely to be out hitting things.  She'd be wearing out the training dummies in her private dojo, or having Batman repeatedly hit her in the face.

I would never have gotten into this character if Puckett and Peterson had made her a brooder because I absolutely loathe stories about people with incredible abilities who are made miserable by them.  Cass may have had a death wish due to guilt, but mostly she just tried to redeem herself by doing good, by saving everyone-- and I do mean everyone, including a guy about to be executed in a prison in one memorable story-- and who was so thoroughly into being Batgirl and exercising her abilities she was willing to forgo living any semblance of a "normal" life via secret identity.

The stories themselves were sometimes dark, but Cass was a shining light in them.  A true innocent in many ways, naively trying her best to understand the complex world into which she'd forced herself.

Anyway, let's have no more of this "Cass is a mopey/brooding/downbeat" kind of character.  I reject that characterization absolutely.  If she ever went down that route in a story, then you know you were reading something badly written and you need to go back and pick up the original series and see Cass as she should have been written all along.

So let me just say this once again: it is past time for DC to reintroduce Cass into their comics.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cass Cain detail...

I slapped some ink on it.  Here's a detail.

Unfinished blue line rough of Cass versus a Female Fury

Kind of dull.  The Cassandra Cain pose is stiff and does nothing for me.  I'm also thinking the part where the Fury is grabbing Cass' cape needs to be reworked.  The cape should be on top of the hand, pulled taut.  I may or may not finish this one of these days, and if I do, I'll fix that.  There will be more Female Furies in it if I do.  This is a little sketch of a scene from a story I came up with.  It's derivative of a story that DC actually ran a while back, but I honestly think my version is superior.  In fact, it's so good I'm keeping it for myself and using it in a prose work I'm mulling over, but with greatly altered characters so as to avoid one of those fun little life events we like to call a lawsuit.  Of course, as long as it stays safely locked away in my brain, I can make it about anyone!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Here's another Cass Cain Batgirl sketch...

Playing around with color.  This is going to be a most unexpected crossover if I ever buckle down and do it as a finished piece.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Time for more Cassandra Cain art...

The artist calls these "sloppy," but I call them loose and lively and gestural.  Warm ups are important before doing your "real" drawing.  It's kind of like being a relief pitcher.  You don't just step onto the mound and go to pitching.  You warm up in the bullpen first, then take a few throws from the mound.  Artists have to do something similar to loosen up and start making lines that flow properly.  These drawings are what those warm ups look like.  Most of the time we don't share them, but sometimes the warm ups themselves are kind of interesting and useful and worth looking at.  Like these. 

That's a free art tip!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A promising new Cassandra Cain Tumblr...

This has been a nice week for those of us still toting the Cass Cain fandom banner.  First comes a neat blog about her, Wonder Woman and Lois Lane, and this morning I tumbled (Heehee!  I'm so clever!) what appears to be a brand-new blog that promises to become a fascinating regular read-- Understanding Cassandra Cain, a Tumblr devoted to a deep reading of Cass and her motivations

As a Cass fan, these kinds of analysis, whether they're psychological or literary or both, are exactly the kinds of things I enjoy reading, second only to comics featuring Cass herself.  For a while there it seemed as if this was going to be the only blog that tried to do much with Cass.  Cass fandom quieted down to a mere whisper compared to the very active one devoted to Stephanie Brown.  Now we're starting to make some noise of our own and it's about time!

Let's go!

Monday, January 27, 2014

But who will save the Powerpuff Girls?

I love the Powerpuff Girls cartoon, and I think IDW's series is one of the best comics from any company.  Lately, the controversy over the "sexualized" alternate cover for Powerpuff Girls #6 hit my Facebook feed hard from both Comic Book Resources and, a couple of fun and useful feeds that keep me in the loop about the upcoming releases and the crazy comic world news.  You know, like this.

Cartoon Network commissioned artist Mimi Yoon to do an older version of the girls for the IDW book, and Yoon responded with an image of older versions of the characters wearing latex versions of their familiar color-coordinated outfits.  Dennis Barger, co-owner of a comic store in Michigan, felt it sexualized the characters, wrote about it, one of those Internet firestorms erupted, Cartoon Network pulled the cover, the involved parties made statements, and the bell rang for round two or three (I lost count).  This morning, while drinking my coffee, I read both letters and some of the comments on Comic Book Resources' Facebook feed.

Those have been... interesting.  Some decry the artwork, some defend it.  There's at least one person claiming Barger is in favor of censorship, which is silly because that's what governments do, not private corporations or retailers.  There was one of the "this is what comics are, so shut up" aimed at assumed feminist protesters.  Some of the comments (even from Yoon herself) have involved speculations of a very personal nature aimed at Barger.  You can go look them up.  I don't think those are very constructive at all.

After all of it, though, I'm sympathetic to both sides, Barger's as a concerned retailer and fan and Yoon's as an artist.  But even I have some problems with this cover.

For one, I really can't for the life of me figure out what Cartoon Network was thinking.  Powerpuff Girls is an all-ages series, and why they felt the need to single out one specific portion of that audience, I will never know.  Especially when that portion is already over-served in this area.  And at what point was the world crying out for older, sexier Powerpuff Girls?  Although I'm sure there are "unofficial" versions galore on the web.  I don't dare look. 

But someone had to have thought, "You know, in this current day of almost constant Internet outrage, whatever our intentions might be-- a little harmless fun, some cheesecake for older readers of this title-- isn't there a chance by trying this with characters perceived as children we might touch off a round of bad publicity, kind of overshadowing the positive aspects of this property and ultimately damaging the brand for both ourselves and IDW?"  In retrospect, it seems like a pretty bad idea, but it wouldn't have taken a mentalist to predict the inevitable outcry over this imagery. 

The other thing is the art itself.  After having read her letter, I get what Yoon was going for, and think she has every right to stick up for herself and feel pretty angry about the whole thing.  Cartoon Network gave her an impossible task.  But at the same time, I don't think she helped herself with the final product.

Because I think she really missed the mark.  Yes, this is a finely rendered piece.  Yoon has mad chops as far as tone and form go.  And it's not as if Yoon painted the kid versions of the girls in latex clubwear.  These are obviously older than your usual Powerpuffs.  According to her response, her intention was was "to illustrate modern, pop cultured, SASSY (not sexy), and humanized Powerpuff Girls who have just beaten the crime lord and have him on the ground."

Modern and pop cultured, definitely.  But I don't particularly read it as "sassy" or even "humanized" as much as I do static and dull.  This is the aftermath of the beatdown, which is the least interesting part.  The pre-fight has all the tension, the fight itself has all the action, but the post-fight is just kind of... nothing.  Hanging around, breathing a little hard, not much to see.

The girls are certainly in a dominant position compared to Mojo Jojo, but they look more or less like tourists posing naughtily on a statue commemorating an event rather than the heroes who dealt out the beatdown itself.  And they don't even seem too engaged in what they've accomplished, which makes them read more as mannequins or statues themselves than people.  I tend to go with John Kricfalusi on a major point-- if you want to convey "attitude," you have to put a little more into the acting into the art.  Do something other than have characters look at you out the corner of their eyes.  The facial expressions in the art are generically smug rather than character-specific or unique, and their poses not particularly interesting.  Just sitting or standing, a fist clenched here, legs crossed there. 

Maybe if Yoon had depicted the fight itself, or had given us a little more emotion from the characters, there wouldn't have been so much focus on the latex dresses-- and by the way, no, "all superheroes" don't wear latex; they usually wear spandex (although some artists have made Cassandra Cain's Batgirl costume look more PVC or latex than spandex or even leather at times).

Anyway, while I'm not all that impressed with this particular piece, I'd love to see Yoon get more work.  It looks as if IDW will be making it up to her with another cover, which is cool.  If nothing else, this controversy has made me aware of a talented artist.

It's just unfortunate this example just seems to have been a bad idea all around.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sometimes you read something you immediately recognize as truth...

This is kind of old news, but thanks to my following a chain of fan/comics industry horror stories today, I came back around to something that bothered the hell out of me late last year.  Something I read about a bit, then never followed up on because the person telling the story was being so cool about it I felt we wouldn't get the most important piece of information and we'd all have to go our separate ways after saying our various pieces on it.  Eventually, though, the thing I was curious about came to light.

What he did was wrong.  Coming clean was right, but then again, his apology is wrong.  But this is not wrong at all.  This is so right.

What happens when you make a Tumblr blog about Wonder Woman, Cassandra Cain AND Lois Lane?

Lots of great art and animation, apparently.  We'll be keeping an eye on this one.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Somebody already did a VERY nice Cass Cain redesign!

And it's Thomas Branch coming up on the inside, taking the lead by a nose... one length... two lengths... running away with it down the home stretch!  Six lengths and the finish!  What a race!  What a win!  What a costume! The Wonder Girl is a fantastic design, too, even if that's not my favorite version of the character.  I'm a 1960s era Wonder Girl fan and I always will be.  She's cool and fun in a way not many characters-- even those claiming her superhero name-- can match. 

But this is a Cass Cain Batgirl blog, so let's talk about Branch's work on her costume.  While I'm not sure if it's Cass-Batgirl or Cass-Black Bat, it works for either.  I like the exposed eyes for visual communicative ability and giving an artist the opportunity to draw her facial expressions, even if she's not going to be chatting everyone up like your Spider-Man or Deadpool type heroes.  The capeless look for extra-martial arts freedom-of-movement magic is definitely the way to go.  She really needs to tie back that hair so it doesn't get in her eyes while she's kicking ass, though.

There are some interesting points raised by both Dean Trippe in the post and by a commenter below it in the comments thread. 

One, I agree with Trippe these costumes have a "Marvel" kinda vibe.  But I think Branch's Cass also has a GI Joe action figure look.  You know, the 1980s toy line, which featured ninja and ninja-inspired characters like that guy with the mask with the wolf and that guy in white.  That mask-wolf guy didn't talk either, for some reason.  I don't remember their names, but you know who I'm talking about, right?  Cass looks like she could be a friend or partner to either of those guys.  Maybe it's the katana strapped to her back.  None of this is remotely a negative.  Actually, I think these are all positives.

Two, as the commenter asks, does Thomas Branch use fitness magazine or celebrity photos as reference, or does he trace directly from them?  Whichever it is, I don't care if he does.  As Trippe points out in his reply to the person bringing this up, Branch adds to or changes the image enough that it constitutes an original work.  I look at both those drawings and the farthest thing from my mind is tracking down original photos Branch might have based them on.  Trippe is also correct in stating there are plenty of artists who work this way-- I could list some big-name greats who occasionally (or more often) relied on photo reference (my university illustration instructors were always after us to establish our own morgue files for that kind of thing in case we got jobs drawing cars or fashions from three years ago or something), either drawing from it or tracing it outright then modifying the proportions and lines to fit their styles or used half-tone or high-contrast copies to paste up backgrounds in their work.

Some people do misuse this resource-- there's one guy who's infamous for it and I think we all know who he is without my having to name him-- but using a photo to draw from or even tracing it are not in themselves wrong.  I don't feel like going into great detail the times when it is wrong.  Think about it and get back to me with your own take. 

I will tell you upfront here my own process sometimes includes referencing some of those crazy Japanese martial arts pose books you can buy here, with fight scenes photographed from several angles.  I've "cast" celebrities as characters before, too.  One of my Cass drawings stars Japanese actor Ryoko Hirosue because I liked the pose and extreme camera angle.  Probably not appropriate for a story, but perfectly fine for one of my crap drawings-- and it does help me learn about anatomy and foreshortening for when I come up with a pose out of my own imagination (I do this a lot, too).

Use the tools you have.  That's what they exist for.  Lately, I've been playing around with Manga Studio 5 and you'd have to be crazy not to take advantage of that program's customizable and poseable male and female figures.  Do a thumbnail of the pose you want, pull one of those onto your page, stretch and bend it until it work and use the heck out of the three-point perspective ruler Manga Studio automatically generates based on your camera angle.  You can trace out a rough based on the pose, then add your own proportions and details in your own style and dress it up, but it's a handy tool to have at your disposal, especially if you're a like me-- I'm a stickler for relative heights and distances between characters and their environments and getting perspective just so, but I don't have the brains to figure all that out manually or the skill to fake it believably.  I know the theories behind it all, which is important even when you're using Manga Studio... but now I don't have to sweat the math.

Anyway, the point is, Thomas Branch has a way with costumes!  I'll flat out state for the record however he works, he's a better artist than I am, and I'm jealous as all get out of his Cass!