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.