Batman 75: Toasting Robin(s), Batgirl, Batwoman at Long Beach Comic Con

Sept. 28, 2014 | 8:00 a.m.
Babs Tarr, left, Marv Wolfman, Ralph Garman and Albert Ching take part in the "Batman 75/Tales of the Dark Knight" panel during Long Beach Comic Con. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Babs Tarr, left, Marv Wolfman, Ralph Garman and Albert Ching take part in the “Batman 75/Tales of the Dark Knight” panel during Long Beach Comic Con. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Much has been made of Batman in marking his 75th anniversary, and the comic-book talents gathered Saturday at Long Beach Comic Con for a panel celebrating the Dark Knight had plenty to say about various versions of him – but they also toasted the heroes he’s inspired.

A highly anticipated new take on Batgirl, Bruce Wayne’s cousin Kate Kane (a.k.a. Batwoman) and a couple of different Robins all came up in the conversation among writers and artists who have told – or will tell – those characters’ tales, as did opinions about Ben Affleck’s casting as Batman, choice Bat-obscurities, fan passions and possible future projects.

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Babs Tarr, the new artist on the redesigned “Batgirl,” which begins with the Oct. 8 release of No. 35, said she’d been warned by her writer collaborator Cameron Stewart to prepare for the worst when the more buoyant, less grim look and direction of Barbara Gordon was revealed to fans months ago.

But rather than howls of protest, the changes were met with, as Tarr put it, “an outpouring of love and support.”

A look at Babs Tarr's art in "Batgirl" No. 35. (DC Entertainment)

A look at Babs Tarr’s art in “Batgirl” No. 35. (DC Entertainment)

“It was unexpected, but also expected,” she said during the “Batman 75 / Tales of the Dark Knight” panel, moderated by Comic Book Resources’ Albert Ching. “We knew we were doing something good and important and what needed to be done with her.”

Some cosplayers who can’t wait to see the new-look Batgirl in action have already adopted her style: Tarr said that in just two conventions she’d seen five or more people who’d made their own costumes based on the redesign, including one “crossplayer” – that is, a male fan dressed as the character – who then stood and waved, to a round of applause.

“Batwoman” writer Marc Andreyko, who took over that title after J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left last year, has also changed his heroine’s circumstances. Notably, as he acknowledged, Kate has split from her partner Maggie (whom the previous creative team had planned she would marry) – “things change – nothing lasts forever,” Andreyko said. But he’s also worked on integrating her more into the DC Universe.

“She’s Batman’s cousin – that’s awesome,” he said. “The best thing about it is that Bruce knows that Kate is Batwoman but she has no interest” in finding out who Batman is.

“The book’s getting really, really weird,” he said. Next month’s “Issue 35 – spoiler alert – takes place in outer space,” he added, and noted that it is the series debut of artist Georges Jeanty (“Serenity: Leaves on the Wind”).

The creation and destruction of a few Boys Wonder were detailed by an artist and a writer who have worked on different characters who have carried the name of comics’ most famous sidekick.

Chris Burnham, who with writer Grant Morrison handled the death of the most recent Robin, Bruce Wayne’s son Damian, said that the troubled kid – raised by assassins, sarcastic toward his father – grew on him after he moved from being a reader of to the artist on “Batman Incorporated.”

Chris Burnham's foreboding cover for last year's "Batman Inc." No. 8 shows Damian Wayne as Robin. (DC Entertainment)

Chris Burnham’s foreboding cover for last year’s “Batman Inc.” No. 8 shows Damian Wayne as Robin. (DC Entertainment)

“When I was first reading the comic, I hated Damian along with the rest of you,” he said. “I totally grew to love the guy; he became my favorite guy to draw. And I knew from the first time I drew him that we were going to kill him. … The more I liked drawing him, I would be like,” taking on a mournful tone, “ ‘It’s two months closer! This is the only time I’m ever going to get to draw this kid smiling.’ ”

Marv Wolfman, whose desire to keep the original Robin, Dick Grayson, in his “Teen Titans” series in the 1980s prompted DC to design a new one, Jason Todd, co-created the popular Tim Drake to replace Todd after fans elected to kill off the latter in an infamous phone vote.

The writer said Todd’s fate shouldn’t have been decided like that, but that, given the chance to create a new Robin while writing “Batman” in the late ’80s, he decided to try out a different concept: “I wanted him to have a normal upbringing” – and who wanted to be Robin. So Tim Drake got a normal, still-living family – though he did have the trauma of being a child at the circus the night his predecessor Dick Grayson’s aerialist parents were killed during a performance (key to his subsequent deduction as a child of who Batman and Robin are under the masks). Wolfman credited Chuck Dixon and subsequent writers for Drake’s popularity.

In his near future, Batman will have to deal with a new version of Anarky, “Detective Comics” co-writer Brian Buccellato said. The story that begins with No. 37, he and Francis Manapul’s first issue back after a two-issue break, involves “taking the idea of if you could have the opportunity to level the playing field and redefine who you are, what would you do?”

Ralph Garman, co-writer with Kevin Smith of the current six-issue miniseries “Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet,” said there have been talks about him writing more comics set in the reality of the TV show that starred Adam West as the Bat and Burt Ward as Robin – maybe a sequel story line to the 1966 feature film with that cast. That screen adaptation, shark repellant and all, remains a favorite of Garman’s. He said that he and Smith also dream of seeing their miniseries turned into one of DC’s direct-to-DVD animated films, with West and Ward returning to voice the characters one last time.

Talk during the panel turned time and again to screen and other media interpretations of Batman.

Burnham recalled seeing the old TV show and the animated “Super Friends” but said the version of the Caped Crusader that really made an impression was an uncredited voice actor on Power Records’ 1970s “Batman” book-and-album sets.

“That guy’s voice is Batman to me,” he said.

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"Detective Comics: Futures End" No. 1, written by Brian Buccellato, features a cover by Jay Fabok and Brad Anderson. (DC Entertainment)

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A look inside "Detective Comics: Futures End" No. 1, written by Brian Buccellato. (DC Entertainment)

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A look inside "Detective Comics: Futures End" No. 1, written by Brian Buccellato. (DC Entertainment)

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"Detective Comics" No. 34, which came out in August, is written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato and features a cover by Manapul. (DC Entertainment)

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"Batwoman: Futures End" No. 1, written by Marc Andreyko, features a cover by "American Vampire" artist Rafael Albuquerque. (DC Entertainment)

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The cover for "Batgirl" No. 35 is by Cameron Stewart, who is also co-writing the series. (DC Entertainment)

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A look at Babs Tarr's art in "Batgirl" No. 35. (DC Entertainment)

bmgh1 cover Batman 75: Toasting Robin(s), Batgirl, Batwoman at Long Beach Comic Con

Ralph Garman co-writes "Batman '66 Meets the Green Hornet. (Alex Ross / DC Entertainment)

batmaninc8 Batman 75: Toasting Robin(s), Batgirl, Batwoman at Long Beach Comic Con

Chris Burnham's foreboding cover for last year's "Batman Inc." No. 8 shows Damian Wayne as Robin. (DC Entertainment)

Andreyko called Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” “the most perverted, weird, dark, kids movie I’ve ever seen. … I don’t know [Burton] convinced Warner Bros. to make a $165-million fetish movie,” and said that Michael Keaton’s performance as Bruce Wayne made the character make sense to him.

Several panelists praised Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Wolfman said that while working on a tie-in “Dark Knight” video that never came out, he watched raw footage from the set of Ledger performing the role.

“I got to watch him do it day after day after day after day on the dailies,” he said, “and he was brilliant every single time.”

A fan question about the casting of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in the upcoming “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” prompted some disgruntled noises from the audience, but Andreyko and Wolfman had more positive attitudes.

“I think because his career has had ups and downs, and he’s been beaten up by the press, and ‘Gigli’ and J. Lo and all that stuff, he’s going to be a great ‘I’m tired’ Batman,” Andreyko said to laughs.

Wolfman followed: “He’s a really good actor, great director, he knows how to write – why wouldn’t he do good?”

Asked by a fan how we would voice Batman, Garman, who is also a voice actor, spoke in an Adam West impression: “I’d probably sound a little like this, old chum.”

Long Beach Comic Con continues at the Long Beach Convention Center through 5 p.m. Sunday. Hero Complex is a sponsor of the convention.

Blake Hennon | Google+ | @LATHeroComplex

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Comments


One Response to Batman 75: Toasting Robin(s), Batgirl, Batwoman at Long Beach Comic Con

  1. Phil says:

    Batman should be in jail for child endangerment. He has killed off two Robins.

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