Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Marshall Rogers: A Remembrance

I just received the word that Marshall Rogers had died and I still don't want to believe it. Marshall, who I've written about before, was, in my opinion, the greatest Batman artist of all time. What he lacked in technical ability at anatomy at the time that he burst on to the scene in 1977 was far overcome by his natural gifts in storytelling, and his unique vision.

The scans are from my originals of Detective #478, Eclipse Magazine #8 and an unpublished page from a Goodwin/Rogers/Austin that was abandoned when Archie died. The Panel from Detectives Inc. is scanned from the book.

Why should we remember Marshall? I only met him once in person, as a teenage fan, and I was looking forward to seeing him at the Super-Con on June 2nd and getting the chance to chat with him. But not knowing him moves his work in to a totally different realm for me: I don't have the chance to know that man behind the curtain, and now I never will. His Batman will remain enigmatic to me, a creation of Englehart's brain and Marshall's and Terry late hours at the drawing board.

DC, has, by a loose count, reprinted the seminal Batman tales that the three did in Detectives #471-476 more than 6 times in the last 30 years, which must be some kind of record. For all that people say that O'Neill and Adams reinvigorated The Batman, I believe that it was the Rogers/Austin Batman that set the template for the many more years to come, until others decided to subsume Miller's future Dark Knight persona in to the modern day.

Oddly enough, I always believed that those issues were the pinnacle to the three teaming up to produce such a rare and perfectly balanced masterpiece of a story, and yet that was hardly the truth at all. Steve wrote all six issues and delivered them to DC and went off the write his first novel, the underrated Point Man. The pacing of the books was modified by Marshall in places, as was some of the dialog, to fit the story on the board. That's incredible. Marshall was just channeling this new version of The Batman from his head and filling pages with it. The movement of the cape alone was so... different... than those that had come before it, that I still can't quite figure out how he decided to put so much air under the thing.

I fully intend to do a long look at the O'Neill Rogers Batman text story someday. And I'm not even biting into the Mister Miracle issues, which had their own mix of Rogers and Kirby pastiche. I don't think that they were as successful as The Batman work, but they should have been.

Leaving DC, Marshall was on the vanguard of alternative publishing, with Don McGregor on the inaugural Detective's Inc: A Remembrance of Threatening Green. Filled with beautiful odd moments, Marshall pulls out all the stops, including using a whole art store's worth of zipatone on the opening night sequence alone, and the panel here, with its reverse sihlouettes on the trees.

I Am Coyote, my personal favorite, was serialized in the B&W Eclipse Magazine, and was a stunner of a story. Off on the deep end of magik ans science with Englehart again, Rogers took the art to town and went big (the originals are much larger that regular art, and seem to have a much more epic feel to them, just as Kirby and Ditko did on the twice up art) and went weird. Coyote and the Void were scary and funny at the same time, and you got the uneasy feeling that you had stumbled onto some bizarre part of Steve Englehart's brain that wanted to put one hell of a fresh twist on the usual shadow cabinet rules the world story.

While Coyote would continue as a character on Marvel's Epic line, it would never have Roger's unique vision on the art again.

Scorpio Rose, the Strange Apparitions portfolio. The Madame Xanadu one shot. Oddities that crept out of Roger's studio, but that never scratched the itch that the prior work had given us. Marshall was a visionary, but his vision let us to the Foozle and that wasn't what we wanted at the time. Mainstream comics were not at the right spot for Marshall.

I wish that we had had more issues like those of his '70's work. I wish that Levitz hadn't gone to the Dollar
Comics and simply left his and Giordano and Wein on the regular book for a year. Just so that we could have see where it all would have, could have gone without the interruptions. Most comic fans don't need the history lesson, but I want to go down memory lane, when Marshall was an innovator whose work floored me, and I wanted for people to see some of exquisite work in all its original black and white glory.

I wish that i had had time to go to dinner and bullshit with him for a while. But I can't, and it violates my cardinal rule: find the people whose work you love and tell them that. Buy them dinner and beer. Give them their props. I just ran out of time. Damn.

A nice quote from Steve in the LA Times Obituary:
"He drew a total fantasy world, but he wanted it to be a very real fantasy world," Englehart said Tuesday. "It was very striking, it jumped off the page … another artist could have worked on pages every month for 30 years and not made the impact Marshall did."


Anonymous said...

Perfect Tribute.

Hey Charles,
it's Gary Esposito, from Penthouse Comix!
How are ya doing?

Love the blog.


inkdestroyedmybrush said...

gary - good to hear from ya. thanks for the nice comments!

drop me a line at the email addy in my profile if you get a chance, let me know what you're up to!