Steve Englehart pays tribute to his artistic collaborator …
(UPDATED 1/22/2017: Marshall Rogers would have been 67. Sadly, he died in 2007. To remember one of my very favorite artists, I called upon his Batman collaborator, Steve Englehart, to write a tribute and he graciously agreed with this bittersweet remembrance. — Dan)
By STEVE ENGLEHART
Think, for a moment, about the thing you most love to do. Now, if that’s the thing most people know about you, add that in. Got it? Now imagine that somebody won’t ever let you do it. That’s the problem Marshall Rogers faced at the end of his life.
He was known to most people as one of the great Batman artists, possibly the greatest of all time — and he wasn’t allowed to draw Batman. He had burst unheralded on the scene along with Terry Austin as the artistic end of the definitive Batman.
He had gone on for another couple of years as the great Batman artist. Then he’d turned his attention to other things — and when he tried to come back, he was treated as if he had never existed — as if the stories he’d done had just appeared out of thin air.
He got no credit, no bonuses, not even an attaboy. Thirty years went by, without a week that someone didn’t ask him, “Why don’t you do Batman anymore?” as if it were up to him.
Finally, to help sell one of the movies that were generated by those definitive Batman stories, he was asked to do a sequel. He did, and then the company wanted to put him back in the drawer again.
But the fan reaction was such that they reluctantly green-lit a third series … and their reluctance played out every day in the obstacles they threw up before him, foreshadowing a future where drawing the Batman would cause him more and more anxiety.
The thing he loved to do, the thing everybody knew him for, the thing that filled his life just then, was dying before his eyes. And then he died, at the age of 57.
But strangely, stubbornly, the work lives on despite it all, and that means Marshall Rogers is with us still.
Englehart and Rogers (and Austin) were the team that brought back Hugo Strange and Deadshot from obscurity, and delivered one of the absolutely greatest Joker stories of all time, “The Laughing Fish.” I’m proud to say that Rogers is one of the very few artists whose work graces the walls of my home. As I’ve written before, it kills me that their full, classic collaboration is no longer in print, though you can get Rogers’ portion in the posthumously published “Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers” from DC. Their Detective Comics run lasted from #471-#476. The first two chapters of that story, featuring art by Walt Simonson, ran in #469-#470. Rogers remained on the title for a couple issues after Englehart left. They reunited with the “Dark Detective” mini-series in 2005. Here’s a cover gallery, led by the print I have framed on my wall. — Dan