An EXCLUSIVE look at a Bronze Age rarity …
Volume 3 of IDW and the Library of American Comics’ collection of ’60s-’70s Batman strips is in the offing and imprint editor Dean Mullaney shared with us this bit of arcana:
The Batnoscenti recognize this as a loose adaptation of Detective Comics #400 (and subsequent issues), featuring the introduction of Man-Bat, created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams.
When Dean sent the strips over, I was immediately struck by how DC artist Al Plastino — best known for his work in the world of Superman — aped Neal Adams’ Man-Bat. Not just his look, mind you, but whole images.
I found the whole notion intrguing. I mean, it’s not like the world had a chance to cultivate an idea of what Man-Bat looked like. Plastino probably could have just drawn him his way, as he does Batman.
So I asked around about it.
Eddy Zeno, who recently completed the illustrated biography Al Plastino: Last Superman Standing, due out this spring from TwoMorrows, told me how Plastino landed the Batman gig:
“Al was illustrating a Superboy story at the time, and had it out with editor Murray Boltinoff because he felt he was being disrespected. Plastino quit mid-story, and was chewing out Boltinoff in the editor’s office when Whitney Ellsworth came in to find out what was all the commotion. When Al told him he would no longer do anything for Murray, Ellsworth offered him the Batman job on the spot. They had a wonderful relationship throughout the rest of the run, built on mutual respect.
“As far as trying to draw like Neal Adams, Al never mentioned being told to imitate his art directly. In the comic books but not the strip, however, Carmine Infantino was trying to get the artists to use more angled panels to make the stories more dynamic. It is my supposition that this had a lot to do with Neal Adams’ influential art at the company during that time. Whether this bled over, so to speak, on the strip, I don’t know. Interestingly, Al had some pages of Adams’ original art. Can’t remember why he was given those, and whether they came from Neal directly. Al did meet Neal Adams, and said how nice he was.”
Bryan Stroud, who wrote a history of Man-Bat for TwoMorrows’ Back Issue magazine, added:
“Among the artifacts I was able to get was (this) rough by Al Plastino. He didn’t say a lot about aping Adams, but it’s obvious from some of the strips that he used Neal’s layouts, which wasn’t such an unusual thing for Al. I don’t mean to imply he was copying, but to save time he’d sometimes use figures or layouts he’d done previously. I’m thinking particularly of a Namor piece he did for someone and it still had the “A” figure on the belt from a previous Aquaman he’d done. Just saving some time, I’m sure.”
Bryan shared some Man-Bat roughs that Plastino did. You can see the Adams approach in there:
“Al (was) a talented mimic, which was a vital skill for the guy who ghosted or assisted on the Ferd’nand, Nancy and potentially Peanuts strips.”
The first two volumes of the Silver Age Batman strips are out now. The third has not been solicited yet.