A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE: Batman’s co-creator was born 110 years ago. Dig this spectacular piece colored by Walt Grogan…
By WALT GROGAN
If you’re like me, you probably scour the internet looking for cool art by your favorite creators. And if you’re a fan of Jerry Ordway’s art, like I am, you’ve probably seen that dynamite double-page spread commission of the mid-1950s Batman and Robin in the trophy area of the Batcave, standing next to the display case labeled “The First Batman.” Well, so has 13th Dimension’s head honcho, Dan Greenfield!
As it happens, I was sitting at my PC, minding my own business, when I got a Facebook Messenger notification from Dan himself, with the line:
“You want to color this, don’t you?”
To which I responded with, “I have thought about it, now and again.”
Dan retorted with, “THINK HARDER!!!!! Hahahahahahahahaha”
That’s five, count ’em, five exclamation points! How could I say no to that????? So I started to think about it. If you’re unfamiliar with Batman’s history, Jerry’s art recreates part of the splash page from Detective Comics #235 (Sept. 1956), which tells the story of the first Batman — and it’s not Bruce Wayne!
But unlike that splash page, or any other page in the story, Jerry added some of Batman’s more well-known trophies like the Giant Penny from “The Penny Plunderers!” in World’s Finest #30 (Sept.-Oct. 1947) and the robot dinosaur from “Dinosaur Island!” in Batman #35 (June-July 1946). And you’ve gotta love that Joker card, which is very similar to the one from 1940’s Batman #1.
Plus you can’t have a Batcave scene without the Batmobile! So with my thinking cap on, I knew this spread demanded some vintage coloring and with that in mind, I decided to review those stories to keep the coloring as close as possible to the time period. Plus, I just love Batman’s purplish leotards!
It seemed perfect to make this a spread in one of those great Batman 80-Page Giants that reprinted classic stories from the Golden Age. So, here you go, Dan (and everyone else) — it’s Jerry’s magnificent art in vintage color!
Dan chiming in here:
After Walt agreed to color this last weekend — and what a spectacular job he did — it occurred to me that the late Bill Finger’s birthday was today, Feb. 8. (He was born 110 years ago in 1914.) What a perfect time to publish this piece — because if you look across it, you’ll notice that every story and detail represented was created or co-created by Finger.
I could not have come up with a better way to salute a writer whose inventiveness and imagination has been such an essential part of comics — and pop culture.
“Bill Finger was an unsung hero in comics, who only recently (officially) received credit for his contributions to Batman lore,” Jerry Ordway told me when I contacted him about this birthday tribute. “Like many fans, I drew inspiration from him without realizing what he had done for the character of Batman. As an 8-year-old, I thrilled to the Batman TV show, and found out recently Bill Finger had co-written an episode. (The Clock King two-parter.)
“As to the commission, I was tasked with the concept of telling an origin of the character, drawn in the format of DC Comics’ 1980s Who’s Who in the DC Universe, which was fun as I drew many character pieces for that project.”
A final note: I’ve been calling Walt Grogan a DIY colorist because “amateur” doesn’t seem to be enough. And DIY has more panache. But I gotta tell you, I don’t think it matters that Walt’s never been published by a comics company. His color choices, his sense of contrast, his understanding of lighting and his eye for detail are incredible.
I say this as someone who has been reading comics for more than 50 years: Walt, you are a colorist, plain and simple, and from here on out I will be referring to you as such. Your superb skill brightens this site, Facebook and your blog Shazam’s Historiama. And I think it’s only fitting to note this on the birthday of Bill Finger — a creator who has brought out the best in so many who followed.
— How DC Credited BILL FINGER With Creating BATMAN — in 1974. Click here.
— Sorry, Marvel: Batman Co-Creator BILL FINGER Invented HYDRA Too. Click here.
A 10-year-old Walt Grogan fell in love with the Big Red Cheese thanks to essays written by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson in the paperback edition of All in Color for a Dime, released in 1970 and bought for him by his father off a paperback spinner rack in a liquor store on the South Side of Chicago. Walt runs The Marvel Family Web Facebook page devoted to all incarnations of the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel and blogs about Captain Marvel at shazamshistorama.com.