PLUS: The Christopher Lee-Caroline Munro-Batman Connection.
UPDATED 1/16/17: Caroline Munro turns 68 today. If you’ve never seen this, dig it.
It’s NEAL ADAMS MONTH here at 13th Dimension, and we’re featuring daily commentary by Adams on his variant-cover project for DC Comics. Each of his 27 variants is a twist on one of his famous covers from the past. He provided the pencils, and the inks and colors were handled by some of the biggest names in the business like Dave Gibbons and Jim Lee.
For the full NEAL ADAMS MONTH INDEX of stories — click here.
Yesterday’s installment featured Sinestro #20, which was based on Action Comics #419. (Click here.)
OK, I’ve been waiting for this one: Robin: Son of Batman #9, which is based on one of the greatest comic-book covers of all time, Limited Collector’s Edition C-51, the tabloid treasury that collected the heart of the original Ra’s al Ghul saga.
I actually have a print of that wraparound cover, signed by Adams, hanging above my comics collection.
Talking about this issue also provided the opportunity to discuss my dream-casting of Christopher Lee as Ra’s al Ghul and Caroline Munro as Talia with the guy who invented the way they look.
He also addressed that classic division of the pencilled background and the traditionally illustrated foreground.
So, sit back and dig this:
Neal Adams: When that cover (the original) came out, there were people who would question me, even now today, did I do all those little lines with a pen? It was a pencil drawing that was done with a halftone screen. It looks like something that was done by Dore, the steel engravings from Hell.
Back in those days, to reproduce those, you’d have to do these steel engraving things. This is what that looks like. If you look at this and say, “Oh, my God! He drew all those lines?” — I didn’t draw any of those lines.
Dan Greenfield: I have a question for you about Talia, because she’s so prominent in both versions of this cover.
I wrote a piece recently about how, as a kid, I used to write to DC — because I didn’t understand how the world works — and say, “I want you to make a Batman movie out of this book, out of this (Ra’s) story. This is the one I want.” I would write in and I would say, this is who you need to cast.”
Neal: (Ponders the picture above, taking it in.) Yeah… Yeah. Ah, that would have been great.
Dan: And the outfit! That movie came out after the comic came out. It was a Sinbad movie.
Neal: Is she English?
Dan: Yeah. She was in Hammer films. And I did another piece where I wrote that Christopher Lee—this was just after he had died—the greatest role he never got to play was Ra’s al Ghul. I used to say that he would have been a great Ra’s al Ghul. She would have been a great Talia. That was, to me, perfect casting!
Neal: She would have been perfect. That’s true. You don’t find a girl like that every day.
Dan: No, and the fact that she had exactly the look!
Neal: Yeah. That’s great. But you know, what happens is that nothing is ever original. Nothing ever springs from nothing. It always springs from something. And I was a fan of hers, as well.
But I also would give credit to Christopher Lee for Batman for me.
Dan: How so?
Neal: In a weird kind of way. When I was contemplating doing Batman, I thought about Batman. Because you absorb things. It’s interesting that you bring her up because now I can see that there probably was something back there. Because you have to get those elements from something and there weren’t many women like that. She’s…gorgeous.
(NOTE: I went back and researched some more. Talia emerged around the time Munro was getting into films but she’d been a model since the mid-’60s, so anything’s possible… — Dan)
Neal: But there’s a Dracula movie. In this movie, Christopher Lee was Dracula. Christopher Lee was standing on a parapet looking down at a coach leaving on the road below. It must be at twilight. As the coach goes out, it’s a downshot, so you see Christopher Lee and then you see the coach going to the top of the screen, in effect. And he turns to walk off.
But I noticed when he turned, he didn’t just turn. He made a little quick turn to the right and then he turned to the left and walked off. And by turning to the right, he caused his cape to begin to flow outward. He came this way (gestures a circular motion) and the cape followed him like that and then it followed him as he walked off. And I realized that he made that turn to the right to get the cape moving because if he had just turned to the left, he’d walk into his own cape.
And I realized that Batman has to rehearse his cape. He can’t just wear the cape. He has to rehearse the cape because he’s gonna be in fights and stuff. And I saw fights in the old television show where the cape would get in the way. But you have to rehearse a cape. A person who wears a cape can’t just wear a cape. He has to stand in front of a mirror and move around and do things or else the cape will get in his way.
So part of Batman’s training, if he’s gonna wear a cape, is to rehearse the cape…and I got that from Christopher Lee. So when I started drawing Batman, I always had to rehearse the cape.
And the idea of my Batman—the way I did it and the way other people followed it—is, there’s a moment where the cape looks great, OK? And that’s the “photo” you take. You don’t take the other photos because very often it doesn’t work. You take the photo where the cape works. And that’s why the character looks great. And no other character’s like that. Everybody else…Nobody rehearses their cape. (Dan laughs) But it’s a great gimmick!
And I’ll bet if anybody talks to Ben Affleck, who’s playing Batman now, and says, “Do you ever stand in front of the mirror and rehearse the cape?” he’ll say yes.
You can also find more on Neal Adams at his website, here.