Sunday, January 18, 2009

Original Art Stories: Batman #460: A Tale Of Two Covers

One of the best things about plunging into an official biography is the sheer volume of material that you tend to collect. Most of that research material generally goes into the vaults or the bin depending on the quality and relevance to the project at hand. And it matters not how much research you do, eventually something is going to pop up that'll take your breath away and cause one of those special moments of amazement, which is exactly what happened here.

In mid 2008 I was offered a pile of material relating to Norm Breyfogle, who I was still the official biography for, after being commissioned by A First Salvo. Sadly the bio is now in search of another publisher, but that can wait until it's fully completed. In amongst the material were documents, scripts and pages of original art, preliminaries, sketches and much more. It was one of those finds that you always hear someone else grabbing, in this case it was me.

Amongst the cache was an envelope with the original script, preliminaries and material relating to Batman #459, as created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle and inked by Tim Sale. I've written about that elsewhere, primarily because it featured one of the rare occasions that Grant had drawn material, in addition to writing the script, to assist Norm. What made the find so valuable though is that it might well be the only existing Batman related (and I'm not talking about one-shots here) material that still exists, as Norm has admitted that he threw all of his preliminaries and other material out around 1999-2000.

Hiding in the package was a single page with two sketch ideas for the following issues, #460, cover. The finished cover, as it exists, is another of Norm's fine efforts, but clearly it wasn't the original concept. One of the ideas, shown to the right here, was rejected, and I can see why - the background is just a little too close to the cover background of Batman #459. But it's the other cover concept that really makes me smile.

In this case the cover was thought out well in advance. It had to be as Norm had to get approval for the covers before he began to physically draw them. In the finished version, Catwoman's right arm is repositioned but that's not all - the background in the printed version has a series of cats stalking, just normal cats. But that isn't what is featured in Norm's original sketch.

In the sketch are several other, well, more famous cats. Norm has not only drawn them but also labelled them. In the original sketch we have, Karnak Cat, Calvin & Hobbes, Puss In Boots, Cat In The Hat, Felix The Cat and Garfield, amongst others, and what is my favourite, Krazy Kat about to be beaned, again, by Ignaz. At the bottom of all of this is a note to Denny O'Neil: "Denny: if these various cartoon cats can't be used, I'll just use other, more general, feline imagery. Norm"

I'm not sure what made Norm think that DC would allow such a cover to be used, but damn I'm glad it still exists in some form. Two covers, one rejected outright, the other probably gave someone in DC's legal department a minor heart attack. Brilliant! Next time around I'll post some sketches for the proposed Prime toy.

2 comments:

Satima Flavell said...

What a stroke of luck, Danny, that you got your hands on that little lot. Nice to win a Treasure Hunt sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe Norm would have thought the editors at DC would have gone for this. Maybe he was just having fun with it and didn't care? Either way, very cool. I particularly like seeing the Cat in the Hat's Hat.
George "The Stooges"