Thursday, May 06, 2010

Original Art Stories: Norm Breyfogle's 1990 Robin Redesign

Two years before Norm Breyfogle was tapped to redesign Batman, he was also approached, along with a number of other artists, to redesign Robin.  The main reason behind this was the continuing interest in Batman, and the elimination of the second Robin, Jason Todd, and the introduction of a new Robin, Tim Drake.

"These Robin costume designs constitute the full and complete presentation given by me to DC Comics in 1990 when I was asked - along with a number of other artists - to re-design Robin's costume for the new Tim Drake Robin that Alan Grant and I and others introduced in Batman and Detective Comics," says Norm.  "The winning costume was one designed by Neal Adams, but the new Robin's "R" symbol was influenced by the "R" symbol I designed in this presentation, and the fact that the new Robin carried a staff was also my idea, as evidenced by these pages."

 Officially DC credited Neal Adams with the re-design, but, as you can see here, a lot of what Norm proposed was later adapted into the costume, but you'd not know that if you read the official historys of Batman and Robin as issued by DC Comics.  Indeed, in the Batman Vault, Norm and Alan Grant are reduced to two cover images and a minor section of text, while Jim Lee is featured so heavily that one would easily wonder if Lee has been drawing the character since conception.  Sadly, DC are still keeping up their current blacklist, despite the change in regimes.  Hopefully that might change, but I'd not hold my breath if I was you.

Until then, allow me to present to you, Robin, by Norm Breyfogle.

ROBIN CONCEPT STATEMENT BY NORM BREYFOGLE

GOALS AND MOTIVATIONS FOR CHANGING ROBIN’S COSTUME

Robin must be modernized to look tough, darker, resourceful, handsome. lf Batman is to have a kid sidekick, he must convincingly fit into the Dark Knight’s gritty, dangerous world. lt’s impossible to blend the original Robin costume into the film noir of the recent Batman movie.

How can Robin, a kid, battle adults? Some kind of armor and maybe even a compensatory weapon seems inevitable. ln fact, for Robin to work at all, Batman must go out of his way to protect him, keep him out of dangerous situations, use him for messenger work only, etc. In the recent movie. Batman wears body armor. Robin could, too.

I realized early that too great a change in design was unnecessary and confusing. Therefore. I labored to retain as much of the original elements that worked while changing those that did not work.

PROBLEMS WITH EXISTING ROBIN COSTUME
1: Too bright; Robin is living target; yellow cape with yellow collar is main problem.
2: Bare legs are impractical; looks almost effeminate.
3: Robin is a kid! Why does Batman put him in danger? Costume should be more protective.

STRENGTHS WITH EXISTING ROBIN COSTUME [THINGS TO KEEP]
1: Emotive contrast to Dark Knight: Robin “lightens up” Batman; costume needs to be a little lighter than Batman’s.
2: Robin appears more “human" than Batman. Robin is Batman’s messenger and contact to more mundane situations, thus he must be less ‘fantastic".
3: Robin’s inspiration was a cross between “Robin red-breast" and “Robin Hood” (with emphasis on latter). These inspirations should be reinforced. Robin should be instantly recognized even in new costume.

PROPOSED SOLUTIONS TO ORIGINAL COSTUME PROBLEMS
1: Change cape (or new jacket) to dark green.
2: Legs wear dark tights.
3: Chain mail or bullet-proof vest (deflects at least low caliber bullets). Staff and slingshot make him more a match for adults.

Norm Breyfogle/Robin costume design.  February, 1990

3 comments:

George said...

These are sweet!

When the heck is that Breyfogle book being published?

George

Norm Breyfogle said...

Very cool of you, Danny, to post an article about this after all the Robin changes in recent years. Thanks, man! ---Norm

Norm Breyfogle said...

I think I still prefer the jacket designs. lol