Originally posted March 2nd, 2007
, Lady Gotham
was the first thing I drew, sequential or otherwise, straight out of art school. As such I would do everything differently if I were to draw it again, but ain't that always the way? Here are some of the things I was thinking, reading, and seeing as I worked on this glamorous mess.
I did a lot of "pre-production" and detail work for Lady Gotham that I knew would never make it into the finished product, the best example probably being the establishing newspaper shots. I was looking to highlight certain key names and phrases that would give a sense of the complicated, regimented world that Martha was coming from. To that end, I wrote a bunch of phony society reports, business articles, and obituaries. Here are parts of some of them.
In a gathered satin gown of seashell pink, the inimitable Miss Martha Kane, heiress to the Kane Chemical fortune, proved once again that there was more to Gotham's dearest socialite than her refreshingly refined sense of style. The young lady eschewed traditional male accompaniment to this year's Wayne Gala despite a bevy of interested suitors. Miss Kane was a lovely addition to the evening's charmed atmosphere on the arm of her recently ailing father, William Kane. As devotedly attentive a daughter as any father could hope for, Miss Kane did not leave her father's side once over the course of the entire evening except to bring him the occasional refreshment, herself being the near constant object of young Thomas Wayne's own attention. If the tides of rumor run true, Gotham City could see two of her most favored families and prosperous businesses united before next year's event. And concerning business, if the rumors dogging the Kazantkakis family have any truth to them, then this reporter would also conjecture that another form of union can't be far off for another prominent home town enterprise, this time in the form of... (cont. on 4A)
Local millionaire William Kane continues to worsen at Gotham General. While the Kane family could not be reached for comment, doctors say that the CEO of Kane Chemical...
At last! Wayne and Kane engaged! Society fixtures Thomas Wayne and Martha Kane seemed destined to be together, and now their families have announced that the two are engaged to be married. No word yet on the venue or date, but...
Prominent businessman William Kane passed away this morning at Gotham General. A noted philanthropist who donated over 3 million dollars worth of drugs to pharmacies and startup companies across the nation this year alone...
The bust in profile is referenced from a terracotta study for Pair of Bacchantes by Joseph-Charles Marin (1759-1834).
[INSET PANEL 4,
TAKE OLD OZYMANDIAS.]
The Bacchante now regards Martha, who seems to have sacrificed her own youth, vitality, and wild days to become a stately portrait of herself, historical before her time. Her pose is also a downcast reflection of the Bacchante's on the first page.
And for those who'd like to take this opportunity to (re)read it, "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley, particularly;
...its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things
The statues and antiques of Wayne Manor are meant to visually both enshrine and ensnare Martha, to present her as part of the collection and show her in the context of Wayne property. She ostensibly had a choice about who she would marry if she chose to marry at all, but she's sealed herself into the expected semi-arranged marriage and is now starting to adjust to life in the gilded cage.
Clockwise from the bottom far left to right, the helmets are modeled on a French parade helmet (ca. 1760), the armor of George Clifford, third earl of Cumberland (ca. 1580-85), and a German tournament helmet (ca. 1500).
Also, though the dress is an unreferenced design of my own creation, I choose to believe it's by Chanel. Maybe it's mainly a fannish conceit, but Martha is usually viewed through Old Hollywood glamor goggles. I am totally buying into that here, because it fits her better than a bespoken gown.
And awful grasp of basic anatomy aside, I do regret not giving Martha a fuller figure. I always think of her as more of a classic beauty, though I suppose the fragile slip of a thing that appears here is tonally in key.
Referenced from Bust of a Girl Veiled and Crowned with Flowers by Pierre Julien (1731-1804).
I'm a cheating cheater, and here's why. Directly below you'll see my first take on Dr. Wayne for this panel which had several things wrong with it, such as an amorphous mock turtleneck and freakishly enlarged forehead (something Martha still suffers from even in the final version to your left);
I felt that this earlier portrait of the Waynes was a much better representation of Thomas in terms of facial structure and fashion;
So instead of simply redrawing him, I used Photoshop to cunningly combine the two drawings into the slightly harried gentleman currently interrupting Martha's stubbornly deluded internal narration, which is why his face looks melted!
"Lady Gotham, Mrs. Wayne; the papers are calling me by these new names."
I love thinking about the day to day details of superhero comics' underlying social structures, especially as they pertain to the media or media perception of any aspect of a hero or villain's identity. I want to read every interview with GQ that Bruce has ever given, to go back further and find microfiche of his great-great-grandmother's fashion writeups. In the DCU, there is probably not a surface in my apartment unburdened by tabloids. I'd be like Timmy in that way... though not in any other.
This is a stock sketch of Gotham that I've shamelessly reused parts of in several illustrations, including;
Poison Ivy (The Doctor Is Sin)
Bruce Wayne (Sharp-Dressed Man)
Selina Kyle (On the Prowl)
The original unadorned and unaltered sketch is just a simple dock scene with an outlying Wayne Tech lab standing guard over a quiet corner of Gotham Harbor.
I was probably thinking of Studio 54 when I drew these ladies.
I was probably thinking of Talbots when I drew these ladies.
If Batman is a story by boys for boys about boys about being a boy, then Lady Gotham is a jam for the ladies. Or even just a jam for the boys who wondered where the ladies were, if not deeply entrenched in a life of crime, living sainthood, or prostitution. So really Lady Gotham is about images of women in comics, and that is why it's littered with stone-eyed statues gazing impassively into the middle distance. Because I'm subtle!
My sloppy take on architecture here really frustrates me because Wayne Manor is probably one of the most endlessly cool, infinitely customizable fictional locations in the fake world. It's that awesome, and yet I couldn't be bothered to draw up a floor plan and figure out where the staircases lead to, what the doorways open on? Ugh. Someday if I ever go lonely and crazy enough, I will absolutely draw a 60 page history of all the ghost stories attached to Wayne Manor over the centuries. And I will so draw such floor plans then.
Unquestionably my favorite panel in the whole comic. Everything about this moment is in waiting. It kind of reminds me of when a film gets jammed in the projector and flickers over the same one or two frames for what feels like forever before giving up the ghost.
I have no idea what make of car that is. I have no idea if it even qualifies as a car, but instead of tightening up the lineart and fixing the perspective I decided to leave it as is. I liked the frenetic quality and the sense of almost tentative form, like the car didn't know how to appear any more than Martha did, than the newly minted Waynes did.
This panel probably takes my aesthetic philosophy of "pretty gritty" too far to the gritty side of the spectrum, but sometimes you just need to let go and indulge your artistic crutches. I'm trying to be cleaner and more technically precise with my current comics work, but it is still definitely much easier and satisfying for me to simply splash everything with messy ink and then see what I've left myself to work with. But that's a bad habit to nurture, and it eats up more Wite-Out than you'd believe.
I really can't overstate the impact Batman: The Animated Series had on me as a child. I was 8 when the first episodes started airing, and I saw Mask of the Phantasm in theatres with my dad. I can barely recall anything of the actual experience, but I know I left that theatre changed. I had no idea what "dark deco" or the World's Fair was, I didn't understand what was so great about Ms. Beaumont or why Batman couldn't date Catwoman forever. I had only just turned 9. But that year of Batman hardwired an abiding love of the Knight into me and everything I'll ever draw or write in my life will probably be at least a little informed by that creepily elegant cartoon.
And yes, I know Lady Gotham's ending is almost unbearably schlocky, but I hear that's the kind of thing people sometimes like to read. And also that the source material behind this is a long format soap opera on pulpy paper, and that the Batman takes no prisoners when it comes to matters of the heart. Maybe that's the way his mother raised him.