Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Batman Doc Savage'
Special one-shot, 'First Wave Begins', November 2009

or, DC adopts the Mad Men aesthetic 

Growing up in the late 60s and early 70s meant seeing Doc Savage paperbacks, with their distinctive cover illustrations by the great James Bama, on the paperback stands in every drugstore or five-and-dime. So I’m always interested when another iteration of the Doc Savage franchise pops up in the world of comics.

DC’s ‘Batman / Doc Savage’ Special (November 2009, publication date January 2010) one-shot is a teaser for a forthcoming effort by DC to release a line of books that (to my mind, at least) cashes in on the ‘Mad Men’ cultural phenomenon. These so-called ‘First Wave’ titles are scheduled to start appearing on shelves in March 2010.

If Batman / Doc Savage is any indication, the First Wave line will be an uneasy mashup of vaguely Art Deco, postwar Atomic Age,  and early 60’s designs and visual themes. Instead of being set in the 30s, as one might expect with a pulp hero like Doc Savage, writer Brian Azzarello places Batman / Doc Savage  in a retro-inspired landscape that shows careful devotion to the Mad Men aesthetic. 

Let’s take this series of panels that depict a confrontation between Doc and Bruce Wayne at a high-society soiree:



Phil Noto's pencils, layout, and color scheme (women with pink, bouffant hairdos ?!) all are clearly derived from late 50's / early 60’s advertising and graphic art approaches to illustration, as these examples of  Jack Potter's artwork from that era demonstrate:

(Jack Potter illustrations taken from 'Jack Potter: A Teaching Legacy' by Michael Newton, Illustration magazine, Issue 18, Winter 2007, pp. 94 & 100)

How well will a style of illustration more at home in an issue of  'Woman's Day' from 1962 come across for a superhero comic series published in 2010 ? Will 'First Wave', which is planned to feature not only Batman and Doc Savage, but potentially The Spirit, Black Canary, Richard Henry Benson ('The Avenger'), and the Blackhawks, among others, be yet another bloated, over-exposed onslaught to separate as many shekels as possible from the fanboys (like 'Blackest Night')  ?

At this point the jury's still out; 'Batman / Doc Savage' is just a teaser and it's unfair to judge an upcoming series based on one preview. I guess I'll wait 'till March, and see what develops.....

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