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Committed: The “Batman On Robin” Exhibition (Warning: Explicit Imagery, for mature readers only, NSFW, etc)

This Friday sees the opening of an exhibition of original art inspired by the relationship between Batman and Robin at Mission Comics and Art from February 6th – March 3rd. The exhibition includes original works from 30 artists, including Ed Luce, Sina Grace, Beth Dean, as well as the curators; Justin Hall and Rick Worley. I spoke with Worley and Hall about the exhibition, and they gave us a preview of art which will be included in the show (which I’ve included below the interview.)

Please note that some of the imagery is of a graphic nature and will not be appropriate for all ages.

Sonia Harris: Can you tell me how you came up with the idea for the exhibition?

Rick Worley: I was doing a reading for a release party for the Fantagraphics collection No Straight Lines about the history of queer comics, which Justin [Hall] had edited and very kindly included some of my work in. Justin read a piece he had done about two real life male prostitutes who had been paid by a client to dress up as Batman and Robin, which was a fetish of his, and I had just recently, coincidentally, done a commissioned story that had been written about another true life story about somebody who had gone to a Halloween party dressed as Robin and found a guy dressed as Batman, and they ended up having sex together. Justin and I were talking about how funny it was that we had both happened to illustrate things on that theme, and one of us said that there must easily be enough of that stuff in the world to make a whole show of it, and that’s how it started.

What made me think it would be an interesting show is how, despite both being sex stories involving Batman and Robin, Justin’s piece and mine were so completely different. The stories reflect the life experiences and sexual inclinations of the people who draw them. I thought it was interesting how such a specific theme could provide such a variety of responses, and how some of those responses tell you more about the artists than they do about Batman and Robin. The original idea of the show was actually to try to collect and do a retrospective of Batman and Robin slash stuff that already existed, since there’s enough of that in the world already to probably do 10 good shows. Once we started to talk to artists about it, though, we found that there was no shortage of people who wanted to original pieces specifically for our show. Actually, the show goes up tomorrow and I’m still getting messages from people asking if they can contribute pieces. So apparently the idea hit a nerve. I think the show is going to end up with around 30 contributors, and we’ve already had people talk to us about traveling the show after it comes down in March.

I was talking a little while ago to some friends who are heterosexual and who aren’t really into comics, and when I told them the show was about Batman and Robin and the theme of the show their immediate response was, “Oh yeah, they totally fuck.” It’s something that’s become such a part of the subtext of the characters over the decades that people get it right away.

Justin Hall: Rick and I first came up with a dream list of possible contributors to reach out to, but then the ball started rolling almost faster than we could keep up with. A lot of artists came forward on their own with work, and the response in general has been remarkable, and incredibly diverse. As Rick said, we have an entire range of artists, men and women, gay, straight, and bisexual, doing everything from classic gay erotica, to curtain fiction (“domestic” slash), to really surreal pieces. We have everything from traditional comics art, to oil paintings, etchings, tattoo art, photograph, ink washes, digital prints, etc. We’ll even have some poetry read at the opening, along with the comics! It’s really interesting how such a narrowly defined subject, homoerotic takes on Batman and Robin, can lead to such a tremendous range of art.

SH: How did you choose artists to contribute to the exhibition?

Rick Worley: The idea was to get as diverse a group of artists as possible to see what they would bring to it, as you can probably see from the samples (below). We have female contributors, heterosexual contributors, even a lesbian Batwoman and Catwoman story. We have paintings, digital art, and some traditional comics-style pen and ink.

SH: Batman and Robin are copyrighted characters, have you had any problems with using them as your inspiration for this exhibition?

Rick Worley: I don’t see any problem with that. For one thing, most of the pieces fall into the category of commentary on the characters, we aren’t presenting them as official products, and I think they’re well within the definition of fair use. Also, within comics there’s a big tradition of artist alley, where people can do their spins on the characters, and there’s also the fact that artists are allowed to sell the original art for pieces that are made for reproduction. We aren’t selling books or programs or charging admission, the only thing for sale are the pieces created by the artists, and I think comic book stores do these types of shows all the time.

Justin Hall: I’ve talked to a couple of lawyers about this, and they agree that this should all fall clearly within parody. Of course, if Time Warner really wants to go after us, they certainly have the money to do it. I really hope, though, that the powers that be recognize that slash fan fiction is a more sophisticated and interesting phenomenon than simple plagiarism or vulgarity. The art in this show is utilizing popular culture icons as the means of expression for other sets of ideas; this doesn’t diminish the properties of Batman and Robin in the slightest. It makes them more profound, and more relevant, precisely because they can be used by so many people to so many artistic ends, even if those ends were unintended by the original creators.

The Batman on Robin exhibition runs from February 6th – March 3rd at Mission: Comics & Art, 3520 20th Street, Suite B, San Francisco CA. The opening reception is on Friday February 8th from 7pm onwards, with readings, drinks, snacks, and a chance to meet some of the artists.

(Art at top right of article: Beth Dean.)

Above: Ed Luce’s art, complete with real body hair.

Above: Yssa Badiola touching portrait of the duo.

Above: Stealing the punchline from the last page of Rick Worley and Jason Quest’s comic.

Above: Painting by Craig Bostick.

Above: Adorable bat-messaging art from Mari Naomi.

Above: Justin Hall’s Kama Sutra-inspired dynamic duo.

15 Comments

Pretty much what I expected to see.

Wertham was right! lol

I’ve known Ed Luce for years, great artist who is really influenced by the best things in comic. For a treat, check out his awesome self-published work (attached to the link on my name). Fun slice of life stuff, and his tie in to underground and classic indie music make it very real in the vein of Scott Pilgrim.

Why did I look? I love slashy stuff as much as the next girl, but I just can’t with Batman and Robin. Fills me with visceral horror. Now, if those pictures were of Boostle or Batman/Superman.

At least none of them are Damian. I hope.

Those illustrations made me laugh.

Time Warner will at least put out an cease and desist order on this. In 2005, Time Warner sued Mark Chamberlain over his Gay Batman and Robin homosexual watercolors. The Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery in New York showed them.

http://www.kathleencullenfinearts.com/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4167032.stm

The name “Bruce” acquired sinister aspects due this duo.

I recall someone noted that Michael Jackson named his favorite hero as Batman. The host noted that of course he would admire a man living with a young boy in a cave. Perhaps Jay Leno had this skit.

Howard Stern did a skit on the death of George Reeves, imagining it had happened during his guest appearance on I Love Lucy, and emulating Fred Mertz said “Where’s that f*** Batman?”. Ricky asked “What? so Mertz says “Running around with that little boy in a cape”. (The skit also referred to a female Green Lantern.)

GQ or Esquire had a note about this, comparing the Boy Wonder and his Partner to NAMBLA.

US Weekly had an article noting the 1995 and 1997 films with O’Donnell as Robin with their peculiar emphasis on codpieces.

The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight [Ben Leibrand DMC Remix …The Sugarhill Gang Rapper’s Delight [Ben … Just let me quit my boyfriend called superman I said he’s a fairy I do suppoose Flyin through the air in pantyhose

Check out Back to the Batcave for notes on this situation (West claims the spandex serves as an adjustement for wind resistance, which may work for the Flash, but not for someone who wears a cape as much). One should note the work of Frederick Wertham.

Also, some people have referred to the source of the name “Bruce” as a name for child predators comes from this.

Sadly, per an episode of America’s Most Wanted, a child predator did dress up as Adam West, took a boy dressed as Burt Ward trick or treating, and then assaulted him.

Also check out an upcoming skit film with Leslie Bibb

Nothing like implying that homosexuals are pedophiles!

I’d like to point out that “Rick Worley’s comic” has a writer, who also appears in it (half)dressed as Robin. His name is “Jason Quest”. Thank you. :)

Maybe I’m the oddball heterosexual, but the thought of Batman and Robin in a homosexual relationship never occured to me. If anything, its a father and son relationship.

I think the gays try too hard to see something that isn’t there.

Maybe I’m the oddball heterosexual, but the thought of Batman and Robin in a homosexual relationship never occured to me. If anything, its a father and son relationship.

I have been going through the Batman comics from the beginning in batch reading. I’m almost up to the “new look” Batman, at the era of where all the aliens come in. I can honestly say, now that I’ve batch read it for myself, I can totally see the homosexual subtext in the book WAY more than the father-son subtext. I totally don’t believe that the homosexual subtext is at ALL deliberate but rather is unintentional, but I definitely can see it, or at least see it more than I can the father-son dynamic. I think the father/son thing was something pushed by Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans that people assume was always there. They were more of pals/brothers in my opinion when you actually read the stories.

Tom Fitzpatrick

February 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm

What? No Batwoman/Catwoman/Batgirl threesome? The horror, the horror …

[...] “Batman on Robin” art exhibition at Mission: Comics and Art – It was a great exhibition, if you’re in the area I would definitely suggest stopping by. It’s a quick exhibit but well curated. Warning: some of the art is of an explicit nature. [...]

[...] a truly eye opening situation, wish I had taken my camera. You can read more on this event at this link. Be aware it contains sexual content. Yes you really will see everything in San Francisco and you [...]

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