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Year of the Artist, Day 49: Marshall Rogers, Part 5 – Batman: Dark Detective #6

01-13-2014 01;35;37PM (2)

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Marshall Rogers, and the issue is Batman: Dark Detective #6, which was published by DC and is cover dated September 2005. Enjoy!

Rogers died in March 2007, so Dark Detective has turned out to be one of the last things he ever drew (he died of a heart attack at 57). It’s not the absolute final thing he ever got published, but it’s the last longer story he worked on, and it’s nice that he was able to reunite with Steve Englehart and Terry Austin on a story that brings back Silver St. Cloud a final time (no, Kevin Smith killing her doesn’t count, thankfully). In issue #6, the Joker has kidnapped Silver, and both Batman and Evan Gregory, Silver’s current lover, go to rescue her. So that’s where we’re at as this issue begins!

01-13-2014 01;33;07PM

Rogers shows that he can still design a great page (there are a lot of great designs in this comic), as Evan Gregory and the Gotham SWAT team enter the Joker’s scary mansion. Rogers gives us the nice thin vertical panel on the left, giving us a good shot of the house itself and the weather outside (of course it’s raining and lightninging!). They move inside the house, and Rogers moves us from Panel 2 to Panel 3, and then drops the floor out from under the characters and the readers in Panel 4. This is really nicely done – our eyes linger on Panel 3 as the characters move onto the stairs, which then flatten, cartoon-style, and drop the characters while leading our eyes straight down. He puts enough men on the stairs so that each character is at a different stage of falling, without Rogers having to draw a “ghost” image to imply one man tumbling backward. The last man is already falling through the trap door at the bottom, and we see only his hands. His cry loops up and into the final panel on the page, which leads us directly to Batman. Rogers also incorporates the other sound effect into the panel, which he had done in his first Detective run but not much since. It’s nice to see it back!

01-13-2014 01;35;37PM

Batman rescues Evan (but not the SWAT team, who are already dead), then finds the Joker about to torture poor Silver. The Joker has figured out that Silver is somehow special to Batman, but our hero ain’t talking. Before the Joker can brand Silver with a “J,” Batman leaps at him, and the fight begins! This is another nicely designed page, as Rogers effortlessly leads our eye across the panels. Notice that in the almost 30 years since his work on Detective, Rogers has become more cartoony – not a lot, but enough to make Batman look a bit more abstract. Notice, too, the difference in inking from the past two days. Austin uses a good amount of hatching, but because his inks are smoother and more precise, they don’t bludgeon Rogers’s pencils excessively. Either Austin or colorist Chris Chuckry uses nice stippling in this comic, giving Rogers’s pencils some depth that was missing from his earlier work. Personally, I think Rogers’s drift into more abstract work isn’t the greatest move, but his action work here is less rigid than it was in the past two examples, so it’s obviously working for him.

01-13-2014 01;37;39PM

As we’ve seen throughout these examples, Rogers is good at body language, and when Bruce rescues Silver, we get another nice example of it. The way they touch each other in Panel 2 is a nice way to show how much they care about each other, and Rogers does a nice job with Silver’s recognition/sadness in Panel 4 when she begins to say that Bruce needs to be Batman. Despite his motions in Panels 1 and 2, the Batman we see in Panel 6 is still aloof, refusing to admit that he has human emotions. Once again, the art team does some nice work, with Silver’s face in shadows in Panel 3 as she stands apart from Batman, the shading on her face in Panel 4, and the blackness on her face in Panel 5. Austin’s fine lines complement Rogers’s pencils quite well, as Silver looks very feminine even though we’ve seen how tough she is. Even so, Rogers’s newer, abstract style isn’t perfect, as Silver’s hand in Panel 5 looks extremely awkward. Still, this is a nice quiet scene, one that Rogers does quite well.

01-13-2014 01;57;54PM

The Joker escapes, of course, and manages to start a huge fire before trying to gain his revenge. This is another nicely designed page by Rogers – he leads our eye across the top panel, and instead of going down, the Joker’s maniacal laughing moves us to the panel where Batman flips him over his head, which leads us back to the Joker crashing onto the chair and then escaping through the “hidden door.” It’s not a perfect design, but it’s still pretty good. Rogers gives us a Joker with a “costume,” unlike the way he drew him in the 1970s, but he still wears pretty cool boots. Austin keeps the hatching to a minimum when the Joker is farther away, which is smart, as it allows the insanity on his face in Panel 3 as he charges forward to shine through. Once again, we get some nice stippling on the page, giving it just enough atmosphere and depth to work without overwhelming the artwork. The shading in Panel 2 is well done, too – this was obviously shaded on a computer, but it looks old-school enough that it creates some continuity with the 1970s run. One of the big changes in comics over the past 20-30 years has been the paper stock, and it hasn’t always been kind to older artists, Rogers included. It’s harder to get a tactile feel to the art when your lines are usually fine, but Austin does what he can in this comic. It’s not always successful, but it works more often than not.

As you can see, Rogers definitely evolved over the course of his career, but it’s still difficult to pinpoint exactly why his art of the late 1970s and early 1980s seems more assured. He definitely moved toward a bit of a more cartoony style, which I think hurt one of his strengths, using facial expressions to convey more subtle emotions, but it doesn’t completely explain why his art seems less confident in the late 1980s and beyond. I can only show examples of it and let you decide. Whether you agree with me or not is up to you!

Tomorrow we’ll get a new artist up in here. I’m typing this on the 14th of January and I haven’t decided who that artist will be yet. But by the time you read this, I’ll know! The artist won’t have shown up in the archives yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t check them out!

17 Comments

Kevin Smith killed off SIlver St. Cloud!?! What kind of psychopath would let Kevin Smith anywhere near a Batman story?!

When did that happen?

I was not reading comics when Dark Detective came out, but I’ve heard of it. I’ll have to see if the library can get it.

(I WAS buying comics when the Englehart/Rogers issues of Detective came out. They are among the best comics ever.)

Hoosier X: In The Widening Gyre, which was Smith’s out-of-continuity Batman comic, he kills Silver. Well, it’s out of continuity now – I don’t know if it was when it was first published. It’s apparently terrible!

Greg Burgas:”It’s apparently terrible!”

A sample of its sheer awfulness:

Silver calls Batman Deedee. Why? Because the first night they “got together,” they “hit double digits.”

Oh, and we also find out that Batman wet his pants in a scene in Miller’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE.

trajan23: Yeah, I knew about those things. I was just trying to spare our good readers the horrible details!!!! :)

Maybe Smith should stick to just podcasting about Batman.

Kevin Smith dashed the idle dreams of a million fanboys who believed that (given a chance) their ability to reference Englehart-Rogers, Alan Moore and crazy Uncle Frank would enable them to write a brilliant Batman comic.

Silver gave Wayne the nickname “D.D.”?

Batman wet his pants?

Please tell me that Kevin Smith has been banned from writing any character that anybody cares about!

But this isn’t about Smith, it’s about Dark Detective, which I ordered from the library and should have in a week or so.

This was, in my opinion, a bit of a return to form for Marshall Rogers. His figures weren’t rigid, unlike the JLE examples before (but, as pointed out by someone, it might be that his style didn’t mesh with Giffen’s layouts). But then, his G.I. Joe work for Marvel was awful, too. It might be that he got inspired working with Englehart and Austin again, and it brought out the best in him at this point.

I understand that Marshall’s eye site was getting bad for a while and that was why his work was suffering for a while.

Kevin Smith killed off Silver too? The only thing I’ve read by him is Guardian Devil. I thought it was OK but definetly had its flaws. In it he killed off Karen Page, which makes me wonder if he goes into every comic he writes with the same general idea: kill off the love of the protagonists life. Get a new idea Kevin!

I think it possible Marshall Rogers went for this more efficient style perhaps some for speed. I Kinda understood that Rogers did a lot of commercial work and advertising etc. I’m not sure he really was a full time comic artist outside that initial burst. He did 12 issues in a row on Silver Surfer I believe and I think that was his longest run, although his style was already more economical even then.

jason: That would explain it. I imagine he was sick for some time before he died, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Bullseye12: Yeah, not the most original thing in the world by Smith!

Earl N: Whenever an artist doesn’t draw as much as you might expect, I suppose it’s because he makes a living outside of comics, so I’m not surprised if Rogers did that. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that he changed his style to be faster, either.

Wow, that art is intense. Excellent job on Rogers’ part there.

And seconded/thirded/fourthed/fifthed that Kevin Smith should never be allowed to write Batman comics ever again. He’s literally THE worst Batman writer of all time. And that’s not to say he can’t write decent comics with other characters, just not Batman.

I really enjoyed Batman: Dark Detective. There were plans to have a follow-up miniseries by Englehart, Rogers & Austin. But I believe Rogers passed away after penciling just the first issue. Englehart attempted to encourage DC to continue with another penciler. I believe Walter Simonson’s name was floated, since he penciled part of Englehart’s run in the 1970s, and he also worked really well with Austin in the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover. However, DC decided to drop the follow-up. I think it’s a real shame. You can read about it on Englehart’s website…

http://www.steveenglehart.com/Comics/Dark%20Detective%20III.html

By the way, has anyone else here ever noticed that there are at least a few similarities between Dark Detective and Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight? Re-reading it after the film came out, I seriously started wondering is Nolan had borrowed / swiped from Englehart. He certainly noticed it, as well!

I’ll agree there’s some similarities between Dark Detective 2 and Dark Knight, but when you start reading through Englehart’s site and see some of the other stuff he claims are all due to his original run on ‘Tec, it starts to become clear that the guy is an egomaniac that maybe doesn’t have a firm grip on reality.

On his page about Dark Detective 1 he takes credit for the Burton Batman movie, all the incarnations of Batman:TAS, the Justice League cartoon, the modern Batman franchise, and all modern superhero films. I’m a pretty big fan of the original Englehart/Rogers run, and I do think it was a pretty influential comic. But I think he may be stretching it just a bit to take credit for all modern superhero movies based off of 8 issues he wrote over 30 years ago.

Rogers also had one last Silver St. Cloud related story run that appeared in the LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT series, Greg. Issues #132-136 “SIEGE”. Plotted / story by Archie Goodwin and scripted by James Robinson (Archie passed away before he could script it), with Bob Wiacek on the inks.

Bill Williamson

March 5, 2014 at 4:25 am

@Jazzbo: While I agree that Englehart is certainly an egomaniac, according to Gerry Conway at least, and probably doesn’t have the best grip on reality by his own account (Englehart was actually very fond of LSD), he does have something of a point. Burton’s Batman film borrowed a lot from Englehart’s run. The original Batman: The Animated Series was very beholden to the O’Neil/Englehart era of Batman comics (converse to The New Batman Adventures or Gotham Knights, which was much more similar to then current Batman comics). In addition I noticed there was something Timm-like about Rogers’ Batman when I first read Dark Detective, suggesting that maybe Bruce Timm was influenced by him. In turn, these two things have had tremendous impact on both Batman and modern superhero films.

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