Back in January I got a call from MAD art director Sam Viviano about a side project they were working on—DC wanted to celebrate MAD‘s 60th anniversary with a series of variant covers by the Usual Gang of Idiots for thirteen of their titles. Knowing that I am a huge Batman fan, Sam suggested to the MAD editors that I get to do one of the Batman titles. I was assigned the cover of “Detective Comics”. Given my own choice, I would have picked Detective as well, as opposed to “Batman”. Detective Comics was the title I collected as a kid, and it being the title with the first appearance of Batman it will always be THE Batman title for me. I was thrilled with the assignment… it fulfills a long-time dream of mine to draw Batman for DC. Of course I’d me making fun of him, but if you can’t make fun of something you like then you should save up your money and buy yourself a sense of humor.
The gags on most (but not all) of these covers were written by the MAD staff, and I was sent a rough of the general gag… Alfred as Man-Bat flying off having just left a pile of guano on the hood of the Batmobile. Nothing says “MAD” more than a feces gag. Actually there was some discussion on this… we weren’t sure if the gag worked better with Alfred as Man-Bat or as a regular bat. So I did two roughs:
The second I didn’t spend much time on since as I did it I know it was not going to be the one, although I liked the angle a bit better and it allowed me to do more of the Gotham skyline and add the ” MAD zeppelin” gag in the moon. It’s funnier to have Man-Bat do the deed, as opposed to a real bat, as with Man-Bat you can assume he did it on purpose. Also there is more of a reason for Man-Bat to look like Alfred as opposed to a real bat. Anyway they went with the first sketch.
Not really much more to say about it after that. There was some discussion that the pile of crap I drew was TOO big, so that got dialed down a little (it’s funnier to make it a superhuman pile of crap), and I pointed out that I cheated the proportions of Batman vs. the batmobile so I could make Batman larger and still get the full batmobile in there. If anybody noticed that i could always claim I went to the Rob Liefeld school of proportion. I decided to do my line and color style since it was a comic book and most of them have traditional ink and color covers. Here are the inks and original final color (clicky to embiggen any):
Color-wise I tried to get close to the kind of colors you see in comics these days, muted and unsaturated. In hindsight I should have stuck with a more MAD-like palette, and Sam rightly pointed out to me they’d wanted more of the colorful look. So I did a little tweaking of the color for the final, based on Sam’s suggestions:
So that’s my adventure in Batman comics. I am pretty sure the art team for Detective is not worrying about their job security. Fun to do, I am looking forward to seeing the cover in print next month.