Comic Art Friday: Going batty

In an era when sexual sensationalism sells, DC Comics made a major media splash a few years ago by announcing that Batwoman — a character who’d been killed off way back in 1979 — was being revived as a lesbian.

The irony of this was that the entire reason that there had ever been a Batwoman in the first place was to “prove” that Batman and Robin weren’t gay. Go figure.

Me, I think whatever Batwoman does in the privacy of her own Batcave (okay, let’s not go there) is Batwoman’s business — much like your own, friend reader. At any rate, it’s the original 1956 version of Kathy (Batwoman) Kane — not the New Millennium version, who prefers to be known as Kate — who’s “going batty” in this Bombshells! pinup by inker extraordinaire (Deadpool, Civil War: Front Line) John Lucas.

Bombshell! Batwoman, pencils and inks by comics artist John Lucas

For those of you who may be new around these parts, Bombshells! is the second of my two comic art commission themes. This series features classic superheroines — “classic” for this purpose being arbitrarily defined as characters whose first published appearance dates prior to 1960 — in pinups styled after vintage aviation nose art.

When I commission a Bombshells! drawing, my instructions to the artist are always minimal — “a babe, a bomb, and a tagline” is generally as far as I go, beyond providing a reference picture or two of the character to be drawn. I’m perfectly delighted when I get exactly what I asked for. Every now and again, though, an artist decides to go whole hog with the project. I think it’s fair to say that “Joltin’ Johnny” dove into this one with both feet.

It’s tough to pinpoint which facet of the finished art tickles me most: Lucas’s impeccably detailed, serious-yet-whimsical drawing style; his expressive character work; his unexpected added touches — the cloud formation that turns into a bat’s head; Batwoman’s shadow-puppet bat hand gesture; the bat-shaped clasp on her shoulder bag — that bring the artwork to life. Whatever I focus on, John’s sense of fun shines through. And isn’t that what comics are supposed to be about?

Speaking of Batwoman’s shoulder bag, I’m trying to think of another superheroine who carried a purse as a standard feature of her fighting attire. I can’t come up with another.

I’ll say this for Kathy Kane — straight or gay, the woman knew how to accessorize.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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