13 GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS: The Groovy Glory of EARTH-TWO ROBIN
Featuring Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and MORE!
There are an infinite number of reasons to hate, or at least to be deeply suspicious of Facebook, but at its best it’s a gathering place for people who share interests — especially really, really specific interests that are otherwise pretty darn obscure.
Case in point is one of my favorite Facebook groups — Walt Grogan’s Robin: The Grown-Up Boy Wonder of Earth-Two! The group has about 400 members but man, is it vibrant, with users discussing all aspects of the adult version of the Golden Age Robin, popularized in the DC Comics of the Silver and Bronze Ages. And the best part is when users post commissions of Robin drawn by some of comics’ top artists — which Walt himself often enhances with note-perfect coloring.
I’m a big fan of Earth-Two Robin myself and to this day, I can’t believe that no company has produced an 8-inch, Mego-style action figure of the character. But, hey, at least you can get this. (I have one!)
Anyway, I’ve invited Walt to give you a tour of the world of the Grown-Up Boy Wonder, along with 13 GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS, featuring the artistry of Neal Adams, Marshall Rogers, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and many more.
Dig this — and join the group!
By WALT GROGAN
One of my earliest memories is “reading” what I believe to be an issue of World’s Finest in my crib. This would have been around 1962. Whatever that issue was, Superman, Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder were in it, as I came to learn, and it started my lifelong love affair with the DC Universe. As I grew, my parents bought me more and more comics, probably because they were cheap but also because they saw that I kept re-reading them even before I could read.
My mother was a big believer that reading stimulated the intellect and encouraged it by buying me any book I wanted, including comic books — although she did get flak from other mothers who considered comics to basically do the opposite. My mom’s response was always the same, “He’s reading and his vocabulary is growing. Can you say the same about your child?”
That said, she did throw out plenty of my Silver Age comics when she thought I wasn’t taking care of them. How was I supposed to know it was the Silver Age? When I grew up, I made up for it in the end by working in a few comic shops and buying many of them again at a slightly higher price than 12 cents.
As a child of the Sixties, I also watched a lot of television programs on our Sears black-and-white console — everything from The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Munsters to Bewitched to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and, of course, I loved the Adventures of Superman. I would get up at 6 a.m. every Saturday morning to watch the parade of cartoons, switching from network to network to find my favorites. So, when I found out that Batman was getting his own TV show, I was ecstatic. I drove my parents and grandparents crazy asking when it was going to be on. I think that show forced me to learn to tell Bat-Time!
As Batmania gripped me and the nation, it also changed the course of comics at National Periodical Publications. DC started featuring Batman more and more. He took over the lead spot in The Brave and The Bold team-up book and he was often the featured hero on the covers of Justice League of America — which was my favorite comic book at the time. So much so, that I have the entire run in storage.
I mean, how could you not love a book that featured your favorite heroes in one place? And even at my young age, I loved the annual Justice Society of America team-ups! Who were these new heroes? Waitaminute, they’re old heroes? I wanted to know more about Dr. Fate, Wildcat, Hourman, Dr. Mid-Nite and these different versions of Green Lantern and the Flash.
At 5 years old, I understood the concept of the Multiverse just from looking at the art and figuring out what was going on, so it never made sense to me why some readers found it confusing. Not that I didn’t appreciate Crisis on Infinite Earths. I loved it — and I loved the merging of the Charlton Action Heroes and my personal favorites, the Marvel Family, into the main DC Universe.
I didn’t know when these JLA/JSA crossovers would occur but I looked forward to them anyway. At the time, my favorite crossover was Crisis on Earth-A with a Justice League made up of crooks and gangsters. But I didn’t know what was coming my way.
Pow! Zap! Bam! On June 13, 1967, Justice League of America #55 hit the stands with a dynamic cover by Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson! My 6-year-old mind was reeling! I didn’t even notice Hourman, Mr. Terrific or Wonder Woman! Is this Batman?!? What an awesome costume! Wait… it’s Robin… all grown-up! It all made perfect sense! Robin was Batman’s protege! Of course he would take over for Batman! And he would honor him by wearing his costume yet keep his own identity! Look at that emblem, it’s a perfect combination of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder! And that mask! It’s a bat! It’s glorious in its simplicity.
And although Robin wasn’t featured all that much in the issue (or the next) and Sekowsky in #55 didn’t use the costume on the cover (he drew a different hybrid), it has resonated with me all these years. I loved that Neal Adams included it on that amazing cover to DC 100-Page Super Spectacular #6 featuring the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, and in that issue’s JSA group shot by Murphy Anderson.
But, to be honest, there are plenty of fans who decry this costume and say it’s awful. What’s awful about it? It’s Batman’s costume with a yellow cape and collar! If this hybrid costume is awful, isn’t Batman’s costume awful? I’ve never understood the dislike for it. I loved it so much that when, at a late-’70s Chicago comics convention panel on the relaunched All-Star Comics, Paul Levitz asked me what I’d like to see in the book, I replied “Robin in his Batman-inspired duds.” You can see how much weight my opinion held.
I belong to many DC Comics Facebook groups, especially those that honor Earth-Two, and every once in a while, I’ll see a post showcasing the cover of JLA #55. And inevitably, someone will insult Robin’s Batman costume and I’ll pipe in on how awesome it is. After this happened a few times, I decided to create an Earth-Two Robin Facebook group concentrating on the Grown-Up Boy Wonder costume.
Now, obviously, I needed content for the group as this costume hasn’t been seen much since its inception, especially since Neal Adam’s upgrading of Robin’s Earth-Two costume is the de facto standard. To my surprise, I found many convention sketches of the Grown-Up Boy Wonder by some of the biggest names in the industry: George Pérez, Jerry Ordway, Joe Staton, Marshall Rogers, Brett Breeding, the master Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez, Tom Derenick, Ron Frenz and Tom Grummett, to name a few. I was shocked and delighted that there were more fans of this costume than just me.
So, I found sketches to post in Facebook groups, heck I do it all the time. But I started to wonder, what could I bring to this art? I love playing around in image editing software — I’ve been doing it since I started The Marvel Family Web back in 1996. How about I make the sketches look like covers and splash pages, as if this character had been promoted to his own book way back when? There are tools that can be purchased to easily do this and although it’s time consuming, I find it relaxing and a nice way to wind down after work. And if I know who commissioned the sketch, I like to include them on the page since we wouldn’t have these if it weren’t for them.
Anyway, here are 13 GROOVY ILLUSTRATIONS OF EARTH-TWO ROBIN by some of the best in business — RANKED 13 to 1:
13. DC 100-Page Super Spectacular #6. The only reason this Neal Adams cover is so low on the list is that the Earth-Two Robin is relegated to the back cover but, at least, he’s there. In any other circumstance, this cover would be at the top of the list as this is one of my all-time favorite covers!
12. Ed Catto. Ed Catto drew this awesome grumpy Robin who appears to be saying, “Why do I have to give up this costume, again?” Ed used colored pencils on this and it’s very striking. (It’s a riff on the promo images from Batman: Year One.)
11. Ed McGuinness. This Byron Hamm commission by Ed McGuinness is a great ready-for-action shot of the Grown-Up Boy Wonder! It just needed a splash of color. In almost all of my coloring of the Earth-Two Robin, I call back to the Sixties with that kind of purplish-gray that was used for Batman’s tunic and leggings. It just seemed to suit the Earth-Two Robin as well.
10. Simon Miller. I loved Simon Miller’s rendition of Robin so much that I bought it. When I was coloring this one, it occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons some fans don’t like the costume is because of the cape. So I tried an experiment — I colored the outside of the cape the traditional Batman-blue and the inside of the cape Robin’s yellow. So, Batman on the outside and Robin on the inside. It was also a nod to Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl cape from her Season 3 stint on the 1966 Batman TV show. I really dig the look.
9. Tom Derenick. Another Byron Hamm commission — Robin is watching over Gotham City in this moody piece by Tom Derenick. It’s on my list to get the splash page treatment!
8. Tom Raney. Here’s Tom Raney’s in-your-face, nuts and bolts version of Robin. I really love the martial arts pose in this one. From the Brian Morris collection.
7. Joe Staton. Artist Joe Staton picked up the reins of All-Star Comics and although he drew the Earth-Two Robin, I wished it would have been in the Batman-inspired costume. Fortunately, Tim Morris-Reedy thought so too when he commissioned this piece. This was my first attempt to use RetroSupply’s Color Lab to give that retro comics feel to a sketch and it came out pretty well. I might go back at some point and make a splash page mock out of it.
6. José Luis Garcia-Lopez. Here’s José-Luis García-López with this great head shot of Robin! I normally don’t color uninked pieces but this is the Master’s work, so I had to!
5. Ron Frenz mock page. Tim Morris-Reedy is really the unsung hero of the Earth-Two Robin Facebook page because, frankly, he had a ton of Earth-Two Robin commissions. This piece by Ron Frenz was my first attempt at doing a mock splash page and his dynamic rendering of Robin just coming at you seemed perfect to lead off a pretend origin story.
4. Marshall Rogers mock page. John Cogan commissioned this piece from the late, great Marshall Rogers. I had the pleasure of meeting Marshall at a late ’70s Chicago convention and told him how much I enjoyed his work. I thought this piece would make for a great mock splash page teasing the introduction of the Riddler’s Son!
3. George Pérez. George Pérez is one of those artists who are in a group I call “How Will He Draw…[fill-in the blank]?”. When I was younger, I looked forward to seeing how Pérez, John Byrne, Jose-Luis Garcia-Lopez, Neal Adams, Jerry Ordway, Marshall Rogers, and Walt Simonson, to name a few, would draw my favorite characters and I was rarely disappointed. Here, Pérez takes on the Golden Age Batman and the Grown-Up Boy Wonder and I had to give it the retro look. I didn’t splash page it up because I didn’t want to cover up any of George’s gorgeous art.
2. Faux Robin #1 Cover. Jerry Ordway is a living legend and it’s surprising that he was never given a chance with Batman following his gorgeous work on the Batman movie adaptation. I thought this piece would be perfect for a mock cover of Robin: The Grown-Up Boy Wonder of Earth-Two and it was a joy to color. I used the blurb of All-Star Squadron #1 but gave the writer’s role to Len Wein, one of my favorites!
1. Justice League of America #55 original art. The one that started it all! This is the epitome of a classic mid-Sixties NPP cover. You’ve got a strong Mike Sekowsky layout enhanced by Murphy Anderson’s rich inks, as well as vibrant coloring. The image of Robin pops off the page, grabbing the reader’s attention. Here in its original art form its potency is even more apparent.
There’s plenty more to see at Facebook.com/groups/earth2robin. Plus Walt also has a page devoted to his favorite superhero, the Fawcett/DC Captain Marvel/Shazam at Facebook.com/groups/MarvelFamilyWeb. Dig ’em!
— The TOP 13 ROBIN COSTUMES Ever — RANKED. Click here.
— Custom MEGO Box of the Day #12: ROBIN OF EARTH-TWO. Click here.