21 February 2010

Portrait of a Young Artist as a Robin Fan

Last year Sean Kleefeld, author of Comic Book Fanthropology, looked back on his early-childhood interest in Robin, prompted by his parents’ discovery of a drawing he’d made at about age four. Kleefeld wrote:

it looks like it was done by a child, of course, but it had all the elements that defined Robin visually, including the lacing up the front of his shirt. (Interestingly, while I managed to get those types of details in place, I still only gave him three fingers on each hand.)
Which shows how much comics characters are defined by the visual traits that set them apart, like a costume, rather than those we can simply assume, like five fingers. After all, there’s a whole school of cartooning that eschews unnecessary fingers.

On the topic of that costume, Kleefeld muses:
I have to say that I actually did like the short cape and flared bootlets. It definitely gave the impression of a child/elf with a flair for the dramatic and acrobatic. The collar around the cape was a nice touch, I always thought. He looked like a circus performer having fun.
He even got his mother to make him a costume.

Other very young artists’ versions of Robin here and here.


Anonymous said...

It has to be said that the original Robin costume was visually unique and memorable (for good or ill); the short sleeves, the flared gloves, the bloused tunic with the lacings, the shorts and the pixie boots, there really WAS no other costume remotely like it. (Doctor Midnite had a slightly more "grown up" version of the concept in his character), and you could tell just from the silhouette or the first few lines of a sketch that that was who it was, moreso than almost any other character.

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, looked at from a purely artistic point of view, the original Robin costume works. It makes the character distinct. It reflects his show-biz roots and his generally fun-loving character.

Of course, that costume wasn’t realistic. But as Douglas Wolk says in Reading Comics about the superhero stories as a whole, “Of course they’re not realistic! That’s the whole point!”