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.


icon-uk 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!”