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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Childhood Dream Come True

In 1978, Warner Brothers released a theatrical one-sheet (or, a movie poster) bearing a familiar S-shield and the tagline, “You’ll believe a man can fly.” That same year, the studio premiered Superman: The Movie, a film that would help change the landscape of science fiction film and pave the way for today’s surge of comic-book and graphic novel-inspired blockbusters. This film is important because it was my first exposure to the world of comic book fiction, and ultimately opened my eyes to a much larger realm of modern-day mythology. The power, the heroism, the majesty – Superman embodied every idea and fantasy that my budding creative mind could conjure. Fast forward ten years: in late 1988, a young, offbeat director embarked on a new quest to bring the Dark Knight to the silver screen. A far cry from the campy, “Technicolor” Batman portrayed by Adam West in the 1960s, director Tim Burton’s “Batman” was dark and gritty, existing in an alternate Gotham City that hearkened back to the days of Art Deco and film noir. To a young sixth-grader like myself, it was a shock as much as it was a breath of fresh air. Batman was real now; he was human. An intelligent, industrious, and determined hero who received his “powers” through hard work and sheer will.

Flashing forward to the present day, I’d have to say that working in collaboration with DC Comics on the first set of our DC Super Hero titles was an absolute joy. Their attention to the little details, I’m convinced, is why Superman and Batman are by far two of the most recognizable properties in the world. Not only has DC left an imprint on pop culture, but they’ve also managed to maintain the image of two super heroes that made their first appearances during World War II. Just look at how little Superman has changed stylistically in the last 70 years! From pencil sketches to final color, the editors at DC worked with us to ensure that Superman and Batman (along with their respective supporting casts) were given the same treatment in our books. Going with the “animated” designs of each character, we geared these titles toward a young audience that has grown to know “Supes” and “Bats” (as they are sometimes dubbed in the industry) from their appearances in animated cartoon series on television and in film. The design of the books followed that same animated feel, and soon we had rich, entertaining novels brimming with full-color artwork and action-packed sound effects.

For those of you who enjoy seeing the process behind the creation of a book, here is the progression of the Stolen Super Powers cover, from rough pencils to final cover design:

Rough cover pencil:

Rough cover pencil (with revised hero poses):

Final cover inks:

Final cover color:

Final cover design (with title and branding):

Art credits: Sketches, pencils, and inks by Rick Burchett. Colorist: Lee Loughridge.

As we move ahead in our adventure with DC, I look forward to the opportunity of working with them even more closely (possibly even illustrating a title myself . . . ?) to ensure that we produce books that together hold up the integrity of DC Comics and Stone Arch Books. In Season 2 of DC Super Heroes, we’ll see more action and adventure, including the origin of Batman, as well as the introduction of several more super villains. Season 3 will welcome everyone’s favorite Amazon, Wonder Woman, to the fold. After that, could we see some team-ups with some of the DC Universe’s other great heroes?

The future is bright for Stone Arch, for DC, for comics . . . for fiction!

Bob Lentz
Art Director
Stone Arch Books

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