BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!

Saturday, March 31, 2007
Mark S. Reinhart

Copyright © 2007 by Mark S. Reinhart

I have been a huge fan of artist Marshall Rogers since his legendary interpretation of Batman first appeared in a series of Detective Comics issues in the late 1970’s. In fact, I had always planned on devoting one of my infrequent Overlooked Bat Treasures columns to Rogers’s The Batman Portfolio, a collection of plates released in 1981. I was saddened to learn of Rogers’s sudden death this week, so I decided to get busy and write this column as a tribute to one of my all-time favorite Batman artists.

I purchased The Batman Portfolio in the early 1980’s, and was bowled over by the images found on its four large plates. They were color renderings depicting scenes featuring Batman and some of the other characters in his universe such as The Joker and The Creeper. The images were richly detailed, dark, and moody, and in my opinion took Rogers’s Batman work to a whole new level – an impressive feat, considering that Rogers had already set the bar so high for himself with his Detective Comics work. (In fact, it is worth noting that Rogers drew directly on his Detective work while preparing The Batman Portfolio – the plate featuring Batman facing off against the Joker was an embellishment of one of his panels from the classic story “Sign of the Joker!” which appeared in Detective Comics #476, March-April 1978)

I am not myself an artist, so I can’t say much about the medium (or mediums) which Rogers used to create The Batman Portfolio. It looks to me as if he used heavy watercolor, or some sort of pastels. (If anyone has any information on just how Rogers created these plates, please let me know) In any event, however they were created, they are incredible images.

Now, on to a bit of mystery surrounding The Batman Portfolio. While researching this article, I came across David Cavalli’s website titled “The Marshall Rogers Fan Site.” Mr. Cavalli’s site featured images of the portfolio which showed it be a collection of FIVE plates, not four. The fifth plate showed Batman and Robin in a pose that was an embellishment of a panel from “The Malay Penguin!” which appeared in Detective Comics #473, November 1977.

When I originally bought The Batman Portfolio, I noticed that the Robin character was listed in the portfolios's copyright info – this puzzled me, because he was nowhere to be found in the portfolio’s images. Now I'm assuming that this fifth plate was supposed to be part of the collection, and for some reason some copies of the collection were sold with only four plates. (I know that mine is not only my copy that only has four plates -- I've seen copies of the portfolio for sale a number of times over the years, and these copies did not include the Batman and Robin plate)

I'm wondering if any of you have copies of the portfolio with this fifth plate, or if any of you could shed any light on the reason why some copies were sold with only four plates. I'm interested in this info not only for this article, but for myself personally -- I always felt that Rogers’s image of Batman and Robin that he based his fifth plate on is one of the greatest images of the characters ever created. In fact, I know now that I am going to have to start a quest to locate this plate because my own Batman collection will never be complete without it!

UPDATED: Former Marvel artist John Hebert contacted me to give me some more information about THE BATMAN PORTFOLIO. John was a friend of Marshall Rogers, and this is what he had to say regarding my questions about the mediums Rogers used and the fifth plate featuring Batman and Robin:

"First of all, Marshall used watercolors, markers, and a little bit of everything for the pieces, including colored pencil, Dr. Martin's dyes, etc. Secondly, as far as that 5th plate, there were TWO versions of the portfolio -- the one that you have and a pricier, signed version with the additional 'Robin plate.' Marshall signed mine at a show around 15 years ago, but I never got a copy of that extra print."

So there you have it -- it looks as if the mystery of the fifth plate is solved. Thanks, John! I did not hear from anyone who owns this plate -- if anyone out there does have the deluxe signed version with the Batman and Robin plate and would like to share any information about it with BOF, please get in touch with me.

Mark S. Reinhart is the author of THE BATMAN FILMOGRAPHY.

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