Let’s Hear it For Dick Sprang!

(…not exactly a Re-Run Saturday, but definitely an older creation.)

I was quite surprised the first time I encountered the melodramatic Boy Scout version Batman from the 1950’s. The creative collision came about late in 1964 in an 88 page Giant full of older stories that were quite a bit different from the tightly written, masterfully penciled New Age Batman and Curt Swan World’s Finest stories that had first drawn my attention. I didn’t quite know how to deal with story elements such as:

  • Bat-Mite
  • Ace the Bat-Hound
  • A Batwoman and Batgirl with clutch purses and masks resembling our school librarian’s glasses
  • Whirly-Bats
  • A Batmobile resembling an inverted goldfish bowl on wheels.

Camp elements just got “campier” with the 1966 Batman TV series and I found myself slowly easing over into the Marvel and Charlton circles until some of the Dark Avenger flavor started to return with superstar penciller Neal Adams.

Years later I find myself not quite so critical – as I get older and the world gets more and more chaotic I find myself more accepting of the pure escapism found in those Bat-titles from fifty or sixty years ago. I like the idea of a world where an middle-aged of debatable athletic ability can don a set of mauve leotards and instantly become a vigilante hero. As my protesting knees and back plot to  confine me to a sitting position I become more and more accepting of a world where no one ever gets hurt very badly during fights and the good guys always win.

I also look back at the creators with more respect. Contractually the name of series creator Bob Kane figured prominently on all the covers, but I soon figured out that the best work came from associate Dick Sprang. Sprang’s “perfect storm’ of creativity combined strong design skills, wicked caricature and a compelling sense of narrative that put him head and shoulders about all the other members of Kane’s artistic stable. I particularly enjoyed the facial expressions he drew and literally triggered a “charley horse” in my cheek when trying to match the gloat of one of his penciled villains.

Below are two figures taken from my 2012 sketchbook, figures drawn after the manner of Dick Sprang a gesture of creative respect. I came up with the basic concept while getting stuck at a red-light (my best ideas seem to always happen at traffic lights or bathtubs) and somehow came up with a plot thread about time-travel back to the Napoleonic era.

SprangBatSoldiers

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