Marshall Rogers: One Of The Good Ones
A few weeks ago when Arnold Drake died, I mentioned that I'm often uncomfortable eulogizing comics creators, even the ones whose work means something to me beyond just my standard affection. To be honest, it's not something that I think really plays to my strengths, but when I heard yesterday that Marshall Rogers had died, I felt like I had something to say about it.
Longtime ISB readers may be familiar with the fact that Batman is my favorite character, and even sitting here years after the first time I read it as a set of Baxter paper reprints, Marshall Rogers' run with Steve Englehart still ranks as one of my all-time favorite portrayals of the character.
That one image alone ought to explain why I like his art so much, and with any other artist, Batman leaping forward with every good intention of beating the living hell out of some hapless thug would be enough. With Rogers, though, it goes beyond that. He's not just a good draftsman or a great penciller; he was a great comics artist and a true master of the sequential format of the page.
I could go on all night about the sound effects alone. They're one of the truly unique aspects of comics, and the way Rogers worked them into the art--whether it's the screech of a car peeling out written out along its tire tracks or the way his characters dodge around the sounds of their own punches in a fight--just makes for an amazing visual.
And his page layouts work along the same lines:
Reading through these issues when I was a teenager blew my mind, and made me realize how much you could actually cram onto the page. The middle section of the image above could've been a page all on its own with the amount of tension that builds from the panels, each one a heartbeat racing faster as Batman has to decide whether beating on a criminal's going to really make him feel better about breaking up with Silver St. Cloud.
It probably would, which is what's so cool about the way Batman nonchalantly drops the guy, insults him, and then cruises out like a cool breeze, but really: once you've already wailed on a guy for third of a page...
...there's only so much stress you can relieve.
And then there's the Joker.
Brandon over at Random Panels already posted that panel, but it's always worth another look, because it's hands-down one of the best single images of the Joker ever printed: Lanky and sinister, wrapped in his own evil laughter as he strolls in, literally dropping his calling card as he casually holds a city for ransom with menace in his eyes and a smile on his face.
According to an interview I once read in Back Issue, Rogers believed that the Joker was actually physically incapable of not smiling, and as much as I like the way he's drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, or even the wildly exaggerated emotions that give him so much character with Bruce Timm's designs, I agree with his line of thinking. It's adds such a great element of tragedy to him and his motivations if he's a guy that can see the worst the world has to offer and literally have no choice but to laugh at it.
Even so, I can't help but imagine that if there was one thing that could wrench his permanent smile back into something a little sadder, it'd be the thought of a world without Marshall Rogers.
That image of the Joker ranting about infecting cattle with poison, then helpfully turning the page has got to be one of my favorite things in comics. If you've managed to get this far without ever reading Englehart, Rogers, Wein, and Simonson's Strange Apparitions, then you really, really ought to.