Friendly, Wholesome, And Tough: David Hahn And Karl Kesel On The Art Of ‘Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77’ [Interview / Preview]
Ever since DC launched Batman '66, the crossover that virtually everyone wanted was a meeting between the Adam West-era Caped Crusader and Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. Now, it's happening in the pages of Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77, a crossover from Jeff Parker, Marc Andreyko, David Hahn, and Karl Kesel that takes place across three different eras, pitting Batman and Wonder Woman against Ra's al-Ghul, Talia, and a handful of other special guest villains.
It's an incredibly entertaining story that goes well beyond what both series were able to do on TV. To find out more about it, ComicsAlliance spoke to Hahn and Kesel about the challenge of drawing a story with three different flavors of retro style, and the era's perfect "casting" of Ra's al-Ghul, and we got a first look at this week's issue.
ComicsAlliance: A crossover between Batman '66 and Wonder Woman '77 has to provide a pretty interesting challenge. You're doing three different eras, all filtered through a retro approach from 2016. How do you approach doing 2017's version of 1966's version of 1977's version of 1945?
David Hahn: The way that Jeff Parker and Marc Andreyko have written the story, it spans the 1940s, when the first season of Wonder Woman took place, to the '60s, to the '70s, and they did a great job of connecting that together. As far as artistic approach, I don't know. I think my pencil style and Karl's art style unify it, and to me, what I use to set each period apart are the trappings of the era. The clothes, the cars, things like that.
Karl Kesel: David always does very nicely at capturing the sense of an era, so I think he's a natural for differentiating from the '40s, the '60s, and the '70s.
DH: Thank you! Another thing that's fun is that our approach is to do everything the way it would be done on the TV show, except if we had an unlimited budget. Stuff that they initially couldn't do regarding special effects, our approach as far as we're concerned is "well if they did have it, how would it look?" So I do think of how it would look on TV, although I do try to not bring in so many things that would be considered imperfections that would be natural on the show.
For example, in the TV show, Wonder Woman's tiara looks like material, it's made of lamé. In "real life," her tiara would be made of Amazonian steel, so that's how we draw it in the comic, even if it's based on the designs of the TV show.
KK: There's a sequence where she fights a cyclops, and when the cyclops shows up, I thought, "Would this have ever been on the TV show?" And then I thought if it was, it would look like Ray Harryhausen animated it, and then I was totally at ease with the cyclops, because I felt it fit the feel of the TV show.
CA: How do you walk that balance between the temptation of doing "the show with an unlimited budget" and bringing something to the page that rings true because it looks like it could've existed on the set?
DH: A happy accident on my part is that whenever I draw things like rocks or mountains, I naturally tend to draw them where they don't look real anyway. They look like set pieces. Whenever I draw boulders, they always look to me like they're papier-mâché props from a stage play or something. I actually think that limitation that I have, in this case, helps with the aesthetic of the TV feel. It's a shortcoming that helps.
CA: I've also been really curious about the approach to Ra's al-Ghul. He's obviously a great choice for the story, because he's this '70s Batman character with a built-in history, who can exist unchanged in all three eras. What did you look at to inform your take? I can tell he's got a little bit of the Batman: The Animated Series design to him.
DH: When I first started doing the designs for him, my first draft did look a little too much like the Animated Series character. What Marc, Jeff, and our editor, Kristy Quinn wanted was for him to look like Ricardo Montalban or Christopher Lee. Who would play Ra's al-Ghul in the series if he was a character? Either of those two guys would've been perfect, so that's the angle we went on, to make him a little more Christopher Lee-like. And he is pretty perfect for the story.
CA: Looking at him now, I can see it as Ra's al-Ghul meets Lee's Dracula, and that's pretty perfect.
DH: Oh, thank you. As things progress, and I lean on Karl a lot in this regard, I try not to be as slavish to the likenesses of the actors who portrayed them, and just try to do my take on it. I've learned that as I get more comfortable drawing these faces, they tend to be a different version than just what Lynda Carter or Christopher Lee look like.
KK: I think David's very good at capturing the essences of those people, so even if they don't look exactly like Lynda Carter or Adam West, I can still see something of them in there.
DH: That's what I'm going for. With Lynda Carter's face, she's obviously pretty, but she also has a very wholesome and friendly face. Even though Wonder Woman's a tough character, she has an earnestness about the way she looks and the way she plays the part, so that's what I think of when I'm drawing the character when I get in there.
CA: Karl, on the subject of you lending that to the look, I've always been curious as to your approach to comics in general. You've had a long career as an inker, a writer, an artist, someone who's worked on all sides. What's your process like? Do you find yourself reading through the script with the mindset of a writer as you go through them?
KK: Well, I read the scripts so I can know what's going on. I can't say I read them as a writer, no. I read them as a fan, really, and my job as an inker is to really study the penciller's work and try to figure out what he's trying to say, and capture that in ink. It's sort of like being a translator in a way, like if you take an American comic that you're going to publish in Mexico, and you translate it into Spanish. You want to capture the feeling that it has in English, but put it in a different language, and that's the transition from pencils to inks. So really, what I try to do is look at David's lines and try to figure out when he made this line, is it a soft line, a hard line --- and this is really technical stuff, but it's what I think about. Really, I'm trying to stay as true to what David's intention is as possible. That's my job.
DH: And you're doing a great job on that! I've inked, but I've never had that mindset that Karl has as far as inking goes. Karl can write and draw as well, so that really helps, but I've never really thought about it that way, not having inked a lot of other people's stuff.
CA: The Batman '66 and Wonder Woman '77 comics have this opportunity to expand on their source material. You get to not only do the special effects scenes that would've been impossible to do, but you get to do villains that didn't exist, or couldn't have existed on the shows. We've seen Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Clayface, and now Ra's al-Ghul and Talia showing up. Is there something you were excited about being able to add to that? Were you excited to do a new version of Ra's?
DH: Yes, as a matter of fact. So far, in this miniseries, I've been able to draw three of my four absolute favorite Batman villains in the '66 style. Ra's al-Ghul is my favorite Batman villain, and drawing Catwoman is great, and now in the '70s section of the story, we have Killer Croc. He's one of my favorites, and the only other character in the Batman Rogues Gallery that I really love is Two-Face, and we haven't seen him yet. I knew Catwoman was going to show up, and I knew Ra's was going to show up, but to do Killer Croc, that was a dream come true for me. I love the monster characters.
Another thing is not trying to necessarily reproduce Wonder Woman's costume exactly. Batman '66, it's easy to translate his costume, but with Wonder Woman, I try to do little things that give the feeling of what her costume looked like on the TV show without drawing it exactly. I still want the breastplate to look like it's made of metal and not just gold material.
KK: I've just been enjoying all the things they've been throwing at me. Maybe we'll still see it since I don't know what they have planned, but I was really hoping to see a Wonder Woman '77 version of Cheetah show up.
DH: That would be cool, yeah.
KK: Especially since Catwoman's running around! But I have no inside information. I'm just a fan. [Laughs]
Batman ’66 Meets Wonder Woman ’77 Ch. 4
Writers: Jeff Parker, Marc Andreyko
Penciller: David Hahn
Inker: Karl Kesel
Cover: Michael Allred
Pursued by Nazi soldiers, 10 year-old Bruce Wayne may discover his destiny in the caves beneath Wayne Manor — unless Wonder Woman manages to save the day first.
The chapter will be available for download Wednesday via the DC Comics App, Readdcentertainment.com, iBooks, comiXology.com, Google Play, Kindle Store, Nook Store, and iVerse ComicsPlus