Dennis Culver’s Batman Family is the ‘Batman Inc.’ Team We Want To See
Back in January, I threw the spotlight on a few of the incredible Batman, Inc.-themed redesigns artist Dennis Culver did as part of his daily sketchblog, but they were only the tip of the iceberg. Today, Culver has finally finished the project and released a massive piece of art detailing all 45 characters for his ideal version of Batman's worldwide anti-crime army, and it is awesome.
According to Culver, the whole project started from a desire to refine the costumes of Red Robin (who he rightly points out would be better if he was called Rad Robin) and Batgirl, but it clearly didn't stop there. And as for the larger piece, instead of just putting them all in one big group, Culver has divided the characters thematically into rows.
Row 1: The Core Batman Family.
Starting at left, we have former Batgirl Cassandra Cain, who in Culver's ideal world would take on the identity of Nightwing now that Dick Grayson's not using it and finally ditch her full-face mask.
Next is Red Robin, whose redesign ditches the hood Tim Drake's been wearing since Final Crisis for something that fits his character a little better, and underscores the idea that while he might not be Robin, he's still Bruce Wayne's junior partner.
At center, we have Batman, who at this point really needs no introduction, but it's worth noting that Culver drew him with the electro-knuckles he sported in Batman Inc. #1.
Moving to the right is the current Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, who used to be Spoiler and was Robin for a hot minute. With his redesign of her costume, Culver has ditched the one thing that holds me back from reading her comics: thigh pouches. According to Culver, "Making the sides of her costume with lots of lines instead of big panels just looks sleeker to me. Sort of shades of Frank Quitely's New X-Men."
And at right, the Batman and Robin of Gotham City, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne.
Row 2: Batman's Independent Affiliates
According to Culver, this row features heroes that, with the exception of Kate Kane, are all funded by Bruce Wayne, starting with Jason Bard. A private eye who made his debut in Detective Comics back in 1969, Bard was hired to be Batman's daytime operative during the "One Year Later" stories, but hasn't been seen much since. Culver's idea of him is "Batman Inc's new talent scout and all around James Bond type."
Next is Onyx, a former member of the League of Assassins who currently operates in Gotham City. Culver's redesign casts her as the Batman of the Question's old stomping grounds, Hub City, a place so terrible that at the end of Denny O'Neil's run on The Question, Vic Sage just gives up and leaves it to be mired in its own corruption. Says Culver: "I put Onyx in Hub City because she's the only one beside Bruce tough enough to clean it up."
At center are Huntress, Oracle and Black Canary, the core members of the Birds of Prey. Culver drew the Huntress in her awesome armored costume designed by artist Cully Hamner for her appearances in the Detective Comics backup stories, but Black Canary is a redesign by Culver inspired by the Silk Spectre's costume in the Watchmen movie.
And finally, we have Batwoman and Flamebird, alias Kate Kane and her cousin, ex-Teen Titan (and pre-crisis Bat Girl) Bette Kane.
Row 3: Batman International
This row spotlights characters from other countries operating under the banner of Batman, Inc., starting with Nightrunner, the Batman of Paris who was introduced to some amount of controversy in this year's Batman Annual.
Captain Batarang, the Batman of Australia, might be my favorite of Culver's creations. She's a synthesis of Batman and the Flash's foe Captain Boomerang: "Retailer Brian Khepri suggested the name because of our mutual love for Suicide Squad and I went from there."
Batman Japan, formerly Mr. Unknown, sports a standard-issue Batman costume when he shows up in Batman, Inc., but Culver based his redesign for him on an amazing redesign by artist Cliff Chiang, which in turn was based on Science Ninja Hero Gatchaman:
Next up is The Hood, Batman of England, a redesign for a character that appeared in Shadow of the Bat in the '90s, and is slated to make a comeback in an upcoming Batman Inc. According to culver, "He is inspired by Robin Hood and has a terrible costume," which is something he's certainly fixed.
At right is The Acro-Bat, a revival of a character that was only seen in flashback in the pages of the relatively obscure Chase. In Culver's redesign, he'd be "the Spider-Man of the DC Universe," which sounds pretty graet.
Row 4: Batman's Ex-JLA Pals
This row is made up of the characters I've already discussed, who -- along with Connor Hawke in the row below -- are currently "unemployed" characters from Grant Morrison's run on JLA who would fit right in as Bat-themed crime-fighters.
Row 5: DC Universe Batmen
Next to Connor Hawke was a character I was pretty excited to see, Bobo Benetti, the Batman of Opal City. Last seen in the pages of James Robinson's Starman, Bobo was (like most things that were last seen in the pages of Starman) a small time tough-guy and ex-con who decided to knock blocks off on the side of good.
In the center is one of the best ideas Culver has ever had: The Bat-Ape and Robin of Gorilla City, alias Angel and the Ape. A private eye (Angel O'Day) and a comic book artist who just happens to be a mildly telepathic talking ape from Gorilla City (Sam Simeon) who solve crimes already count as one of the best premises in comics, but in putting them in Gorilla City, Culver is playing with the idea of inverting the traditional formula.
Next to them is Arowette, the Batgirl of Wonder Woman's sometime-hometown, Gateway City, who made the team as a nod to how much Culver liked the character in Young Justice.
When I first saw the last member of this row, I thought it might be another Suicide Squad nod to Broze Tiger, but it's actuallys omething even more awesome: Captain Marvel's talking tiger sidekick (and the template for Jimmy Olsen), Tawky Tawny, the Batcat of Fawcett City!
Row 6: The International Club of Heroes
In this Row, Culver drew the original template for Batman, Inc., The Club of Heroes! Originally appearing way back in Detective Comics #215 (1955) as "The Batmen of All Nations," they've been a key element of Grant Morrison's run since he brought them back in "The Black Glove."
From left to right, there's The Gaucho (Argentina), The Musketeer (France), The Knight and Squire (England), Man-of-Bats and Raven Red (the American West), and Dark Ranger (Australia).
Row 7: The Outsiders
Finally, Culver's drawn up the members of Batman's original international team, The Outsiders. Left to right, there's that swingin' cat Rexy-Boy Mason Himself, Metamorpho, Halo, Thunder, Grace, Black Lightning, Geo-Force (who actually looks pretty good with a cape), Owlman (Roy Raymond Jr., not to be confused with Batman's evil Earth-3 counterpart), The Creeper, and a pretty awesome redesign for Katana.
Obviously, Culver's version of Batman, Inc. was just done for fun, but it's pretty awesome stuff, and you can check out something new from him every single day at his sketchjournal, where he also takes commissions!