Monday, April 25, 2016

Other Dicks.

That's the image that artist Mikel Janin's created for the cover of Grayson #4, which offers a pretty decent view of the costume that Dick Grayson wore throughout the title, which will soon be coming to an end. I wasn't terribly fond of the costume, particularly the weird, almost random-looking arrangements of straps and the fact that Grayson wore a big blue "G" sigil (Of course, the bar for quality costuming was set pretty low in the post-Flashpoint Bat-family; as much as I disliked the above ensemble, it was still 700 times better than one Dick's fellow former Robin Jason Todd wore, and at least 1,000 times better than poor Tim Drake's Red Robin get-up).

Because the super-spy agency he worked for, Sypral, employed some kinda high-tech perception warping thingamajigs they called "hypnos," it didn't really matter that Dick didn't wear a mask, as no one would be able to "make" him even when looking directly at him, and his clothing was pretty much irrelevant in terms of an in-story rationale.

I recently picked up the first collection of Grayson (having previously read the individual issues it contained), and was surprised by the back-matter, which included co-writer Tim Seeley's five-paragraph pitch for the series and several designs, which show what Dik Grayson might have worn instead of the costume above.

The first image, labeled as an early character design by Seeley, was paired with this pitch:
It's actually not too far removed from his final look, and is an all-around much simpler and straightforward design (which is an attribute when it comes to superhero costume design, if you ask me).

Like the one he ended up wearing, it more closely reflects his original Nightwing color scheme rather than the green, red and yellow of his Robin days or the black and red and of his post-Flashpoing Nightwing costume. And, unlike the final costume, it has a Spyral logo on the chest, which makes more sense than a big blue G, given that he's an agent of Sypral and all.

The pitch is somewhat noteworthy in that it refers to Spyral's head as Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman, rather than Helena Bertinelli, who was the "Matron" of Spyral in the version of Grayson that eventually saw print. I'm not entirely sure why DC would have preferred a new character whose name was the secret identity of the post-Crisis, pre-Flashpoint Huntress instead of Kane, who appeared as an agent of Spyral during Grant Morrison's run on Batman Incorporated.

Bertinelli is also drawn in an alternate costume, a black and purple version of the costumes the girls at St. Hadrian's Finishing School wore in Batman Inc which were themselves derived from Kathy Kane's Batwoman costume. She ended up just wearing a very tight T shirt with the white cross on black design of The Huntress' costume and a pair of functional pants, like Grayson is wearing in the image at the top of the post.

Here's Seeley's apparent next pass at a costume for Grayson:
I actually like this one a whole lot, despite how busy it is.

He still retains a Spyral logo instead of a big, blue G, and it radiates a hypnotic spiral costume that covers his entire torso; it's a "hynpotic suggestion shirt," according to the notes. It's a very striking design, and one that would stand out in pretty much any crowd of superheroes.

I really like the fact that the pattern suggests that of the old Steranko Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD covers (SHIELD being a pretty obvious inspiration for Spyral, and Steranko's iteration of SHIELD being the most influential one). This version of Dick keeps a mask, which seems like it would be a good idea to have whether you're concerned about a "secret identity" or not. Even as a super-spy, such a mask could and would have some functionality, like particular lenses or communications capabilities. Plus, it looks cooler (I would have preferred a domino mask to such a big one, actually). The pants and boots look more para-military than what he ultimately ends up with, or the pair of super-tight jeans Seeley gave him in the first design.

Next up is series artist Janin's sketch:
At this point, Dick is pretty close to where he would end up; he's even got the dumb straps that don't seem to do anything. The chief differences between this design and the final one is the color scheme and the mask, and it's easy to see why they switched to blue and ditched the mask, as this basically looks like the post-Flashpoint Nightwing wearing short sleeves and a pair of business casual pants over his tights; if the idea was to leave the Nightwing identity behind, this is a pretty poor choice for the outfit Dick would rock in Grayson...even if it does look more like what a superhero-turned-super-spy might wear.

This series was a real surprise, as the set-up doesn't make a whole lot of sense, or stand up to a few minutes worth of scrutiny, but what Seeley and co-writer Tom King managed to do with that extremely forced and unnatural-feeling premise turned out to be incredibly solid.  Once you got over the conceptual hump and managed to suspend your disbelief long enough to make it through the first issue or so, Grayson was one of the better-written and often better-looking (although Janin's particularly style isn't one I'm personally drawn to) DC books of the last few years.

Grayson Vol. 1: Agents of Spyral contains another surprise: Dick Grayson almost had a totally awesome costume with a hypnotic suggestion shirt.

1 comment:

O. Douglas Jennings said...

I enjoyed this post. I bought the first vol. of Grayson as well and got a huge kick out of the extra art features showing work-ups. That intial art of Matron with half a skull mask is hideous! It's like an unholy marriage of Orchid and Silver Banshee. I agree with you about the surprising quality of stories on the Grayson book. For me the premise lead to a great vehicle for Dick Grayson to show off some "James Bond" skills and establish him as a continuing relevant character in the DC universe. I'm actually a big fan of Janin's art for this book as well. Anyway, thanks for giving me an excuse to take my copy of Grayson Vol. 1 off the shelf and enjoy it afresh.