Friday, May 29, 2009

Famous First Fridays: Marshall Rogers' Detective Debut

Marshall Rogers (1950-2007) was going to be an architect, but the comicbook fates had other plans for him. He worked his way up through fanzines, then pin-ups, spot illos, and splashes for Warren and Marvel's British and b&w comics, and then to back-up features for DC Comics. That's where Ol' Groove's undying love for Marshall's (he almost always signed his art with his first name, especially in the early days) artistry began. 'Twas editor Julie Schwartz who not only gave Marshall his first big break, but teamed him up with his perfect inker, Terry Austin right out of the gate. Detective Comics was, naturally, headlined by the Batman, and Schwartz was playing around with a variety of different characters as back-up strips. Writer Bob Rozakis came up with an innovative idea: instead of having a heroic back-up, he created a villain, the Calculator, to serve as the series star. The Calculator would battle a different DC Superstar in each issue, then all the heroes would team up with the Batman to polish him off. The storyline ran from Detective Comics #'s 463-468 (June-December 1976), with Mike Grell handling the penciling chores on the first three installments. Then along came issue #466 (September 1976), and all of us spinner rack junkies got our first taste of Marshall Rogers in full, glorious color doing his superhero thing! As you can see, Marshall's style hadn't completely matured, and he was channeling Grell (for continuity's sake?), but the art was clean, crisp, and oh-so-dynamic! Check it out!

Fandom sat up and took notice. December 1976 could've been called "Marshall Rogers' Month" because we got his art on a "World of Krypton" story in Superman Family(#182)... the first part of the "Tales of the Great Disaster" two parter in Weird War Tales #51...and, best of all, Marshall got to draw the entire issue of Detective #468 where we finally got to see his take on the Batman. And...we...flipped! Next, Marshall popped up drawing Man-Bat in the Batman Family #s 11-13 (February-July 1977). So teasingly close to drawing the Dark Knight Detective...

When Steve Englehart took over writing Detective Comics with issue #469 (February 1977), the back-up features were dropped, and the amazing art team of Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom came aboard. But again, the comicbook fates stepped in; Walt and Al got busy on other projects, and Julie, bless him, called on Marshall and Terry to replace them. Although Marshall's tenure drawing the Batman for 'Tec was short (issues 471-479, May 1977-June 1978, and issue #481, September 1978) it was so beautiful, breathtaking, and ground-breaking that it truly became the stuff of comicbook legend. Any time you pick up a "best of" trade paperback featuring the Batman, you can bet that at least one Marshall Rogers-drawn story made the cut. And the version of the Batman that he, Englehart, and Austin brought to life inspired both the 1989 Batman blockbuster and Batman: The Animated Series. Marshall's art even kicked off the 1989 Batman newspaper strip. When we look back at the most influential Batman artists of all time, Marshall Rogers is always near the top of every list. When we look back at the most influential Batman artists of the Groovy Age, he reigns right alongside Neal Adams and Jim Aparo.

Don't think Marshall's only legacy is his work on the Batman. He drew highly acclaimed runs on Mr. Miracle, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, and G.I. Joe. He helped pioneer the graphic novel with Don McGregor on Detectives, Inc. and Steve Englehart on I Am Coyote. And he created or co-created such memorable characters as Cap'n Quick, Foozle, and Scorpio Rose.

I'm glad Marshall didn't become an architect!


  1. I've posted more about marshall than almost any other artist over the last couple of years on my blog, his work was so different, so influential, so amazingly kick ass back that then that it is hard to believe that he wasn't wanted on the book since he didn't fit the house style.

    There was also plenty of jealousy from the old guard that two newbies from continuity were coming in and taking the detective book away from them. in this case, talent over the years has truly won out, given the number of times that his work has been reprinted.

    I've got the luck to own three pieces of original rogers and no, none of them are inked by austin. i know that i'll never have the $$ to actually own one of those.

    Now if only they would do an absolute Batman with the rogers issues, especially a cleaned up "death strikes at midnight and three".

  2. Lots more Marshall Rogers to come here, my friend. I'll be taking a look at Cap'n Quick and a Foozle and Dr. Strange over on Blinded Me with Comics in the near future, as well!

  3. Marshall Rogers did *not* create nor co-create Madame Xanadu. Mike Kaluta first illustrated this character many years before in Doorway to Nightmare. Rogers did a fill-in story with Englehart, which appeared in Madame Xanadu #1.

    Englehart states as much on his own website.



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