Neal Adams is a comic book artsit and illustrator. Adams is particularly famous for his work on Batman in the 1970's. In 1990, he was asked to redesign Robin because the "film company" was pressuring DC for a more screen worthy costume. This costume started being used in the comics in 1991, and later the animated series in 92. Adams also created unused designs for McDonald's Batman Forever glass mugs.
Redesigning Robin's costumeEdit
I worry about people not solving problems that can be solved in a reasonable way. Like Robin. The problem with Robin came up when the movie company wanted to do Robin in the movies. So they said to DC, “We have to redesign Robin.” They couldn’t use Robin the way he was. And DC was stuck with the problem of what to do. So they called me — a very smart thing to do in my humble opinion — and they said, “Can you do some new designs for Robin?” I said, “Are you asking me to redesign Robin?” They said, “Yeah, we are asking you to redesign Robin.” I said fine and I started to work.
Then I heard through the grapevine that they asked 12 or so other people to redesign Robin. So I had my daughter, Kris, call DC and say, “This redesign thing is going to cost you some money if you want Neal to do it.” They said, “We want Neal to do it.” They ask how much money. She tells them. She said, “What’s happening now is, you’re casually asking Neal to redesign Robin, you’re not telling Neal why. We have a feeling something is going on. You’re not telling Neal it is important or that you’re getting other people to do redesigns, and that he is in competition with other people.” They said, “Oh, no, we don’t have to tell Neal that.” She said, “No you don’t, but on the other hand since Neal is going to win the competition, Neal is not going to sit there with the other 12 guys and just do designs until the cows come home. We are going to charge you professionally, the way we would do it for an advertising agency, if you want Neal to work on it.” They said, “Well, we want Neal to work on it.”
They wanted me to work on it because the film company was saying they would change it. So I started to submit some designs. The most important thing that I did was realize the character had to remain Robin, but had to be a new Robin, and there were some things that were really wrong. Like his legs were bare, that didn’t make any sense. He wore these little elf boots, that didn’t make any sense. His colors were too bright — yellow and red — and he was going to be out at night, it doesn’t make any sense.
So how do you solve all those problems and still not change Robin? Aren’t you talking about designing Batman Jr.? So I started to solve problems as much as I could. I didn’t care about what the others guys were doing. I have done this before on a professional basis. I have designed costumes for stage plays and other stuff. I was solving problems and applying them to a costume. They were just designing costumes. Which was fine, but that was not what the problem was. The problem was how do you make this Robin valid? Turn the boots into ninja boots, cover the legs, deepen the colors on the costume so they were more in [line] with the Batman, put packet things on the sleeves to carry weapons, redesign the mask, redesign various things. Anyway, after a few designs I came up with what I think is the key important design to the Robin costume, and that is that the cape is yellow on the inside and black on the outside. (...) When he stands with his cape thrown back, it’s still yellow and he is still Robin; justifying the yellow cape. So he can actually be Robin, he can have the Red vest; he can have the yellow cape over his shoulders. So we have saved the Robin. That, of course, was the costume that the film company loved. They said, “This is terrific. This solves all of our problems. There were problems they didn’t explain to me, but they were problems I already know because I know this shit. I know this shit because I am supposed to be a professional.
So, I had done it. Then they asked DC, “Could you have your designer go one step further? Have him give Robin a darker costume, closer to Batman’s costume.” So, I did. I created another Robin costume. Then I had Kris get on the phone with DC Comics and she said to them exactly what I am going to say to you. “Neal is going to send over a Robin costume. We recommend that you do not show it to the film company. You will sort of like it. It’s not Robin, it’s a dark costume. They will love it because they want a dark Robin. You have already shown them a successful Robin. If you show them this costume they will buy this costume and you will destroy your licensing for Robin forever. We are going to send it over, but we recommend that you do not show it to them. [Make up whatever excuses you can to not show it to them. You can say, “You know, we have gone far enough. We have changed the Robin costume enough. We have cooperated enough. We are not going to go any further we are not going to do any more designs.” We recommend you not show it because it looks too good. Do not show it.”I don’t think they did. I don’t think they showed it. I think they made the argument and they probably got it through, or they showed it and said, “You are going to destroy our licensing if you do this.” Whatever it is they decided to go with the one before that, with the black on the outside and the yellow on the inside, and that became the Robin costume. And they paid the price for it. Of course they used something I would do. I don’t think it is any kind of arrogance to say that if I do this professionally for other things I should know what I am doing, and I am the right person to go to. It is not meant as a criticism or slight to any of the other guys, because they were really not given the full information. They weren’t explained the problem, they were just saying give us a new Robin costume. So they filled the book with those Robin costumes, and you can see them, but it was not problem solving.
- Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part IV, ComicsBulletin.com
- ↑ Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part IV, by Rik Offenberger, via WayBack Machine - ComicsBulletin.com