When Chris Ecker asked me to work with him on a new strip in the early 1990′s, his original intention was to do a gritty, modern day Daredevil type of character. He even had drawn up a promo piece, which is presented here for the first time ever. In fact, I didn’t even recall seeing this piece when Chris mentioned it last week, after reading one of my earlier blogs.
He emailed me back this scan of the art and said “That’s the art you saw and said, ‘Why don’t you add a “K” and call him the Knight Watchman? I’m pretty sure it was at your house in Elgin in your comics studio. This is the real first ever drawing of Knight Watchman. It was really just a test-piece originally. I hadn’t inked anything in a while and it shows. I had intended to white out some windows in the background buildings and stuff, but when we started developing the Golden Age and Silver Age Knight Watchman, I just put this aside.”
I must have only seen this drawing that one time. When we changed Night to Knight, we created an entire 50 year mythology for the character and started tinkering with his costume.
The second piece Chris drew was a Mr. Mask pin-up. Our apparently nameless hero still has the eyeball logo on his chest, but has gained his lace-up wrestler’s boots. It definitely has a Bob Kane Batman feel to it, but the signature is not yet Tom King’s. Next up was the original “Grandfather Clock” story (inked by Paul Fricke) that ran in Berzerker #1. He was officially the Knight Watchman now, his chest logo having evolved to a shield with a full eye on it. Both of these pieces of art can be seen in my previous post titled “Knight Watchman part 1“.
I’m posting one of Chris’ cover roughs from about this time. We had fully accepted the pastiche concept by this point and the layout was for a Deductive Comics issue featuring the Watchdog, Mr. Mask (using the name The Masque), Baron von Fledermaus, and probably the first ever drawing of an unrecognizable Pink Flamingo. An interesting note – - the cover bug at the top left of this faux cover says “Prime Comics” and not “Big Bang”.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, our Knight became the Protector for a brief period. Neither Chris or I have been able to locate a copy of the original piece, which was modified into the “Who He Is And How He Came To Be” art which ran in my previous post Through History with the Knight Watchman. The bottom panel didn’t change much except for the chest logo and character’s name. I’m running a re-edited version of it until we locate the real thing.
Chris was mainly a Marvel fan, but I was a DC guy from way back in 1962. My brother Jeff was three years older than I was, and he let me read his comics. Almost immediately I was trading comics with his friends and had grown up on a steady diet of 1950′s and 60′s Superman and Batman titles and annuals. To this day, I consider Dick Sprang and Shelly Moldoff to be THE Batman artists, with Wayne Boring, Curt Swan and Kurt Shaffenberger taking the honors for Supes.
We were both comics fans though, inspired by Jules Feiffer’s “The Great Comic Book Heroes” and both Volumes of Steranko’s “History of Comics”.
As Chris said, “My process was always to try and put myself in the mindset of a Golden Age comics grindhouse creator trying to pump out as many types of characters in the hopes that something would hit. Like I’ve said before, I considered us to be the Rich Little or Elvis impersonators of comics, using the voices & styles of the creators more than aping their creations.”
The plan all along was to tell some of these retro stories to lead into modern stories taking place more or less in the Megaton universe. It didn’t work out that way. Knight Watchman: Graveyard Shift and Big Bang #4 of the Caliber run were the only modern stories printed until the recent Watchman’s Skeletons In The Closet. Our move to Image Comics came with an agreement to stick to the retro stories after we finished up Graveyard Shift. It was an easy deal to agree to and we had a great time during our years with Image.