Austin graphic design company celebrates Batman anniversary with gallery exhibition

Alex Pelham

Over the past 75 years, the comic book protagonist Batman has been reincarnated in many forms, from a cartoon to an Academy Award-winning film. An Austin-based graphic design company is now adding to the list of reincarnations with an exhibit featuring the work of more than 30 artists who recreated the world of Batman through a variety of posters, paintings and sketches.

The company, Mondo, started out by creating movie posters to promote Alamo Drafthouse films, but now designs DVD covers, toys and vinyl records, according to Mondo CEO Justin Ishmael. When it came to the exhibit, which opened Oct. 24, Ishmael said Mondo focused on finding artists who could explore the different iterations of Batman to present in the exhibit.

“Batman is one of the most malleable heroes; we have several different iterations of him,” Ishmael said. “There’s always something to talk about with him. Batman can get a conversation going.”

N.C. Winters, an artist from San Diego, contributed a painting to the exhibit. The piece, titled “Man of Bats,” depicts Batman as a grotesque, bat-like creature clothed in the iconic Batsuit.

“I jumped at the chance to be a part of the exhibit,” Winters said. “I wanted to go with a visceral, gruesome version of Batman. I wasn’t sure about the liberties I took with the character; you never know what might raise an eyebrow.”

Winters said he enjoys the complexity of Batman.

“He’s a tortured guy, with a dark past that channels hurt and anger to create justice,” Winters said, “I never get the impression that he goes home at the end of the night satisfied.”    

Toronto artist Jason Edmiston made a painting titled “Watch the World Burn” for the exhibit. It honors late actor Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in the 2008 film “The Dark Knight.”    

“I’d been itching to do a poster of Ledger for a while,” Edmiston said. “Fans of [the Joker] like that he’s ‘yin’ to Batman’s ‘yang.’ He’s entertaining and has a likability — even when he does these evil things.”

Edmiston has worked with Mondo for about five years, creating movie posters for several gallery shows. He said he enjoyed working with Batman characters because of how grounded in reality they are.

“Superhero movies get a lot of flak for portraying gritty versions of superheroes,” Edmiston said. “But it works great with Batman because he’s a detective. He’s also very human and so are the villains.”

Radio-television-film alumnus Marshall Copous, visited the gallery opening because he was a fan of the 1992 animated series. He said the Christopher Nolan Batman films also struck a chord with him because of their dramatic retelling of The Dark Knight’s story.

“I think what’s so unique about Batman is that he’s born of empathy,” Copous said. “The reason we can connect with him is because he comes from this nature to do good. He’s a guy who could exist — even though it would be impractical.”

Winters said Batman deserves a place in art culture, and Mondo’s exhibit has helped to allow that.

“I don’t picture Superman having the same graphic strength as the silhouette of Batman,” Winters said. “Those few [drawn] lines tell you who that character is. He has a longevity. I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”