Dark Knight or Dark Art? Andy Hope’s 1930 Comic Visions

I am standing under a giant billboard for the Dark Knight DVD release. The poster is faded, and bits of it are torn. Everyone I know has seen it. I gaze up, my lips parting momentarily from my paper coffee cup. I cock my head to the left, a grimace spreading on my face, and I already feel critical.
You see, I have a special relationship with comic books. Childhood memories of summer holidays always smelt like sunscreen, sea salt, and paper. Dark ink on cheap pages, small speech bubbles and one-liners, fast action without action. In these pages, characters were living more in a square box than others have lived in their entire lives.
I remember coming out of the sea, running towards my towel (held on the sand by four large rocks, one on each corner), digging in the beach bag and bringing the latest comic book under me. The tips of my hair would drip on the page, making the ink run, the story coming to life. I remember quiet afternoons, when everyone had a quiet siesta; everyone but me and the crickets: I read, they sang. Of course, then I was too young to know how to read; but that did not matter. I knew that something important was happening in those pages, and that filled me with a thrill that I can still feel on my fingertips.

I grew up watching He-Man and She-Ra, reading Duck Tales, hunting for the latest issue of Xmen, Superman, and even Aquaman books. I think that the fond memories I have of these novels might be why I am so aware of the recent comic book-to-screen flood. Different Spidermen, Supermen, X-Men, Avengers, and well, Batmen are jumping in their Lycra (or leather) bodysuits, and fly (on a jet or with a cape) over the city skyline and to the top of the Box Office.
Some stay true to the original; some deviate. For me, the value is not necessarily on how loyal they remain to the actual story of the comic book; it is about the comic book feel that they carry with them on the big screen.
This reminded me of the adopted the name Andy Hope 1930 as he considered the year vital to the main elements of his work: the rise of the comic book to a mass medium and the abandonment of suprematism and Russian Constructivism.
Hope 1930 is known for his iconography, combining comic books, science fiction, mythology, history, pop culture, and literature in his work with bold use of brush strokes and colours. In the Medley Tour exhibition, he tried his own superhero talent, attempting to manipulate time:throughout the exhibition he revisits his past work, and identifies the path of his technique, deconstructing his work and working backwards in order to move forwards.
He uses familiar themes like the black masks from his depiction of Robin Dostoyevsky; the woman’s hairstyles from his paintings of Hollywood starlets; and the dark shapes that accompany the majority of his past work, to trace his journey through his work.
He also built an actual batcave inside the exhibition, referencing the classic Bruce Wayne hideaway, constructed with a playfulness that reminded me of my childhood view of the comic book world.
I look at the poster again. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I sigh. It starts raining, and as I begin walking again, I decide to clear my head from preconceptions, and go and watch the movie with an open mind.
To the Batmobile!



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