(The author at the event at Time Warner Center last night, above)
As a little kid growing up, I drew my own comics and daydreamed about flying through intergalactic sectors. The closest though I got to being a superhero was sticking my head out the window as my dad floored our '73 Chevy Impala down the highway. Nothing spoke of freedom and power in the real world than a car, racing down the street. As I grew in age, I became more fascinated with cars--not so much about the engines and the mechanical details but how they looked and the personalities they took on as designers shaped the look of the modern automobile. And like with all things, when done well, cars can become art. I took as much pleasure from drawing the latest adventures of my own homespun superheroes as I did designing their fantastical vehicles which could submerge into the ocean's depths, then drill through the earth's core to then launch off into space. All on a single tank of gas.
So when I was asked to design eight Justice League-inspired Kia cars (35 years later!), I jumped at the chance to use automobiles as my own personal artistic canvas. This was a once in a lifetime type project. As much as it is about cool superheroes and flashy cars, the DC Entertainment/Kia partnership is all about benefiting and creating awareness for the "We Can Be Heroes" campaign to help fight hunger in the Horn of Africa. And that with this unique campaign, not only will we raise awareness of this terrible crisis but show that together, we can make a difference. A far greater difference working together, united in a common goal.
The first of the eight cars made its debut this week at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in NYC. At a press conference and reception timed to take advantage of the comic fans that were in town for New York Comic Con, we unveiled the Batman inspired Kia Optima to fans, dignitaries and the press.
This project allowed me to bring my two passions of cars and comics together. In order to get started (and inspired), Kia reps brought the cars to the DC Entertainment offices in Burbank where I was able to get to know each car and its unique attributes – kind of like a mindmeld between me and each car. Shortly after, I sketched concepts for each car and presented them to the custom houses which then took the scribbles and filtered them through their own sensibilities, tossing back their own ideas and sketches. In the end, the final look for each car ended up being a true collaboration between many talented airbrush artists, bodyworkers and myself as we strove to create something that spoke of the iconic, larger than life, characters while still creating a car that looked cool and kickass onto itself.
The result for this first car was a dark, brooding vehicle worthy of the Dark Knight. The custom house transformed the exterior with a matte-and piano-black paint scheme, a dramatically lowered coilover suspension and muscular ground effects kit, huge disc brakes for extreme stopping power, custom-designed 20-inch black wheels and a performance exhaust system. Other exterior modifications include a custom front grille shaped like a Batwing that took over 40 hours to create, yellow LED lighting accents throughout the vehicle and the iconic bat signal etched into the HID headlights. The colors of the car don't just resonate with the color scheme of Batman's costume but the look of Gotham City itself with it's dark, drab concrete streets and sleek, shiny glass buildings, reflecting beams of its city center's yellow klieg lights.
With each additional superhero inspired car, you will start seeing the "League" come together and they look even more awesome gathered together as the cars' finishes and treatments complement and contrast off one another. And that's one of the core messages of the Justice League – that together, the whole is more than the sum of the individual parts.
The other seven Justice League-inspired cars are currently being created and will be unveiled at auto shows and comic conventions between now and next summer when the final Justice League-inspired car will be auctioned off to raise funds for "We Can Be Heroes". For more information and for ways that you can get involved, log on to www.WeCanBeHeroes.org.
For a photo gallery of the event, see here.