Babs Tarr: From Tumblr to Gotham

 

Even though she’s only been drawing comics for about a year, Babs Tarr’s artistic revamp of the Batgirl title and the character in general has made her one of comics’ rising stars. She discarded the armor or spandex of past costumes for a fashion forward costume featuring yellow Doc Martens and a snap cape that is cosplay friendly as well as reintegrating the classic cape, cowl, and Bat-symbol for a new generation of a fans. But she’s done much more than co-design the coolest superhero costume of 2014 by bringing her design sense as an illustrator to the denizens of Gotham City and Barbara’s new home of Burnside, which is basically the Williamsburg of the DC Universe.

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But before she got the Batgirl gig at DC Comics, Babs Tarr was (and still is) a full-time freelance illustrator. She also did a lot of fun, striking fan art for things like Sailor Moon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even Batgirl on her personal Tumblr and Deviant Art. Her girl biker gang redesign of the Sailor Scouts even went viral and got picked up by io9 and a bunch of other sites. (This piece of fan art is kind of reflected when Batgirl fights an anime-themed biker gang.) Her beautiful figures with their unique clothing, hairstyles, and long eye lashes perfect for batting drew the attention of Cameron Stewart, the co-writer on Batgirl. The rest is (not so ancient) history is an artist with no comics experience and a style completely different from anything DC was currently putting out got to help revamp one of their most important characters. Tarr’s cheery character designs brought light to a series, which had become a little grim-dark due to differences between creators and editorial.

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While Batgirl has had its share of problems, Tarr’s art has been a breath of fresh air on the superhero landscape. To meet deadlines, she pencils and inks the comic while Stewart, who has worked with Ed tumblr_njql5xA55O1rttoqro2_500Brubaker and Grant Morrison on critically acclaimed books like Catwoman and Seaguy, does the layouts and page breakdowns. He throws an alley-oop pass of shifting panel structures or an old school full page spread, and Tarr dunks with some dynamic figures or a HUD display of Batgirl’s eidetic memory. (Pardon the basketball metaphor, it is March.) Her characters in Batgirl are a diverse bunch and have expressive faces for storytelling (or selfie) purposes. Tarr also adds  background details to her panels, like the books in Barbara’s advisor’s office or even a bobby pin on her nightstand. These seemingly little things flesh out even the most peripheral characters.

Babs Tarr is part of a new wave of comics artists with design or illustration background that, includes people like Kevin Wada (She-Hulk), Marguerite Sauvage (Thor Annual), and Kris Anka (Uncanny X-Men). These artists, in their various ways, put a fresh coat of paint on how superheroes look for today’s readers with costumes that can actually be worn and aren’t the usual spandex or armor-type covering. (There’s nothing wrong with these costumes though. I’m psyched about Greg Capullo’s “mecha” Batman redesign.) Tarr also adds some subtle manga touches with her figures’ bright, expressive eyes and speed lines during some of the fight scenes. She even gets to draw an otaku-themed store. She draws characters, who have coffee mugs and checking sketchy dating apps, which is personal relatable to me as a millennial Babs Tarr’s art on Batgirl and recently announced covers for Gotham Academy and Convergence: Superboy have a bright and kinetic feel that shows why she is a rising star in superhero comics.

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