One of the things that the WBSS Animation Art development team actually did right was the introduction of the "Square Face" lithograph series back in 1993. These pieces of artwork were HUGE (3 foot square), streamlined (in the animated style, of course), framed & matted, very limited (edition sizes of 250 with 25 artist proofs), and cheap ($250 each at retail). All these factors added up to a striking visual display and quick sell-outs…a great formula for any gallery to have. Character selection was also awesome…Batman, Robin, Joker, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Riddler…all just to start. They eventually branched out to Looney Tunes…Bugs, Daffy and all the regulars along-side more obscures like Gossamer. However, at the Gallery Conference in 1995 they threw me a wonderful curve-ball…expansion into the DC Universe, yet in the animated style. The first two revealed at the conference were Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Here’s a picture from the main showroom floor of an early-WW full-size proof and concept sketch of the GL.
The Green Lantern came out several months later, and as expected it was a huge hit and sold out in a matter of weeks. It remains, IMHO, one of the two or three best designs for a WBSS release ever. Very bold & striking, and of course the colors complemented themselves extremely well. Because of the fast sell out…I began to form an idea in my mind that I think could actually work, so I recruited a few friends of mine to help me out.
Being close enough to Woodstock, NY I was lucky enough to have "celebrities" (in our line of interest, anyway) that would visit the store often enough to develop a strong friendship with them. One of whom was Terry Austin, long time journeyman comic-book inker (arguably the greatest of all time)…and the other being Ron Marz, then writer of the Green Lantern comic book and creator of the controversial yet popular Kyle Rayner version of the character. I thought that, given the quick sell-out of the first piece and the current popularity of Kyle, that Terry (the current inker on the book) & Ron might be up for designing a companion piece to the Hal square face. There already was a built-in audience for such a piece, and of course it was obvious the demand was there. They were both pretty gung-ho about it, and after a few initial conversations Terry faxed me this design idea :
It sounded great to me, so I had Terry do up a "finalized" version of it that I could send out to the offices in Burbank so their consideration. To make a long story shorter…they rejected it, saying that to come out with another GL in the same year was not a good idea. Well, I was pretty disappointed in that decision, but it was par for the course with them since that ended up being a prevalent attitude throughout my time there. Let me get on my soapbox for a few minutes. The greatest asset WBSS Galleries had were the people that ran each individual one. We were in the positions we were in due to the passion and knowledge we had about all the WB properties. I doubt there was anyone in that company that knew all the WB Animation properties across the board as I did…between BTAS, STAS, DC Comics, Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain, etc. Also, each gallery manager had direct communication with the customers in the store and would always know exactly what they were looking for. Hell, I had about 25 of these pre-sold before I submitted the design of the piece to corporate…about a 10th of the run. Oh well, the company folded due to that kind of attitude across the corporate board as far as product, and all these years later you still see Disney stores around. It’s a shame, but at least I saved this stuff as a glimpse of what "might have been."
And to close on a rather "moronic decision" note…because I’d developed a friendship with Dan Waite (the distributor for the wall art division of WBSS Galleries), I had the #1 pieces of the following square-faces : Harley, Ivy, Catwoman, Two-Face, Riddler, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Bugs, Daffy, Taz, Pepe le Pew, Sylvester & Tweety, Pinky & The Brain, Gossamer, and probably one or two I’m forgetting…in addition to the #1 printer’s proof of the Batman Lightning Print Litho that pre-dated them all (for some reason I still have the COA). How many of those do I still have today? None.
Ah well, I suppose I can start haunting eBay on an hourly basis…right?