Three years ago, a Texas musician Daniel Johnson tragically passed away at the age of 58. It wasn’t a complete shock given Johnston’s health issues over the years. In addition to his musical talent, Johnston was a huge fan of comic books, and as a child he created several. This practice carried over into adulthood with his cassette covers and he meticulously drew notebooks and sketchbooks, where comic book images featured heavily. It’s fitting, then, that DC Comics announced that the upcoming issue of Batman #121 will feature three limited-edition variant covers featuring original artwork by the late singer-songwriter and visual artist.
The variants will be available through comic book retailer Austin Books & Comics on March 1 and sold in cooperation with renowned studios Electric Lady and The Contemporary Austin.
The variants coincide with a new Daniel Johnston: I live my shattered dreams retrospective exhibition currently on view at The Contemporary Austin in Texas until March 20. A launch event with DC’s editor Mary Javin in conversation with the curator Robin K. Williams will take place on Wednesday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets and information will soon be available at thecontemporaryaustin.org/events.
An upcoming issue of DC’s Batman comic series, Batman #121, will include three limited-edition cover variations featuring original artwork by the late singer-songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston. The comics will be published by award-winning comic book retailer Austin Books & Comics on March 1 and sold in cooperation with renowned studios Electric Lady and The Contemporary Austin.
Johnston, whose cult status won him early and outspoken support from Matt Groening, Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth and David Bowie, was the subject of the acclaimed 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. The very first museum retrospective of the artist’s work, Daniel Johnston: I live my shattered dreamsis on view at The Contemporary Austin in Texas through March 20.
Daniel Johnston’s art and music have featured worldwide in films, commercials, museums and galleries, but it was in Austin, Texas that he became most culturally entrenched. local. It is, after all, the city where in 1985 he enthusiastically pushed himself in front of MTV cameras to win a national audience and where today his cartoons and music display heroic victory and silent heartache. are proudly displayed at the downtown art museum, The Contemporary Austin.
Exhibit curator Robin K. Williams noticed a letter Johnston wrote in the 1990s or 2000s to his friend Marie Javins, now DC’s editor, asking for help integrating his works in comics. “I thought the letter was strange and touching,” says Williams, “because he was already an internationally renowned musician when he wrote it. When I asked Marie about this, she replied: “Daniel had two loves, music and art, and he always wanted to be a cartoonist”. This gave him the great idea to finally make it possible.
“I’ve been an avid collector of Daniel’s artwork since I met him in 1986, but not always on purpose,” says Javins. “He drew pictures on letters he sent me over the years, and we even collaborated on some drawings when I was a professional comic book colorist. I’m excited to see his Batman, Superman, and Orion art come to life on these ABC retailer variants.
“Daniel has always done unconventional things, so it makes sense that this is how he finally gets comic book cover from a major publisher,” says brandon zuern, director at Austin Books & Comics. “We have always wanted to see his vibrant works reach this audience. It is a great honor to make this possible and to make his dream a reality. With the help of DC and Electric Lady Studios, we’ve created something unique for comic book collectors and Johnston enthusiasts, while bringing his artwork to the same types of comic books that inspired him. .
Electric Lady Studios, which maintains Daniel Johnston’s art catalog on behalf of Johnston’s surviving family, selected the images to use for the variant covers. “It’s a complete realization of one of Daniel’s biggest dreams: to see his designs featured on a DC cover and sold at his favorite comic book store. It just squeezes my throat,” says Lee Foster, Managing Partner by Electric Lady.
Batman Issue 121 with covers by Daniel Johnston will be available for pre-order on February 14. Limited quantities of the Batman-dressed Johnston cover will be sold individually while sets of all three covers, featuring DC’s Batman, Superman and New God Orion, will be packaged in unique folios and sold in limited quantities at The Austin Contemporary, Electric Lady Studios, Austin Books & Comics and hihowareyou.com. Each partner will have an exclusive color for the folio.
On Wednesday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m., The Contemporary Austin will host a launch event with DC Editor-in-Chief Marie Javins in conversation with curator Robin K. Williams. The Contemporary Colorway Set Batman #121 with Johnston variant covers will be available locally. Tickets and information will soon be available at thecontemporaryaustin.org/events.
Austin Books & Comics has been serving the Central Texas comic book fandom since 1977. It’s no coincidence that Daniel frequented the store for many years, trading in his own original artwork for comic books. The store, in turn, sold the artwork to local fans, making it an early supporter of Daniel’s visual works. While these pieces have long since found their way into private collections, Austin Books & Comics has since featured comics, prints, and even t-shirts featuring Johnston’s artwork.
Daniel Johnston: I live my shattered dreams at The Contemporary Austin offers visitors a window into Johnston’s elaborate iconography, including an idiosyncratic cast of characters and symbols engaged in a perpetual struggle between good and evil. The exhibition includes more than two hundred drawings as well as handmade leaflets, home-recorded cassette tapes with hand-drawn covers, photographs, notebook pages, Super 8mm home movies, video archives and audio and Johnston’s vintage white piano. Visitors witness the evolution of Johnston’s work over four decades, from early drawings on the back of his homework to works created in 2018.
Batman #121, by Joshua Williamson, Jorge Molina, Mikel Janín, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles, including a backup story by Karl Kerschl and Dave McCaig, hits comic book stores everywhere March 1.