I got the chance to talk to artist Ray Mendoza, about his Batgirl redesign done for Project Rooftop. This entry marks the second occasion in which he’s submitted a design for one of the site’s competitions. For clarity’s sake, I asked Ray a few questions in regards to his vision of his particular portrayal of Batgirl.
Daniel Jude Renard: Who is she?
Ray Mendoza: If I were to characterize her, I would definitely, like, just the way she’s shaped, she would fit the gymnast format. More than anything a gymnast, I wanted her to be like, “Hey, I can do flips!” But at the same time, be smart and tech-savvy. So she doesn’t carry a lot of weapons on her. She can operate in ways other than just physically, too.
Tell me about the bat symbol or…
Lack thereof? Rather than having it just pasted on her somewhere, I wanted her to encompass the bat. Like, she is “BAT-girl.”
What else can you say about your pattern choices?
I didn’t want to make it too exoskeletony… like with other things I had seen which opt out the traditional Bat-family form. I wanted it to have the kind of subtlety that people can look at it and say, “Huh, that’s interesting.” So if you look at it long enough, you can start to see that bat. Like, it’s a big bat head chasing you. Aside from that, I wanted to steer away from the usual color coded boots, belt, and gloves. I wanted to make a body suit reminiscent of what Nightwing already has.
What can you say about your color choices?
I definitely wanted to keep it away from regular Batgirl colors which were purple and yellow for the most part. The bat family is known for operating in the dark, and the bright yellow never made sense to me. I initially thought gray and black, but you see that everywhere, and those tones don’t exactly jump off the page anyway. In order to stray away from matching other character color schemes, I wanted to at least pick a color that I hadn’t seen anywhere before. Eventually, I thought of tan and teal. It’s green, but it’s not Tron-like. It’s subtle. It defines itself against black, and the tan does come in, too. It’s the inner cape color if you stare at it long enough.
How much practicality did you work into the design in terms of weapons?
Well, initially, where it all began, I wanted her to fight using a ropedart or meteor hammer. All she needed was a string with something heavy on the end of it. She’d just be really fancy and control her ground movement, but you see that a lot in Catwoman, so I tried to stay with the idea that she’s more of a gymnast and tech-savvy. I also thought about technological advancements. I started thinking about Terry in Batman Beyond. He has retractable talons, so I used that. I thought, “Hey, she’s good at hand-to-hand combat and can just dodge things.“
How does the design tie into the Bat and Bat-family motif?
The talons are pretty reminiscent of the bat fingers. I tried to put a lot of emphasis on what made her look most like a natural bat. As far as gadgetry goes, it’s pretty simple. When it comes to her fighting style, there’s a whole art of misdirection, simply, because I like magicians. There are the two headlights on her torso, and that’s something that would throw people off. It’s a surprise element. Think Hit Girl in that one scene with the strobe light. I also wanted to incorporate vibration, or just being able to see things another way than through the eye, like with bat echolocation. I guess somehow she would be able to process sound into vision with the way the ears are ribbed. She can receive surrounding information through the vibrations collected by her ears. In short she’s not blind, but she perceives information in a way like Toph in The Last Airbender. She also has disposable little knives which work functionally like Batarangs. The bat people don’t kill people, just incapacitate them. She stabs them while she’s blinding them while doing gymnastic moves.
What were you thinking when you designed the cape?
It’s kind of like a poncho, because it just drapes over and ends at waist level. When designing a cape, initially, I thought about Batman and how he can do things underneath it with his arms without anyone knowing, so it was important for me to keep the cape. Also, she has her tassel-like… protrusions? Her cape being comprised of two additional protrusions that are separate from the rest of the cape works as a form of misdirection. Like, her arms look like they’re moving one way when they’re actually moving another way. Lastly, it’s a half cape instead of being long and heavy.
You added an interesting drawing of her on a perch. What are you trying to convey about the character in that drawing?
Bats tend to perch, in a way. This is definitely an idea from a friend, but the main thing you would see is her head, her body covered by her cape, and her feet. Now, the picture as a whole, I wanted it to exhibit her background, culturally, give a setting for her. It’s not about ethnicity. I wanted to demonstrate her European-related background. Also, just from hearing feedback from other people, the idea was that a lot of her features were very cathedral, European and tower like. And I thought, “Yeah, that really goes with the talons and the large ears.” So, I think cathedrals and the European aesthetic tie into the Bat-family motif of looking like gargoyles when they’re really not
Are there any last thoughts that you want to share with readers?
I had a lot of fun drawing her in the various scenes and poses. She’s very fun. I have a lot more things which I’ll be posting on raygormortis.deviantart.com. There are several sketches that didn’t make it onto the character spread. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more re-designs. Comic book art is really fun for me right now. Commissions are cool, but I’m not actively pursuing that right now. If you want one, know that you’re gonna wait.