An upcoming issue of DC’s Batman comic book series, Batman #121, will feature three limited-edition variant covers featuring original pieces of art by the late singer-songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston. The comics will be released by the award-winning comics retailer Austin Books & Comics on March 1 and sold in cooperation with the world-famous Electric Lady Studios and The Contemporary Austin.

Johnston, whose cult status earned him early, outspoken support from the likes of Matt Groening, Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth, and David Bowie, was the subject of the acclaimed 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. The first ever museum retrospective of the artist’s work, Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams, is on view at The Contemporary Austin in Texas through March 20.

Daniel Johnston’s art and music have featured globally in films, commercials, museums, and galleries, but it’s in Austin, Texas where he has become most ingrained in local culture. It is, after all, the city where in 1985 he excitedly shoved himself in front of MTV’s cameras to gain a national audience and where today his drawings and music displaying heroic victory and quiet heartache are proudly on display at the downtown art museum, The Contemporary Austin.

The exhibition’s curator, Robin K. Williams, noticed a letter Johnston had written in the 1990s or 2000s addressed to his friend Marie Javins, now Editor-in-Chief at DC, requesting her help getting his artwork into comics. “I thought the letter was strange and touching,” says Williams, “because he was already an internationally successful musician when he wrote it. When I asked Marie about it, she said, ‘Daniel had two loves, music and art, and always wanted to be a comic book artist.’ This gave her the beautiful idea to finally make this happen.”

“I’ve been an avid collector of Daniel’s artwork since I met him in 1986—but not always on purpose,” says Javins. “He’d draw pictures on letters he’d send to me over the years, and we even collaborated on some art when I was a professional comic book colorist. I’m thrilled to see his Batman, Superman, and Orion art come to life on these ABC retailer variants.”

Batman #121 with the Daniel Johnston covers will be available for preorder on February 14. Limited quantities of the trade-dressed Johnston cover featuring Batman will be sold individually while sets of all three covers, featuring Batman, Superman, and DC’s New God Orion, will be packaged in unique folios and sold in limited quantities at The Austin ContemporaryElectric Lady StudiosAustin Books & Comics, and hihowareyou.com. Each partner will have an exclusive colorway for the folio.

On Wednesday, March 9 at 5:30pm, The Contemporary Austin will host a launch event with DC’s Editor-in-Chief Marie Javins in conversation with Curator Robin K. Williams. The Contemporary’s colorway set of Batman #121 with the Johnston variant covers will be available on site. Tickets and information will be available soon at thecontemporaryaustin.org/events.

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