75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Artists #10-6

by  in Comic News Comment
75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Artists #10-6

In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Batman, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Batman, culminating with the official celebration of Batman’s anniversary at the end of July. The last installment will deal with Batman stories, but this month will be about Batman’s writers and artists (40 artists and 35 writers).

You all voted, now here are the results! Here is a master list of all the writers and artists featured so far. We continue with Batman artists #10-6…


NOTE: Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section. If you are not a fan of a particular creator, that’s fine, but be respectful about it. No insulting creators or otherwise being a jerk about creators. Specifically, no “Creator X better not be in the top ten!” or variations of that idea (“Creator X better not be ahead of Creator Y,” etc.) I’ll be deleting any comments like that and, depending on how jerky the comment was, banning commenters.

10. Irv Novick

Few artists in comic book history had quite the career like Irv Novick (Jack Kirby and Gil Kane are two that come to mind). He was a highly successful artist in pretty much every era of comic book history from the Golden Age to the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. Heck, he was still working steadily well into the late 1980s when he was in his 70s (poor eyesight caused him to retire – he passed away at the age of 88 in 2004). After being a popular superhero artist during the Golden Age, Novick moved on to the world of advertising after World War II (as well as doing a couple of comic strips). He was lured back to comic books by an old friend, Robert Kanigher. Novick then spent most of the 1950s killing it on war comics for Kanigher. At the start of the 1960s, Novick again left comics for advertising. Kanigher lured him back by making him one of the highest paid artists in the business. When Carmine Infantino took over DC Comics at the end of the decade, Novick was re-assigned to superhero comics again for the first time since the Golden Age. While he would draw a number of different heroes over the next decade plus, his primary area of expertise was Batman.

A fascinating aspect of this era of Batman is that Neal Adams has been given the majority of the artistic credit for the darkening of Batman at this time, however, Novick was already doing so before Adams drew a single Batman story (although Adams had already begun contributing covers). Honestly, looking back at it, it seems that inker Dick Giordano was the difference-maker, as Novick’s art made a clear change from when Joe Giella was inking him to when Giordano took over, which was right before Adams joined the Bat-books.

In any event, Novick predated Adams as the “dark” Batman artist and even during Adams’ peak, the fact that Adams could not keep up with a heavy work schedule meant that Novick ended up drawing many more comics in the “Neal Adams’ era” than Adams himself. And having Novick available was such an astonishing luxury for the Bat-books. How many artists out there can fill in for Neal Adams and not be a disappointment?! Irv Novick for one.

9. Dick Sprang

While he was not the first artist to ghost for Bob Kane, Dick Sprang certainly became the most popular. Just like how Dan DeCarlo transformed the house style for Archie Comics when he went to go work for them, so, too, did Dick Sprang re-define what Batman looked like for nearly two decades. As I have alluded to with Sheldon Moldoff, it was pretty amusing to see Moldoff ghosting for Kane while also drawing in the style of Sprang, who was also ghosting for Kane. Sprang was the main Batman artist for most of the late 1940s and pretty much all of the 1950s. He oversaw the slow change from Batman being a gangster-themed crime comic to an outlandish science fiction driven comic filled with imaginative new worlds and foes.

Sprang is best known for his square-jawed and barrel-chested take on Batman, very similar to Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. However, Sprang was also a tremendously imaginative artist who was a born storyteller. One of his most acclaimed stories came in Batman #34, a delightful Bill Finger story about a madcap race across the United States. Batman and Robin decide to run the race, as well, but only to test the speed of their vehicles. Meanwhile, a trio of racers hold our attention – a blind man using radar and other technologies to inspire blind people around the world, a mysterious racer known as “John Doe” and a socialite whose rich uncle is sabotaging the other racers to get her to win. Check out this sequence which takes place towards the end of the race…

Holy crap, right? How striking of a design! And all without sacrificing storytelling. Cary Grant, eat your heart out!

8. Tim Sale

One of the most distinctive artists in the business, Tim Sale had been working on Batman comics since the early 1990s, drawing stories in Legends of the Dark Knight and Shadow of the Bat (plus Showcase). However, it was when he began working with writer Jeph Loeb that Sale’s Bat-tenure really took off. Sale and Loeb began doing yearly Halloween one-shots. They grew so popular that they eventually decided to do a year-long maxi-series based on their earlier Halloween efforts. The result, The Long Halloween, is one of the most acclaimed Batman comic book stories of all-time.

Here is a snippet, which shows off Sale’s striking use of design, colors, negative space and dynamism to make his work stand out amongst the crowd (in a good way, of course)…

The pair followed up Long Halloween with a direct sequel, Dark Victory, as well as a Catwoman mini-series. Sale’s art was stunning, as always. Sale has done some Bat-work here and there since, including Solo and Black and White.

Go to the next page to see #7-6!

7. Marshall Rogers

Marshall Rogers shot to stardom with his short and brilliant run on Detective Comics with writer Steve Englehart and inker Terry Austin. The run was essentially a Batman’s Greatest Hits style story, with Englehart trying to make his mark quickly with takes on Batman’s greatest foes like Penguin and Joker, as well as telling a Robin story and introducing a love interest for Batman (Walter Simonson would draw Silver St. Cloud first, but Rogers defined her). Rogers actually stuck around on Detective even when Englehart left, co-creating the third Clayface with writer Len Wein before leaving the book.

Besides some short Batman work here and there, Rogers didn’t return to the character until an acclaimed Legends of the Dark Knight story by legendary writer Archie Goodwin. Rogers then reteamed with Steve Englehart for a sequel to their original run in Dark Detective. Tragically, Rogers passed away before they could finish work on a second sequel.

Rogers’ distinctive artwork on his Detective run was a great influence on later artists’ depiction of the Joker (while Rogers, of course, took from Neal Adams’ Joker, as well). His artwork perfectly captured a film noir feel that many Batman artists have attempted to evoke in the years since.

Check out this amazing sequence and see how the work is somehow so incredibly detailed, so strikingly moody and yet still dynamic and coherent in its storytelling…

6. Frank Miller

Frank Miller first drew Batman in a Christmas story, of all places, in a DC Special Series collection of Christmas tales. Miller had already been drawing Daredevil for Marvel for a few months at that point, but he obviously had not yet blown up as a star artist (I don’t believe Daredevil had even returned to a monthly schedule at that point in time) – he did not writer his first issue of Daredevil until a number of months later. That’s when he exploded as a comic book superstar. After finishing his run on Daredevil, he went to DC Comics to write and draw the original series Ronin. He followed that up with Batman: The Dark Knight (most commonly known as Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most famous comic book stories of all-time, and the story tells the tale of a dark future where Bruce Wayne has to return to being Batman again, only in the end to realize that he needed to do a lot more than just be Batman. That next step came in 2002’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again. While the first story was a dark one, told with tight pencils and tight Klaus Janson inks and Lynn Varley colors, the new story was a bright one – a story about the return of superheroes to a world that desperately needs them. As a result, Miller and Varley intentionally went with a looser style but damned if they didn’t keep the same powerful dynamism of their first Batman collaboration…

The art on Dark Knight Strikes Again doesn’t get nearly the attention that Miller’s other work gets, which is a shame, because as you can see, while it is a whole different animal, it’s an excellent animal.