75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Artists #5-1

by  in Comic News Comment
75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Artists #5-1

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 conclude with Batman artists #5-1…


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.

5. Norm Breyfogle

Norm Breyfogle had only been working as a professional comic book artist for a couple of years when he got his first crack at Batman, drawing a story in the 1987 Batman Annual. He also drew a fill-in issue of Detective Comics that year. In 1988, he did another story in the 1988 Batman Annual but also took over as the regular artist on Detective Comics with #582. The following issue, Alan Grant and John Wagner became the writers for the series and that began a long stint with Breyfogle and Grant working together.

Breyfogle drew Batman steadily from 1988 until he left DC in 1993. As he was one of the regular artists on the Bat-books when the Tim Burton Batman films came out, to a massive influx of readers Breyfogle was “their” Batman artist.

His work is known for the way that he depicts action – his characters are always fluid, constantly in motion. His swinging scenes are legendary. In addition, he often uses shadow to great effect. Finally, his facial expressions are incredible – few artists can draw a Batman quite as shocked as Norm Breyfogle’s Batman!

While he did not design Tim Drake’s new Robin costume, Breyfogle was the first artist to draw it and he made it look awesome.

All of the above attributes of Breyfogle’s work (including his Robin) are on display in this sequence from Batman #465…

Recently, Breyfogle returned to the Bat-universe, of sorts, to draw the Batman Beyond digital comic book series for a while.

4. Jim Lee

Well before he ever drew a single Batman comic book, Jim Lee was already one of the most popular comic book artists in the entire comic book industry. Heck, he probably is literally THE most popular comic book artist that there is. He had done a few Batman short stories for Batman Black and White, but when the news broke that he was going to draw Batman for a YEAR? It was one of the biggest comic book events in years. Writer Jeph Loeb knew he had a wonderful opportunity to have Jim Lee draw pretty much every major Batman character that there was, so Loeb used the storyline Hush to do just that – each issue was a spotlight on a different major Batman character, from villains to heroes to whatever Catwoman is. During the storyline, Lee also used a new approach where he would sort of take a watercolors approach to flashbacks. It was quite striking. Here, in Batman #614, Batman struggles with whether he should finally just kill the Joker – see how Lee depicts Batman’s flashbacks…

After Hush, Lee had another stint on a “regular” Batman comic book series, drawing All Star Batman and Robin with writer Frank Miller. Lee fell behind on the series and seeing as how he has drawn two other series since then (Justice League with Geoff Johns and Superman Unchained with Scott Snyder), it seems as though that series is effectively over now. Lee’s art is still routinely used by DC to promote Batman, though. In fact, a Lee drawing will be on the cover of the San Diego Comic Con souvenir brochure this year to celebrate Batman’s 75th anniversary!

Go to the next page to see #3!

3. David Mazzuchelli

One of the most acclaimed Batman stories of all-time is Batman Year One by writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli (along with colorist Richmond Lewis). The book is a stunning piece of work, as Mazzucchelli’s artwork is just fantastic. His sense of storytelling is like you’re watching a movie, that’s how well he takes you into the story and takes control of how you view the work.

His detailed examination of the people of Gotham City gives them a sort of almost mundane existence, which is what makes Batman pop out so much more. Everyone is so stuck in the mire of the awfulness of Gotham City that when someone like Batman shows up, he truly stands out (the work of Lewis helps immeasurably here, as well, as her colors help provide that muted quality). This is perhaps never more evident than in the famous sequence where Batman crashes a party of Gotham’s corrupt elite…

See what I mean about the contrast? Plus look at how he controls the progression of events so well – it really is like watching a movie. There’s a reason that that sequence is one of the most famous sequences in DC Comics history.

Year One is filled with moments similar to that (if not quite as amazing, as what could be as amazing as that?), where sudden scenes will break through the muck and the mire (sometimes literally, like when Jim Gordon fights his way into the respect of the Gotham City Police Department).

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Mazzucchelli’s brilliance in this series is that this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how he was going to use style, color and design to tell stories. His more recent work (Asterios Polyp, in particular) take everything to a while other level.

Go to the next page to see #2-1!

2. Jim Aparo

I thought it’d be interesting to show you Jim Aparo’s very first Batman story, Brave and the Bold #98 (co-starring The Phantom Stranger, whose ongoing series was Aparo’s second assignment at DC Comics – the concept of the issue is that strange things are happening at the home of the widow and son of a friend of Batman’s who just died – this being a Bob Haney story, we just meet this longtime friend of Batman’s out of nowhere this issue right before he dies – and Batman is investigating)…

Isn’t that crazy? That bit was from 1971. And yet it just as well could have come from 1981. Or 1991. Or 2001. Jim Aparo was the paragon of consistency. Yes, it is probably fair to say that his work lost a little bit of its verve in the very later years, but well into the 1990s Aparo was still the same old wonderfully accomplished storyteller that he always was – his characters continued to have their patented Jim Aparo facial expressions – the only thing lost a little bit was some of the fluidity of the character action (everything was slightly stiffer). Aparo took over Brave and the Bold a couple of issues later and then drew it for the next TEN years until it ended. Brave and the Bold led into Batman and the Outsiders. After he drew that for roughly two years, he had a bit of a break. Soon, though, he was right back to work drawing Batman for Jim Starlin (including the death of Jason Todd) and Marv Wolfman (including the introduction of Tim Drake) and then to Detective Comics for Peter Milligan and then back to Batman for Doug Moench (where Aparo was the artist who drew Bane breaking Batman’s back). Amazingly enough, Aparo’s stint on the Batman regular titles lasted as long as Breyfogle’s concurrent run, only Aparo had been doing it for fifteen years ALREADY by then!

After his regular work on Batman finished, he still did occasional fill-in work. He was still doing occasional artwork (like a cover for a collection of Batman stories) almost right up until his death in 2005.

1. Neal Adams

All told, Neal Adams “only” drew roughly thirty stories featuring Batman from 1968-1975 (and roughly eight of them were in World’s Finest and Brave and the Bold), but even if he had only drawn only a third of that, he likely would still be recognized as the greatest Batman artist ever, as that is how much of an impact his work on Batman in the early 1970s had on readers and his fellow artists.

In Batman #251, he brought back the murderous Joker…

while also helping to reshape our view of Batman as a hunter…

In the classic introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul, the famous fight where Batman is left for dead before Talia Al Ghul gives him an antidote to scorpion venom, Adams defined that era’s take on the action-driven love hero Batman…

Not only was Neal Adams’ approach to “realistic” comic book art (while being dynamic in a way that went beyond realism, hence the quotes) was dramatically different from most comic book artists at the time he was ESPECIALLY different from what your typical DC Comics artist looked like. For readers, it was akin to leaving Kansas and ending up in Oz. That’s how dramatic the shift was. And within a few years, everyone was trying to draw just like him. I’ve written about how Adams’ colleague, Dick Giordano, deserves a lot of credit for Batman’s re-design as a darker character at this point in time, but a lot of that almost certainly came from Giordano (with Julie Schwartz’s blessing, of course) pushing veterans like Irv Novick and Bob Brown to draw like Adams, who while not yet drawing the main Batman comic book stories, had already begun doing striking covers that captured everyone’s attention. Adams was a force of nature – guys like Novick and Brown knew that they could either adapt or perish.

There are basically three archetypal Batmen (four if you count Dark Knight Returns Batman, which I really don’t since its usage is so specific) – Bob Kane’s original design, Dick Sprang’s re-design and then Neal Adams’ re-design. Adams’ design is the one that remains in full effect forty plus years later – he was so far ahead of his time that his Batman STILL feels modern forty plus years later. There is no need to update the design because Adams perfected it. And that’s just one part of why he is the greatest Batman artist of all-time.