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

by  in Comic News Comment

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 writers #5-1…

Enjoy!

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. Steve Englehart

Steve Englehart essentially introduced the idea of the “All Star run” on a comic book title, coming in to do a set number of issues of Detective Comics and using those issues to try to spotlight as many key parts of the Batman mythos as he could. He did a Robin story, he did a Penguin story, he did a Joker story, he gave Batman a brand-new awesome love interest. And then he was gone. It was a forerunner to stuff like Hush or Old Man Logan or Warren Ellis’ famed six-issue arcs on series.

Englehart’s Detective Comics run was amazing. The aforementioned love interest, Silver St. Cloud, is still likely the best love interest Bruce Wayne ever had. In just a single issue, Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers rescued Deadshot from the scrap bin and made him someone appealing enough for John Ostrander to make part of the Suicide Squad a decade later. Plus, “The Laughing Fish” is one of the all-time great Joker stories, as the Joker has used his venom to mutate all the fish in the area and now the crazed clown wants to be PAID for his intellectual property!





Englehart also introduced a corrupt political boss called Rupert Thorne who ended up becoming a major part of Gerry Conway’s run a few years later (Conway took a lot of the ideas for his run from Englehart’s Detective run) and he also had a compelling story resurrecting Hugo Strange, who discovers Batman’s secret identity but finds he can’t reveal it.

Englehart’s take on the Joker was a major influence on Tim Burton’s Batman.

Englehart has returned to DC a few times over the years for more Batman stories, most notably a mini-series sequel to his Detective Comics run called Dark Detective.

4. Grant Morrison

One of the biggest ideas behind Grant Morrison’s seven-year Batman run was the notion that every Batman story HAPPENED, even all those offbeat ones from the 1950s that don’t seem to fit into our view of what Batman is like in the 21st century. Morrison decided instead to embrace those older stories and find a way to make them all work as part of Batman’s history. It was very similar to the approach he took with All Star Superman, only this was unique in that it was taking place firmly IN DC continuity. Another aspect of Morrison’s Batman that he has been doing since he first began writing Batman on a regular basis back in 1996 with JLA is that Morrison’s Batman is effectively someone who is never going to be beaten because, well, he thinks of everything. This is done to stunning effect at the end of Batman R.I.P. where Batman has seemingly been driven insane, shown that his girlfriend that he loves is part of an evil organization and then, to boot, he is buried alive. But, well…





Early in his run, Morrison also introduced Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and Talia Al Ghul (from a seemingly out of continuity graphic novel that Morrison now made in continuity because, again, every story counts). Damian soon became a fan favorite and when Morrison wrote Bruce Wayne out of the title for a little while, he had Damian became Robin to Dick Grayson’s Batman, which was an interesting take when ROBIN is the dark one and Batman the light one….



When Bruce Wayne returned, he decided to make Batman an international organization, with representatives around the world. We learn that he is doing so to combat a growing terror organization that is led by…Talia Al Ghul!

Talia has essentially snapped and is now using everything she learned from her father and from Batman himself to more or less tear down the world. She even ends up sacrificing her own son, Damian. In the end, Batman defeats her and she is seemingly killed by Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman (who Morrison had early re-invented as a secret spy).

Morrison’s run on Batman was a fun, over-the-top thrill ride with countless intresting ideas and a bunch of cool new characters like Damian Wayne, the new Knight and Squire (introduced during JLA Classified), the revamped Dr. Hurt, the Black Glove, Professor Pyg and Jezebel Jet.

NOTE: As a commenter noted, and that’s all just his long run on the main titles. He also wrote two famous Batman stories much earlier in his career. He wrote the famous graphic novel, Arkham Asylum, which got deep into the mind of Batman’s villains (and came out around the release of the Batman movie so it made about a gazillion dollars) and he also wrote a notable early Legends of the Dark Knight storyline (the second arc in the series period) called Gothic about a man powered by Satan. Also, of course, as noted he also wrote an extended run on JLA where Batman was featured prominently.

Go to the next page to see #3!

3. Bill Finger

Every century or so, there is a character invented who just touches something in people, a character that somehow resonates in the hearts and minds of millions of readers and Bill Finger was lucky enough to have created one of those rare characters. I am talking, of course, about Batman Jones…



Seriously, though, if ALL that Bill Finger did in his Batman tenure was co-create Batman, Robin, Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face, Riddler, Penguin, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Vicki Vale, Scarecrow, Hugo Strange and, of course, Batman Jones, then that would be enough for him to be one of the greatest writers in Batman history. However, he did far more than that. He was main writer on Batman for over TWENTY years, writing so many great stories that you almost literally cannot keep track of them all.

Finger also wrote the origin of Batman…



One Finger Batman story I like a lot is “Robin Dies at Dawn,” where we see Batman in an unfamiliar location…



As we find out, he was taking part in a sensory deprivation experiment and is now muddled with hallucinations of Robin’s demise. It makes crimefighting impossible. But while Robin is going at it alone, the Gorilla Gang (I love that there is a group called the Gorilla Gang and it’s just a normal part of the story) kidnaps Robin – now he is going to die for REAL!


Wild, inventive, far-out and still heartfelt – all the trademarks of a Bill Finger Batman story (Grant Morrison later built the framework of Batman R.I.P. on this story – Morrison asked the question – what if the guy doing the experiment on Batman wasn’t just a friendly scientist but actually an EVIL scientist?!).

For more information on Batman Jones, check out this old I Love Ya But You’re Strange spotlight on this American Treasure.

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

2. Frank Miller

It is one thing for Frank Miller to have re-defined Batman for the past 30 years, which he definitely did, it’s another thing to do so while writing two legitimately classic storylines in the process.

In just one year, Miller wrote two of the greatest (if not THE greatest) Batman stories of all-time.

First, he looked to the future, as Batman has to come out of retirement to somehow find a way to take control of a far-too-violent Gotham City that has lost its way since he stopped patrolling the night…




and then he looked to the past, to show the dual stories of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon as the paths of these would-be heroes ultimately collide…





Miller’s “grim and gritty” take on Batman became the greatest influence on depictions of Batman after Miller, in both the comic books themselves and in the film adaptations of Batman.

1. Denny O’Neil

While Miller’s stories famously led to a darker Batman post-Year One, the difference in tone before and after Miller is small compared to difference to Batman’s depiction pre and post Denny O’Neil. While editor Julie Schwartz was already heading for a darker Batman in the late 1960s (including working out a deal where Batman no longer HAD to be drawn by Bob Kane’s studio), O’Neil really brought it to the forefront, especially as he famously revamped two of Batman’s greatest villains, the Joker…



and Two-Face…



While also introducing Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul…





O’Neil was the primary Batman throughout the 1970s, working with artists like Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Irv Novick and Bob Brown.

O’Neil returned to the Bat-books in the mid-1980s to take over as the editor in charge of the line of comics. He brought in Frank Miller for Year One. O’Neil then guided the Bat-universe for roughly the next fifteen years.

O’Neil would also still write from time to time again. He famously invented Azrael in a mini-series with Joe Quesada…


all part of Knightfall, which was based on O’Neil’s view that they should show people what a true “Grim and gritty” Batman would look like, and show why that would be a very bad idea. However, once that story was finished, O’Neil decided to try to redeem Azrael, and he did so by writing Azrael’s ongoing series for the entire 100 issue run.

O’Neil retired at the turn of the 21st Century, leaving behind a vast multitude of awesome Batman stories and likely the greatest influence upon the character over the past 40 years.