An all-star assortment of heavy-hitting comic book talent gathered together during Comic-Con International in San Diego to commemorate a landmark anniversary for one of the most popular fictional characters of all time — Batman. Wishing the caped crusader well during this press event were Jim Lee (artist, “Batman”), Scott Snyder (writer, “Batman”), Geoff Johns (writer, “Batman: Earth One”), Dan DiDio (Co-Publisher, DC Comics), and Frank Miller (creator, “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Batman: Year One”). This murderer’s row of the Dark Knight’s biggest myth-makers then began to discuss all things Batman, beginning with the creators that influenced them.
“The best Batman that I grew up with was written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams,” answered Miller, an artist every bit as influential in the realm of the Caped Crusader as the men he mentioned. “Without it, I don’t know that I could have done ‘Dark Knight’ because they opened my eyes to what possibilities this character had.”
Johns touched upon the importance of Miller’s work with a statement echoed by all in attendance. “Between ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Batman: Year One,’ the past and the future, he’s kind of defined it in a way that no one else had before then, and the influence is still felt. I don’t know if you can say that about a lot of characters.”
“Me personally, I was a huge Jim Aparo fan,” revealed DiDio when asked about the unsung heroes of Batman’s long lifespan. “The amount of work that he did, the body of work, and just the fluidity and energy and life he brought to that character is the one that really made me love him.”
Miller made sure to pay tribute to two of the men who helped build Batman from the ground up 75 years ago. “One [underrated creator] is Bill Finger, who was arguably co-creator of Batman [with Bob Kane], and the other is Jerry Robinson — who got very little credit for an astonishing amount of work and established a mood and a look for Batman.”
Snyder, currently the writer on DC’s best-selling “Batman” series, mentioned the work done on “Batman: The Animated Series.” While not underrated per se, Snyder felt that the cartoon added so many now-integral details to the canon, people tend to forget — things like the existence of Mr. Freeze’s wife Nora, for instance. Miller spoke to the cartoon’s genius, specifically singling out creator. “What Bruce Timm did was, he took the best of Batman from every period, from Dick Sprang through Neal Adams through to my stuff — everybody’s stuff — and managed to meld it into this almost composite Batman that was really a reminder for anyone who touches the character that Batman is essentially a force for justice — and also a big guy with a big jaw.”
Relatively few characters from the Golden Age of comics still exist to this day, and the panel shared their thoughts on what has allowed Batman to buck that trend and survive — and thrive — for nearly the past century. “I think one of the reasons [for Batman’s longevity] is the art form of comics,” answered Lee. “It’s all about letting the creators, the talent, come in and do their definitive versions of these characters. We’re not trying to say, ‘This is Batman, this is the style guide, this is the length of his ears, the length of his cape, draw it just like this and you can only do these kinds of stories.’ We fortunately work in a form where people are encouraged to do new things, add to the mythology. I think that’s how you keep it fresh, modern, and contemporary.” Miller even likened the DC super hero to one of his predecessors, stating: “Batman, somewhere along the line like Zorro, became a folk hero. Each generation wants to celebrate that folk hero.”
Johns pointed out the sheer volume of stories that have involved the character since his creation in 1939. “I also think he’s the most elastic character in fiction,” the writer proclaimed. “There’s no other character, I think, in fiction that has had more stories told about them, and that’s because Batman is so human.”
Snyder seconded Johns’ declaration of Batman’s innate humanness by discussing what he believes to be the core of the character — at least the one he writes every month. “For me, writing him, the thing that’s so inspiring all the time is that the core, if you take away the wealth and the gadgets and all the fun stuff, he’s someone who takes this traumatic event and turns it into fuel to become the pinnacle of human achievement…He’s also a tremendous source of inspiration for anyone that’s facing challenges.”
But, like most everything in pop culture, Miller summed up his thoughts on Batman’s appeal with pretty much one word: Sex. “There’s a certain sexiness to a character who dresses up as a bad guy and throws people through windows, and Batman brings an edge that most super heroes don’t.” Batman — still sexy after all these years.