THE TOP TEN BATMAN ARTISTS OF ALL TIME (AT LEAST, IN MY OPINION)
Batman remains one of the greatest comic book super-heroes of all time -- his success owed in part to many artists’ interpretations of the character from almost a century. Here’s who I believe are the top ten Batman artists of all time (and you’re welcome to agree or disagree with me by commenting on my Facebook page). They are, in reverse order:
10. DICK SPRANG: Though Dick Sprang wouldn’t receive credit for drawing Batman from the 1940’s to the early-1960’s until decades later (after all, he was one of Batman creator Bob Kane’s ghost artists at that time), there’s little doubt that Sprang’s artwork has entertained generations of comic book fans, including those born long after his retirement as an artist in the early-1960’s -- and some of them would grow up to illustrate Batman in the decades to come.
9. CARMINE INFANTINO: Carmine Infantino was already best known for drawing the Silver Age Flash’s adventures since 1956 -- when he, along with DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz and writers Gardner Fox and John Broome, introduced a “New Look” for Batman in 1964. Infantino’s rendition of Batman in the pages of Detective Comics during the 1960’s would be prove to be more realistic than previous interpretations of the character -- while raising the bar of excellence for future generations of artists. By the end of the 1960’s, Infantino would draw Batman less, mainly because of his duties as DC’s Editorial Director (and later, its publisher during the early to mid-1970’s) -- and yet, his editorial duties would help pave the way for other artists to illustrate Batman, most notably Neal Adams.
8. BOB KANE: Bob Kane, of course, not only created Batman, but also illustrated some of the character’s early stories. Though Kane would illustrate Batman less in the years to come, both he and writer Bill Finger set in motion the elements that would inspire and influence not only generations of writers and artists, but also film and TV producers, animators, and live-action filmmakers -- including Batman’s nocturnal image and status as a master detective, his many gadgets and tools that have served him well in his crime-fighting career, and one of the greatest and most unforgettable Rogues’ Gallery in both comic book and literary history.
7. DON NEWTON: Don Newton was one of the new wave of comic book artists during the 1970’s who proved his worth, especially when he was assigned to draw Batman in Detective Comics, starting in 1978. Newton’s work in the various Batman comic books from 1978 until his death in 1984 continues to remind us of his extraordinary talent as a comic book artist, not only for his uniqueness, but for also taking his cue from past Batman artists, including Jerry Robinson (who later found success as a political cartoonist and noted comic strip historian).
6. IRV NOVICK: Irv Novick’s work on the Batman comics from the late-1960’s to the late-1980’s remain great examples of his overall talent as an artist. Although Novick was overshadowed by Neal Adams in terms of acclaim and popularity during the Early-1970’s, he shouldn’t be overlooked for his Batman stories -- mainly because he was a great a visual storyteller as many of his peers, before and since.
5. GENE COLAN: One of the best things about the Batman stories from the early-to-mid 1980’s was the superb and moody artwork by Gene Colan -- but then, Colan was a natural to draw Batman, considering his equally-superb and moody artwork at Marvel Comics during the 1960’s and 1970’s, when he worked on Daredevil and Tomb Of Dracula. It also helped that Colan’s pencil work on the Batman comics during the 1980’s were paired with the inking talents of such greats as Dick Giordano and Klaus Janson. While I still enjoy Colan’s work on Batman, I’m sorry that he never got a chance to work on one or more Batman stories with such writers as Denny O’Neil -- an O’Neil/Colan collaboration would have been as unforgettable as, say, O’Neil/Adams or Englehart/Rogers.
4. MARSHALL ROGERS: Marshall Rogers didn’t illustrate that many Batman stories during his career -- but what he did work on was nothing short of extraordinary, including his famous and celebrated collaboration with writer Steve Englehart in the pages of Detective Comics in the late-1970. Rogers’ Batman artwork remains popular today, thanks in part to the cinematic approach that was a large part of his immense talent, which is greatly appreciated -- and sorely missed -- today.
3. JIM APARO: Jim Aparo’s association with Batman began in 1971, when he became the regular artist on The Brave & The Bold. Over the next thirty-plus years, Aparo would prove to be one of the greatest Batman artists of all time -- with his visual storytelling skills an important factor in the overall quality of the Batman stories that he not only penciled, but in many cases, also inked and lettered, which added great meaning to the term multi-tasking, long before it became commonplace in today’s world.
2. NEAL ADAMS: Neal Adams, of course, is one of the major talents who helped revitalized Batman in the late-1960’s and Early-1970’s -- first in The Brave & The Bold, then in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics -- by returning the character to his original role as a nocturnal crime-fighter. Adams’ collaborations with writer Denny O’Neil and inker Dick Giordano -- not only on the Batman comic books, but also Green Lantern/Green Arrow -- were and remain important benchmarks in comic book history, as well as an inspiration to future comic book writers and artists who have since worked on the Batman comic books. And it was Adams who helped not only successfully revive classic Batman foes the Joker and Two-Face, but also co-create two other characters that have stood the test of time: Ra’s Al Ghul (with O’Neil) and Man-Bat (with Frank Robbins, who also drew some Batman stories during the 1970’s).
1. DICK GIORDANO: While Dick Giordano is best known for his work on Batman mainly as an inker (most notably with Neal Adams), he was certainly as great a penciler as many of his peers -- one of the greatest examples of Giordano’s artistic talents was when he penciled and inked the classic story “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” (written by Denny O’Neil) in Detective Comics#457 (March 1976). Giordano has also helped shape Batman’s popularity in other ways -- from an editorial and administrative perspective -- when he edited the Batman comic books from 1981-82, and later, as DC’s Executive Editor and one of its Vice-Presidents from 1982-93, when he helped green-light several creative projects spotlighting Batman that would revive and sustain the character’s popularity in the 1980’s and beyond, including Frank Miller’s 1986 limited series The Dark Knight Returns, an important benchmark in not only DC’s history, but also that of the comic book industry.
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