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CSBG Archive

75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Writers #35-31

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32. Alan Brennert

Alan Brennert did not write a whole lot of Batman comics, but his percentage of stories written that turned out to be classic Batman stories is right up there with the very best of them. Besides his acclaimed Elseworlds graphic novel, Holy Terror (what if Batman is a rebellious priest on a world where the Church rules the world?), Brennert wrote the classic Batman anniversary issue in Detective Comics #500 that lets Batman save his parents in an alternate universe and explores whether Bruce Wayne would have become Batman even if his parents HADN’T been killed…

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as well as the striking Brave and the Bold issue detailing the relationship between Earth-2 Bruce Wayne and Catwoman.

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31. Neil Gaiman

For years, Neil Gaiman had not written a single issue of Batman or Detective Comics and had still had a significant impact on the Bat-Universe through his work on Batman’s villains. He revamped Riddler a bit in the pages of Secret Origins and he dramatically revamped Poison Ivy in Black Orchid and then Secret Origins. The modern Poison Ivy is essentially a creation of Gaiman’s.

He finally got his chance to take on the Bat-books when he wrote a two-parter after Batman “died” during Grant Morrison’s run. Gaiman came on to do his take on “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” with “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader,” an out-of-continuity examination of Batman’s life and death through a sort of Canterbury Tales approach of Batman’s friends and foes coming together at his funeral to tell the story of how he died. It’s an excellent tribute to Batman’s history (and some of the finest work Andy Kubert did on Batman)…

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40 Comments

Wow France “Ed” Heron? I’m pleasantly surprised. So far this list is shaping up to be refreshingly eclectic.

Wow, nothing offensive about Batman beating up Natice Americans while wearing their headgear.

Glad to see my top 5 vote Alan Brennert made it. Like you said, he didn’t write much, but damn near everything he did was classic, and some of all-time favorite Batman stories. Some of my favorite comics, period.

Man, Ed Herron wasn’t on my list, but he should have been.

I’m surprised to see Alan Grant so low.

Wow, nothing offensive about Batman beating up Natice Americans while wearing their headgear.

To make it even better, his HQ is the Bat-Casino! And Kathy Kane shows up as Bat-Squaw!

Yeah – and the “Batman – Indian Chief!” caption isn’t exactly appropriate either.

Good choices so far. Ty Templeton wrote most of Batman and Robin Adventures, and then the first few issues of Gotham Adventures (you have them switched around).

joe the poor speller

June 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Shame to see Ty Templeton so low and Kelley Puckett not on it at all. These two wrote some of the best Bat-tales of the 90′s. Hope their stuff don’t get as overlooked on the “best batman stories” list.

I’m surprised to see Alan Grant so low.

Alan Grant/John Wagner. Grant solo has yet to be listed.

As for the “Indian Chief” thing, while obviously the term itself is inappropriate, the story is a good deal more respectful of Native-Americans then you’d typically find in a 1950s comic book, which is why Morrison was willing to revisit the story. The idea is that there is a Sioux chief who works as the Batman of his tribe (with his son being his Robin, Little Raven). He is injured in such a manner that everyone would realize his secret identity. Therefore, Batman and Robin are there to pretend to be them in one of those classic secret identity capers that comics did throughout the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. So while yes, the 1954 terminology is bad, the respect level is surprisingly high otherwise.

I agree with joe (the poor seller) that it would have been great if Puckett were on the list. I especially loved his story where Robin is able to appeal to Scarecrow’s love of reading….

And Puckett’s creation of “Mastermind, Mr. Nice and the Perfesser” (based on Mike Carlin, Archie Goodwin, and Denny O’Neil) was BRILLIANT.

Regarding Herron’s Batman “Indian Chief” tale, I totally agree with Brian. The story itself is fairly respectful, even compared to some of the comics involving North American “Amerindians” that were produced in the 60′s and 70′s.

Compared to something like “The Origin of the Bat-Cave” (DC 205)…well….*shudders*

scarletspeed7

June 6, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Never really liked the Herron Batman comics, but the other four are all great choices.

Adam Weissman

June 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Wagner/ Grant should just be consoldiated as Grant. Alan Grant has said he wrote those issues alone.

Wagner/ Grant should just be consoldiated as Grant. Alan Grant has said he wrote those issues alone.

No, he wrote the first five issues of their run with Wagner. Then he went solo from then on, just continuing to credit Wagner (since DC had signed their deal with both of them, he feared that if he told them Wagner was out then they would cancel their deal) for the next seven issues.

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 7, 2014 at 12:27 am

Kelley Puckett was one of the best of all time and I found that his work on the animated style stories was the better of those two. Nice to see that you acknowledged him in the Templeton blurb.

Alan Grant/John Wagner. Grant solo has yet to be listed.

Ah. I’d assumed you’d combined the Grant and the Wagner/Grant votes into one.

Slightly annoyed I forgot to vote for him.

“No, he wrote the first five issues of their run with Wagner. Then he went solo from then on, just continuing to credit Wagner (since DC had signed their deal with both of them, he feared that if he told them Wagner was out then they would cancel their deal) for the next seven issues.”

But when I voted for Alan Grant / John Wager as my No.1, I meant the entire run not just those first 5 issues.

But when I voted for Alan Grant / John Wager as my No.1, I meant the entire run not just those first 5 issues.

Unless those last seven issues were the only reason you voted for Grant/Wagner, it really doesn’t matter that much, does it?

joe the poor speller

June 7, 2014 at 5:47 am

I think he meant all the Alan Grant run

Mike Loughlin

June 7, 2014 at 6:07 am

Way to sneak Kelly Puckett in there, Brian. If I knew he was so close to making the list I would have place him higher on my list (not that Ty Templeton making it is a bad thin; he’d probably be my 11 or 12).

Alan Brennart was so good, too bad he only wrote a few issues. Autobiography of Bruce Wayne is in my top 5 Batman stories.

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 7, 2014 at 6:32 am

It’s irrelevent either way since we’re voting for writers and not runs.

the wagner/grant pic you show is a cover by mignola…not sure if that was on purpose or what…but it seems weird to use that as a pic for that entry.

That Mignola cover was on the first Wagner/Grant issue.

– It’s such a shame that final Timmverse series by Ty Templeton, Dan Slott and others was cut short. It was at least as good as the regular titles of the time, and the move to continuing plots really let them pull off some neat twists with Mayor Penguin. Come to think of it, that series also introduced the idea of the Riddler as a detective rather than a criminal that Paul Dini did so much with later on in his run on Detective Comics.

— Didn’t France Herron also write a bunch of the Robin solo stories from Star-Spangled Comics, or were those by Edmond Hamilton?

— Paul Pope is awesome indeed.

— This might be veering into urbanlegend territory, except I’ve never heard it from anyone else, but…was Grant and Wagner’s pseudo-split on the Batman titles connected to their split on the Judge Dredd character due to creative differences regarding how much of a “heavy” Dredd was? Certainly Wagner’s solo Batman work feels rather different than the stuff he did with Alan Grant.

— Another great Alan Brennert story appears in Brave and the Bold #182, where the Silver Age Batman visits the Golden Age Earth where “he” died, and has to deal with the idea of his own mortality as well as the reactions of that world’s Robin and Batwoman.

Puckett was on my list of writers
(and Mastermind, Mr Nice and the Perfesser were on my list of villains [as a team])

I think you mean Mike Carlin, Archie Goodwin, and Denny O’Neil. I get choked up all over again just thinking about the beautiful sendoff issue for Archie Goodwin following his death, wherein Mr. Nice literally heads into the light.

Brian said: “Unless those last seven issues were the only reason you voted for Grant/Wagner, it really doesn’t matter that much, does it?”

It does! Because if the Grant/Wagner and Grant votes were consolidated, Grant would have finished a lot higher. Which I think he deserves to. Shame.

@omar

When Grant and Wagner fell out, they agreed Wagner would get Dredd and Grant would get Batman. Afraid I can’t recall the reason for the split.

P.S. Where can I find Wagner’s solo Batman work? Wasn’t aware there was any…

@Joe the bad seller

yes i did

This is a great group of writers! Damn shame Kelley Puckett didn’t make it, though; he was on my list. Many of my very favorite superhero stories are from the animated series-style Batman comics. I read something a few months ago claiming that DC was finally going to reprint those series from the beginning, and I really hope that’s true. They’re fantastic comics that deserve to find a wider audience than they will languishing in back issue bins.

Omar – the authorship of many of those Robin stories still remains a bit of a mystery. It has been suggested that Ed Herron wrote a few (like one where Crazy Quilt appears), but I don’t know how much certainty there is surrounding that. It’s also been suggested that Herron wrote some other non-Robin back-ups in Star Spangled. The only definitive writing credit that I’ve seen for Star-Spangled Robin stories has been for Bill Finger. Roy Thomas suggested that Finger probably wrote a lot more of them. I’m not sure if Hamilton ever wrote any (maybe he was too busy on World’s Finest?).

As for the late great Archie, I’m sure we’ll see him somewhere on the list….

It does! Because if the Grant/Wagner and Grant votes were consolidated, Grant would have finished a lot higher. Which I think he deserves to. Shame.

The guy did over 100 issues of Batman by himself and just 12 credited to him and Wagner, so if you make a point of voting for Grant/Wagner, well, then that’s going to count as a vote for Grant/Wagner.

When Grant and Wagner fell out, they agreed Wagner would get Dredd and Grant would get Batman. Afraid I can’t recall the reason for the split.

That one, I do know. Wagner wanted to write Dredd as a relatively reasonable man with growing doubts about a screwed-up system, while Grant wanted to write him as an over-the-top fascist who believed wholeheartedly in the ideology of the Judge system.

According to Alan Grant himself, the breaking point for their partnership was the legendary “Oz” story:

At the same time we were writing the end of the Chopper in Oz story, and we had – very unusually for us, because John and I don’t usually disagree – but we had a vehement argument about what should happen at the end of Chopper. John wanted Chopper to win the race, and escape from Dredd. I wanted Chopper to win the race and for Dredd not only to shoot him dead but to shoot him in the back. And John’s agenda was, he wanted Chopper brought up as a hero, whereas my agenda was that I wanted Dredd painted as even more of a bastard than he already was. And shooting Chopper in the back – I don’t think he would ever have been forgiven by the readers! Anyway, we split up at that time and John actually wrote the last instalment of the story himself.

All of which makes it rather ironic that Grant wound up writing Batman, and a Batman who was damn sight less thuggish than a lot of other writers’ takes in the wake of The Dark Knight Returns.

However, in that same interview, he suggests that the breakup of the Grant/Wagner partnership on the Bat-titles was more a financial thing:

Totally out of the blue we got a call from Denny O’Neill saying, “I’ve just taken over as Editor on Detective Comics, I’m looking for a new writing team. I’ve read your Judge Dredd, we think you could do Batman in that kind of gritty style.” And we said, we’ll have a go. And he said okay, give me a two-part story. So we did The Ventriloquist story, and he said okay, you’ve got the job.

John and I wrote another three together before John decided to pull out. Sales of Detective were below the break-even point, and I believe that even though it was DC’s oldest comic, they were considering closing Detective Comics down at that time, because it was selling so badly. Our input into it did not significantly raise sales. But then the first Batman movie came out with its attendant hype, and sales of Detective Comics went up by close to a thousand per cent. From that high point they fell gradually over the next couple of years, but then they took off again when the Knightfall thing started in Batman.

Now, this of course happened at almost the same time that “Oz” was being produced, so there’s a reason to suspect the split on Detective was fallout from the split on 2000AD and the Dredd characters. But it’s worth noting that Grant himself never makes the connection explicit in the interview.

LMC – John Wagner’s solo Batman stories
Batman 477, 478 – A Gotham Tale
Legend of the Dark Knight 101 the incredible adventures of Batman, 172-176 Testament

oh i know that the mignola cover is for the first grant/wagner issue, but it sucks that the one pic representing that run DOESN’T EVEN HAVE ANY ART BY THE ARTIST LISTED ON THE RUN! really weird choice–that’s all i’m saying!

And don’t forget Batman: Judge Dredd, Judgement on Gotham, also by Wagner/Grant together! (Although it is, to my mind, a better Judge Dredd story than a Batman one.

Also not entirely true that Wagner got Dredd after the pasrtnership split – Grant wrote plenty of Dredd tales for 2000AD on his own, and still does. Although any continuity-affecting stroies are Wagner not Grant. For whatever reason, I find Grant’s Batman solo stuff stronger than his Dredd solo stuff. I expect to find him much higher up the list – whether high placement on a CSBG ranking makes it any likelier that DC will collect Grant’s best Batman work remains to be seen!

Glad Grant solo is going to be higher, he was my number 1 pick. He and Wagner are still friends, just disagreed on certain directions for Dredd so they stopped writing together.

The Brave and the Bold #197 is one of my all time favorite single comic book issues. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” over the years. Superb writing by Alan Brennert, with beautiful art by Joe Staton & Geoge Freeman, and a cover by Jim Aparo that is simultauenously eerie and romantic.

It was a special time as a Batman fan from about 1979-1983 because once or twice a year Alan Brennert would do a story for Batman or Brave and the Bold. And every one of them was special. Even the Hawk and Dove team-up which was immediately retconned (because it made Hawk and Dove too old) was a wonderful Big-Chill-before-Big-Chill examination of teenagers of the 1960s having to reassess their values as adults. To Kill a Legend and The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne are two of the very best Batman stories ever though.

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