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CSBG Archive

75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Writers #20-16

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17. Jim Starlin

Jim Starlin was probably the first Batman writer to truly follow in the footsteps of Frank Miller’s revamp of Batman in Dark Knight Returns and Year One. Other writers might have worked with similar ideas, but Starlin was the one who took the cue he thought he had from Miller’s success to get much darker and darker with his Batman stories. Batman: The Cult, a prestige mini-series by Starlin and Bernie Wrightson, is a pretty bleak tale of Batman getting brainwashed by, well, a cult. Starlin took over writing the main Batman title and his stories had a real edge to them. Starlin was not a fan of the then-current Robin, Jason Todd, and Jason became a darker character under Starlin’s pen, as well.

Eventually, Starlin was able to get rid of Jason Todd in a storyline where the Joker nearly beats Jason to death in front of Jason’s own mother. When Jason manages to survive his beating, things are still bad…





Starlin followed the death of Robin with another dark story involving a human killing machine known as the KGBeast coming to Gotham City to kill the President of the United States. The story is especially notable for the fact that Batman decides he probably has to kill the KGBeast to stop him.

16. Mike W. Barr

Mike W. Barr was more or less the regular writer on Brave and the Bold toward the end of the run. Eventually Barr had the idea of extending the notion of Batman teaming up with other heroes to the point where Batman gained his own unique superhero team. This team was the Outsiders and Batman and the Outsiders took over Brave and the Bold’s place on DC’s publication schedule.

During his stint on Batman and the Outsiders, Barr also wrote the legendary Batman Special #1, which introduced The Wrath, Batman’s exact opposite (his parents were killed by a cop which led to this little rich boy growing up to dedicate himself to a life of deadly vengeance).

Contrasting Batman against other characters was a key tool that Barr used during his Batman solo work. After a number of years, Barr took over Detective Comics with artist Alan Davis (Davis had taken over the Outsiders from its original artist, Jim Aparo).

In a remarkable issue spotlighting Batman’s reasons for doing what he does (on a night when he has brought an injured Robin in to Dr. Leslie Thompkins for medical aide), Barr beautifully compares him to Thompkins herself…





Barr followed this story up with Batman Year Two, where Batman is contrasted against the vigilante known as The Reaper.

Barr had a great handle on Batman’s personality. I wish we could have gotten more Bat-work from him than we ended up with.

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The same images are showing for both Starlin and Barr. Love that Alan Davis art so much that I don’t mind seeing it twice!

It’s a shame you didn’t highlight The Batman / Wrath battle for Mike W. Barr. That’s still one of my favourite Batman stories.

And I know it’s unfashionable to say this, but I thought Batman and the Outsiders was a far better Batman book than the actual solo books at the time (I wasn’t a fan of Doug Moench’s Batman)

Mike W Barr was one of my votes. He was lucky to have great artists like Alan Davis, Jim Aparo, and Michael Golden draw his Batman stories, but Mike himself had a very fun prose style and a strong grasp on characterization, so he did more than his share of the heavy lifting.

It’s a shame you didn’t highlight The Batman / Wrath battle for Mike W. Barr. That’s still one of my favourite Batman stories.

It’s a great issue and all (and I did mention it specifically, right?), but it is difficult to find a four-page sequence that works well from it. There’s a lot of stopping and starting in the story.

The only problem I ever had with Brave and the Bold was the let’s say unfortunate way women like Black Canary were written. It’s tough to enjoy when time is taken out of the story for her to do something ditzy and self-centered.

Hooray for my vote for David Reed (whom I voted for) and double-yay for using the pages from my first-ever Batman comic!

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 14, 2014 at 8:41 am

Archie Goodwin is one of the most underrated writers in comics history (I’d even argue THE most underrated non-comedy book writer). His Detective Comics run is among the greatest Batman runs of all time and was critically acclaimed during its time nearly as much as any superhero run during that era. But the best part of it was actually the serialized Manhunter backup feature, which has got to be THE most underrated superhero story of all time.

But his best work of his career was for Harris, in particular his run on Vampirella (one of the most underrated runs on any comic in history) and his legendary four issue run on Blazing Combat, which might arguably be the pinnacle of the medium.

Really, if one word describes AG it’s definitely “underrated”. I don’t know if it’s because he was more of an editor than a writer, or if it was because so much of his work was out of print for so long (and still is), or what exactly, but the guy really hasn’t gotten his full due and it’s mind boggling that even the internet era has done so little to change that.

And that Alan Davis art is amazing, BTW.

Yayyyy, Bob Haney! He was at the very top of my list. I just can’t get enough of his beatnik Batman.

AN extremely solid batch of writers. All five of them would have been contenders from my list.

Reed probably did the best job of any Bat-writer on showing Bruce as a playboy. There’s a great bit from one story where Dick realizes he’s spent too much time adventuring to buy his then-girlfriend a present so Bruce tells him to pick something from the “emergency gift box” Bruce keeps for similar situation.
The blithe lack of continuity (and sometimes logic) in so many of Haney’s stories makes it easy to forget how entertaining many of them were.
Mike Barr, yes!
Jim Starlin … sigh, this just reminds me how long it’s been since I liked anything of Starlin’s.

Bob Haney! I loved the Brave and the Bold. It was sooooo Bob Haney! The Haneyverse was a blast. I got introduced to so many characters I’d never read about.

What I loved about the Brave and Bold cartoon was that it was so Bob Haney. I miss that show.

Barr was my #6 vote purely for the run he did with Alan Davis. I was never that grabbed by his more serious stuff.

Mutt, yes. It proved that a light-hearted Batman can still work.
Plus it had the best TV take on the Fox, the Shark and the Vulture.
Plus the Spectre turning Professor Milo into cheese.

Can’t believe Starlin placed so high. His Batman work was impactful but terrible. Death in the Family was riddled with plot holes and we really went too dark in general in my opinion. That was when Batman really went from being likeable to just a dysfunctional jerk.

Love all the other choices though.

Barr is the first of my choices for writer to make the first 35
voted for a combination of his Detective Comics, Batman and the Outsiders and Son of the Demon

Starlin was among my runners up (considered but not in top 10)

with 1 of my choices at 36, that leaves 8 for the top 15…(I hope)

Also interesting: Both Haney and Starlin had Batman villains become Middle Eastern nations’ ambassadors to the UN. Starlin notoriously did that with the Joker in “A Death in the Family,” of course, but Haney got there first with Catwoman.

I quite looks Batman being an unlikable jerk – but I thought Starlin was pretty poor. The only decent Batman story he wrote was The Cult.

People here is talking about how good/terribe was Starlin work in the 80’s, but everybody has forgotten his 70’s work on batman…(Detective 482-night of the body snatcher, is awesome…)

Haney. I’m not really a fan.

Starlin, as controversial as I’m sure he is, does belong on the list, as well as Barr, who wrote things like Son of the Demon. I haven’t read any Reed, oddly enough.

Andrew Collins

June 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm

People remember the big stories from him but my favorite Starlin story is still the Slasher storyline from issues #414 and 421-422. I had a copy of #414 I bought in a 3-pack at K-Mart as a kid and it took me years before I realized there was an actual conclusion to the storyline that ran may issues later. It lived up to all the anticipation, thankfully.

David V. Reed and Jim Starlin were both very hit or miss with me in regards to Batman, but both produced some excellent work – Reed’s imaginary tale in Batman #300 and Starlin’s the Cult.

Archie Goodwin’s Batman work – both his ’70’s writing and his LOTDK editing – was INCREDIBLE. When I read Deathmask and Death Flies the Haunted Skies as a kid (both in the Greatest Batman Stories Every Told, 1989), I remember thinking ‘That’s exactly what a Batman story should be like.’

Mike W. Barr produced great classics, even more impressive considering how he was going against the grain of the times (during the mid-80’s).

And Bob Haney?

Bob Haney.

Bob Haney’s work can’t adequately be put into words. I completely mean that as a compliment. I’ll just say that he managed to successfully tell stories from every conceivable genre using Batman.

@Andrew Collins

Yes! That slasher story was fantastic and Starlin’s best Batman work in my opinion also. Unlike Death in the Family or KGBeast it wasn’t labelled as a mini-series within a series and didn’t occur only across consecutive issues. It was, for a while, an ongoing part of life in Gotham City, sometimes foreground, sometimes background. It packed several big punches and was very well done indeed. Two thumbs up!

Archie Goodwin wrote some really great comics.

Actually I take back what I said about The Cult being Starlin’s only good story. I’d forgotten that that slasher story was him. I liked how they had the huge gap between the start and end and that for a good while it seemed that Batman had failed to solve the case.

Thank you Frank Milla Batman Gorilla for saying what you did about Archie Goodwin.

Bob Haney was a gift to the comics industry.

Starlin wrote the first Batman comic I ever read, the one with the three cops in the diner sharing their respective stories of encounters with Batman. Great Cockrum art on that one, too.

nice though starlin though would rank higher mostly for actully going through and getting rid of jason todd not to mention adding long gone bat characters like the wraith and glad to also see goodwin on this list too though he was another thought would be higher. plus the kgbeast storyline seems to be getting mentioned a lot for some some on this list.

People do sometimes overstate how much Barr was going against the times; his Batman was pretty OK with villains dying. In Batman and the Outsiders #2, for instance, he’s quite proud of Geo-Force for throwing the defeated villain Baron Bedlam to a howling mob, and remarks that he doesn’t trust the world court to try the ex-Nazi. And in Barr’s “Four Faces of the Batman” from Batman Annual #9, we get a vignette in which a terrorist group and a gang of opportunistic thugs are on a collision course…and when he finds them int he middle of an armed confrontation out in the gang’s isolated headquarters, Batman uses a small firecracker to trick them into gunning each other down. He wouldn’t quite kill someone himself, but he tended to react to others doing the same with a hearty “Good riddance!”

What Barr liked, I think, was the Golden Age Batman, the guy who could swing from shooting vampires int heir graves and machine-gunning Hugo Strange’s Monster Men because it was “necessary” but also had lighthearted banter with Robin. It’s a very pulpy Batman, really, with the same sort of weird tonal shifts between col,d-blooded pragmatism or vengeful satisfaction at the deaths of bad guys and slapsticky, colorful antics.

That may be why my favorite Barr Batman story is not the standout Scarecrow tale he did with Alan Davis, the one that became the basis for an equally excellent animated episode, but rather the clever stylistic play of Brave and the Bold #200, where he invents a Golden Age baddie called Brimstone and gives us both his 1940s pastiche adventure and a Bronze Age pastiche — in the midst of the actual Bronze Age, no less! — showing how the villain would operate in the more grounded and violent post-Denny O’Neill milieu.

I’m kinda shocked that Barr wasn’t higher. 16 seems way too low. (I voted for Starlin, but his place seems fine). I’m sure we’ll have some great writers left, but Barr at minimum should be in the top 10. As ellbell01 points out, this is the guy who wrote Son of the Demon…he’s basically the reason Morrison’s best work with Batman even exists.

And I’m thinking The Molder sounds an awful lot like the love child of The Melter and Paste Pot Pete, with maybe some Unicorn thrown in.

And of course, Omar, the breakup between him and the Outsiders was when he didn’t tell Geo-Force about problems in Markovia because he wanted them focused on Gotham.
On the other hand, he cared enough about super-villain Ned Creegan to get him treatment for terminal illness. And lecture Geo-Force in a later issue about saving violence for when you can’t justice through the system.

Man, I really need to find a copy of “Batman: Year Two”. I mentioned it in the CSBG comments long ago as a random issue I remembered reading and re-reading in my brother’s comic bin (so beat up it had no cover and several torn pages), and had to have the regulars help me find out what it was. Not only does it have artwork from Alan Davis (possibly my favorite comic artist of all time), but that amazingly dark and frightening villain, The Reaper. There’s pages from that issue that I can remember down to the last detail, and yet I’ve never read the entire story!

TJCoolguy – Make sure you find the Batman Year Two: Fear the Reaper tpb rather than the regular one. Otherwise you’ll only get one issue of Alan Davis. The Fear the Reaper version also includes The Full Circle prestige issue which is drawn by Davis (and is probably better than Year Two).

The other three issues were drawn by some unknown called Todd McFarlane.

Well, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who didn’t care for Jim Starlin’s run as a Batman writer! Now if Starlin had been drawing as well as writing, it may have been tolerable. I always enjoyed the David V. Reed stories, and even the Bob Haney stories, although Haney usually “stretched” things beyond belief–maybe that’s why he liked Plastic Man! And Mike Barr was a pretty good Batman writer, I’ll agree, but (and I’m sure he’d be disappointed by this) I don’t think he was all that great at writing detective stories. He could come up with some clever detecting for Batman to do occasionally, but he couldn’t do it consistently, leading to vague, indefinite deductions that may or may not be right. In Batman: Son of the Demon, Bats makes a totally incorrect deduction that misleads him to look up Ra’s Al Ghul. He eventually makes the right deduction, but only after having taken a long detour to get there.

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