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