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75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Writers #15-11

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12. Alan Moore

Besides appearances by Batman during his Swamp Thing run (and, of course, Batman’s visit to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude for Superman’s birthday), Alan Moore has only really written two Batman stories. One of them was a neat Clayface story for an Annual. The other, of course, happens to be one of the most famous Batman stories of all-time.

The Killing Joke deals with the Joker assaulting Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara, crippling her with a bullet to the stomach. The Joker then kidnaps Gordon, all with the intent of proving that anyone can go insane if they have had a bad enough day…

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The Batman/Joker dynamic would never quite look the same after The Killing Joke.

11. Scott Snyder

After impressing readers with an excellent run on Detective Comics featuring Dick Grayson during his stint as Batman, Scott Snyder moved over to the main title when the New 52 launched.

Scott Snyder’s Batman is a compelling one for a number of notable reasons, one being the way that Snyder makes Gotham City a major player in the comic, more so than most other writers have ever done so (he wrote a mini-series, Gates of Gotham, that underscored this approach before he put it into full view in his Batman run). The introduction of a secret cabal called the Court of Owls that was nested within Gotham City’s own infrastructure for over a century was a striking addition to the Bat-mythos.

Another way that Snyder’s Batman stands out is how HUMAN he is – this is not a Bat-God, this is a relatable human being being thrust into practically unrelatable experiences. This was a major aspect of Snyder’s take on Dick Grayson but it worked just as well with Bruce Wayne. When the Court of Owls capture Batman and break his mind down, it isn’t one of those things where Batman is just playing with them – they actually DO break him down. He is not infallible, after all. However, what makes him the hero he is is the way that he fights back AFTER being broken down. He falls to the lowest place he can go but he manages to drag himself back up. And Synder’s Batman not only drags himself back up, he does so with panache…

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How badass is that? It reflects his never-say-die spirit as well as the fact that he IS part of Gotham City. He represents the city and is tied to it in ways that few people are to their respective hometown. Snyder is currently exploring Batman’s humanity, his indefatigablity and, of course, his ties to Gotham in the epic Zero Year storyline in Batman RIGHT NOW! Go check it out!

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34 Comments

I love Brubaker and Rucka – but I think their Batman was among their weaker work – unless you count Gotham Central which is excellent.

Moore did a great Clayface story.

I made my list of artists and writers back in February, or there about, when the Batman’s 75th lists began, but when the time came to send it in I was to busy.

Fox was in my top five. Glad to see he did so well, while wishing he placed higher.

Swamp Thing’s invasion of Gotham City topped my list of best Batman stories. Moore really gets Batman.

The Court of Owls is eerie and creepy but kind of pointless: Gotham’s already been established as extremely corrupt, so what exactly do the members gain they couldn’t get anyway (I’m not sure I’ve seen them do anything with their power other than try to kill Bats & Co.)
Glad to see Fox, even though that era of Batman never really clicked with me (even though Fox/infantio/Schwartz worked for me most places). And wasn’t it less he was pushed aside than kicked out of the company?
My avoiding the Bat titles like the plague for a long time after NML (hated it) explains why I have no memory of Rucka’s run.

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

Alan Moore also wrote a Clayface story in some annual or whatever.

Yeah I liked Snyder’s Detective Comics run, but I stopped buying Batman after the so-so ending to Court of Owls and the not great Joker storyline that followed.

I liked how he made Batman more likeable, but I hated his super-insane, almost supernatural Joker.

Interesting that in the Fox story you excerpt, Batman not only kills the villain — a vampire who hypnotized several victims, including Julie — but actually uses a GUN with silver bullets to do so, shooting the vamp in his coffin.

Didn’t know that Gardner Fox had written that, though; quite a bit removed from his Jay Garrick stories.

Rucka is one of the best writers of Gotham City I’ve ever seen. He really understands how to paint the mood and also the scope of the city.

Becca, that was very early in Batman’s existence and “doesn’t use guns” wasn’t a thing yet.

David Spofforth

June 15, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Alan Moore wrote a nice Batman text story in a UK Batman Annual (1985) entitled “The Gun” with illustrations by Gary Leach. It’s the story of the gun that was used to kill the Waynes, it’s origin and final fate.

Yes, Fraser, I am aware of that; in fact, I believe this was one of the LAST times Bats was shown using a gun, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated as canon for several years.

iinteresting was wainting for brubacker and ruka to finaly pop up not to mention to see where moore take on batman aka the killing the joke the one story that proves how nuts and twisted the joker truely is wind up since that would be the pick for moore. though surprised to see gardner fox did not crack the top ten given how he is another legend who was there at the start of batman.

A lot of my list is in this batch: Bru, Rucka, Fox. Nice to see them place so high.
Between them, Haney and Conway, that’s half my list so far.

SCOTT SNYDER ONLY MADE IT AT #11??!!! In my mind, he deserves to be higher than that. Not only has he been writing some of the greatest Batman stories ever told, but some of the greatest comic stories in all time. I love his work on Batman as much as Frank Miller or even Grant Morrison.

Oh and I also think Alan Moore deserved to be higher on the list as well, but not as high as Scott Synder. :)

Is that Sean Philips who did the art for that Brubaker entry? I’m normally a Phillips fan anyway but that art is great even by his standards.

I didn’t like Rucka as much as I wanted to because I associate him too much with the early Didio-era house style of DC writing popularized by Johns, WInick, and Meltzer, where the work was somehow simultaneously extremely dumb lowest common denominator stuff and pretentious, take-itself-too-seriously, depressing stuff, all at the same time. He definitely was the best out of the group from that era though. I was also annoyed by his attempts to write pro-woman stuff, because at times it came off a bit patronizing to me. He wanted to show women as extra capable, but he usually did it by just turning them into clones of men with boobs rather than showing how a uniquely female perspective can get the job in ways that a stereotypically male strength couldn’t. I didn’t try his Wonder Woman so maybe he was better there.

Brubaker I simply love. No arguments there, except I wish he placed higher. I never read his Batman stuff unless you count Gotham Central, because I think he wrote during that “Batman is an urban legend” era, which I found too stupid a premise to reward with my spending money. I only got Gotham Central because it was available at my public library.

Gardner Fox’s Batman stuff I loved.

Killing Joke is probably one of the worst Batman stories ever. Really, really terrible an idea to work into the continuity. That was probably the story where the Joker really jumped the shark. Even Moore has gone on record several times as saying he regrets it. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow is anoher Moore story that’s terrible for many of the same reasons, but at least that’s out of continuity, much like this one should have been.

Brubaker did a really underrated murder mystery thing in Detective Comics the same time Loeb/Lee were doing Hush. Bru’s was a lot better, but everything got overshadowed by Jim Lee and the megawatt status of that story

Snyder’s overrated, Rucka and Brubaker have never been my favorite writers (though they’re very skilled), and I fall on the fence on Killing Joke–it’s not “good Moore” but I don’t hate it.

It’ll be great if you can also list out the Batman issues/books these writers wrote.

All great choices. But it’s hard for me to consider Alan Moore a “Batman writer”. He did write two noteworthy Batman tales, sure, he even wrote a few notable Superman stories, but it’s not like he did any real comic run for either of the heroes.

@T.

Can you explain why you think it’s a terrible idea to work into continuity? Do you mean the shooting of Barbara, or something else. I don’t disagree with you, by the way; I only read the thing once, and there’s a lot of it I forget. I’m just curious about what’s so horrible that it ruined the Joker and shouldn’t have been in continuity.

Have to disagree with T’s assessment of “The Killing Joke.” I think it is brilliant and atmospheric and tragic and offers one of the most insanely terrifying depictions of the Joker… and it does so without having him act as a mass murderer who wantonly slaughters dozens of innocents. I’m trying to remember if the Joker actually even kills anyone in “The Killing Joke.” Maybe one or two people, but that’s it. Instead of aiming for city-wide carnage, the Joker sets out to drive James Gordon insane. And that’s it. Yet the Joker is so much more compelling and scary for trying to destroy one single man. And even after all the Joker’s horrible crimes, we can still, if not pity him, then perhaps at least understand him a bit more.

Plus we get to see just what makes Gordon such an important character. After Batman rescues him, you would expect Gordon to want bloody vengeance against the Joker for everything that was done to him and his daughter Barbara. Instead, Gordon is determined that Batman bring in the Joker “by the book,” to show him that “our way works.” It is Gordon who is the true guardian of sanity and order in Gotham.

Interesting coincidence that Snyder and Capullo both ended up at #11 on their respective lists! I had both of them in my Top 10, but I’m not outraged that, like Moses, each gets to SEE the Promised Land, but not actually make it there!

I wonderif all the people who voted for Snyder know that he’s just retelling better Batman stories in an amateur fashion.

Yeah, I don’t really get the hate for The KIlling Joke. The Joker’s not doing horrible things at random in it, and while what he does is horrific, he’s very far from the mass-murderer of later stories. His violent actions int he entire story amount to a fight with Batman, the brutal shooting and photographing of Barbara Gordon, and killing the amusement park owner to cover his tracks.

I like it in part because it makes it clear that being the Joker is pretty horrible and that his mental issues aren’t simply a gleeful love of mayhem, but it also doesn’t actually let that become an excuse. After all, the point of the story is that both Batman and, to an even greater extent, Commissioner Gordon didn’t become homicidal maniacs despite the traumas visited upon them. It’s directly stated as such. I read the final moments more as a kind of expression of futility regarding the notion of bringing the Joker back from the abyss, a sort of “What the hell else is there to do, now that this is over, except escape the tension and the horror for a few seconds and restore some vague sense of humanity to the proceedings.”

It’s not a bad Joker story, but it is a horrible Barbara Gordon story, becaus eit just doesn’t care about her except as a prop. If you see the ending as reinforcing *that*, and it is is, then yeah, it’s a really badly done story. But its faults don’t have much to do with the Joker elements as with the way Moore treats the one female character — and arguably, after the death of the original Kathy Kane, the one really active and equal female character int he Bat-books — as an afterthought, a plot device to motivate the hero and prop up the villain. That’s grotesque and Moore ought to regret it. And immense praise should be given, then, to John Ostrander for so effectively making Barbara the subject of her own story again. For a guy who wrote barely any Batman stories, none of them especially memorable, he had a huge and positive impact on the franchise.

Really, the Joker I can’t stand is the one from “A Death in the Family,” not so much because of the death of Robin, but because it’s the first story I recall where we get the Joker killing a dozen guards on his way out of Arkham, cracking jokes about crippling Barbara Gordon when the story he’s referencing didn’t play things that flippantly at all, and plotting mass murder because he just likes mass murder a lot.

Starlin has always had a rather odd perspective, and he tends to fall in love a bit too much with monstrosity in his stories. His Batman run is borderline nihilistic at times, and of course he increasingly wrote his signature character, Thanos, as a celebration of nihilism as romanticized knowingness. He’s very good at capturing a sort of tone, but bad at the cathartic walking back of that tone that the best Batman stories accomplish.

I think Killing Joke is a really clever story. I like the interpretation that Batman snaps the Joker’s neck at the end and it’s the ‘final’ Joker story.

I think the ‘two lunatics’ joke is a very clever way of describing the relationship between Batman and the Joker – one madman chasing another.

I dunno why some people (including Bolland) have since said they don’t think it’s a great story.

The problem with The Killing Joke is that Moore doesn’t like Batman. I get that that’s the very thing that makes it an interesting story for some people, but it’s a classic example of Moore focusing on story at the expense of an established character.

God, but that art and coloring in Killing Joke though. So amazing.

It’s very fashionable to bash this story nowadays, it seems, but it’s unquestionably one of a few Batman comics that simply must be experienced.

While the placement makes sense because of the small amount of work, it’s weird to see Alan Moore at #12 on ANY best writer list!

At this point I think it’s official that James Robinson won’t make the list, which is too bad. In addition to a handful of very good LOTDK stories, he also wrote Batman/Hellboy/Starman, which was quite fun. But really, he should be here for Blades, which I think holds up as one of the best Batman stories of the 90′s, and really captured the obsession aspect of Batman in a wonderful way. Plus I think it was the first time Tim Sale drew Batman, so it’s historically notable as well. Oh well.

Assuming the top ten is the obvious ten writers that haven’t shown up yet, I think Robinson is the only really notable omission on the list.

Yay for Snyder making it this far up! Considering how fresh hes run is (its still going strong) and accounting for the caliber of the competition, an 11 is an amazing feat. Im so proud to own all hes bat books (even the pre-new-52 stuff).

Brubaker and Rucka deserve their spots if only for the master peace that is Gotham Central.

Alan Moore… well, as good as TKJ is… I dont know if he deserves a spot. But never the less, its Allan Freaking Moore, he probably deserves it any way.

I really need to read more of Snyder’s Batman. I read “Court of Owls” and loved it, but shortly after that I just stopped picking up DC books in protest of Nu 52. I think the only thing I’ve bought or read from them since then is the new “Batman Black-and-White”, which was kind of its own thing.

Ed did a great job analyzing Bruce, and Greg brought such passion to his Batman work you could tell he loved the character. Like Brian says, their runs really were unique in the perspectives they took to the character and his world.

The Killing Joke may be a better work, but I think I love Moore’s annual about Clayface even more- always found Clayface III’s weird sexuality fascinating.

Gardner Fox was an excellent plotter and always added to the mythos with his stories.

Scott’s done terrific work – though I still think Black Mirror remains his best.

Brubaker and Rucka next to Barr gave me 3 in a row (odd how that worked out)

Third Man -I almost voted for James Robinson – he was in my short list but not in my final 10

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