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75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Artists #10-6

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In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Batman, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Batman, culminating with the official celebration of Batman’s anniversary at the end of July. The last installment will deal with Batman stories, but this month will be about Batman’s writers and artists (40 artists and 35 writers).

You all voted, now here are the results! Here is a master list of all the writers and artists featured so far. We continue with Batman artists #10-6…

Enjoy!

NOTE: Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section. If you are not a fan of a particular creator, that’s fine, but be respectful about it. No insulting creators or otherwise being a jerk about creators. Specifically, no “Creator X better not be in the top ten!” or variations of that idea (“Creator X better not be ahead of Creator Y,” etc.) I’ll be deleting any comments like that and, depending on how jerky the comment was, banning commenters.

10. Irv Novick

Few artists in comic book history had quite the career like Irv Novick (Jack Kirby and Gil Kane are two that come to mind). He was a highly successful artist in pretty much every era of comic book history from the Golden Age to the Silver Age to the Bronze Age. Heck, he was still working steadily well into the late 1980s when he was in his 70s (poor eyesight caused him to retire – he passed away at the age of 88 in 2004). After being a popular superhero artist during the Golden Age, Novick moved on to the world of advertising after World War II (as well as doing a couple of comic strips). He was lured back to comic books by an old friend, Robert Kanigher. Novick then spent most of the 1950s killing it on war comics for Kanigher. At the start of the 1960s, Novick again left comics for advertising. Kanigher lured him back by making him one of the highest paid artists in the business. When Carmine Infantino took over DC Comics at the end of the decade, Novick was re-assigned to superhero comics again for the first time since the Golden Age. While he would draw a number of different heroes over the next decade plus, his primary area of expertise was Batman.

A fascinating aspect of this era of Batman is that Neal Adams has been given the majority of the artistic credit for the darkening of Batman at this time, however, Novick was already doing so before Adams drew a single Batman story (although Adams had already begun contributing covers). Honestly, looking back at it, it seems that inker Dick Giordano was the difference-maker, as Novick’s art made a clear change from when Joe Giella was inking him to when Giordano took over, which was right before Adams joined the Bat-books.

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In any event, Novick predated Adams as the “dark” Batman artist and even during Adams’ peak, the fact that Adams could not keep up with a heavy work schedule meant that Novick ended up drawing many more comics in the “Neal Adams’ era” than Adams himself. And having Novick available was such an astonishing luxury for the Bat-books. How many artists out there can fill in for Neal Adams and not be a disappointment?! Irv Novick for one.

9. Dick Sprang

While he was not the first artist to ghost for Bob Kane, Dick Sprang certainly became the most popular. Just like how Dan DeCarlo transformed the house style for Archie Comics when he went to go work for them, so, too, did Dick Sprang re-define what Batman looked like for nearly two decades. As I have alluded to with Sheldon Moldoff, it was pretty amusing to see Moldoff ghosting for Kane while also drawing in the style of Sprang, who was also ghosting for Kane. Sprang was the main Batman artist for most of the late 1940s and pretty much all of the 1950s. He oversaw the slow change from Batman being a gangster-themed crime comic to an outlandish science fiction driven comic filled with imaginative new worlds and foes.

Sprang is best known for his square-jawed and barrel-chested take on Batman, very similar to Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. However, Sprang was also a tremendously imaginative artist who was a born storyteller. One of his most acclaimed stories came in Batman #34, a delightful Bill Finger story about a madcap race across the United States. Batman and Robin decide to run the race, as well, but only to test the speed of their vehicles. Meanwhile, a trio of racers hold our attention – a blind man using radar and other technologies to inspire blind people around the world, a mysterious racer known as “John Doe” and a socialite whose rich uncle is sabotaging the other racers to get her to win. Check out this sequence which takes place towards the end of the race…

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Holy crap, right? How striking of a design! And all without sacrificing storytelling. Cary Grant, eat your heart out!

8. Tim Sale

One of the most distinctive artists in the business, Tim Sale had been working on Batman comics since the early 1990s, drawing stories in Legends of the Dark Knight and Shadow of the Bat (plus Showcase). However, it was when he began working with writer Jeph Loeb that Sale’s Bat-tenure really took off. Sale and Loeb began doing yearly Halloween one-shots. They grew so popular that they eventually decided to do a year-long maxi-series based on their earlier Halloween efforts. The result, The Long Halloween, is one of the most acclaimed Batman comic book stories of all-time.

Here is a snippet, which shows off Sale’s striking use of design, colors, negative space and dynamism to make his work stand out amongst the crowd (in a good way, of course)…

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The pair followed up Long Halloween with a direct sequel, Dark Victory, as well as a Catwoman mini-series. Sale’s art was stunning, as always. Sale has done some Bat-work here and there since, including Solo and Black and White.

Go to the next page to see #7-6!

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48 Comments

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 18, 2014 at 2:09 am

Miller not getting #1 is mind boggling.

I’m really curious who’s in the Top Five.
A great group (I’m not particularly a Miller fan but I can understand why many people are). But what issue were the Novick pages from?
Speaking of Novick, he actually appears “on screen” in a Sea Devils issue. There’s a string of stories where DC sends out artists to meet the Sea Devils and try drawing them and Novick’s one of them (though in the end, the regular artist on the book wasn’t even in the contest).

True, The Dark Knight Strikes Again doesn’t get the love it deserves.

I think people were taken aback that it wasn’t the same animal as The Dark Knight Returns, but it couldn’t be.

If he’d called it The Justice League Returns maybe the critical reception would have been more positive.

As a meditation on aging, relevance and how following generation(s) pick up the mantle of their elders, albeit with different values and methods, I find it brilliant.

Anyone else hear Diedrich Bader’s Batman voice when they read: “Joker! You lunatic–there’s no place you can go from here!”

Must just be me.

When I hear Bats’ voice, it’s always Kevin Conroy.

Sprang and Rogers were both on my never submitted ballot.

The first time I remember seeing Sprang’s art was in Detective Comics 572, I must have been 11 or 12 when the issue came out and I bought it off the shelf. I was riding with my dad on Eastway Blvd in Charlotte when I opened the book to the centerfold and thought “That is how Batman should look.’ I am sure I must have seen his work before that, but have no conscious recollection of it.

I also like how Miller and Byrne (sometimes) use Sprang’s Batman as their model.

The love for Sale is something I do not quite get. His characters are to far off model for my tastes. I do think it is neat that such a ‘non-traditional’ comic book artist gets so much appreciation though.

Fairly sure Rogers and Sale were on my list, though I can’t remember whether I squeezed Miller in there. I’ve gone a bit off his work, but there’s no doubt he’s a great comic book artist.

Like the pages shown from the other guys. Off the top of my head, can’t think who other than Adams is going to be in the top 5, but I’m looking forward to it.

Under Irv Novick, page 14 is shown last instead of first

I’m not a Frank Miller fan, but I’m shocked that he’s only #6. The others here are great choices. Nice to see Irv Novick get some love.

It’s nice to see Marshall Rodgers. His run was short, but one of the best looking comics of the 70s.

Don’t sleep on the Bat-Corvette.

Dick Sprang was one of my votes. I kinda wanted to get somebody from each era, and he was THE guy from that period in-between Not-The Shadow rip-off Batman and ’70s Dark Detective Batman. Lovely stuff.

Tim Sale is far and away the best thing about those Loeb/Robinson stories he drew.

Marshall Rogers was part of that lightning in a bottle collection of stories he and Steve Englehart and Terry Austin did. They were never this good apart(just see the Engelhart issues with Simonson or the Rogers issues with Wein for evidence), but for a brief time you got some the best Batman stories around.

Cronin would use a DKSA sequence for ol’ Frank. I guess he’s saving up TDKR for the inevitable Greatest Batman Stories poll.

Well, all right! Novick and Sprang were on my list.

So glad to see Novick land this high–he is one of the Batman artists of my youth–after Aparo and Adams! As a kid, he was one of the first artists that I could regognize by his style. I didn’t yet know artists names, but I knew when art in an issue of Batman (or Flash) was by Irv Novick.

Also glad to see Frank Miller at # 6. I am not personally a fan of his Batman work, but I can’t deny the impact he has had on the character, so just outside the top five sits well with me and seems appropriate.

Think I have the top five figured out, but am excited to see the order.

I’m not shocked that Miller isn’t higher. He didn’t even draw Year One, which is almost as famous as DKR’s and Klaus Jansen was a huge part of overall look, anyway; Miller’s primary importance to Batman has always been his writing.

The art in The Dark Knight Strikes Again is on the verge of terrible in my opinion. Honestly sad Miller’s work has taken such a nosedive.

I think that perhaps the Number Seven spot should possibly have read “Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin.” This is definitely not belittle Rogers, who was an amazing artist. But the majority of Rogers’ work on the character of Batman was inked by Austin, who absolutely added so much of his distinctive stylistic flourishes to the finished art. As far as I know, the only major Batman story that Rogers drew that was not inked by Austin was the Legends of the Dark Knight arc. Bob Wiacek and John Cebolerro were the inkers on that one. But when I typically think of Rogers drawing Batman, it almost automatically comes to my mind that he was paired with Austin.

It is a real shame that Marshall Rogers died so young, and that the second half of “Dark Detective” was left unfinished. The whole thing was already written by Steve Englehart; all it needs is a new penciler. Several people, myself included, suggested that Walter Simonson, who drew the first couple of Englehart’s run, could be asked to pencil it, and have Terry Austin ink it. I’d certainly enjoy seeing that artistic collaboration again. Unfortunately, according to Englehart, DC has expressed zero interest in publishing it.

Wow, no John Byrne in this whole list. While not a regular Batman artist, I thought he’d done enough to be worth a mention: Generations, Batman/Captain America, and my personal favourite, that 3-D graphic novel in the 80s! Right from that first splash page in Man of Steel #6, I really liked the strong, clean, square-jawed depiction he gave the Dark Knight.

Still, this list here is real good, too (that Sale art is especially striking).

I had Miller #2 and Rogers #3. This is a mild surprise,

….. AAAAAnnnnnnnndddd we are officially in the Top 10. Wow, what a great group.

It is funny, but I never thought of Irv Novick as a Batman artist. He was always sort of a general “DC artist” that happened to draw a ton of Batman comics. He and Dick Giordano sort of defined the DC house style of my childhood. With that said, he was damn good Batman artist. I love that spooky vibe in Batman comics and Novick captured it really well. He also had a really good feel for ‘realistic’ action.

Dick Sprang blows my mind. Those pages are crazy dynamic. (As an aside, “Never shoot a female! Throw her over the side instead!” Strange gender rules to say the least.)

Tim Sale is amazing. He is probably the number one guy currently working that could get me to pick-up a Batman comic irrespective of anything else.

It is a shame that there is so little Marshall Rogers art, but what exists is so awesome.

Not really a big fan of Frank Miller as a Batman artist. I love his writing of the character, but the artwork on its own is not close to my heart.

I’m really surprised that Sale and Rogers aren’t top 5. I thought they both had a chance to be #1, as I think they’re visuals are really the images that people think of when they think Batman comics. But I guess that’s a pretty subjective thing, and maybe it only applies to me. No one has ever drawn the cape and the poses better than Rogers (though Breyfogle came close), and I feel like Sale is really the best artist of the whole Batman mythos, with the way he drew the rogues gallery and how he made Gotham City this unrelenting place of dark splash pages.

Do people feel like they know who’ll be #1? I mean, it’s pretty obvious which five guys are left, but I’m really not sure which will take the top spot. One only drew four issues of Batman, and another has virtually no stories reprinted in trade, so it’s hard to imagine either of those guys at the top. Of the other three, one probably doesn’t resonate enough with older fans while another probably doesn’t resonate enough with newer fans. So I guess that leaves only one super likely candidate. But somehow I really thought Sale and Rogers would rank higher than him.

@Third Man: Yeah, as an older fan, I know which one of the top five would (and did) get my vote, no question. But a lot of readers/voters are after his time. So I just don’t know!

What’s Tim Sale up to these days, is he retired? I don’t think I’ve seen any new work from him after he painted some hit and miss-covers to Detective Comics in the early 00′s.

I’m really surprised that Sale and Rogers aren’t top 5.

Agreed with Third Man on this. I have a feeling that Marshall Rogers or Tim Sale would have made the Top Five if it was not for a certain individual whose name rhymes with “Slim Tree.” But, honestly, both Rogers’ and Sale’s work on the characters & mythos of Batman is soooooo much more iconic and defining than that other artist’s work will ever be. Well, at least in my (not so) humble opinion.

I had Sprang #10 and Sale 8…so very close. I think Rogers was my 10a. Too many good choices, and in his case I went with quantity. But no one could ever complain about a vote for him. I’m shocked Miller isn’t in the top 5. Must be some weird backlash. I can think of 4 of the final 5, but I’m obviously forgetting someone really important. (At least I think I can…I’m not sure I thought my #1 would be rated this high….)

And DKSA as a “sequel” to All Star Batman would have made sense. But as one to DKR….it disappointed a lot of people. The art isn’t bad, though very different, much more into his 300 territory. But it has some weird stuff in there. And Dick Grayson.

Well…at least till Ben mentions him….now I can see who I forgot…and why….

Wow, for some reason when I was guessing the “top ten” final results, I completely forgot about Irv Novick. I’m proud of voters for remembering him! What a top-notch talent who just happened to be in Neal Adams’s shadow. I guess this means that Walt Simonson didn’t make it, though.

Miller and Sale were my #2 and #3 respectively. IMO both were robbed by not being in the top 5.

I found Marshall Rogers’ work in Strange Aparitions to be very inconsistent, but there were times when it was great – and he was a big mover in the crazy capes that Todd McFarlane went crazy with.

Chaim Mattis Keller

June 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Glad to see Jim Aparo’s made the top 5. He’ll always be THE Batman artist to me.

I’m pretty sure now that one of my favorite Batman artists won’t come up. Devin Grayson & Roger Robinson were a hell of a team on Gotham Knights, their run is in my top five, writer- or artistwise.

I voted for Novick, Sprang and Rogers. Sale and Miller are great too.

Very happy to see Novick here, and doing so reminds me of Dick Dillin’s awesome Batman in JLA.

I fondly recall the three covers Dick Sprang did for the “someone’s publishing a Batman comic in Gotham City” story around Detective #622

Pete Woodhouse

June 18, 2014 at 4:09 pm

@Fraser “But what issue were the Novick pages from?”
I believe it’s the 1972/3 era Batman #250 – the ‘hanging Robin cover’ issue that I think was an early cover by Rich Buckler (pencils/layout). Search GCD around the #250 mark & you’ll find it!

Do people really like Miller’s artwork in TDKSA? His TDKR art is a million times better.

I vastly prefer Miller’s DKR art. DKSA is kind of representative of all that’s wrong with modern Miller art wise. The figures are too blocky, there’s little-to-no sense of proportion, Miller’s superficially adopted the manga style and combined it with his own propensity to draw the ugliest figures to create something truly horrible, Panel layouts are rather busy, plus Miller’s developed this obsession with blood spatter that wasn’t there (or at least, not to the same extent) around the time that he did DKR. Plus the colours are rather garish and loud, Lynn Varley’s colours for DKR were well chosen and effective, she knew how to use just the right amount of bright colours set against darker backgrounds.

DKR Miller had the right balance when it came to art choices. DKSA Miller was well on his way to hackery.

Considering that this is a populist list of artists, it seems to be in bad faith with the voters to use TDKSA as the example of Miller’s work. Oh well…

The Sprang panel of the aircraft, canyon, and river on p. 10 of his selection is just about the prettiest panel I’ve seen in a while.

Miller, I believe, was my first pick for artist as he was for writer.

Sale is very good. I have a base negative reaction to his work because I associate it with Loeb, but… he’s objectively really really good.

Dark Knight Strikes Again  > Dark Knight Returns

Returns takes itself way too damn seriously, while Strikes Again fully embraces the ridiculousness it actually is.

That all just goes overboard into complete stupidity by the time Miller gets to All-Star tho.

If you think The Dark Knigt Returns takes itself too seriously you need to read it again. It’s riddled with black humour and satire.

Miller’s work is very rarely serious.

Pete, thanks, I think that’s it.
I enjoyed DKSA, but someday I must reread that and the original, as I never have.

The Dark Knight Returns isn’t some super serious, super dark Batman work like people would have you believe. Miller sat on the border between ‘straight’ story-telling and satire. DKR told a very poignant Batman story while at the same time mocking 80s popular culture, politics, political correctness and news media through his use of various ‘bits’ interspersed within the main narrative. DKR is remarkably well constructed. DKSA tries to do the same stuff but is, in my opinion, too busy. The construction isn’t as great, Miller uses these same types of sketches but the main narrative isn’t strong enough to support them, his attempt at satire kind of falls flat and instead of mocking the randomness of 21st century popular culture seems to be more symptomatic of it.

No Kelley Jones yet??

No Kelley Jones yet??

He has appeared already.

i was sure that frank miller mostly because of dark knight returns would be in the top five. instead he is six. plus can’t believe tim sale did not rank higher along marshal rogers.

Honestly, Marshall Rogers would have been my number one. Englehart and Rogers’ Batman is the definitive Batman for me. It’s the gorgeously stylized sense of design but also– and I’m sorry you didn’t highlight this– the sense of architecture. Rogers trained as an architect and his Gotham wasn’t a random assortment of buildings most artists would draw. but real structures. Gotham City looked and felt like a city. And he used that for a backdrop for Batman with his cape flowing and made Batman seem all the more real and yet fantastic at the same time.

One of my prized possessions is a portfolio of paintings Rogers did of Batman in the early ’80s. I got him to sign the envelope (itself a gorgeous piece of art) at a convention in 1989. I really need to get those framed.

Yeah, I also can’t believe a dozen artists aren’t in the top 5. I call shenanigans.

I believe I had Rogers at #3 and Irv Novick was in my Top 10 (why didn’t I remember to copy my lists onto my Notes?). Very glad that Jim Aparo (my #2) will make the overall Top 5.

Irv Novick was very solid, though a great inker really made the difference in his case. Frank Miller’s art work on DKR2 is a mixed bag, IMO, but I do think it’s underrated – of course he’ll always be rightfully remembered as one of the handful of creators without whom Batman would not be the same.

Marshall Rogers, Dick Sprang, and Tim Sale are three of my absolute favorites, and it would have been nice to see any one of them in the top 5 – especially Sprang. Rogers’ Batman is most definitely Adams’ Batman – but it doesn’t feel like an Adams’ clone at all. His storytelling chops are incredible – as can be seen in “Ticket to Tragedy”. Sprang also told great stories – and often in 10 pages to boot! His art contained so much but never felt cluttered. Sale really nails the dynamism between character and space that makes for compelling pages.

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