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

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. Chuck Dixon

Few creators outside of Chris Claremont had quite the control over a single line of comic books as Chuck Dixon had over the Batman universe during the mid-to-late 1990s. Not only did Dixon write Detective Comics from 1992 through 1998 (plus a few stories during the year-long No Man’s Land crossover of 1999) he also wrote the spin-off titles Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey and a stint on Catwoman, to boot! Plus, of course, creating the villain Bane in a one-shot Vengeance of Bane. Not to mention a number of related Batman mini-series, one-shots and graphic novels.

Dixon’s Batman stories tended to be well-thought out detective tales mixed with character-driven stories mixed with occasional forays into outright action epics. In an era nearly devoid of “done in one” stories, Dixon was a master of them. He did a really good one on Harvey Bullock and another really good one showing Batman stuck in his Bruce Wayne persona for a whole issue while still trying to save the day without giving away his identity.

Dixon was very kind to Batman’s Rogues Gallery, with both the Penguin and the Riddler doing very well under his pen (one thing Dixon was not was a deconstructionist – he took an above board approach to his characters that really served them well).

Dixon was also probably the biggest proponent Gotham City’s Police Department ever had (at least until the days of Gotham Central). Dixon routinely spotlighted Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya and Commissioner Gordon (as well as other GCPD characters like Hardback Bock). Dixon did a GCPD mini-series that was a lot of fun and he also did a Gordon mini-series that was strong, as well.

A problem with a run this long is picking out a representative story. I have to go with a Nolan story, so how about an example of Dixon’s one-off storytelling?

In this one-shot in Detective Comics #704, we meet a hapless crook who just doesn’t know when to stop…

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When he is released again after a number of years, he gets sucked right back into a crime as a driver for a bigshot gangster. In the end, Batman is given the choice of following the big time guy or the driver. He chooses the real villainous guy and the driver escapes. Batman is not too worried, though, as he is bound to get caught later on when he tries another job, as Batman’s not familiar with any crook staying away from the game, as it were. Except, of course…

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What a great ending. A typical Chuck Dixon tale!

9. Doug Moench

Doug Moench followed Gene Colan over to DC from Marvel Comics. Moench took over the Bat-titles from Gerry Conway and continued Conway’s novel idea of using both Batman and Detective Comics to tell a continuous story – essentially one Batman title shipping twice a month. In this initial run, Moench really played up the soap opera aspect of the continuous narrative, as the books definitely began to evoke a soap opera, particularly the myriad of love interests he had for Batman during this stint (Nocturna, Catwoman, Vicki Vale and Alfred’s niece Julia Pennyworth). Moench’s initial run ran for over 80 issues, culminating in a classic “Batman versus all his villains” anniversary spectacular in Batman #400. Denny O’Neil took over as Batman editor at this point and squelched the whole “one guy writing both books” routine. Moench didn’t leave the Bat-Universe entirely over the next few years. He wrote an excellent Legends of the Dark Knight story about Batman’s early days (where Hugo Strange was poisoning Batman’s reputation with Gotham’s police) and he began doing a series of acclaimed graphic novels with artist Kelley Jones featuring a vampire version of Batman.

Eventually, six years after removing Moench from the ongoing series, O’Neil brought Moench back to take over the main Batman title after Alan Grant left that book to launch the third ongoing Batman title, Shadow of the Bat. Moench joined the Bat-books just in time to plot the blockbuster crossover Knightfall with Grant and Chuck Dixon. Moench (and Moench’s bank account) gained the added benefit of specifically writing the “Bane breaks Batman’s back” issue as well as Batman #500, where the new Batman, Azrael, defeats Bane. After all of that drama finished up, Moench was reunited with his vampire Batman collaborator, Kelley Jones, as the main artist on Batman featuring a returned Bruce Wayne.

Their run ran from 1994-1998, just in time for the launch of X-Files, a hit television show dealing with conspiracy theories. Moench’s Batman run was filled with conspiracy theories. Kelley Jones’ moody and macabre artwork and Moench’s paranoia are probably the two most memorable aspects of this run. Take this bit from Batman #535 for a wonderfully dark combination of them both…

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Moench and Jones’ run was sadly cut short by No Man’s Land. Moench was kept busy on other Batman projects, like a couple of mini-series and a couple of Legends of the Dark Knight stories for the next couple of years before he more or less was finished with the Bat-titles by 2002. He and Jones have reunited a few times since then for Batman projects, including a horror-themed mini-series from 2009-10.

8. Alan Grant

Alan Grant debuted on Detective Comics with co-writer John Wagner before soon taking over the book by himself. Working with artist Norm Breyfogle, Grant worked on Detective for roughly twenty issues before the Grant/Breyfogle team moved over to the main Batman series for another twenty issues or so before they then launched a brand-new series, Shadow of the Bat together. Breyfogle then left the Bat-books, leaving Grant alone on Shadow of the Bat, where Grant remained for the next six years before the Bat-book shakeup of No Man’s Land left Grant off of the Bat-book island. He’s done a few Batman stories here and there since.

Probably the most remarkable aspect of Grant’s run on Batman was the way that he kept introducing cool new characters. If you looked at the top new additions to the Bat-mythos from the late 1980s and early 1990s, Grant contributed a good chunk of them, from the Ventriloquist and Scarface (co-created by John Wagner) to Mr. Zsasz to Jeremiah Arkham to what is likely Grant’s personal favorite contribution, the anarchist aptly named Anarky…

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Grant’s stories had a real bent toward social justice. He tackled a number of issues like corporate greed and the plight of the homeless. He basically would frequently address issues that he found interesting and just adapt them into Batman stories. He wrote an excellent arc about marijuana. Between he and Doug Moench, the Bat-books of the mid-1990s had a whole of of stories that were based on a personal interest of the main writer. Luckily, Grant’s interests were interesting in their own right.

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

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40 Comments

Hmmm… Can’t remember which of these I voted for. Definitely not Loeb, but definitely Dini.

I think Alan Grant was also on my list. Can’t remember whether I had dixon on there.

Just as well Brian’s asked us not to say mean things about any of the creators or there work. I suspect there might be a hint of dissatisfaction at certain inclusions.

Chuck Dixon was my #9 vote so I’m happy to see him. Alan Grant is classic and I’m kicking myself for forgetting him.

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 19, 2014 at 5:29 am

Dini’s Animated Series tie-ins are the great Batman comics of all time.

And Loeb’s Dark Victory and When in Rome are both pretty solid as well.

Moench’s Batman work is a favourite of mine. I think he should be a little higher. His run with Kelley Jones is nearly perfect! (the Joker arc being the exception – who would of though!).

Grant is another favourite. He had some steller issues. It was hard to get his whole run, as they had his chopping and changing between Batman and Tec. Dixon was also at his best in the Bat universe. His first year on Robin was great (asell as the 3 minis). And his Nightwing was some of my favourite work with the character.

Loeb and Dini, while both had some solid work, I feel are too high on the list.

Batman has been written and drawn by a number of excellent artists. That said, Chuck Dixon is one of my favorites because he really emphasized characterization.

FYI – CBR, you need to include an edit button :)

Re: Dixon ‘…. another really good one showing Batman stuck in his Bruce Wayne persona for a whole issue while still trying to save the day without giving away his identity.’

What issue is this? I love a good Bruce story.

Detective Comics #711.

Thanks Brian! :)

scarletspeed7

June 19, 2014 at 6:13 am

Wow… Three of my choices right here! Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon, and Paul Dini. I actually had these three guys in 2nd, 5th, and 4th respectively. I don’t think very many writers out there will ever influence me so much on how the Dark Knight should be written as these guys did.

Well, four out of five ain’t bad :)

I like how the 90s Batman Triumvirate ended up all next to each other in the top 10. Moench was my favorite of the bunch, for “Prey” and for his run with Kelley Jones. Great stuff.

I voted for Dini, although I can’t lie and say his great work on the Batman Animated Series wasn’t a part of the reason. Nonetheless, he would get my vote for “Mad Love” alone, I absolutely adore that comic.

3/5 for me. While dixon’s run went on way too long (on all his Bat-titles) it can’t be argued that he is ultimately an extremely important Batman writer. When he was on form, he was on fire! Alan Grant is one of my go-to Bat-scribes. I love his early work, especially wtih Breyfogle. He also wrote Misfits, the best Killer Moth story ever!

Dini’s animated work alone should qualify him for his spot. He’s one of the main reasons DC animation owned Marvel for the better part of two decades.

I suppose we’ll never know, but I wonder a little why he jumped ship after everything he had done for them (my sense is that there was something beyond “something new to do”; the last episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, which he wrote, was a very heavy handed critique of corporate practices regarding superheroes, including slamming the replacement cartoon before it even made it to screen…”Mitefall” is the title if anyone is interested).

I’ll say this for Hush … the art is amazing.

Also, Julia Remarque Pennyworth was Alfred’s daughter, not his niece.

Great list, I voted for Loeb and Moench.

Love Paul Dini for giving us the TV show, but I read that Robin/Joker story after reading it hyped on the internet, and could not have been more disappointed. Maybe ’cause I’m a dad now, but watching Joker drive around mowing families down while they’re Christmas shopping? Not fun.

The worst part? Joker gets away at the end, and Batman congratulates Robin on the great job he did surviving. Dozens of victims unavenged, but the what the heck, that’s the Joker we know and love, apparently.

As has been noted many times now, the mass murder bit has been done so much by now that it really does make Joker’s continued presence in the Bat-books more frustrating and depressing than something to anticipate with any excitement.

Paul Dini’s been a great force in the Bat-verse, but that particular excerpt shown..? Not a fan.

I was very torn on Chuck Dixon because I loved his actual crafting of stories, but I hated his characterization of Batman. I never like depictions of Batman where he’s as big an aloof dick to his friends and allies as he is to criminals, and Dixon was big on that. For example his depiction of Batman in Nightwing Year One is almost that of an emotional abuser. He did write great stories though, and was talented, despite how much I disliked his idea of how Batman’s personality should be.

I’m feeling like a fool for forgetting Loeb and Dini! Glad to see Grant and Dixon so high in the list (Alan was #1 in mine).

Good times.

How funny that Moench, Grant and Dixon were grouped together. Add Denny O’Neill and My Batman has its writers. Jones and Nolan for the art.

All of these guys were on my list, glad to see them in the top 10.

BTW it was Gotham City Sirens, not Gotham Girls.

The the late 80s and into the 90s really was a great time to be a Batman fan with Dixon, Moench and Grant writing the books. Plus I’m sure some of the artists from that time are going to be showing up in the top 5 artists. I can’t think of any other family of comics that had such a large group of high quality creators like that all at the same time. Good stuff.

The Rogues Gallery panel at the top of this post — with Maxie Zeus and Crazy Quilt at the top right, and the Joker lunging at Batman’s neck — I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember where it’s from. Was it a ‘Tec cover?

@Gumption: Its from the Last Arkham, by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. Its the first story of the Shadow of the Bat ongoing O’Neil gave them after unceremoniously kicking them off of Batman and Detective Comics before the royalty inducing anniversary issues.

Adam Weissman

June 19, 2014 at 9:36 am

Dark Victory was decent. Hush was nothing special.

Paul Dini should be so high up on the list just for turning Hush into a character.

I never liked Nocturna. Moench seemed to be trying for something poetic with all her paeans to the night, and for me it always feel flat.
I read Hush Vol. 2 recently though, and I was surprised how much I preferred it to Long Halloween. For one thing, it was much less ambitious, and as a straight multi-issue story with lots of villains, it worked well. And I liked the little bits like Dick and Bruce talking as if they were actually close (I haven’t seen that in years) or the Bruce/Selina scenes.
At the same time, I also think the Jerry Lewis As Hush thing we saw last week was spot on.

Fraser is right. That “Hush is Jerry Lewis” piece by Nick Perks was great :)

The Doug Moench/Kelley Jones/John Beatty run is one of the best run of any comic ever and definitely my favorite Batman run, and that includes the Vampire trilogy.
I’ll say it was losing a little bit of steam in the last few stories by the time it got cut off at No Man’s Land, so its ending was unfortunate but not necessarily a bad thing.
I’d rather it ended than turn to crap, like their more recent miniseries together in my opinion..

Hush was a fun story while it was going on, but not really a good one.
The best way to read it is the Hush Unwrapped HC for Jim Lee’s amazing pencil work.

I genuinely love the work of four out of five creators on this list and wish they were higher up. However, seeing as the final five would have to include Bill Finger, Denny O’Neil and Frank Miller, I guess I can’t complain too much.

Now that is something I liked….Robin able to best Joker. The way Joker is anymore in the comics, he’s like Btaman…almost too good to be stopped.

The series Dini did starring Harley, Ivy, and Catwoman was called Gotham Sirens.

I really love me some DIxon and Moench. They were 90s Batman. Together with O’Neil as editor they churned out my favorite long-running Batman storyline, Knightfall.

Most of my top 10 has already been featured. I feel none of my favorites, save O’Neil, will have made the top 5.

Well, we know Miller or You-Know-Who will be #1, given this crowd, but it’s to be expected. I just hope Finger at least is up there, too.

Obviously this is a list specifically focused on comic-book writing, but one of the reasons why Paul Dini is such a major part of Batman, to me, is that he’s the go-to Batman expert in pretty much every medium. Aside from the aforementioned cartoons and comics, he’s written video game scripts and been an advisor on all kinds of Batman-related works. When I see any kind of adaptation of anything in the Bat-universe (no matter the media) with Dini’s name on it, I know it will most likely be done right.

Great picks all.

I tended to dislike Batman comics in the 1990s, so there’s nobody from my list in this batch, though I respect Dini and recognize that Dixon did some good Batman stories.

Dixon and Moench are about where I had them on my list. Wasn’t sure Dixon would make it, so I’m pleasantly surprised. Grant is too low. I had him #2. I wonder where he’d place with his co-Wagner votes. Didn’t have Loeb, but like his Hush cohort Lee, I think some of the hate is overblown. Dini just shows a mastery of the character in any medium, and certainly had my vote. He’s done as much to define te character in te last 25 years as anybody, and has a substantial run in comics to go with his other work. He gets the character.

I don’t remember the end of The Brave and the Bold trashing Beware the Batman…I’m going to have to watch it again.

Good to see Alan Grant up there. His run with Breyfogle was great – The Ventriloquist being one of the only decent ‘new’ Bat-villains to rival the classic 40s bad guys.

He also managed not to make Batman a complete psycho and let him smile once in a while, which makes a change.

Good choices. Loeb is a mixed bag, though his TLHW was very entertaining, as was his other pre-Hush work. When Dini came onto Detective, I was so happy to see well done done-in-one’s – what he did with Riddler and Joker was great. He really gets the core of these characters.

Ahhh. The 90’s triumvirate. They all did great work, albeit in very different ways. It’s funny to think about the vastly different tones they brought to the character, with it all still feeling like Batman. We had action star Batman (Dixon), weird Gothic Batman (Moench), and psychological thriller Batman (Grant). That’s a bit too much of an oversimplification of the three writers – they all did so much more and did it well, especially with great smaller stories, the kind of which we don’t see today. Kudos to them.

Dixon, Moench and Grant give me my second 3 in a row (really odd, that)
Dini was also on my list (though not part of a 3 in a row)

Nikolai you put it right “great smaller stories, the kind of which we don’t see today. Kudos to them.” The 90’s Trumvirate : Grant/Moench/dixon , with Denny O’Neil as their founding father ;-) late 80’s early 90’s were for me the best times for Batman. I even miss ” From the Den” Bat signals..ehhh..those were the times …In retrospective I would say all the O’neill editorial era was fantastic for Batman.

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