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CSBG Archive

75 Greatest Batman Writers and Artists: Artists #5-1

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2. Jim Aparo

I thought it’d be interesting to show you Jim Aparo’s very first Batman story, Brave and the Bold #98 (co-starring The Phantom Stranger, whose ongoing series was Aparo’s second assignment at DC Comics – the concept of the issue is that strange things are happening at the home of the widow and son of a friend of Batman’s who just died – this being a Bob Haney story, we just meet this longtime friend of Batman’s out of nowhere this issue right before he dies – and Batman is investigating)…






Isn’t that crazy? That bit was from 1971. And yet it just as well could have come from 1981. Or 1991. Or 2001. Jim Aparo was the paragon of consistency. Yes, it is probably fair to say that his work lost a little bit of its verve in the very later years, but well into the 1990s Aparo was still the same old wonderfully accomplished storyteller that he always was – his characters continued to have their patented Jim Aparo facial expressions – the only thing lost a little bit was some of the fluidity of the character action (everything was slightly stiffer). Aparo took over Brave and the Bold a couple of issues later and then drew it for the next TEN years until it ended. Brave and the Bold led into Batman and the Outsiders. After he drew that for roughly two years, he had a bit of a break. Soon, though, he was right back to work drawing Batman for Jim Starlin (including the death of Jason Todd) and Marv Wolfman (including the introduction of Tim Drake) and then to Detective Comics for Peter Milligan and then back to Batman for Doug Moench (where Aparo was the artist who drew Bane breaking Batman’s back). Amazingly enough, Aparo’s stint on the Batman regular titles lasted as long as Breyfogle’s concurrent run, only Aparo had been doing it for fifteen years ALREADY by then!

After his regular work on Batman finished, he still did occasional fill-in work. He was still doing occasional artwork (like a cover for a collection of Batman stories) almost right up until his death in 2005.

1. Neal Adams

All told, Neal Adams “only” drew roughly thirty stories featuring Batman from 1968-1975 (and roughly eight of them were in World’s Finest and Brave and the Bold), but even if he had only drawn only a third of that, he likely would still be recognized as the greatest Batman artist ever, as that is how much of an impact his work on Batman in the early 1970s had on readers and his fellow artists.

In Batman #251, he brought back the murderous Joker…



while also helping to reshape our view of Batman as a hunter…


In the classic introduction of Ra’s Al Ghul, the famous fight where Batman is left for dead before Talia Al Ghul gives him an antidote to scorpion venom, Adams defined that era’s take on the action-driven love hero Batman…




Not only was Neal Adams’ approach to “realistic” comic book art (while being dynamic in a way that went beyond realism, hence the quotes) was dramatically different from most comic book artists at the time he was ESPECIALLY different from what your typical DC Comics artist looked like. For readers, it was akin to leaving Kansas and ending up in Oz. That’s how dramatic the shift was. And within a few years, everyone was trying to draw just like him. I’ve written about how Adams’ colleague, Dick Giordano, deserves a lot of credit for Batman’s re-design as a darker character at this point in time, but a lot of that almost certainly came from Giordano (with Julie Schwartz’s blessing, of course) pushing veterans like Irv Novick and Bob Brown to draw like Adams, who while not yet drawing the main Batman comic book stories, had already begun doing striking covers that captured everyone’s attention. Adams was a force of nature – guys like Novick and Brown knew that they could either adapt or perish.

There are basically three archetypal Batmen (four if you count Dark Knight Returns Batman, which I really don’t since its usage is so specific) – Bob Kane’s original design, Dick Sprang’s re-design and then Neal Adams’ re-design. Adams’ design is the one that remains in full effect forty plus years later – he was so far ahead of his time that his Batman STILL feels modern forty plus years later. There is no need to update the design because Adams perfected it. And that’s just one part of why he is the greatest Batman artist of all-time.

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The fact that Jim Lee CAN do work like the flashbacks but doesn’t is partly why he pisses me off. I get what pays the bills, but seeing stuff like that is so frustrating, because it’s so neat and so infrequent.

Miller didn’t fall behind on All-Star Batman & Robin, Lee did. Miller basically had all the scripts written and Lee was what was holding the book up. Apparently, however, Lee said at one point that all the pages for the rest of the book are done and DC just don’t know when to publish them. Nevertheless, ASB&R’s crappy schedule is nothing to do with Miller.

OT: A great list here, but I’m honestly surprised to see Jim Aparo at no 2. He’s a great artist but not exactly one of the all-time greats.

Jim Lee?!? Okay, I am going to bite my tongue :)

I am absolutely thrilled that Norm Breyforgle and Jim Aparo made the Top Five. In my opinion both of them are incredible… not to mention incredibly underrated! When I first began reading comic books regularly in 1989, Aparo was penciling Batman, and Breyfogle was penciling Detective. So, as a teenager, they were “my” Batman artists.

Also in High School, I must have read the trade paperback of Batman: Year One at least a dozen times. David Mazzucchelli’s artwork was stunning and dramatic and brilliantly noir. He may have only drawn four issues of Batman, but they are four of the greatest. And, yes, go read Asterios Polyp. It’s really strange and experimental and thought-provoking and good.

As for the artist in the Number One spot… It took me a bit longer to get into Neal Adams, because in the early 1990s there really weren’t too many trade paperback collections of his work, aside from the stories he did which were included in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (I really liked the one with the tribute to Kubert’s Enemy Ace tales). When I finally did get to see a wider selection of reprints of Adams’ work on Batman, as well as Avengers and X-Men, then I finally realized why everyone said he was so great & influential. It was clear to see how incredibly well rendered those stories were, and how many later artists had drawn inspiration from him. One of my prized signed comic books in the trade paperback of Batman: Tales of the Demon, which I got personally autographed by both Neal Adams & Denny O’Neil.

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

You really can’t underestimate how important it was that Adams brought “realism” to Batman. The need to make everything “realistic” now can in large part be traced back to Adams planting the seeds of the concept in fans’/the industry’s mind through his choice of art style.

Aparo was my number one because his Batman was and will always be my Batman. But if he’s going to come in at number two, I couldn’t be more pleased with who takes the top slot instead.

I’m not a big fan of Lee, but he does pretty solid work, so I can’t complain. I just wish he weren’t DC’s go-to guy for costume redesigns right now, because that’s something he’s lousy at. But hey, so was Perez, and that guy’s amazing.

I still think it’s funny that I’d never even heard of Norm Breyfogle until a CSBG spotlight introduced me to him a couple of years ago. But I avoided Batman comics in the 1990s because I didn’t like the writing, so I guess it makes some sense that I missed him.

That means the most recently posted batch of writers is mostly not my cup of tea because it’s a very ’90s lineup, but that’s fine. A lot of it depends on when you got into this stuff, and for me that’s the mid-1970s.

Breyfogle was my number 1 and like others have mentioned, he was the artist when I started reading comics at age 4-5. Adams was my 2, Aparo 4, and Mazzuchelli 5.

It took me a long time to get into Aparo because, as Brian mentioned, his Batman seemed really stiff to me when I was first introduced to him. His 70’s & 80’s art is absolutely my cup of tea though.

Lee wasn’t even on my radar as I prefer my Batman to look like a lithe athlete, not a body-builder. Although, to be fair, again when I was 4 or 5, I ate up his X-Men stuff. It just has not aged well for me.

Thrilled to see Aparo in the top two. His work was strong all the way to the end but he did truly amazing stuff in Brave and the Bold. And I wonder if there are any other creators who had such a long time spent drawing mostly Batman stories?

I’m pretty surprised Neal Adams work on Batman was as small as Brian says. He’s so associated with the character that I just assumed he had a much larger body of work on the Batman titles.

I like Lee’s artwork usually, but I just don’t think of him as a Batman artist. I feel like he hasn’t done enough work on the character to belong this high in the rankings. But then again I think Mazzuchelli totally deserves his spot and he worked on even fewer issues than Lee. So who am I to say?

Breyfogle would have been #1 on my list if I had remembered to send it in. Aparo would have been on there too. To this day Breyfogle’s Batman is my favorite version of the character.

I didn’t vote for Jim Lee but I can’t deny the nice art on Hush. Yup. That sure is some nice art on Hush.

Miller didn’t fall behind on All-Star Batman & Robin, Lee did. Miller basically had all the scripts written and Lee was what was holding the book up. Apparently, however, Lee said at one point that all the pages for the rest of the book are done and DC just don’t know when to publish them. Nevertheless, ASB&R’s crappy schedule is nothing to do with Miller.

Thanks! I fixed that.

I pretty much agree with the latter half of the artists list, I thought Irv Novick’s Batman was superb do for me it would be higher, but I guess most aren’t old enough to have read his stuff.. Jim Aparo though draws the Batman I see will always see in my head, he well always be the derivative Batman artist even though Adams was probably a better artist

I still think it’s funny that I’d never even heard of Norm Breyfogle until a CSBG spotlight introduced me to him a couple of years ago. But I avoided Batman comics in the 1990s because I didn’t like the writing, so I guess it makes some sense that I missed him.

What do you think of him?


I dunno! He seems fine, but I haven’t been so struck by what little I’ve seen of his work that I’ve been inspired to seek any more of it out, especially because I already know I’m not keen on Grant’s writing.

You know, for a moment, I was terrified that Jim Lee was going to be number one. Neal Adams really is the best Batman artist.

I will say this: Breyfogle’s silhouette effect on Batman on the bottom of page 2 is pretty cool.

Jim lee is much better than his Xmen stuff, for some reason, people think it looks the same?

His storytelling and body language are vastly underrated.

Adams overrated.

Interestingky what did Mazzuchelli do for the past 30 years? Same with Neal adams (ran a commercial art studio?)

Would really appreciatte if anyone knows.

Absolutely satisfied with this outcome. How many people’s perfect mental image of Batman is that splash page of him pouncing forward after his prey (the third image down in the Adams section)? Amazing artist, amazing works, and as the many others who have also met him at cons can tell you, amazing guy.

Yes! Breyfogle definitely deserves a spot in the top five. Something about his art style has always struck me as very kinetic and fluid. There’s just no one I can think of that makes a comic come alive like he does.

Glad to see Breyfogle so high.

No surprise to see Adams as #1. Well-deserved.

The colouring in the featured Year One pictures is vastly different from the trade I own, which features a duller, more muted colour scheme Are the colours in the pictures above from the original issues?

Yep. They changed the colors in the trade. I like both versions on their own merits, but I think I like the original colors best.

TJ, in one of those Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams collections Adams describes how he sees the Batman–tall, but moving fluidly like a gymnast or a martial artist, as if he were lighter and smaller. Ever since the early seventies, that’s always how I imagine Batman moving.
I couldn’t be happier with him and Aparo in the top two.
I enjoyed Asterios Polyp up until the end.

The best thing about that Grant and Breyfogle clip above is Batman saying to Robin: “Your show, pal! You call!”

I miss little touches of humanity and relatability in Batman instead of the just aloof and gruff interpretation we have now. I love the little humanization there. That said, why did Robin destroy private property there in the form of the gargoyle head, even if it was for a good cause?

Thanks Brian, think I’ll have to hunt down the originals now!

No mention of Neil Adams’s Batman Oddessy? Or is there an unspoken understanding that it’s not to be discussed?

The 2.5th Doctor

June 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Frank Miller

I must express my appreciation for Breyfogle’s art. It really is excellent. Breyfogle has the right balance of realism and ‘cartooniness’ missing from the work of so many artists. His Batman is iconic. I love the way he draws faces. His action sequences flow off the page and really solidify the difference between ‘action’ and ‘violence’ as suggested by Barry Windsor-Smith when discussing Kirby. Breyfogle’s also a great designer, having come up with Wesker and Scarface, Anarky, Corrosive Man, Cornelius Stirk, Mr Zsasz, that awesome Lamborghini inspired Batmobile and many others, as well as some great comic book covers.

It breaks my heart to see him so ignored by DC despite having drawn some of the best Batman stories ever written. The Last Arkham was an excellent story arc and it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as Grant and Breyfogle are concerned.

Dick Sprang is the “good” Batman artist that I grew up with, just as Carl Barks was the “good” Duck artist who was not allowed to sign his work back in the old days. Who do you think designed the version of the Joker that Neal Adams was using back in the early 1970’s? None other than the great Dick Sprang. For him to get left off the list of the best Batman artists which somehow features the likes of Norm Breyfogle is a travesty. Dick Sprang was the premiere Batman artist of the Golden Age and also drew a very long run of Superman-Batman team-ups in World’s Finest Comics. I quit buying that book when he retired in 1961. He was simply the best and deserves an Archive of nothing but the best of Dick Sprang. Signed, a very old fan of the World’s Finest Bat artist, Dick Sprang.

I’m quite happy with the Top 10. 7 of mine made it, the rest missed only by a little. I too am happy to see Breyfogle so high AND to read the praise above. I was away from comic from 86-94 so had to discover him in the back issue bin and trades. Even as dynamic/hyper action artists were taking over in the 90’s, I saw his work and was just amazed at the life and energy he brought to the page.

Also, why does it matter that two artists have similar styles? Perez and Jimenez are likewise very similar but I can appreciate them both even tho one had works that preceded the other by nearly 2 decades.

joe the poor speller

June 19, 2014 at 6:34 pm

We need a Grant/Breyfogle collection just like the Moench/Jones one. Come on, DC, make it happen!

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 19, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Wait, did Ed McGuinness seriously get snubbed?

So glad to see Breyfogle so high!!! He is a great Batman artist and (I thought) underrated!

I’ve never been such a big Jim Lee fan and I don’t think of him as a Batman artist–though I know he is incredibly popular.

Mazzuchelli was revolutionary, but still have a little issue with him being this high for only four issues.

Couldn’t agree more with the # 1 and 2 choices. Aparo is probably my personal favorite because of my love for Brave and the Bold and because I experienced him first, but Neal Adams is responsible for most of the iconic Batman images of all time and a huge influence on not only Aparo but virtially every Batman artist that has come since.

This has been a fun list!!! Thanks!!!

Like Vishal said, Jim Aparo’s Batman is who I think of in my head. His style could sometimes be more dynamic than Adams’s way back when (look at BRAVE AND THE BOLD 102 if you doubt me).
The contributions the man had to the character are undeniable. Roughly 100 issues of B&B immediately followed by his co-creating BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS, who’s popularity gave way to an Outsiders series without Batman (ill-advised though that may have been) followed by killing Jason Todd, introducing Tim Drake, and breaking Batman! What was that? About 20+ years of drawing the hell out of Batman!
I’ll totally concede that his characters eventually starting getting a bit stiff towards the late 80’s. No argument. But look at what he did at that same time – solid storytelling all the way. I doubt Peter Milligan’s excellent run on DETECTIVE COMICS (+/- 629-643) would’ve worked half as well without THE Batman artist tying those stories down with THE representation of the character almost every month.
Was his work less dynamic in the 90’s than Norm Breyfogle or Graham Nolan who were doing the other series at the same time? No doubt. But look at those comics. Still solid storytelling by Aparo and still playing on the same field. If you grab those issues and compare them month to month you’ll see that Aparo not only kept up with the new guys but held his own damn well. People were loving Breyfogle (and rightfully so) for his dynamic work on, say BATMAN 475. Look then to Aparo’s work on ‘TEC 642 around the same month and see that Aparo had a different atmosphere and quality to the characters that was just as good as anything else coming out at the time.
I could talk about Aparo’s work for hours. Needless to say, I totally disagree with RedPepper’s opinion of Aparo’s work. But I do love hearing everyone’s opinions and why they do or don’t like an artist.

Really, the only question between Aparo and Adams was which would be number one and which would come in second.

Of the top five, the only one who wouldn’t be my pick is Jim Lee. Thank goodness the no. 1 and 2 spots went to Adams and Aparo(either one of them deserves to be number one). Gald Breyfogle and Mazzuchelli are in the top five.

I think Jim Aparo did his best work during the late 70s to mid 80s, when he was inking (and lettering) his own work. His work was not stiff like it was during the 90s, which partly may be due to Mike DeCarlo’s inks Just compare his inks on Crisis with all the other inkers on that series to see what I mean.

I didn’t follow this “greatest” series all the way through, only read the top five. I hope Don Newton was at least able to get into the top 20, as he’s “my” Batman artist when I was growing up.

I had Breyfogle #1. He is just my favorite. But have no qualms with who was because the other guys make up 3 of the others in my top 5. Adams is the guy who has found the perfect balance of realism in comic book art. There are those that do better photorealistic, but aren’t as dynamic.

Aparo may have been house style, but it was more expressive than that. And when you think Batman, you can’t help thinking him along with Adams.

Along the way I kept saying they didn’t make the cut because they hadn’t done enough issues. Mazzuchelli hasn’t done enough issues….I didn’t care. He’s that good and deserves to be that high.

I didn’t even vote for Jim Lee. Miller was in my top 5. But I don’t have the hate that some do. I just don’t necessarily associate him just with Batman. X-Men maybe more. Heck, with the Punisher as much as Batman. But hype backlash hurts him; he is probably the best of the Image guys.

Jim Aparo will always be “my” Batman artist, with all of the work he did on the Bat-titles, especially The ‘Brave and The Bold’. Neal Adams is a close second though!

I’m very surprised to see so many people love Norm Breyfogle as much as I do (though I do wish he was bit tighter). He was never a hot artist during his time on Batman, doing pretty much the opposite of the hot artists of the day. Nice to know his amazing sense of design and style was so appreciated.

And yeah it had to be Neal Adams. The guys was the ‘original Alex Ross’.

I’m not even a huge collector of Batman, and still think of Jim Aparo as the definitive Batman artist, I’ve just seen (and liked) his work so often. Not as familiar with the Breyfogle, but definitely approve (and voted) for the others.

I like the pretty even split on the top 5 between Big-eared Batman and Little-eared Batman. I’m personally a fan of the Big Ears look for Bats, but can’t deny I enjoy Jim Lee and Mazzuchelli’s (and Frank Miller’s) work on him too.

Matthew Gretzinger

June 19, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Glad to see Aparo so close to the top – he was far and away the best Batman artist of all time (in my book). He brought a Milt Caniff influence to Batman that transcended Adams’s ‘realism.’ Breyfogle was good, and probably would be my #2 pick. Photorealism is simply not key to drawing Batman – it has always been about style and storytelling, and the greats (Sprang, Robinson, Aparo) have understood this.

Hey, KY Fan, Dick Sprang was in the top ten. #9, that is. I think that’s totally fair.

I’ve been reading through most of Marvel’s silver age output recently. Even while they had guys like Kirby and Buscema, when Neal Adams came on the X-Men, it was kind of a holy shit moment. This is from the perspective of a guy reading these books 40+ years later. I can’t even imagine what a DC reader at the time would be thinking.

can you do the 100 greatest Justice League Artists? Id love to see that.
or if there arent that many, the top 25?


My Top 5 was THE Top 5, and in the same order!

And I echo the desire for a Grant/Breyfogle collection a la Moench/Jones. I’d be all over that.

Mazzuchelli was my #1. They guy is just incredible – and really I’d say Year One is he beat drawn comic ever – regardless of character.

If anyone would stop him getting #1, Neil Adams (my #4 vote) is certainly worthy.

It’s great to see Norm Breyfogle (my #6) in there too.

I have to remind myself that Jim Aparo was actually good – but my opinion of him is always coloured by his work on Knightfall which wasn’t.

Jim Lee is certainly a talented artist – but he only very occasionally chooses to show it.

Oh and Norm Breyfogle is the ONLY artist who can draw Zsasz!

Grendel Prime

June 20, 2014 at 1:41 am

I am very pleased to see Norm Breyfogle and Jim Aparo in the the top 5! They were my first Batman artists when I started reading Batman and Detective back in the late 1980s. One of my favorite pieces of art I have is a piece Breyfogle drew for me when I was around 11 years old of the Joker and Batman. Anyway, super great to see these two in the top 5!

I just have to ask, where did Frank Miller come in on this list? I perused the Top 20 and was shocked that he didn’t make it. Granted, her only wrote a very few issues, and ASB&R is…let’s say different…but it’s hard to understate how awesome and important both The Dark Knight Returns and Year One were. Between them, these comics reshaped the DC Universe…and comics at large.

This isn’t me necessarily advocating for him…scratch that. This is me advocating for him. Is Mazzucchelli is as high as he is (and deservedly so), then Frank Miller deserves to be up here as well.

All of the above said, you’ll never catch me arguing with any of the names on this list.

Never mind. I see. Somehow, I failed to notice that this was divided by artists and writers. Me smart.

Batman never looked as good when Marshall Rodgers drew it, but he didn’t have as big of a run as any of these guys, so this list is fair.

Would you really consider The Dark Knight Returns’ Batman design to be usage specific? I mean sure, the design debuted in DKR but it’s seen use in other works, notably Batman: Year One. In fact I’d argue that Miller’s design, not Adams, is the most prominent of the Batman designs in use today. Look at Jim Lee’s Batman, Bruce Timm’s, David Finch’s, Tony Daniel’s, Greg Capullo’s. They all seem to owe more visually to Frank Miller’s design than they do Neal Adams’. Miller’s costume redesign was the primary Batman design for over ten years.

Voted for Mazzuchelli, Aparo and Adams. Mazzuchelli is one of the best of all time, it’s a shame his output’s not greater.

Jim Lee is clearly talented, but in general his style doesn’t appeal to me. Really like the style he used in those flashbacks, and in the Black & White story.

Quitely’s my number one though.

When you say Batman, It’s Aparo’s Batman that pops into my head. He will always be my Batman artist.

Would you really consider The Dark Knight Returns’ Batman design to be usage specific?

If not, then sure, make his Batman a solid fourth archetypal Batman. I have no problem with that.

Man, it sure is trendy to caveat everything with “Jim Lee doesn’t really appeal to me, but…” I feel like I’m missing the boat.

Jim Lee has really matured and toned down the excesses that were so obvious in his later X-Men work and in his early Image work. He’s learned that a comic book is more than a series of pinups, and he’s mostly moved away from brokeback syndrome. His women still tend to all be shaped the same, but to be fair, so do his men. But his attention to detail, and the crispness of his images are gorgeous. And he does fabulous work with backgrounds and lighting. A lot of credit goes to Scott Williamson, of course, but in my mind their work is inseparable. (In fact, has Lee ever been inked by someone else?)

I get the Liefield hate, because he’s still putting out the same ugly art he was in the 90’s. And yes, Jim Lee’s style has inspired a lot of mediocre imitators who are still prone to the excesses of the ’90’s (I’m looking at you, Brett Booth). But despite being a central member of that 90’s thing (though one of the least culpable members of that trend, IMO), Lee has moved way beyond it now and I just don’t get the objections anymore.

BTW, not arguing he belongs higher on this list. Clearly, Aparo, Mazuchelli and Adams are top 5. Never heard of Breyfogle before this column. Could argue Lee even belongs down a few notches, but whatever. I just think the trend is to declaim Lee’s work simply because of old associations, and I think it’s unfair.

Mike Loughlin

June 20, 2014 at 7:09 am

Jim Aparo basically took the Neal Adams Batman and increased the dynamism. Aparo’s Batman moved better and the panel-to-panel storytelling was better.

Neal Adams was my number 1 pick. His Batman is THE Batman. Dark and menacing yet clearly a super-hero, the Adams Batman combined the best of the olderv approaches with top-notch illustration. Aparo was better with movement but Adams was the best at iconic imagery.

I wish Jim Lee would do more comics in that washed out watercolor style. I really liked his inking on his Batman: Black & White contribution; way less busy than Scott Williams’s style.

David Mazzuchielli is one of my favorite artists, and Year One is a big reason why. It’s amazing that he could go from Toth-influenced to near-abstract (City of Glass) to New Yorker-style (Asterios Polyp) and be so good at all of it.

Mike Loughlin

June 20, 2014 at 7:11 am

@ Nu-D

Jim Lee was inked by Richard Bennett on some of his WildCATs art, on the isues he did with Alan Moore. It may have been a breakdowns/ finishes situation. Bottom-line, it didn’t look good.

I’d missed Chris Burnham way back in the 30s, so I was expecting him to have pulled #5. Every list that went by, I was ilke, “Yeah! Go Burnham!” He was my number two, I think?

Forgot about Jim Lee entirely. Sigh.

nice to see the legendary jim aparo rank number two . and figured some where neil adams would be in the top five but number one interesting pick. jim lee also figured would sneak on the top five list.

I wish Jim Lee would branch out and experiment more with his art – as those watercolored pages are great.

Breyfogle’s Batman silhouettes are SO GOOD – and his renderings of Batman shocked always remind me of Aparo’s renderings of Batman shocked.

Mazzuchelli may be my favorite penciler of all time – it’s hard to say. Reading Year One is always like an incredible cinematic experience. Yet unlike many comics today, though it reads in many ways like a movie, it never forgets that it’s a comic, and takes full advantage of the medium.

I knew Aparo would be #2 and Adams #1 – Aparo, like Brian said, was a paragon of consistency. His Batman was a very human one, but a human capable awesome @$$-kicking abilities where people looked like they exploded when he punched them. Basically Batman comics made in heaven.

Neal Adams’ realism will forever be one of the greatest contributions to Batman – probably the greatest, after Bob Kane’s original design.

I also feel like there are three basic Batman designs – the Bob Kane/David Mazzuchelli pulp/Year One style; the Dick Sprang/Brave and the Bold cartoon style; and the Carmine Infantino/Neal Adams realism style. I Would emphasis that the realism in Batman began with Infantino, though Adams took it to whole new levels.

I just think the trend is to declaim Lee’s work simply because of old associations, and I think it’s unfair.

On the contrary, I don’t care about Lee’s old work. I have a hard time giving him props for his otherwise decent art because he’s responsible for those dreadful New 52 redesigns of Superman and the rest of the Justice League that make me wince whenever I pick up a new DC comic.

Lee’s character designs are terrible.

Nonetheless, I must admit that I used to really like Lee’s work, to the point of seeking out everything he did. I owned practically every issue of All Star Batman & Robin. While I wouldn’t actively seek out his work nowadays, I still feel he has a flair for generating these rather eye-catching images. Of the Image founders he’s probably one of the better ones (another being Erik Larsen).

He just can’t tell a story.

If you combined Jim Lee and Jim Aparo you could probably generate some kind of super artist, is my feeling.

Yo Brian, this really bugs me regarding All-Star Batman and Robin, if the Frank Miller script was already done, why Jim Lee failed to complete it in the first place? Was it the script itself? Editorial differences? Or DC itself (well, so much “goddamned Batman” lines really ruined the character itself. Perhaps, I err here)? What’s the real score here? Thanks.

If you combined Jim Lee and Jim Aparo you could probably generate some kind of super artist, is my feeling.

I can see it now, coming out of the laboratory of that mad scientist extraordinaire, Dr. DiDio Johns Frankenstein: the amalgam artist known as “Lee Aparo” is the next BIG THING, a super red-hot illustrator who possesses a hyper-detailed style that nevertheless displays wonderfully clear, dramatic sequential storytelling and who generates ridiculously insane sales while never missing a single deadline :)


June 20, 2014 at 1:24 pm

A great list overall.

Lee isn’t my cup of tea, I think if I were 5 years younger I would have been totally into his earlier stuff.
A friend who’s much younger let me borrow his tpb of Hush. I read it, it was ok, nothing great. So much of the art was all that splashy splash with nothing deeper to it. It was pretty, but ultimately unmemorable in the extreme.

Breyfogle is like Led Zepplin and David Bowie, enough people I know and respect like him a lot, so at this point I just have to conclude it’s a personal thing. I’ve just never gotten his appeal, but damn if he’s not well loved by Bat-Fans. He is a solid story teller, so there’s that.

Aparo and Adams – what can you say? They totally deserve those spots.

Adams & Aparo in the 70’s are really great (something I learned about Aparo only a few years ago), but 80’s onward, not as much.

I’m just glad Mazzuchelli scored as high as he did, Year One is simply amazing.

All the people that love Mazzuchelli in Year One should really check out Alex Toth’s later work (if you haven’t already) to see how much it influenced the look of Year One.

One thing I love about Apro and Adams it that they drew batman clearly not wearing any body armor. That’s a guy who has faith in his skills. These day’s Batman looks like a guy on a swat team who wears a cape.

Paul Garcia: Lee’s just slow. That’s all. Probably had too many obligations as Editorial Director at WildStorm as well as, eventually, co-Publisher at DC. Plus he was working on the DCU MMO at the time.

It’s generally the practice of Image guys to never stick to a schedule. Lee gets away with it because he’s very high up in DC. If this sort of thing happened to someone else they’d be off the book very quickly.

The issue was that he is slow and that while he was waiting to get around to it, the New 52 launched and they decided it was better for him to draw Justice League than finish All Star Batman and Robin and then the Superman movie came out and they thought it made more sense for him to draw Superman Unchained than finish All Star Batman and Robin and, well, he’s currently a few months behind on THAT series, too, so it will be a while before they even think about him finishing All Star Batman and Robin.

Breyfogle and Adams bring me to 7/10

the 3 that didn’t make it were
Jerry Bingham (Son of the Demon) -presumably missing because he hadn’t drawn enough Batman
Jae Lee (Batman/Superman) – presumably missing because his Batman work is too recent
and Paul Gulacy (Outlaws, Prey, etc) – presumably missing because too many voters had no taste

@ArchieLeach —

And he should. Painted-on style costumes are lame and DC is still using them for far too many characters.

Always loved Breyfogle’s Batman work, how he could go from moody to creepy to heroic to cartoony without missing a beat and all distinctly in his style. Did a lot of really eye-catching cover work during his run too, like the one for the issue following the sample you gave (466? The one where he’s strapped to the bottom of a rocket?), or the covers for the three part Scarecrow story that set-up Tim Drake’s full time debut as Robin (455 and 457 in particular) were pretty stunning.

Archie, while I have an emotional attachment to the old just-a-costume Batman, I admit it’s logical with all the advances in tech that his outfit isn’t just a dark suit any more.

Probably already mentioned in the comments above, but to me Batman’s face in Aparo’s first work was “deaparized”. Other caharacters show the already recognizable Aparo’s style, but Batman is more similar to Adams’ one, ore evenBob Brown’s’!

See page 11, panels 4&5 (all Adams, to me) page 13 first panel (Brown-like). Aparo’s style is well detectable in page 12, panel 3.

DC was not new at this, remeber Superman face “dekirbyzed” on Jimmy Olsen around the same days.

I encountered Jim Aparo too late in his career to appreciate him when he was on Batman and the Outsiders. I felt his characters were stiff and his costume designs atrocious. (Does anyone remember Looker?) When Alan Davis took over it was a breath of fresh air. Looking farther back, I can see what I missed. That issue above looks great.

Really happy to see Breyfogle in the top five! Why DC hasn’t released a couple of those artist-specific collections for his work is baffling.
Mazzuchelli is a favorite of mine, but I never considered including him for this because he did so little work with the character. Ruling out people who had short runs was one of the only ways I was able to come up with a top ten at all.
Here’s my full list:
1. Norm Breyfogle
2. Neal Adams
3. Mike Parobeck
4. Jim Aparo
5. Marshall Rogers
6. Dick Sprang
7. Kelley Jones
8. Dick Giordano
9. Chris Burnham
10. Gene Colan

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