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CSBG Archive

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

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2. Frank Miller

It is one thing for Frank Miller to have re-defined Batman for the past 30 years, which he definitely did, it’s another thing to do so while writing two legitimately classic storylines in the process.

In just one year, Miller wrote two of the greatest (if not THE greatest) Batman stories of all-time.

First, he looked to the future, as Batman has to come out of retirement to somehow find a way to take control of a far-too-violent Gotham City that has lost its way since he stopped patrolling the night…

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and then he looked to the past, to show the dual stories of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon as the paths of these would-be heroes ultimately collide…

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Miller’s “grim and gritty” take on Batman became the greatest influence on depictions of Batman after Miller, in both the comic books themselves and in the film adaptations of Batman.

1. Denny O’Neil

While Miller’s stories famously led to a darker Batman post-Year One, the difference in tone before and after Miller is small compared to difference to Batman’s depiction pre and post Denny O’Neil. While editor Julie Schwartz was already heading for a darker Batman in the late 1960s (including working out a deal where Batman no longer HAD to be drawn by Bob Kane’s studio), O’Neil really brought it to the forefront, especially as he famously revamped two of Batman’s greatest villains, the Joker…

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and Two-Face…

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While also introducing Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul…

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O’Neil was the primary Batman throughout the 1970s, working with artists like Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Irv Novick and Bob Brown.

O’Neil returned to the Bat-books in the mid-1980s to take over as the editor in charge of the line of comics. He brought in Frank Miller for Year One. O’Neil then guided the Bat-universe for roughly the next fifteen years.

O’Neil would also still write from time to time again. He famously invented Azrael in a mini-series with Joe Quesada…

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all part of Knightfall, which was based on O’Neil’s view that they should show people what a true “Grim and gritty” Batman would look like, and show why that would be a very bad idea. However, once that story was finished, O’Neil decided to try to redeem Azrael, and he did so by writing Azrael’s ongoing series for the entire 100 issue run.

O’Neil retired at the turn of the 21st Century, leaving behind a vast multitude of awesome Batman stories and likely the greatest influence upon the character over the past 40 years.

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76 Comments

I wept tears of joy at the well-deserved homage to Batman Jones. Well done.

It’s weird to me that Miller placed higher as a Batman writer than as a Batman artist. I guess he did more Batman work as a writer than as an artist, but I just happen to like his art a lot better than his writing.

It’s no surprise that Morrison ranked so high, even if his Batman run isn’t my cup of tea (I do like that he brought back the Batmen of All Nations, though).

Finger, O’Neil and Englehart were all on my list.

There’s a lot I like about Morrison (Batman preparing for traps and villains he’s never faced is a logical thing to do), but the whole unbeatable Bat-god doesn’t work as well for me as the extremely capable human of previous eras.
O’Neil was certainly a landmark writer of tremendous influence, but I don’t find his stories all that good. R’as, for example, doesn’t come off as the uber-threat he’s supposed to be (too dangerous for Robin but why not team up with a nuclear physicist and a skier). I think Robbins and Adams probably contributed better quality work in that era.
I feel the same way about Miller but with less certainty as it’s been much longer since I’ve reread his stuff (but this series convinces me it’s time).
Finger and Englehart no arguments here.

my favorite batman is the super spy Batman that Denny gave us.

It’s nice to see Bill Finger – who wrote almost every major story for 20 years and made all the later stories possible – getting some recognition.

I’ve never been all that bowled over by O’Neil. “Five-Way Revenge” is a very good Joker story, but a lot of his stories leave me cold. From those one-shot Batman issues of the early Bronze Age, I usually prefer the Frank Robbins stories.

Steve Englehart wrote some of the best Batman stories ever, probably the best Batman writer with the exception of Finger.

Frank Miller was very lucky in being allowed so much freedom in writing Batman. I like Dark Knight and Year One, but I don’t think he really wrote enough Batman to be anywhere near this high.

And as for Grant Morrison … All-Star Superman is pretty awesome.

I have to agree with Fraser about O’Neil. I just finished the last of the Neal Adams Batman collections, and more than a few of the O’Neil-penned stories are are just plain bad. Batman comes off as incredibly stupid in several. He’s the world’s greatest detective but he keeps getting outsmarted by two-bit hoods.

Great list, though differs more from mine than the artists.

Miller was my #1…I mean, if you’ve written the best Batman stories, you’re the best Batman writer, right? But #2 is fine. And O’Neil’s historical accomplishments create a great argument for him. He was in my top ten. But with so much work, I think he had way more opportunity for clunkers, and that’s why we probably don’t remember the whole run as fondly. I mean, if All Star Batman had continued, Miller probably would drop too.

Englehart’s short run kept him from being higher, but he had my vote too. And Finger, because he may have done more than any other comic creator, ever. You list the Top 10 most recognizable comic characters, and how many did he create? Half of them?

Didn’t vote for Morrison, but he can be great at times. Usually when he starts. His Batman and Robin work was his best regular title Batman work. But as usually happens when he stays on a title too long, the strangeness takes over, and he starts needing an editor, badly. I think the value or disdain one has for Bat-god really depends on the venue of the Batman story. It was awesome in the JLA, because it answered how a guy with no powers could hang out with gods. But in a regular title it becomes too much when you expect him to go up against the Penguin. Sure, having two different “characters” in the same universe is inconsistent, but very comic booky inconsistent. Same reason all the JLA don’t come to help when Ra’s is going to blow up the world. Or why Superman doesn’t do everything in the JLA. Or what Green Arrow is doing there, at all. It fits the in comic logic. A Batman who plans for everything doesn’t encounter much danger from a street thug. A more real Batman can handle it too, but there’s just that element of anything can happen danger, because he’s only human.

Bill Finger should have been #1 – without him, there wouldn’t be the rest! Bob Kane never gave him the credit due for CO-CREATING Batman.

Bill Finger should have been #1 – without him, there wouldn’t be the rest! Bob Kane never gave him the credit due for CO-CREATING Batman.

So Bob Kane should be the #1 artist then for co-creating Batman?

Frank Milla Batman Gorilla

June 20, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Grant Morrison not being #1 is shocking to me. Not even kidding. He’s the most populat writer on this site by a wide margin so I figured that would seal the deal for him.

And Dennis O’Neil only lacked one thing in his original run: Consistency. There were duds here or there, but when it worked it was FANTASTIC.

And seriously, Miller in his heyday (read: the 80s) was THE greatest superhero writer of all time. Both TDKR and Year One are virtually required required reading for newcomers to the medium and his DD was even better which is nothing short of astonishing.

Miller and Morrison were my 1 and 2.

I haven’t really read his work, but it’s nice to see Bill Finger so recognized.

Steve Englehart came out of nowhere. I really didn’t see that coming.

Miller, O’Neil and Morrison were my #1, #3 and #4 respectively. I can’t complain about any of their platings. (Milligan was my #2).

ATTABOY, DENNY!!!

My top three were Miller, Morrison and Denny, but I’m glad the old man beat out the whipper-snappers all the same.

I reread Morrison’s stuff recently and it is really good, although there’s something about it that doesn’t feel like you’re reading “real” Batman, but mainly a Morrison whacked-out version. Still entertaining, though.

I had to make Miller my number one, just for those two greatest stories that made me so happy back in the 80s. It could be argued they Dark Knight and Year One were simply Miller’s whacked-out version, but they still had an epic feel that still felt pure in a way. (definitely not the case with his two later works, that was just off the rails nutty…)

I realize looking at the Englehart pages…Rogers was pretty damn amazing! Too bad I never read any of their run.

Surprised no Len Wein on this whole list, I thought he was a pretty well-regarded Bat-scribe (he did team him up with the Hulk, after all!).

Thanks for another fun countdown.

Pete Woodhouse

June 20, 2014 at 4:13 pm

I’ve just noticed Mr Francis of the Copyright Commission is a dead-ringer for Julie Schwartz!

“there’s something about it that doesn’t feel like you’re reading “real” Batman, but mainly a Morrison whacked-out version”

Spot on! Morrison’s Batman is probably my favorite ever, but that feeling is definitely in there, somewhat paradoxically, maybe.

O’Neil/Adams #1 creative team it seems…neither one were in my top 5. Respect their importance, but outside Joker’s Five-Way Revenge I was never taken much by their stories. Even compared to their contemporaries Engelhart/Rogers/Austin, I thought they were just on another level than O’Neil’s issues.

Morrison was my #1. Taken his JLA run into consideration as well, I think he just has the definitive long-form run on the character. If Year One/DKR are the Alpha and Omega(Miller was #3 on my list), then Morrison’s tenure is like the entire history of Batman in all his various forms over the past 75 years in one giant, exciting, oftentimes beautiful epic.

Denny O’Neil deserves as much for good contribution add editor as much as a writer, it defined my Batman. It’s a shame his ‘Batman doesn’t kill’ is not in vogue anymore. While I have issues with Miller’s politics Batman Year one it’s my favorite Batman story of all time & The Dark Knight Returns is a deserved classic.
The other two writers who I would have picked in my top 5 would have been Jim Stalin and Peter Milligan.

I’m glad The Master, O’Neil, took #1.

What I love about O’Neil’s Batman is that, while he still gave him some pretty extraordinary, grandiose adventures, swashbuckling world-traveling Doc Savage pulp-inspired material, he also made him very human and fallible, and often vulnerable even to the lucky random goon, even if at times he could take on menacing immortals and tigers (or was that a panther?). In my favorite single Batman story of all time, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!”, O’Neil has Batman bested not once, but twice, taken unawares by a stoolie and Joker, and beat by the Joker to his victims on a few occasions. He’s only able to grit his teeth and just barely win at the end because of his sheer will.

And he didn’t have to make some wild collage of hidden messages, obscure callbacks, and meta-textual statements, either. They were just solid Batman stories, even the sillier ones, like when Penguin had his pet penguin’s beak tipped with poison and dangled Batman, Robin, and Talia off a cliff. Nothing too convoluted, just amazingly compelling tales of the Dark Knight from beginning to end.

Surprised no Len Wein on this whole list,

He made it. He actually had a pretty respectable result (I forget where exactly).

I wouldn’t put Morrison in the Top 5 but otherwise a good list. O’Neil had to be number one.

When we’re talking about genius comic book writers, there is no greater genius than Bill Finger. The man basically created Batman, and everything that we associate with the character came out of his fertile imagination. Without Finger, there would no Batman, no Bruce Wayne, no Gotham, no Dark Knight, no Joker, no Robin, nothing.

That’s why, I’m sorry, Bob Kane just makes my blood boil. To see him take in all that money and credit for something he didn’t do.

Regarding the other writers, there are some great selections here. I didn’t vote for Grant Morrison personally but I’ve liked some of his individual stories, Gothic and Batman: RIP.

Steve Englehart often boasts about how he’s responsible for shaping modern Batman comics, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman ’89 and therefore modern superhero films in general, but I honestly think he deserves the credit. Very few Batman runs have gone on to have such impact despite being so short. On top of which, Batman comics were becoming very stagnant until he did his run.

Frank Miller was, of course, a genius when he wrote The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. It’s actually heart breaking to see all that talent and promise just descend into madness and hackery at some point in the mid 90s. Frank Miller wrote and drew some excellent comic books and his early Batman works were amongst some of his best. He took all the promise of Denny O’Neil and Bill Finger’s Batman and used it to generate such excellent stories.

Denny O’Neil wrote some excellent Batman stories, excellent stories in general. He’s most responsible for delivering Batman from campiness and shaping him into the character we love today. He was also a terrific editor, and without him in that capacity we wouldn’t have the works of Frank Miller, Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Peter Milligan, Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman, Greg Rucka and so on.

I must admit, when I saw Bill Finger ranked at #3 I gasped. I thought he would have made it to #1. But Finger, Miller, O’Neil, and Morrison are undoubtedly the four most important writers to pen Batman ever, and as long as they’re in the top four, it doesn’t matter much to me who goes where. FInger, O’Neil, and Morrison each reshaped the landscape of the Batman universe unalterably, in successive order. Miller’s placement is arguably even more of an achivement, considering how little Batman work he’s actually done. But the two major texts he did do – Year One and Dark Knight Returns – are so incredibly important that they’re now they’re foundational to the character.

Steve Englehart’s short stint is the best consecutive run ever done. His Joker stories are especially amazing – probably the best Joker stories in comics. Englehart, like he did in his Justice League work, was able to bring out all aspects of Batman’s history and write them all incredibly well.

I have a deep affection for Englehart’s run, too (he was my #4). I wish “Strange Apparitions” was still in print. They really ought to put out a new edition. The return of Hugo Strange, the revamp of Deadshot, the Joker Fish story, Batman/Bruce Wayne’s fling with Silver St. Cloud, those issues had it all.

Finger, of course, basically created the groundwork of the Batman mythology, and doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves from the rank-and-file comic fans or the people who profit from them. I was really pushing for that Google Doodle for him that never materialized.

I’m pretty sure my vote for Miller specified 1980s Miller and not “Deranged Lunatic Batman” Frank Miller.

Ya know, the best thing about these lists are that they give me good ideas of what I should look for when I go to dig up old/new comics. I’ve actually read a great deal of these stories, especially from the top 5 in each category, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from the rest. Thanks for the work, Brian!

@Mitchell: Yes, I agree. I’ve tried and tried with O’Neil, but I simply never like his stuff (with the exception of The Creeper, where he’s basically aping Stan Lee + you have to work hard to make me dislike a comic by Ditko). While I’m sure many people still enjoy his “classic” work today, I do feel that much of the praise for O’Neil comes from people loving the IDEA of his comics, rather than the actual execution. This is borne out in the runs from which O’Neil derives his acclaim: Green Lantern / Green Arrow, Batman, and the Question. All runs with interesting high concepts for their times: socially minded heroes, playing Batman straight, and a zen superhero, respectively (although man, that last one, could you have spit any harder in Ditko’s eye?). Contrast this with his runs on Daredevil and Spider-Man, which have no particular high concept, and the praise for those – if any – is much fainter.

Just to illustrate my point about O’Neil’s execution (as well as Mitchell’s point), I would like to present, without comment, verbatim, a scene from Batman #251, The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge, one of O’Neil’s most acclaimed stories:

My Synopsis of the Story So Far: Batman discovered that the Joker has been assassinating his old henchmen. He locates one such henchman, a fellow named “Bigger Melvin,” to warn him of the Joker’s plan. Bigger flees to the docks – “No chance, lawman!” – but Batman overtakes him. The scene proceeds:

Batman: I’m asking you to put yourself in protective custody!

Bigger: S-Sure… Anything you say! Only how’s about we stop by my scow so I can get my toothbrush?

Batman: A reasonable request! Lead on!

Bigger: Hey… well, I don’t wanna seem chicken or nothin’… but you mind goin’ in ahead of me?

Batman: Another reasonable request! Okay… follow me!

(Batman moves in front of Bigger, inspects the docks. Bigger pulls out a sap while Batman’s back is turned.)

Batman: Okay, Bigger! Coast is clear!

(Bigger smashes down on Batman’s head with the sap.)

Batman: Unngh!

(Batman is out cold).

All great writers, worthy of their places at the top of the list.

Especially Denny

Great top 5…. except O’Neill.

I have to agree with some of the above posters. While he definately deserves a place in the top 20 for his influence on Batman, I do find a lot of O’Neill’s ‘classic’ stories a little… hokey.

I’ve been reading the Neal Adams collected editions and that Two-Face story highlighted above is just a badly written tale. A lot of his 70’s plots are straight out of afternoon TV detective shows.

I read Venom recently and although it’s a brilliant idea – why doesn’t Batman use steroids – the execution is severely lacking in the second half when it becomes an odd jungle-miltary-love story. Bit of a wasted opportunity if you ask me!

However, he definately improved Batman overall so respect is due. Just maybe not No.1 of ALL TIME…

@Cass: That’s the exact sequence I had in mind. Embarrassingly bad.

What an awesome work putting together these lists turned out to be! Every entry and the accompanying examples are something fans will repeatedly enjoy and learn from. As someone who LOVES Morrison’s 7-year run, I’m pleased his work ranked so high, and the entry didn’t even mention ARKHAM ASYLUM or Gothic (although I think they did receive mentions elsewhere).

Well, there’s an old saying about that sort of thing: “Even Homer nods.”

I haven’t really read any O’Neil pre 80’s. But I did love his Azrael work. I recently reread the mini and the first 40 or so issues (stopped just before NML) of the ongoing. And I enjoyed it a lot.

LOVE the fact that Denny O’Neil finished first! He was my no. 1 as well. What impresses me most about his work is not just his aforementioned work in the 70s, but especially his Legends of the Dark Knight stories of the 80s and 90s, which came out in Miller’s wake. Denny was able to change his writing style as time went on better than any other writer to my knowledge. Then there’s of course his phenomenal editing of the books over the years (wasn’t a Death in the Family his decision, as well?). He just gets Batman perfectly. Great list, as usual!

Glad O’Neil came first his 70s and 90s stories were great, and he’s the best editor the Bat titles ever had, too. Venom is possibly my favourite Batman story, and Denny wrote a whole lot of the other Bat tales I love, too.

Actually, just thinking about Denny’s editorial reign, and when he took over, it would be interesting to see how he would have edited Killing Joke. My instinct is he wouldn’t have let Moore get away with the cheap shock tactic of crippling Barbara, and he probably would have forced Moore to change the ending to one that respected the character of Batman.

Miller certainly did better work when O’Neil was calling the shots, as evidenced by the two stories that put him in second place on this list.

Joker’s Five Way Revenge is one I like a lot–probably my favorite of O’Neil’s Bat-work. And again, incredibly influential. I rather wish someone would do the equivalent and get the Joker back closer to “insane crime clown” than the guy he seems to have become now.

Denny O’Neil brings me to 8/10 in the top 35 with Kelley Puckett just outside and I don’t know where Devin Grayson (Batman: Gotham Knights, etc) ended up

Gavin Bell: Denny O’Neil did edit The Killing Joke. O’Neil became Batman Group Editor around 1986/87, The Killing Joke came out in 1988. Denny O’Neil replaced Len Wein as the editor. Granted, Wein was the one who allowed Moore to cripple Barbara Gordon but Denny is responsible for the final book, and according to Brian Bolland was relatively hands-off.

Kelley Puckett! easily, one of my very favourite Batman writers, John King. his run on the 1st volume of Batman Adventures if flawless. but I’m glad O’Neill came in top of the list.

Where did Scott Snyder place on the list?

Grant Morrison is my number one, so I am happy to see him in the top 5! For me, a comic reader for more than 25 years, his run is the best run in comics I have ever read. Soooooooo good.

Is there a page with all 75 writers and artists?

Since I’m a product of the 90s, I focused more on art style than story until I temporarily stopped reading comics in general in the late 90s for the same reason. One of the gems I encountered in that time was Knightfall. The name itself intrigued (and still does so) me for Batman was defeated soundly and squarely. The hype of the Death of Superman was still raging but I cared less, I wanted (and continuing so) Batman. And after Wayne’s defeat, someone had to fill the “mantle”–Jean Paul Valley–the early 90s creation. Boy, I now I’m a minority here, but I love Azrael and the issue Batman 500 costume. I would even draw out it. I love how Azrael beat Bane with impunity! Overall, Knightfall, for me, stands the test of time in art and story. Joe Quesada is aesthetically the creator of Azrael BUT Dennis O’Neill characterized and humanized the Jean Paul Valley. As a matter of fact, I felt so sad and sorry for Jean’s apparent “demise” in the last issue of Azrael (it’s NOT an easy find, mind you all. The first issue is easier and plentiful to find than issue 100). I know a “new” Azrael is running around in the New 52, yet, O’Neill’s Jean Paul is still THE AZRAEL for yours truly! That’s how great Dennis is! That’s for the patience!

Grant Morrison’s Batman saga was the few reasons why I hooked up comics after the comics trauma of the late 1990s. I took his Batman R.I.P so literally that Wayne “would die” (of course, after studying the style and patterns of the so-called “rock god of comics” [Rich Johnston’s words, not mine], Morrison is no walk in the park type of auteur). I bought the hardcover edition of both R.I.P. and Final Crisis (the most mind-imploding Morrison opus yet. Even Morrison admitted in Wizard Magazine that he wrote it akin in hell and apologize readers if they found it, well, disappointing), and I even acquired the Absolute editions of Final Crisis (better read and put the Batman: R.I.P.-Final Crisis tie-ins for a complete read, finally) and, to my mind his greatest Batman run–Batman and Robin (so fun, reminiscing both the Adam West years and Grant’s patented weirdness! I still keep the entire single-issue run–1-16). His Batman mantra: “Batman is GOD” cements further the superiority of Batman over other superheroes. That alone earned my respect to the “rock god of comics.” He deserves top spots in the best of the best.

@Cass

I love that about “Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!”. Batman is fallible. With all his training and brilliance, even he can slip up, a goon can get lucky. In his zeal to get to the next former henchman of the Joker, Batman made the error of trusting him. But he’s clearly at the top of his game later on in the shark tank.

O’Neil’s Batman was a MAN, not a Batgod, as some write him.

As my parting words here, Frank Miller is certainly in my top list, but his All-Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder made me wonder why he changed as a writer. Yes, I love his Year One and his Dark Knight saga (The Absolute Edition that contains The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again), but his last interpretation on Batman is virtually 360 turn on what he then portrayed the Dark Crusader, including the potty-mouthed characterization. I can still swallow the TDKSA for I believe it’s necessary to convey his emotions in reaction to the 9-11 event, despite what many critics said otherwise. His legacy is secured, yet his All-Star take…oh boy. Jim Lee’s art is the only reason I bought some issues of it. And now, the Absolute All-Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder will shortly come out on July, and I hope it contains the entire Miller script as a sense of closure to the unfinished series.
As for Bill Finger, he is simply THE BEAST! He deserves absolute respect and proper recognition! Until the tag “Batman Co-Creator” is marked on all Batman covers on his honor, I will not stop “jerking” around.

Surprised Miller is No. 1 given how many people cited TDKR and Year One as main influence of the modern Batman as well as for the critically acclaimed Nolan’s TDK Trilogy. Although i have to agree Denny O’Neil has a great influence on Batman before Miller too. Anyway great list for both the writer and artist.

The people who are criticizing Denny O’Neil are probably people who are too young to have read the stories back when they first saw print. Yes sometimes there is a little bronze age illogic. However at the time those stories came out they were so far head and shoulders above anything else out there including most of the Marvel output and definitely all the DC output that the writing was nothing less than revolutionary. Furthermore those stories laid the groundwork for everything that we know and read about modern-day Batman. While Bill finger gave us many of the outward trappings of Batman it was O’Neill who took the origin and postulated that it made Batman an obsessive crime fighter. Except for Finger, every other writer in the top five, and most of the ones on the list springboarded off the psychological underpinnings that O’Neill brought to the character.

Gavin Bell: Denny O’Neil DID edit The Killing Joke. O’Neil became Batman Group Editor around 1986/1987, The Killing Joke came out around 1988. Denny replaced Len Wein, who was the original editor and who signed off on the crippling of Barbara Gordon. According to Brian Bolland, Denny was remarkably hands off (something a good editor should be) and only had one discussion with Bolland about the book.

@Herb Finn: I was a bit surprised that Bill Finger wasn’t #1, but after thinking about it, the top three makes a lot of sense – the creator of Batman along with the two writers who established the modern conception of Batman.

As someone who LOVES Morrison’s 7-year run, I’m pleased his work ranked so high, and the entry didn’t even mention ARKHAM ASYLUM or Gothic (although I think they did receive mentions elsewhere).

Good point. I edited in mentions to those works.

Hank, I was around when Denny O’Neil started on Batman. I felt vaguely disappointed by them then, now I have a clearer sense of why they don’t work for me (as noted earlier). So no, it’s not necessarily a generational thing.
But yes, his contribution to the shaping of Batman certainly is significant.

No love for Loeb? Hush, Dark Victory and the Long Halloween

@ Everyone hating on O’Neil and praising Miller, I’d like to present some of HIS fine dialogue:

Batman: Give it up, punk. You’re finished. Just look at you. You’re finished.
Spawn: Look at you. You can’t even get up. You’re the one who’s finished. *khoff*
Batman: I’ll rip you to pieces. Undisciplined slob. *khagg*
Spawn: Catch my breath. Just catch my breath and I’ll break you in half.

The number of times Batman calls Spawn a twit, punk, or slob is ridiculous. It’s like reading a Batman themed version of Green Eggs and Ham. Sure, some of O’Neil’s dialogue reads hokey to modern sensibilities, but Miller has plenty of modern work that’s just plain bad.

@ Solid Snake: interesting – I knew Len Wein signed off on the Barbara stuff (and later regretted it), but I wasn’t sure when Denny actually came on board. It’s a shame he wasn’t a little more hands-on with the edit, it’s not a great Moore story and the point at which the Joker started on his journey to the almost unrecognisable version we have today.

The whole edgy “Batman is a psycho too, you guys!!!!” thing has gotten very old, too.

Majority of us are aware that Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga is heavily influenced on Jeph Loeb and Frank Miller’s respective interpretations of Batman. But we must NOT FORGET that Nolan mentioned briefly but powerfully frankly that Denny O’Neil’s Batman is part of Nolan’s Batman Trinity. Nolan mentioned O’Neil’s influence in his interview with Jeph Loeb and that information can be found in the Absolute edition of Batman: The Long Halloween.

Paul Garcia: Well O’Neil’s ‘The Man Who Falls’ was one of Nolan’s Big Three Batman stories

Gavin Bell: I disagree. I both liked the story and feel it can’t be blamed for current writers pushing both The Joker and Batman to ridiculous extremes.

Englehart was my #1, for all the reasons stated: Mixing iconic and obscure villains, creating the BEST love interest (Silver St. Cloud), as well as a brand new political bad guy (Rupert Thorne) and arguably the second-best Joker story of all (after THE KILLING JOKE). O’Neil was #2 because of Ra’s/League of Assassins, revitalizing the character after the camp period, plus his return in the ’80s. So much of what is great in the Burton and Nolan movies are influence, in one way or another, by Englehart and O’Neil.

Eh, I’d argue that Frank Miller influenced the tone far more than Denny O’Neil did. I’m sure while the earlly O’Neil stories were coming out, people WERE noticing a change. But what Frank Miller did was on another level, then and now. Those old ’70s O’Neil stories seem antiquated by today’s standards, but we can still sense how over-the-top Miller’s depiction was.

All five writers were are obviously deserving, but I personally think Miller and Morrison should be 1 and 2, in either order. There is such a level of craft and control in their stories that writers like Finger and O’Neil (bless them) cannot touch.

I would put it this way: Finger’s influence is unmatched. O’Neil’s stewardship of the character, especially as an editor, was unmatched and perfect. But Morrison and Miller crafted the stories that penetrated and really nailed the character. With the scope of the Morrison did — to call that ‘fourth best’ seems like an insult. And Frank Miller? Frank Miller IS Batman.

Good to see Finger so high. His late ’40s and early ’50s Batman is my favorite version of the character – highly influenced by “fine” visual art and film, taking place in a Gotham city that’s a hairsbreadth away from sliding into pure surrealism.

I really wonder whether Morrison’s run will have any lasting effect on Batman as a character. The introduction of Damian, certainly, but what else? Only time will tell, I guess.

It’s interesting to me to see how O’Neil is regarded as such a legendary writer on Batman, so much that he made the top of the list. I don’t read Batman but I’ve read his Spider-Man and I found his Spidey frustratingly clunky, to the point where I would even say his run on Spider-Man might be the worst ever (and I’ve read Kavanagh).
So did he really have such a different grasp on different characters; was he a bad fit on the one title but a genius scribe on the other? I wonder how any O’Neil fans who know both his Bat & Spidey work would compare the two.

Hobgoblin, I agree on O’Neil’s Spider-Man run. And yes, his work on Batman was head and shoulders above everything else he did (though his Iron Man run also gets a lot of respect).

Dave Blanchard

June 23, 2014 at 9:36 am

How does John Broome not make the list at all? That’s seriously wrong.

I would rather see how both Scott Snyder and Gregg Capullo will fare in the 80th, 90th and 100th Batman Anniversary. My prognosis–HIGHER.

@ellbell01 I think the difference is between being fallible and being mind-numbingly stupid. It’s the difference between “oh, I zig when I should have zagged and let this thug get the drop on me” and “oh, my fine fellow, let me expose the back of my skull while I retrieve your tooth brush.”

And O’Neil deserves his spot because he was a brilliant concept man, one of the best ever. His actually writing execution could leave a lot to be desired though. Not just Batman; Green Lantern-Green Arrow reads laughably bad now, even if the idea is really, really good.

Well, O’Neil’s The Question series is far and away my favorite thing he did, but his Batman is certainly good too.

I feel a similar way about Doug Moench. I love his run on Master of Kung Fu and some of his other Marvel work, but I really dislike his Batman stuff. I just checked out the recent Moench/Jones collection from the library to see if I like it any better now, and nope, I still don’t like it. But that’s fine; I know plenty of other people are fans of the ’90s stuff.

It’s interesting to me to see how O’Neil is regarded as such a legendary writer on Batman, so much that he made the top of the list. I don’t read Batman but I’ve read his Spider-Man and I found his Spidey frustratingly clunky, to the point where I would even say his run on Spider-Man might be the worst ever (and I’ve read Kavanagh).
So did he really have such a different grasp on different characters; was he a bad fit on the one title but a genius scribe on the other? I wonder how any O’Neil fans who know both his Bat & Spidey work would compare the two.

His Batman was great, and his Iron Man is extremely underrated. In fact I like it better than Michelinie?Layton. Also underrated is his Daredevil run, which suffers in esteem because it immediately followed Miller.

His Spider-Man though….incredibly bad. No idea why he did so well on those other books but totally whiffed on that.

In fairness M-Wolverine, when something plugs into the current zeitgeist the way GL/GA did, it’s almost bound to date fast. I have the same problem to a lesser degree with the Forever People (“We leave you what cannot die——love! Friendship!”).

anthony jackson

June 23, 2014 at 4:19 pm

No Doug Moench ? He did some very fine work in his day as did Mike W. Barr. Every writer you have listed deserves praise . As for Miller, his All-Star Bat-Man is underrated. Wish they would finish it.

T: Denny was an alcoholic at one point. I don’t know if he was sober by the time he came to Marvel to write Spider-Man, but alcoholism may have been a factor. Or else it’s simply a question of Denny being unable to get a grip on Spider-Man, he had similar problems with Superman and other super-powered heroes.

Anthony Jackson: Doug Moench was #9 on the overall list.

@Fraser- I can completely forgive “cheesy” dialogue and such; styles of the time don’t really bother me, whether Claremont, O’Neil, or whoever. But even then the stories were often ridiculous straw men with silly outlooks. Green Lantern was a sounding board; not an equal.

Spidey and Bats have always been leagues different in tone and outlook so it is perfectly understandable how a writer can give a wonderful interpretation of one character and his world but fail at the other.

bill finger is number three?? really?? all the writers in this top 5 have taken ideas from him, no mention that he co-created THE MAINT CAST OF THE SERIES!!!

Jesus, guys. Are we so addicted to internet squabbling that we have to argue about ORDER? “This guy is number 1? HORRIFYING!” or “This guy is only number 4? A SLAP IN THE FACE!” These are all amazing writers who, despite slight differences in personal taste, have all had a humongous effect on the character and written stories that millions of people (even if one of those people isn’t you) have enjoyed. Just enjoy the list for what it is, a celebration of the people who have contributed to the story of a character that we all love. The only difference between a #1 rank and a #2,3,4, or 5 rank is that a few more people voted for them.

Every one of these writers has done some amazing work, and this list acknowledges that. If you love any of them, you should be happy they’re getting their due, not raging over something as silly as a few dozen votes.

Agreed with what TJCoolguy wrote above.

It’s been very interesting following these lists, even if I did fall behind in keeping up with them. This was my list:

1. Bill Finger
2. Dennis O’Neil
3. Grant Morrison
4. Alan Grant
5. Chuck Dixon
6. Steve Englehart
7. Bob Haney
8. Kelley Puckett
9. Doug Moench
10. Frank Miller

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