Best Batman Artists
A long while ago I wrote about the best writers in the comic book industry who have tackled the adventures of the Dark Knight (which can be read HERE). But comics are a collaborative artform and writers in the business need artists to bring their stories to life. Of all the superheroes out there, Batman is easily one of the most visually interesting and has attracted a plethora of talented illustrators during his 75 years in existence. in honor of these talented artists here are the best Batman artists in comic history presented in nor particular order.
Bob Kane: Bob Kane has gone down in history as the greedy and petty man who did everything in his power to take sole credit for the creation of Batman. Contrary to the myth he spent his career building, Kane did not design the character, that credit goes to his collaborator Bill Finger, but he was the first artist to draw Batman when he made his debut in Detective Comics. The New York-based cartoonist had a style that was not particularly polished or clean but it worked in the favor of those early tales. Batman’s world was full of deformed characters and strange stylistic places. This pulp style gave the hero a very different look and tone to separate him from the other caped hero who was hitting it big at the beginning of the superhero genre.
Jerry Robinson: Though Kane was credited as the sole Batman artist during the Golden Age he had actually hired others to help him out and the first and chief among them was Jerry Robinson. Robinson, along with Bill Finger and Bob Kane were the trio who created the character and built the world which he inhabited. Jerry Robinson took part in the creation of many of the key elements to the Dark Knight; the Joker, Catwoman, and Robin. Even after he left the comic book industry, Robinson was a tireless crusader for giving credit and rights to artists and preserving the history of the business.
Dick Sprang: The work of Dick Sprang defined the look of Batman for an entire generation of comic fans. His Caped Crusader is instantly recognizable for his broad chest, squared jaw, and wide grin. Sprang always captured the adventurous heroic spirit of Batman during his tenure. Despite his imaginative tales having been published decades ago they still inspire Batman creators across different mediums to this day.
Neal Adams: For decades, artists had been illustrating Batman in the same fashion as Sprang and Kane. But during the 1970’s artist Neal Adams took over as artist on Brave and the Bold, and readers informed DC Comics that they wanted to see more of that Dark Knight. Adams fostered a style which emphasized a certain realism in the characters he drew. The powers that be moved Adams to the main Batman title where he and Denny O’Neil made comic history and brought the superhero back to his dark and moody roots. Adams’ Dark Knight eschewed the broad shoulders and square jawline for a leaner and more athletic look. To this day Neal Adams is revered as a legend ion the industry and his work here was where he made a name for himself.
Frank Miller: Neil Gaiman once said that before the Dark Knight Returns, most people thought every possible Batman story had been told. Frank Miller set out to prove most everyone dead wrong in his 1986 classic. While other artists had been using Adams’ design of a sleek and agile Batman, Miller went back to the Golden Age and made his Batman an hulking bruiser, but one who was clearly affected by the ravages of age. Miller did not shy away from Batman’s roots with a moody expressionistic look which he brought to Batman and the Gotham City of the future/1980’s. Not only did Frank Miller reinvigorate the franchise but the comic industry as a whole, as the Dark Knight Returns was a smash hit not just for comic fans but mainstream audiences as well. To this day this tale is held as a masterpiece of art and literature.
Dave Mazzucchelli: After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics looked to reintroduce their iconic characters to a new generation of readers by retelling their origins. Pairing with Frank Miller for the now legendary Batman: Year One, Mazzucchelli brought a gritty noir style to Gotham City. After seeing Batman in the midst of the cosmic epic in Crisis, this style brought the character back to earth and made him more human and relatable.
Jim Aparo: Bringing a clean and crisp style to his Batman run, Jim Aparo became a fan favorite on the book. Developing a reputation working on the characters at Charlton Comics, he was brought over to DC Comics to see what he could do. Aparo had a style which appealed to contemporary readers, but also had a retro element to it which made it timeless.
Tim Sale: With one of the most unique styles in the business Tim Sale brought his throwback style to a series of acclaimed Batman stories he created with Jeph Loeb. With his stories taking place during the early days of the superhero’s career, the retro style he utilizes proves to be a perfect fit. Taking influence from Bob Kane, Tim Sale gives readers a take on Batman, where many of the physical characteristics of the characters (especially the villains)are exaggerated and malformed. When illustrating classics like Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the artist brought a dark moody quality to his work which proved to be a perfect touch.
Kelley Jones: In the 90’s several comics found success by showcasing their elaborate stylized art. Given this Kelly Jones’ run on Batman could not have come at a better time. His interpretation of the Dark Knight looked like demon from a gothic horror flick, with the long pointed ears, hyper detailed physique, and long flowing cape. The image of Bane breaking the back of Batman, which Kelley Jones illustrated still stands as one of the most iconic images in the history of comics.
Norm Breyfogle: By the time Breyfogle took over as an artist on Batman, several artists had brought their unique interpretations to the character. Brefogle made his name by taking bits and pieces of those and distilling them into a memorable style. For many Breyfogle is responsible for the definitive look of the Dark Knight for his ability to illustrate dark and gothic and infusing it with traditional superhero action. Breyfogle’s run on both Detective Comics and Batman is notable due to his ability as a storyteller.
Jim Lee: When the comic legend decided to make his return to a monthly series, Jim lee decided to lend his considerable talent to Batman. Working with Jeph Loeb on the famed story arc, “Hush”, Lee brought his detailed and breathtaking style to the Dark Knight. Knowing that working on such a popular character meant having to up his game, Lee even began to experiment with water color in creating the flashbacks during this run. Later he would bring his talent to All-Star Batman and Robin, and though the series was highly controversial and still stands incomplete, there is no denying the epic scope Jim Lee brought to the visuals of the series.
Greg Capullo: The most recent addition to this list, but there is no doubt he belongs on it. Joining forces with Scott Snyder in 2011, Capullo proved to be an incredibly versatile artist who was more than capable of drawing anything the story called for. Whether it is: the dungeon-like Arkham, the polished mansion of Wayne Manor, the gothic labyrinth of the Court of Owls, to the action packed panels of Batman kicking ass, Capullo can do it all. As of this writing he has rejoined with Snyder and the two are working on their mangum opus Dark Nights: Metal where he is blowing fans away with the epic scope of his storytelling and reminding everyone why he is one of the greats.