Friday, April 22, 2016

Guest Post - Who's the Best... Bronze Age Batman Artist?

Doug: Thomas F. has a way with connecting the Friday's to the Monday's at the BAB. Today he's asking you about a topic near and dear to all our hearts: artists. And Batman -- we like that, too. Monday I'll be reviewing the Batman one-shot "Mad Love" featuring the animated versions of the Joker and Harley Quinn. Enjoy today's conversation -- I'm looking forward to it.

Thomas F.: Presented here in all their glory are ten Batman covers illustrated by ten different Batman artists from—yep, you guessed it—the Bronze Age. (Regret is expressed for any fan favorites I’ve missed). Of these virtuosos, which do you think is best, and why? Which are your favorites?

Batman #234 (Neal Adams)
The Brave and the Bold #124 (Jim Aparo)
Detective Comics #432 (Nick Cardy)
Detective Comics #461 (Ernie Chan)
Detective Comics #510 (Gene Colan)
Batman #321 (José Luis Garcia-López)
Detective Comics #457 (Dick Giordano)
Detective Comics #526 (Don Newton)
Detective Comics #475 (Marshall Rogers)
Batman #366 (Walt Simonson)

These Seventies artists built upon the creations of the legends who preceded them and paved the way—Bob Kane, Dick Sprang, Jerry Robinson, Irv Novack, Carmine Infantino, et al. Granted, some of these Seventies Batman artists had their start in the Silver Age or even the Golden Age, and some are still producing artwork even today. Nevertheless, the selections of artwork I chose are all from Bronze Age; i.e. 1970 to 1983. (Some feel the Bronze Age extends to 1984 or even 1985, and I will not dispute this).

The legion of talented pencilers who came afterward—Alan Davis, David Mazzucchelli, Mike Mignola, Norm Breyfogle, Jim Lee, Brian Bolland, Kelley Jones, Tim Sale, Frank Quitely, Greg Capullo, and Paul Pope, just to list a handful—were undoubtedly inspired by many of these Bronze Age Michaelangelos.


William said...

Nice article, and great question.

My personal favorite is undoubtedly Marshall Rogers, but the question is "Who's The Best?" and if that's the case I'd have to go with Neal Adams because well… Neal Adams.

I think that Neal did more to make Batman awesome than just about any other artist ever. He's the guy who rescued Batman from eternal campiness and made him cool again. Plus his body of work on the character far exceeds that of Marshall Rogers (who had a relatively short run on the book despite the lasting impact he made).

Arguably the 5 most important Batman artists ever would be:

1. Bob Kane (because he created him).

2. Neal Adams (because he's the architect of the modern Batman).

3. Frank Miller (because DKR was/is probably the most influential Batman story ever).

4. Bruce Timm (because he introduced the Dark Knight to a whole new generation and created the definitive version of the character in the minds of many fans).

5. Jim Aparo (because I think he drew more Batman comics than any other artist ever. He's like the Curt Swan of Batman artists).

Doug said...

What William said (man, William -- you're sort of setting the bar these past couple of days!).

I love the artist list at the conclusion of your post. The only change I might make is to say Bob Kane/Sheldon Moldoff (and other ghosts) of the early Golden Age.

And just outside the top 5 would be the wonderful Dick Sprang.


Doug said...

By the way, of the covers Thomas chose, I like the Giordano one the best for its inventiveness. However, that Simonson cover is spectacular!


SESchend said...

My vote goes to Jim Aparo for Bronze Age, as I see Adams as a late/end Silver Age artist. Grew up on Aparo's Brave & Bold Batman so that's my bias.

Redartz said...

Great array of covers, Thomas! I have to choose the Simonson as my favorite. And hats off to William for his list, too. You beat me to the punch, mentioning Bruce Timm. One could say he reimaged Batman as fundamentally as Neal Adams did...

david_b said...

Early Bronze..? Cardy, Swan (from those marvelous Worlds Finest interiors..), Giordano, Dillin, and Adams.

Late Bronze..? Garcia-Lopez.., maybe Byrne once in a while, great majestic presence, but a tad too stoic and dull for my tastes. Timm ROCKS.

Garett said...

When I look at Ernie Chan and Marshall Rogers here, it brings back happy memories of laying on the couch reading comics as a kid. But as an adult now, I'm not as big into their art.

Giordano is good as a penciler, but much better as an inker, so I wouldn't put him at the top. Cardy-- better on Bat Lash, not Batman!

Colan should work on Batman-- I'd like to have seen Tom Palmer ink him on Batman as he did with Dracula and Daredevil. As it is, I never really got into Colan's Batman, although I'd take a look.

Nice cover by Newton. There's something quirky about his poses, but I like it. I keep thinking I may buy the Tales of the Batman with Newton's art. Simonson is another guy I'd like to see more of on Batman-- I've only seen one or two stories. His stylization and mood can be great for Batman's world.

Garcia Lopez draws everything well, and I like his Batman vs Hulk book, but...he doesn't have the shadowy style for Batman. Everything is brightly lit, so while his Batman is good as always, it's not the best.

Of course, it comes down to Aparo and Adams! Aparo is like the more gritty, down to earth version-- the trash can in the alley feels real. Adams is sleek and you feel the sharp intelligence of Batman. They are the two best, depending on the day.

I'll mention Bernie Wrightson, who drew a killer Batman in Swamp Thing #7.

Of the covers here today, I like the Aparo cover. The idea could have come across as a spoof, but Aparo sells it with his realism, and makes me want to read the story.

Humanbelly said...

Can't choose, nope. Just can't.
Man, I wish I were a bigger Batman fan-- but he's always been of peripheral, passing interest to me at best. I always wanted more Bruce Wayne and less Cowled Avenger. . .

(This is utterly heretical in this crowd-- I totally get that, and am willing to own it, yep--)

GREAT group of covers-- they would still incline to Buy This Book if I saw them in a dollar box. . .


J.A. Morris said...

Good topic.

As much as I love Adams and Rogers, it's Aparo. I'm pretty sure he penciled more Batman stories than anyone during the Bronze Age and he always did a great job, and that makes him the best of the era.

Unknown said...

My absolute favorite Batman Bronze Age artist is, unquestionably, Neal Adams. To me, with the advent of Neal Adam's artwork, the characters of the DC Universe ceased to be cartoonish (no disrespect to any Golden and Silver Age Bat-Pioneers) and became REAL. Look at this cover of SUPERBOY #160—Superboy looks REAL. >>>

I do agree with what Steven Schend says—that Neal Adams is a late-end Silver Age artist, but it is chiefly his Seventies illustrations that strike a such a resonant chord with me.

That being said, Jim Aparo's version of Batman is the one I'm most familiar with. The very first Batman comics (it was actually the trade paperback volume) that I ever owned) was the "A Death in the Family" four-parter from 1989 that I purchased with my allowance money. Penciled by Jim Aparo, for me it was the definitive rendition of Batman—and the Joker too—and it remains so to this day. (Interesting how what becomes "definitive" for most of us is often what we are first exposed to).

I recently picked up the little-known issue, DC SPECIAL SERIES #21 (SUPER-STAR HOLIDAY SPECIAL) from 1979, featuring Frank Miller's very first Batman art in a Christmas-themed story written by Denny O'Neil. Here's a link to the splash page—it's worth a gander. >>>

Thomas F.

Mike said...

I'm with J.A.'s comment -- Aparo all the way. Adams set the standard, then Aparo ran with it. I remember the day I started my personal Batman collection by picking up Batman #294 off the rack when I was a kid because of the awesome Aparo cover. I still have and treasure my beat-up copy.

My personal fav artist though is Rogers. When I picture a Batman comic in my head, its always Rogers drawing it.

Anonymous said...

Neal Adams, simply because he redefined the character. His art was gorgeous, true, but he gets my nod for the art's moodiness, attention to stylized realism, reinventions of the Joker and Two-Face, and co creation of Ra's Al Ghul, Talia, and Man-Bat. That said, Jim Aparo was the better visual storyteller.

- Mike Loughlin

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, well if we're just talking covers, I'm torn; how do I pick between Adams, Aparo, Chan, Newton, Garcia-Lopez...I love 'em all!

But if we're counting interiors too, I might have to go with Don Newton. He didn't do many covers, but his interiors were great, especially when Alcala was inking.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

I think I like Aparo the best. i may not be the best judge; like HB I may not have been into Batman as much as I could have been. I will say the I like the leaner more wiry Batman vs the broader thick-chinned Batman. We talked about Michael Golden recently, and I think he did a couple of nice Batman issues somewhere along the way; I seem to remember that. I might be wrong.

pete doree said...

I think It's gotta be Aparo, just for longevity and consistency throughout the Bronze Age. Adams had a brief burst of ( undoubted ) brilliance, as did Rogers, and they're really the big 3 for Bats in this period, I think, but Jim just pips them all in my opinion.
Could Neal & Marshall have done Brave & The Bold? As well as Jim? For as long? I wonder.

Humanbelly said...

I am hitting the imaginary LIKE button for Pete's comment, there. Aparo's got the Sal Buscema Effect in his favor, so to speak.
Hunh-- and that B&tB issue w/ Sgt Rock happens to be one of the ones I own!

Quick questions:

1) Who drew that extremely short-lived Man-Bat series? (2 issues?) Anyone recall?

2) Hoo-boy-- 'Waaaaay back in Batman or Detective there was a recurring "Man With 10 Eyes" (could see w/ his fingertips) character. Story had a lot of Viet Nam angles to it. The art still lingers in my mind after 40 years or more. Ring a bell? Or are you guys gonna tell me to do my own daggone research. . . ?


Martinex1 said...

HB, I believe Man-Bat had Aparo covers...really nice covers. And interior art by Ditko and Pablo Marcos (I think). And didn't the 10 eyed man have a back up story in Man-Bat?

I loved Man-Bat for some reason, but what an odd character for a solo series.

Anonymous said...

@HB: Ah yes, the Ten-Eyed Man. I am not a fan of those stories. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about him. (Contrary to what's mentioned there, I seem to recall George Perez saying somewhere--possibly in Modern Masters--that HE was the one who insisted on killing Ten-Eyed Man because he didn't want to work for a company that would have someone like that as a character.)

Mike Wilson

Unknown said...


To answer your second question, the "Man Who Saw With His Fingers" is from Batman #231. Here's a link to the cover, penciled by Neal Adams >>>

That was definitely one of Batman's most bizarre villains.

Garrett, I love that Aparo cover for Brave & the Bold #124 as well; the cover alone made me buy it. After seeing it, I just had to know what it was all about. I just dug out my copy and reread it. The story could have been tacky but surprisingly it worked.

BretSector said...

Marshal Rogers - hands down! Blew me away back in the day (of course Englehart's scripts were a big part of the magic) and still holds up today. Big love for Aparo too, but Rogers is just incredible.

Humanbelly said...

Youse. Guys. Are. . .
Yessir--- thanks much for the quick sating of the ol' curiosity pangs, teammates. Especially considering it was a sidebar, at best. ('Course, when has any dedicated fan-ster ever held back when it comes to tracking down comic book arcana, eh? Ha-!)

Thomas, that was definitely the cover I was thinking of-- a very striking, memorable image. I last read that in, like, '69 or '70, probably. I do remember liking the issue quite a lot. Mike, the Wikipedia entry reminded me that the character's history is rather convoluted (also still remember that from reading it long ago)-- a lot of what-was-the-point? in his backstory. MX1-- yyyes, that sounds right. MAN-BAT was the ol' Cover Art great/interior art weak bait-&-switch. Ditko's style is just too inherently quirky and comic for a horror-esque creature like this. . .


Anonymous said...

Neal Adams. Any other response would be ignorant, absurd.

Anonymous said...

Hmm well I'm biased but my favourite artists on Batman were Aparo and Chan, just because I loved seeing their art when I was a kid; Aparo for his kinetic style and Chan for his dark, moody artwork which best suited a character like Batman.

- Mike 'looking for a batarang on eBay' from Trinidad & Tobago.

William said...

Thanks Doug.

And I agree with you wholeheartedly about the "ghost artists" in the Golden Age of Batman, but unfortunately Bob Kane gets 100% of the credit as far as DC and other media is concerned (like in movie credits, etc.). And I was thinking of Dick Sprang being one of the all-time important Batman artists as well. But like you said, he'd probably fall at #6 on a Top 10 list.

Allen said...

Marshal Rogers is my personal favorite although I have a great affinity for John Newton's Batman. I love the work he did on the Dollar editions of Detective in the late 70's/early '80's (somewhere around that time). Newton's Batman just seemed bigger and stronger than the others. Aparo stands apart as the definitive Batman artist of the Bronze Age in my mind.

Rip Jagger said...

In order of importance:

1. Neal Adams (the most important Bat-artist not named Sprang or Robinson)
2. Marshal Rogers (stylish and perfect for the moment, brief though it was)
3. Jim Aparo (the most sturdy and resonant of the Bat-artists of the era, but his Bat became a bit too formulaic after so many years)
4. Irv Novick (often overlooked but so darn good)
5. Ernie Chan (all those covers, those lovely covers)

Rip Off

dusty abell said...

I gotta go Neal Adams........,,,as a kid in the 70's it was two books he did in particular that made the biggest impacts.....,.,,the repurposed Man-Bat story used by Power Records and the Big Treasury Edition that collected the Ras Al Ghul story with that magnificent double page spread cover with Ghul looming over Batman who himself is kneeling over an apparently deceased Robin! Man those two books made such an enormous impression on me.

I'm a huge fan of Marshal Rodgers and his completely unique take on the character and Garcia Lopez draws EVERYTHING amazingly, especially Batman!

My favorite cover though of the ones presented is Walts.......,that is to me one of the 5 best Batman cover of all time!!!

Edo Bosnar said...

Jim Aparo.

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