In honor of the Dark Knight’s 75th birthday and the 3 quarters of a century in which he has added to pop culture around the world, IGN has ranked their top ten best Batman artists. We’ve already covered the top artists as ranked by Comic Book Resources here and this list is with many similar names, though necessarily not in the same order.
All of their selections had to pass three tests. The artist’s Batman “must have been designed in a unique style that didn’t just borrow from what came before.” In addition their take on Batman “must have contributed to significant Batman stories that have gone on to shape the evolution of the character.” And finally that they must have “made a lasting influence on the character so that their name will forever be associated with the word “Batman.””
This list is as follows:
10. Mike Parobeck
Their reasoning for this was
Parobeck was responsible for illustrating The Batman Adventures for much of its shelf life. That comic tied into Batman: The Animated Series and featured a similar, Bruce Timm-inspired art style. While Timm did create the precedent, Parobeck made it all his own — not just with the look of Batman, but with how he moved, behaved, and fought. Parobeck drew a clean, simple, elegant Batman in a time when many artists tended towards excessive detail and shadow. His page layouts were phenomenal, using dynamic angles and energetic poses that made The Batman Adventures worthy of the TV series that inspired it.
9. Greg Capullo
Though hardly a new face on the comic book scene, Greg Capullo became one of the breakout stars of DC’s New 52 relaunch when he and writer Scott Snyder took over the new volume of Batman in 2011. From the opening scene of Batman and a Joker-disguised Nightwing battling Arkham’s inmates, it was clear that Capullo had a flair for bold, action-packed storytelling. Capullo’s work only stood out more as he and Snyder introduced a significant new threat to Batman’s world – the Court of Owls. Batman #5 cemented Capullo’s status as one of the best artists working at DC as it explored Batman’s psychedelic journey through the Court’s labyrinth and his descent into madness. Capullo has only continued to impress in the years since. He rendered a frightening new take on Joker in Death of the Family and is currently presenting an ambitious new take on Batman’s first year during the extended Zero Year storyline. One of the reasons that the Snyder/Capullo partnership has worked so well is that Snyder treats Gotham City as every bit as much a character as Batman, Joker, and the rest. The city is a living, breathing entity, and that’s a quality Capullo reflects in every single panel. There’s no telling what the two creators will be able to accomplish as their run continues.
8. Kelley Jones
You won’t find a Batman artist with a more distinctive style than Kelley Jones. Jones’ Batman is not at all realistic. This is Batman at his darkest and most Gothic. Between the half-gangly, half-muscular physique, long ears, and billowing cape, Jones’ Batman gives off the impression of being a vampiric creature of the night. Which is appropriate considering that some of Jones’ most famous Batman stories involve the Caped Crusader turning into a vampire and battling Dracula. Jones worked on many other Batman stories in addition to his Vampire Trilogy, including the Knightfall saga and an extended run with writer Doug Moench. Unfortunately, the subject matter in Moench’s tales wasn’t always well-tailored to Jones’ storytelling sensibilities. But his striking covers could always sell a Batman comic, even if the contents might not be as dark and foreboding as that cover would suggest.
7. Dick Sprang
Perhaps no artist better defines the Golden Age-era of Batman than Dick Sprang. This wasn’t the dark, lanky, gun-toting Batman of the early Bob Kane comics. Sprang drew Batman as a barrel-chested, square-jawed, ever-smiling hero. And in a time where many superhero comics featured crude, rushed artwork, Sprang brought a clean, elegant style of line-work and a vivid imagination to the page. His Batman and Robin often squared off against their rogues in larger-than-life situations. This Batman was a powerful force for good who never tired and never failed to uphold justice. If you want an idea of how influential Sprang’s art style is even today, look no further than DC’s animated Batman shows. In the New Batman Adventures episode “Legends of the Dark Knight,” one vignette is heavily inspired by Sprang’s art and storytelling sensibilities. And the more recent Batman: The Brave and the Bold also pays heavy homage to Sprang’s work and DC’s Golden Age era.
6. David Mazzucchelli
Fresh off their monumental Daredevil collaboration with Born Again, Mazzucchelli and Frank Miller re-teamed to work their magic for the Caped Crusader on Batman: Year One. Year One came on the heels of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series and was one of several attempts to update and streamline a hero for a more contemporary audience. This Batman was a far cry from the hulking monster of Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. In Year One, Bruce Wayne is young, inexperienced, and still searching for a way to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. And Lt. James Gordon is every bit as integral to this origin story as Batman himself, as both characters struggle through their chaotic first year in Gotham City. Mazzucchelli brought the perfect visual touch to this more grounded Batman tale. His presented a heavily noir-influenced take on Gotham, full of shadows and grime and suffering. But even if Mazzucchelli’s Batman wasn’t the muscle-bound superhero of many past Batman works, he still cut an impressive figure as he stalked Gotham’s underworld kingpins and let them know their days of feasting were done. With most everything else in the late ’80s veering towards bigger and more bombastic, Mazzucchelli opted for a more grounded, haunted Batman.
5. Carmine Infantino
As the ’60s rolled around and the Silver Age dawned, The Batman franchise wasn’t doing so well. Readers had come to view Batman and Superman as silly and outdated compared to the likes of newer heroes like The Flash Barry Allen and Green Lantern Hal Jordan. And even as the 1966 TV series was making campy Batman popular with the masses, Barry Allen co-creator Carmine Infantino was tapped to help revitalize the Batman comics as he did for Flash. Infantino responded by trimming many of the sillier elements of the Batman mythos. No more Bat-Mite or Ace the Bat-Hound for this Dynamic Duo. Infantino redesigned the look of Batman and Robin, making them darker and more serious. He worked with his collaborators to ensure that the comics emphasized detective work and mystery over the Joker’s colorful, outlandish death traps. More important than the updated look to Batman and Robin, though, was the strong draftsmanship and higher level of detail Infantino brought to his pages. Infantino also co-created the Barbara Gordon Batgirl. As much as Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams are credited with making Batman serious again, Infantino had already begun that process with O’Neil years before.
4. Norm Breyfogle
Perhaps no other artist is as responsible for defining the look and feel of the Batman comics during the late ’80s and ’90s as Norm Breyfogle. Breyfogle had lengthy runs on both Detective Comics and Batman during this period. His collaborations with writer Alan Grant are especially beloved, as the creators introduced popular villains like Ventriloquist, Mr. Zsasz, and Anarky and helped define Tim Drake as the new Robin. Breyfogle’s style is distinctive in how it blends elements of classic Bronze Age artists like Neal Adams and Jim Aparo with the more stylized, Gothic sensibilities of artists like Kelley Jones. While he was inspired by those other artists, his final product was an invention all his own. Breyfogle’s art is surreal, but also intricately detailed. His background as a technical illustrator can be thanked for that quality. Breyfogle largely disappeared from the Big Two after having extensively worked on the Batman line. Luckily, he’s made a recent return to Gotham City in the form of DC’s Batman Beyond comics. And it’s clear the artist hasn’t lost his touch.
3. Frank Miller
If this list were focused on general Batman creators rather than just artists, Frank Miller might very well take the top spot. Between The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, Miller had a seismic impact on the Batman franchise in the ’80s. But Miller has only illustrated two of the four major Batman comics he’s written – DKR and its sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again. But even those two projects are enough to earn Miller a pretty high spot. For all that creators like Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams and Carmine Infantino had done to distance the Batman comics from the campy TV series, Batman was still viewed by many in the ’80s as a goofy, childish character who had long since passed his prime. The Dark Knight Returns stomped all over that misconception, presenting what was perhaps the most hardcore and brutal vision of Batman ever seen. Miller’s Batman was aging but still driven by his demons and compelled to battle crime in the streets and skyscrapers of Gotham. His massive Batman – full of gray hair and gnarled muscle and gritted teeth – left a striking impression. DKR had a profound influence on both the comics industry and Hollywood. Without it, Warner Bros. may never have greenlit Tim Burton’s darker Batman movie. DKR inspired a wave of “grim and gritty” revamps and a darker generation of heroes that reflected the tone of Miller’s work, but not necessarily the spirit. Miller made a belated return to his Batman universe when he tackled The Dark Knight Strikes Again in 2001. The series met with a comparatively lukewarm reception thanks to its even more extreme take on Batman and Miller’s looser, more frenetic art style. But even DKSA is fascinating as a glimpse into one creator’s ongoing relationship with the Dark Knight.
2. Neal Adams
Carmine Infantino began the long, uphill battle of reclaiming Batman and returning him to his darker roots in the 1960s. That torch was passed to Neal Adams, who paired up with writer Dennis O’Neil to craft one of the greatest Batman runs of all time. The two creators introduced new villains like Man-Bat and Ra’s al Ghul during their tenure, and also reverted Joker from a goofy prankster to the homicidal maniac he was originally. Their stories tested Batman’s mental strength as well as physical, and introduced a globetrotting, adventurous quality to his adventures. Adams’ take on Batman became the definitive visual interpretation for the Bronze Age. His Batman was strong, but lean like a gymnast rather than burly like a lumberjack. Adams focused as much attention on his supporting characters and environments as he did Batman himself, resulting in a richly detailed Gotham City. And Adams’ dynamic use of perspective in his storytelling makes his works stand out even today.
1. Jim Lee
In the tradition of Loeb’s previous Batman stories, Hush revolved around an ongoing mystery and included many of Batman’s most popular foes. In addition to rendering everyone from Joker to poison Ivy to Catwoman to Ra’s al Ghul, Loeb and Lee also created a new villain in the form of the bandaged, Aristotle-quoting Hush. With these 12 issues, Lee defined the look of Batman and Gotham City for the modern era. Lee’s Batman is sleek, muscular, shadowy, and powerful. Hush included countless moments that showcased Lee’s vibrant style, from the battle between Batman and Superman to a rematch between Batman and Ra’s al Gul in the desert to the iconic rooftop kiss between Batman and Catwoman. Lee returned to the Dark Knight when he teamed with Frank Miller for All-Star Batman & Robin. While that story is much more divisive, Lee’s art remains a draw. All-Star retains his powerful superhero designs with an extra layer of darkness and grit befitting a Frank Miller comic. Even in the New 52, Lee continues to shape Batman through books like Justice League. He designed the Caped Crusader’s current costume alongside many other New 52 outfits. You can see strong echoes of Lee’s work in many other contemporary Batman artists such as Tony Daniel, David Finch, and Jason Fabok. These days, it’s just hard to picture Batman without bringing Lee’s bold vision of the Caped Crusader to mind. Even without considering all of that, we know that Lee is the greatest Batman artist of all time simply because whenever we see a modern drawing of Batman, it’s often easy to mistake it for one of his.
You can see the original article on IGN.com here