Kicking off our 75th anniversary Batcelebration, Joseph McCabe unites some Gotham City legends
Which one of you writes the best
Frank Miller: [ Laughs.] Well, the best Batman I grew up with was written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams.
Geoff Johns: Frank Miller, in Batman: Year One. Between the past and the future, he’s kind of defined [ the character] in a way that no one else had before then. The influence is still felt. I don’t think you can say that about a lot of characters, especially Batman.
Scott Snyder: Yeah, I still have my original issues of Dark Knight Returns at my parents’ house... Growing up in New York, the thing that was so incredibly affecting about it was suddenly Batman existed in the city around us. You saw him facing problems in an actual landscape that looked like the city that we were living in, where you couldn’t necessarily go to Central Park, and there was crime and there was graffiti. To see Batman saving people and being an inspiration in a city that was immediately my own was just a tremendous influence on me. It made me want to write, honestly. To see that you could make a superhero so relevant and personal and immediate was definitely the transformative moment for me in comics.
Miller: Thanks. He also really beat the crap out of a lot of people. [ Laughs.]
Who’s the most underrated Batman creator?
Dan DiDio: I was a huge Jim Aparo fan. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams were definitive. But my favourite artist, and the one who defines Batman to me is Jim Aparo. The amount of work he did, the body of work, and just the fluidity and energy and life he brought to that character is one of the things that made me really love the character.
Miller: I’d bring two names to bear. One is Bill Finger, who was arguably co- creator of Batman, and the other is Jerry Robinson, who got very, very little credit for an astonishing amount of work, and who established a mood and a look for Batman.
Jim Lee: I’m gonna throw out Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. They did this awesome Batman- Joker storyline which kind of redefined Batman for me. It was superheroic, but had a lot of detective elements to it. It was just dazzling.
Snyder: The work on The Animated Series, was really seminal. Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett. The reason it’s underrated is because a lot of the origins of the villains and a lot of the things we assume are the modern interpretations of the characters that come from the comics, a lot of them filtered in from that animated stuff – Nora from Mr Freeze, and a lot of that stuff.
Miller: What Bruce Timm did – and I attribute it almost entirely to him – was he took the best Batman from every period, from Dick Sprang to Neal Adams through to my stuff, everybody’s stuff, and managed to mould it into this almost composite Batman that was really a reminder to anybody who touches the character that Batman is essentially a force for justice. And also a big guy with a big jaw. [ Laughs.]
Why has the character lasted 75 years?
Lee: I think one of the reasons is that the art form of comics is all about letting creators and the talent come in and do their definitive versions of these characters. We’re not trying to say, “Hey, this is Batman. This is the style guide. This is the length of his ears, this is the length of his cape. Draw it just like this. You can only do these kinds of stories.” We fortunately work in a creative field where people are encouraged to do new things, add to the mythology – the Court of Owls, new costumes, new Batmobiles. That’s how you keep it fresh and modern and contemporary. Everyone who comes to Batman, and every generation of fans, they go, “That’s my Batman.” It’s slightly different from the one before, but at its core, its essence, it’s the same character that we all know and love.
Miller: Well spoken. Now the lid is off the kettle, and it’s a matter of the artists and the publishers working together to realize who is Batman and what is still Batman. Because you can go too rough with it.
Snyder: The thing that’s so inspiring is that at the core, if you take away the wealth and the gadgets and all the fun stuff, he’s somebody
A truly classic Bat- caper from O’Neil and Adams.