By John Campbell |
Batman has long been, and probably always will be, one of most popular characters in comics. But let’s pull back the cowl on the creators who have defined the legendary crime fighter over the years and made the Dark Knight the enduring pop culture figure he is.
Morrison’s approach when he took over writing duties in 2006 was two-fold: honor the past and blaze a trail for the future. His bold and bombastic tales of the caped crusader acknowledged the entire continuity of the comic as the insane biography of Bruce Wayne. Not only had this Batman unmasked the villainous Hush but he had also been tied to a giant typewriter. Morrison also gave Batman a son with the introduction of Damian Wayne, he had Dick Grayson don the cowl and sent Batman on a wild journey through time. A true merging of past and present.
If Morrison was about creating a platonic ideal of the Batman, Snyder’s run was about tearing him down to his very human core. Starting things off with the absolutely nasty introduction of the Court Of Owls, a secret society that comes very close to killing Batman. Snyder puts a fresh coat of paint on the origin story, introduces one of the most terrifying depictions of The Joker, sees Jim Gordon become Batman, and wraps things up with a Mad Max inspired road trip through a post apocalyptic DC Universe. Batman was never the same after Snyder’s stories.
It can be easy to forget that when Batman was first introduced he was hailed as “The World’s Greatest Detective.” Someone who very much never forgot that is Jeph Loeb who added a noir detective flavor to his Batman tales. Starting by sending Batman on the hunt for a holiday themed serial killer in The Long Halloween then diving deep into Bruce Wayne’s past to introduce the terrifying new villain Hush. Loeb’s strengths lie in mixing big action pieces with a brain tingling mystery for Batman to solve.
You can’t talk Batman without bringing up Denny O’Neil. His work with Neal Adams throughout the 70's brought a gritty realism to the DC Universe. He gave us a Batman who didn’t just solve pun based riddles and teach kids lessons about being a good citizen. This was a Batman who battled murderers, rapists, and deadly drug dealers. He also defined a more physical and laser focused Batman who would not be stopped; and one capable of truly terrifying the criminals of Gotham.
There was never any doubt who would be number one on this list. There is no single writer who has had a greater influence on the modern depiction of Batman than Frank Miller. His seminal 1986 work The Dark Knight Returns showed us the dark and brooding vision of an older Bruce Wayne being forced to don the cape and cowl once again. He would follow this up with perhaps the most definitive origin story Batman: Year One. Regardless of what readers think of his later work on the character, those first two stories continue to influence every take on the character that followed, especially the films of Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder.
There are so many writers that have contributed to the decades long history of Batman. If your favorite writer didn’t make the list, please know I had a very hard time limiting this to just these five. Batman has inspired many generations of fans and will continue to do so for many years to come.