Over the years, Batman art's had its share
of ups and downs. On the one hand you had the great works
of Jerry Robinson, Jack Burnley, Dick Sprang, and later
Carmine Infantino. On the other hand, there was that "Bob
Kane" house style, the stiff and clunky, faux-Dick
Tracy look forced onto the character for two full decades
and cranked out by Kane "ghosts" like Shelley
Moldoff and Lew Sayre Schwartz (Kane himself having left
the strip early on, if indeed he ever drew anything).
advent of Batman's "new look" in 1964 opened the
door to fresh interpretations, but it was the Bronze Age
that finally blew that door off its hinges. Neal
Adams became for many the definitive Bat-artist
with a style that emphasized realistic anatomy, dynamic
layouts and powerful atmospherics. Jim Aparo
soon followed with a hard-edged, high-energy take on Batman
that for some eclipsed even Adams' work. Irv Novick
lent a sense of grace and style and became, with Aparo,
one of the defining artists on the character, hanging around
for much of the next two decades. They and other artists
took Batman in wild, new directions at a time when DC comics
-- especially those involving their flagship characters
-- were not known for taking a lot of artistic risks: Marshall
Rogers, Bernie Wrightson, Michael Golden, Mike Kaluta
and others offered distinctive, even quirky takes on the
Darknight Detective that kept things fresh and interesting
throughout the Bronze Age.
Art from this era is probably best remembered for the ever-growing
length of Batman's ears and cape (in some panels, the cape
billowed out to roughly the size of those giant flags flown
over used car lots). Also, there was a new emphasis on shadows
and darkness, with most adventures set in Gotham's wee hours,
as opposed to the broad-daylight escapades of the previous
decade. In fact, Bronze Age Batman essentially jettisoned
the "Caped Crusader" nickname in favor of the
newly coined "Darknight Detective."
now, Batman has a long history of attracting some of the
biggest talents in business, becoming one of a handful of
characters every artists wants to take a stab at. Arguably
it was the Bronze Age that kicked off this tradition of
greatness, ending as it did a long stretch of blandness
with a virtual explosion of amazing imagery, imagery which
continues to define the character in comics, movies, animation
and merchandising well into the 21st century.
Here, then is my Hall of Fame tribute to some of the top
artists of the Bronze Age, the guys who hooked me -- and
a generation of fans -- on The Batman.
#1: IRV NOVICK
his own with hot young newcomers like Neal Adams and Marshall
Rogers, Irv Novick was the Grand Old Man of Batman artists,
his comics career stretching all the way back -- like Batman's
own -- to 1939. At DC Comics in the 50s, Novick was a key
artist on editor Robert Kanigher's "war books,"
and in the late 60s, he transitioned to superhero fare with
The Flash, Lois Lane and of course, Batman.
Novick's Batman was lithe and long-limbed, his Bruce Wayne
youthful and handsome. There was a certain polish and elegance
to the character under Irv; for lack of a better word, his
Batman was classy. Novick would continue to work on the
Darknight Detective well into the 1980s, finally retiring
from comics in the 90s, reportedly due to failing eyesight.
"The Curious Case
of the Catwoman's Coincidences" to see Irv Novick
at the height of his illustrative powers, partnered with
Dick Giordano on inks.