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).

Batman #277:Neal Adams coverThe 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."

Detective Comics #473: Marshall Rogers coverBy 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.



Inductee #1: IRV NOVICK

Irv Novick's BatmanHolding 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.

READ "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.





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