So I thought I would rank my personal top 5. This is not an absolute list, this is purely my own personal tastes and personal reasons why I put an artist here and does not reflect on the fact that they are the best ever, but that they are some of my favorites. With that warning out of the way, let's do this Bat-countdown!
5- Jim Aparo
His clean, classic style was just even soothing to look at, and inspired me in a different way than other artists inspired me. His art inspired me in a museum kind of way, and don't get me wrong, I mean that as a compliment, I love museums. There was this air of...nobility in his art that I just couldn't help but love it in an era dominated by the Image style art.
Maybe it's just my soul is old school in a sense that I have a huge appreciation of artists that came before, and when it comes to an artist leaving a lasting legacy, Jim Aparo has left behind a body of work and professionalism (hell, he many times would even ink AND letter an issue on top of doing the pencils!!!) that any artist, new or old, can only hope to achieve.
4- Jim Lee
Say what you will about the story (I had no problems with it), but one thing is for sure, IT KICKED ASS, it was JIM LEE ON BATMAN!
After Jim Lee decided to sell Wildstorm to DC Comics so he could concentrate on the artistic side of things again, I think we all saw it coming. Batman sales were decent at best but it wasn't Knightfall numbers. Sure, events like earthquakes and plagues kept the Batbooks sales healthy, it just suffered (IMO) of lagging between big event and big event. For all the awesomeness Knightfall was, on the flipside, Batman turned into an "event" book. And then came Jim Lee.
Hush, running from Batman 608-619 was a runaway success. The series itself was an event, not an event for an event's sake. THIS is what I love about comics. A solid story, with solid art, that I don't need to buy a billion other titles I'm not interested in to just get that one chapter of the story.In that sense, again, it was just good, plain old school comic making at it's best. And of course, one of the best (perhaps THE best, IMO) runs in Jim Lee's storied career.
3- Kelly Jones
His run was met with a mixed reaction. "His ears are too long." His artwork is too dark." That last one always baffled me, because, well, he IS the dark knight detective after all.
Doug Moench, who is another one of those classic Batman writers, I have to admit, I never actually was that into his stories. I liked the build up of Knightfall, and LOVED that Norm Breyfogle did the first couple of issues of Knightfall, but there was always something, I don't know if it was the pacing, but something always felt a bit off to me. But WOW when Jones got on Batman, it was so deliciously dark, it was almost like Tim Burton's Batman in a nightmare world. Dark, moody,intense, fantastic, Kelly Jones sits proudly on my own personal list.
2- Greg Capullo
But as luck would have it, when McFarlane and Robert Kirkman needed an artist to take over for departing Ryan Ottley on Haunt, Capullo came to the rescue. And he didn't lose his touch.
So much so that Marvel and DC took notice of this and a bidding war ensued between both to contract Capullo. After a log thought, he ended up opting for Batman. The news was received with a mixed reaction, much like with Kelly Jones in a sense, but even more ridiculous. "He's too cartoony." "He's that Spawn guy." "He's a McFarlane rip-off." "Batman is going to suck." All this and there wasn't even promo art out yet. But slowly and surely, once the promo art was coming they were starting to change their tune. And once issue #1 of the New 52 Batman came out, he shut up his critics with some of the best artwork of his career, and it's only gotten better.
How big was his start on Batman on a personal level? Ever since Civil War, Identity crisis, and One More Day came out, I quit buying mainstream comics. I would buy the occasional back issue and indie comic and reminisce about how good I had it for a while. Once news broke of Capullo drawing Batman, my nearly 6 year break ended. And I am so happy to say that I told Greg Capullo himself that very fact and he was so grateful for me saying so. So not only is he a top notch artist, he's a top notch person as well.
Now, before to getting to #1, I just want to do a quick honorable mention to:
Scott McDaniel- just BARELY cut out of the list, only because I missed most of his run on Batman. Let's call him #6 and my favorite Nightwing artist.
Tony Daniels- His run was during the period I stopped buying comics. He's one of my all time favorite artists for sure, but I can't wholeheartedly add him when I missed out on his Batman run and his Detective run was not accessible to me when it first came out. When I finally get my hands on the trades, maybe I'll do a different list.
And with that out of the way.....
1- Norm Breyfogle
So, I will keep this at a minimum and write at the risk of repeating myself, that his art when it first caught my eye just blew me away. The energy, the flow of the art, the storytelling, I loved everything about his Batman. My only wish now is that DC does a collected edition of his runs on Detective comics and Batman (hopefully with Shadow of the Bat thrown in there somewhere for good measure).
There you have it, my personal top 5. And if you're wondering why not Frank Miller or Todd McFarlane or Chris Bachalo, well, my criteria was based on artists with an EXTENDED run on Batman, not just a mini or one shots or single issue stories or a short story arch. So, who are your favorite Bat-artists? Sound off in the comments below and next week: my top 5 favorite Batman writers! Thank you for reading and happy trails, my friends!