Batman: The Evolution of an Icon
David Campbell, event coordinator of the Nerve Centre's Icons: Batman programme of events, on five artists whose incarnations of the Dark Knight will go down in history
Bob Kane was the original Batman artist, having developed him with Bill Finger after being commissioned by editor, Vin Sullivan – then working for National Allied Publications, later DC Comics – to create a new character in the vein of his company’s previous hit character, Superman.
Kane’s creation was fully realized and approved and went on to appear in Detective Comics No.27 (1939). Batman thereafter became a regular strip and after only a year in publication, the caped crusader had earned his own book.
Neal Adams is rightly regarded as the artist who put Batman back in the shadows in the late 1960s, with his detailed, realistic style giving the character a lot more edge. He remains one of the most influential artists to ever work on the Dark Knight, and successfully updated Batman's look for a new generation of comic book fans.
Frank Miller is one of the most widely known and respected comic book creators of the last 30 years. He has produced some of the most ground-breaking, innovative and exciting works in comics history, none more so than The Dark Knight Returns (1986).
This book lingers around the top of many lists for greatest graphic novel of all time for good reason: Miller’s sophisticated portrayal of an aged Batman, who reluctantly returns from retirement to help a desperate Gotham City, demonstrated that comic books could be taken to a whole new level. The storyline pushed comic boundaries and had artwork to match, with an atmospheric and visceral depiction of Batman, which influenced incarnations of the character for decades to come.
David Mazzucchelli worked on Daredevil with writer Frank Miller for Marvel Comics, before going on to work with Miller on Batman: Year One (1987). Year One stands as one of the Caped Crusader’s greatest stories, and was a big influence on director Christopher Nolans’s acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy of films. Mazzucchelli produced a stunning, stripped down, contemporary take on Batman that many see as the definite version, and his remains a favourite among fellow artists.
For many comic fans, Jim Lee is the ultimate Batman artist. After making his name as one of the best in the business on a number of other comic titles, he eventually ended up at DC Comics and made his debut in some style. He portrayed a slick, powerful version of the Dark Knight in the popular ‘Hush’ storyline in the early 2000s, and his interpretation of the character has proved the most popular and enduring of recent times.