BATMAN WEEK: Some of the industry’s best pick the best…
It’s BATMAN WEEK! We’re celebrating Wednesday’s Detective Comics #1000 — and Saturday’s 80th anniversary of the Caped Crusader. For the complete index of features and tributes — many by some of the top creators in comics — click here.
I know what my favorite Batman covers are. You know what your favorite Batman covers.
But what about the people who make comics? What are their favorite Batman covers?
Well, for BATMAN WEEK, we asked 13 top artists to make their picks — and man, they did not disappoint. They gave us their choices, with brief commentary on each.
Who are they? How about Neal Adams, Mike Allred, Art Baltazar, Dave Gibbons, Gabriel Hardman, Sandy Jarrell, Dan Jurgens, Sonny Liew, Shawn Martinbrough, Graham Nolan, Kevin Nowlan, Jerry Ordway and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Not bad company, huh?
Their selections are broken up in two parts: In this installment, they select their fave Detective Comics covers, seeing as how today’s the day Detective Comics #1000 hits shops. In Part 2 (click here), it’s general Batman covers, in honor of Saturday’s 80th anniversary of the Dark Knight. (We did this last year for Action Comics and Superman, by the by.)
But wait there’s more! We also have a lovely tribute by Kelley Jones to the late Marshall Rogers and one of his greatest works. You can click here to check that out — and you really should.
Oh, and speaking of Rogers: Sandy Jarrell did something really nifty: He took a selection of Rogers’ covers and remade them with the classic Golden Age Detective Comics logo. You gotta see them — so click here. (By the way, Steve Englehart and Rogers’ run is #3 in our TOP 13 BATMAN COUNTDOWN. Click here for that.)
OK. Ready? Here we go, in alphabetical order:
Detective Comics, Vol. 2 #49. (Based on Batman #227, which is based on Detective Comics, Vol. #31). When an idea succeeds, the artist can never know why. Nor is it his responsibility. It is his responsibility to follow the idea. In this case, editor Julius Schwartz and I had two goals. One was to do homage to an old Bob Kane cover that originally received a lot of attention. The second goal is a bit more obscure but not for its time. In the early ’70s, gothic horror novels were in vogue, selling millions and millions of copies. The theme was always a beautiful girl in a filmy dress, running or dramatically posed in the night while behind her rose a stately mansion inhabited by someone close to royalty or riches who had a dire secret hidden in the upper chambers of his fearful castle dark. Julie and I put these two themes together for that cover. I thought it was kind of silly but apparently I was wrong. I sign them at every convention I go to by the dozens. And DC Comics loved it so much that I did an homage to it with Harley Quinn and Batman and the Joker. They LOVE that one almost as much.
Detective Comics #371. Incredibly provocative to my impressionable young brain, this treasure was found at a used book store in Eugene, Ore., on a road trip when my folks were obsessed with cataloging wild flowers. Just one of countless experiences where a comic book saved my sanity. Ooooh Batgirl!
Favorite Detective Comics cover is a tie:
Detective Comics #359. First Batgirl! She was awesome! Loved her on the TV show! Loved her Mego figure! I own two of them. AW YEAH!
Detective Comics #245. The MYSTERYMAN! One of the first comics I ever read! I think this was his only appearance. Always wondered why Mysteryman wasn’t on the TV show. I thought this guy was really cool. I used to draw him when I was a kid. I even made a custom Mego figure of him. True story.
Detective Comics #327. I’d stopped reading Batman by the time I saw this issue but was immediately drawn in again. Carmine Infantino was my favorite DC Silver Age artist and this had all the cool style that I loved his work for.
Detective Comics #587. Norm Breyfogle’s run on Detective Comics doesn’t stick in my memory just for the sake of childhood nostalgia — it’s a tremendous body of work that still holds up. I may not have been able to put my finger on why his art appealed to me so much as a younger reader but as an adult it’s clear that storytelling chops, expressiveness, and a unique style made his work stand apart. This cover clearly features an iconic Batman image but everyone has drawn that character at one time or another. (I know I’d like to write and draw a substantial Batman story at some point). What I think makes this cover great is the energy and dynamic line work of Norm Breyfogle.
Detective Comics #31 and Detective Comics #439. Apparently I have a thing for Batman on moonlit, misty nights. I LOVE Night of the Stalker, and really all of Archie Goodwin’s Detective run: Aparo, Toth, Simonson, Amendola, Chaykin. Manhunter! Brilliant Golden Age reprints, the old logo returned. Seven issues of funnybook perfection — gone too soon, but I’m so glad it happened.
Detective Comics #457. In one simple image, suitably framed with a black background, Dick Giordano gives us an atypically humanistic profile shot of Batman, as well as the memory that haunts him, which was the murder of his parents. It’s a brilliant composition and one that gets to the heart to the character.
Detective Comics #504. I used to buy superhero comics from a second-hand store — a mish-mash of titles in no particular order, so it was usually a question of picking copies with interesting-looking covers, and this Batman one was particularly intriguing: a giant Joker-samurai jack-in-the-box? The real Joker threatening doom in a secret panel? There were so many questions that needed answering! I still have the comic somewhere, and the image has stayed with me even though I don’t remember what the story was about.
Detective Comics #745. During my run as the regular artist on Detective Comics with Greg Rucka writing back in 2000, we were blessed to have “The” Dave Johnson as our cover artist. Dave illustrated so many incredible covers during our time but this particular image has always been jaw-dropping. At the time, I had fun drawing Batman jumping out of windows and from rooftops like Superman. Inspired by my “divebomb” visual, Dave created this gorgeous and deceptively simple, Art Deco-styled cover. Simply stunning.
Detective Comics #441. Being a Batman historian on top of illustrating the character in Detective Comics for many years makes this a very tough choice. I considered ‘Tec #27, #31 and #69 but the win has to go to #441. Not only was this the first issue I ever bought but it was drawn by future friend and colleague Jim Aparo. For me, evergreen/poster covers are OK, but when you can give a peek into the interior story in a dramatic fashion the way Jim, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert and Nick Cardy did, then you get my money every time.
Detective Comics #425. I love so many things about this cover. At first glance, it’s a strong composition with a lot of movement and large, bold shadows. If you look a little closer you’ll see that it’s also a good example of young Bernie Wrightson’s virtuoso inking technique. (He was 23!) The folds and drapery on the coachman’s cloak are a sable brush and India ink master class.
This was a few years after Neal Adams redefined the Caped Crusader as a noir detective, but on this cover, Wrightson pushes the character a little closer to the world of creepy, supernatural nightmares: Batman, crouched and threatening on the carriage roof, only slightly less demonic than the coachman and his devil horse.
The coloring supports the line art so well that I keep wondering if Wrightson didn’t handle that himself. The flame effect in the coach lamps really looks like Bernie’s work so let’s just assume I’m right.
Wrightson was barely more than a kid when he drew this one but he was already a master of the form. This cover still inspires me the way it did back in 1972.
Detective Comics #69. I’m going to say the Joker with Batman is my favorite Detective Comics cover, with the other two (#31 and #38) as runners-up! I have a vague memory of seeing the Jerry Robinson Joker cover reproduced in Jim Steranko’s History of Comics as a teen and immediately loved the pulp feeling of it. Adding to that memory, I socialized with Jerry Robinson several times in 1989 during the Batman anniversary, and he was a great guy! He told me how he got the original art for that cover back from the color engraver, by calling them from the DC office and asking that it be returned to DC in care of “Jerry Robinson.” Said it worked several times, to get his favorite pieces back during a period when art was considered the property of the company. Gotta love that!
Detective Comics #365. Can’t say this one is my all-time favorite Detective cover — but it’s at least one that REALLY caught my attention at a young age when I was quite ready to have my mind blown and influenced by the power and magic of “Hey, COMICS!” This is classic surreal Infantino (with Murphy Anderson inks).
Detective Comics #404. This one blew me away. I was totally into classic Neal Adams — and a nod to the great Joe Kubert inside was especially cool.
— 13 Top Artists Pick Their Favorite BATMAN Covers. Click here.
— The Complete BATMAN WEEK Index of Features and Tributes. Click here.