An underrated artist’s high point…

UPDATED 11/7/23: We’re feeling kinda pulpy today, so we’re “reprinting” this one from Nov. 2020. It’s a groovy one. Plus, make sure you also check out the TOP 13 SUPERHEROES INSPIRED BY THE PULPS — RANKED and John K. Snyder’s fab 1939-style Batman illo that we’re showing off. Dig it. — Dan 

The unsung hero of Batman’s Bronze Age comics was Irv Novick.

He was no Neal Adams and Jim Aparo looms larger with every passing year. Marshall Rogers, on the other hand, was Batman’s Hendrix – a brilliant virtuouso with a limited catalogue.

But Novick was the journeyman, the utility player: easily taken for granted but a real pro who was a superb storyteller, able to go light or dark depending on what the situation warranted.

The Joker #2. Pencils by Irv Novick, inks by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

As is the case with almost anyone, he was at his best when inked by Dick Giordano, the artistic glue who helped give the Darknight Detective a consistent look regardless of who wielded the pencil.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a Batman/Detective re-read that began with 1964 and has now reached the mid-’70s. I just recently finished 1974’s run of 100-Pagers and was happily surprised by a story whose details I’d long forgotten – Batman #259’s The Night of the Shadow!, teaming the Masked Manhunter with one of his great inspirations.

Nick Cardy cover

Written by Denny O’Neil with art by Novick and Giordano, The Night of the Shadow! is a sequel to the less compelling Who Knows What Evil — ? six issues earlier by the same team.

The exact details of the issue are less important than its themes – a rumination on childhood trauma, PTSD and gun violence. It’s the first story to maturely explore Batman’s aversion to guns – utilizing the Shadow’s dual pistols as a counterpoint.

It’s typical O’Neil: emotional social commentary disguised as whiz-bang adventure. It’s effective and moving, especially when you consider it came at a time when not every single story mentioned Batman’s murdered parents or showed a bunch of pearls mournfully dropping to the ground.

It’s also some of Novick’s best Batman work, which is saying something when you consider that he worked on Gotham’s protector on and off from the late ’60s to the early ’80s.

But there’s one page that really jumped out at me when I read it again recently – a bold reminder of just how skilled an artist he was:

Novick wasn’t one for flashiness. His work was fairly straightforward, with few if any splash pages or double-page spreads to be found. But here he takes a classic Batman image – swinging on a rope, Batsignal blazing in the distance – and makes it his own.

The Caped Crusader glides smoothly right at you, dominating the page. But it’s not gratuitous posterizing – rather, it’s a brief reminder of Batman’s visual power that leads right back to the narrative.



By the way, I’m running this piece in tandem with Robert Greenberger’s TOP 13 SUPERHEROES INSPIRED BY THE PULPS – RANKED, which you should click here to check out. Naturally, Messrs. Wayne and Cranston make an appearance. — Dan


— 13 BATMAN SPLASH PAGES: An IRV NOVICK Birthday Celebration. Click here.

— The TOP 13 Superheroes Inspired by the Pulps — RANKED. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Irv’s work was the first that I came to recognize as an early reader. Loved his BATMAN and supporting cast. I was not a fan of his Bruce Wayne however.

    The Shadow cross overs were gold. I love that character. By far my favorite pulp hero.

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  2. I started off reading the Flash in 1974, which of course was Irv Novick’s “day job” . When I finally ventured into Batman,seven year old me couldn’t recognize the artist by name, but I knew I liked it. Irv wasn’t a showy artist, as you point out with the panel above, but I found his work to be “comfortable” and “approachable” if that makes any sense.

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  3. Novick had come back to Batman when I really started buying regular issues, so he, Jim Aparo and Don Newton were MY Batman artists. I think Novick is incredibly underrated, especially since he was a Golden Age artist who managed to morph and change his style to stay relevant in his comic art, unlike many of his peers.

    His art has a kinetic energy that’s often overlooked as well. I see countless images of Batman and Robin leaping through the air with super dynamic capes unfurling in the background.

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  4. Loved his work on Batman and Flash. So versatile.

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  5. I now forget the details but at one point the powers that be at DC so liked Novick’s work that he had a deal that he would always be provided with work.

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  6. Great selections although in the case of Novick, the inking of Dick Giordano cannot be ignoredas a major factor of those pages displayed. Giordano made every penciller in those days look better, especially more passive pencillers like Novick. Novick inked by Blaisdell, Giella and others in years following displayed images of a lesser quality and defined the real secret weapon behind his work: Dick G.

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  7. Novick, Dick Dillin & Bob Brown were my 2 favorite Schwartz edited early bronze age Batman artists. Boltinoff edited artists in the Brave & the Bold were spotty in my opinion after departure of Andru & Esposito in 1970.

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  8. The best page of art in that issue is the plunging elevator car that Mr. Wayne finds himself in

    BTW, were the covers for those 1970 100-pagers seem to be combinations of original art and content copied and pasted from the older stories, but I was never sure

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  9. Loved the art and the story of “Night Of The Shadow.” Vividly remember reading it! Thanks for this!

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  10. First thing I think when I remember Irv is the Flash. His Batman work was outstanding too.

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