Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Forgotten Batmen: Six Who Left Us Begging for More

Greetings, Groove-ophiles! Ask most folks who the definitive Groovy Age Batman artist is and you'll probably get Neal Adams or Jim Aparo. Maybe Irv Novick or Marshall Rogers (my fave!) or Michael Golden, or Don Newton. You might even get Bob Brown or (it happens!) Frank Robbins. I dig all of those talented titans, personally, but there are six super-stars who lent their talents to a few Batman stories...too few...and I (and you too, maybe) would have loved to have seen more from 'em? Who dey? Follow me...

Howard Chaykin: DC kept him busy on Sword of Sorcery, their horror and war mags, but the creator of Dominic Fortune and American Flagg! on drew one Batman tale during the Groovy Age. It was during Archie Goodwin's legendary run as writer/editor of Detective Comics on a tale called "Judgement Day" in 'Tec #441 (March 1974). Chaykin's art at this time hearkened back to the Golden Age, but with a definite 70s vibe that made it extra cool in my eyes. (You can read the whole story here.)

Rich Buckler: Rich did tons of covers, back-ups for Robin, Rose and Thorn, Black Lightning, Hawkman, and so many more--but he only did two Batman stories during the Groovy Age. One was the extremely gorgeous "Batman's Greatest Failure!" (from Batman #265, April 1975) which you can read here) inked by Bernie Wrightson and written by Michael Fleisher. Buckler also drew "The Mad Hatter Goes Straight" inked by Vinnie Colletta over a story by David V. Reed (Batman #297, December 1977). Rich's Batman is big and strong, powerful-yet-athletic, with a lantern jaw that would do Bob Kane proud!

Michael Netzer: Like Buckler, Netzer (known during the Groovy Age as Mike Nasser) drew only two Batman stories, but man, were they memorable jobs! On "The Dead on Arrival Conspiracy" (DC Special Series #1, June 1977), Netzer, with inker Joe Rubinstein, gives us a sleek Batman combining the best elements of Neal Adams and Jim Aparo. Just over a year later with "Hang the Batman" (DC Special Series #15, Summer 1978), Netzer and Rubinstein's talents have matured and developed into a more stylized, hyper-realistic way that points toward guys like Bryan Hitch.

Jim Starlin: Another member of the "two-fer" club, our fave cosmic artist drew a few covers and a frontispiece for Batman Family, but only two Batman tales. Both were inked/finished by P. Craig Russell and appeared in Detective Comics numbers 481-482 (September-November 1978). Starlin's uber-muscular Kirby/Ditko fusion could get "grim and gritty" (as Judo Jim had proven on Master of Kung Fu), while Russell's almost delicate inks gave the whole thing an almost Victorian look that really suited Starlin's story. (Oh, yeah, you can read those mini-epics here and here.) Starlin would return to Batman in the 1980s...as a writer.

Mike Grell: Iron Mike Grell is best known for his stellar work on Legion of Super-Heroes, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and of course, Warlord. He did manage to squeeze in five Batman jobs; one self-inked (Detective Comics #455, October 1976, yep, read it here), two inked by Bob Wiacek (Batman 287-288, February-March 1977), and two inked by Vinnie Colletta (Batman #289-290, April-May 1977). Grell is another artist who is equally adept at both sci-fi and grit, so he was a great fit for the Darknight Detective. Lithe and graceful yet grim and powerful--yeah, Grell's Batman hinted a bit toward the even more stylized Batman of Marshall Rogers.

Walt Simonson: Okay, Wondrous Walt drew seven Groovy Age Batman tales, but that still wasn't enough for moi. Watching Simonson's style develop over those spread-out seven issues is worth a post in and of itself (help me remember to do that, fellow-babies)! Beginning with the Batman/Manhunter team-up in Detective #443 (July 1974, which you can read here), to 'Tec #450's "The Cape and Cowl Deathtrap" (May 1975, read it here)--which is my fave, with its short-eared, stocky, winged caped Gotham Goliath, to the beginning of the Steve Englehart era with the long-eared powerhouse inked by Al Milgrom in Detective Comics numbers 469-470 (February-March 1977), to Batman #300's (March 1978 read it here) Dick Giordano-finished Batman of the Future, to more Giordano-inked goodness on Batman numbers 312 and 321 (March and December 1979), Walt's Batman was always exciting and dynamic. Whaddya expect from a guy who's still wowing us with his amazing art to this very day?

11 comments:

  1. When I didn't see his name included at the top of the post, I felt sure that Mike Kaluta would be one of the six chosen, but to be fair, all of the six you did choose were well-deserving of their place. You could probably do this again with another six Batman artists with no drop-off in quality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, would that Kaluta had drawn a Groovy Age Batman story so he could have been included (did he do one and I missed it?)! Wrightson would be on that list, too (since I'm talking actual Batman stories and not guest-appearances or covers). Hey, GB, there's another post in the making! Thanks!!

      Delete
  2. Now I'll have to dig out my Batman comics to see if I've got those issues or not.

    There's just one thing which would improve your blog - and thats a link to my blog in your blog list. (You're in mine.)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bonehead me. I follow your blog but forgot to add it to the list...well, it's there now! :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. All fine choices. I even vaguely recall the Netzer story from that first issue of DC Special Series (that whole issue was great, from the Neal Adams cover onward - but I digress). And I totally agree with you that we just didn't get enough Simonson on Batman. However, is there ever enough - to say nothing of too much - art by Simonson?
    By the way, I love that Chaykin-drawn story. You're right, he gives it a nice Golden Age feel while still infusing his own unique style. As with Simonson, we can lament that there was never a lengthy run of Chaykin art on one of the Bat titles...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Starlin would return as a writer (one collaboration was with Wrightson on the Cult)... and an artist for one issue (Batman #402 back in... '87?). Chaykin would go on to do Dark Allegiances and a B&W short, as did Simonson, who also drew the caped crusader in his recent Judas Coin book (I fully endorse a Simonson specific post, by the way).

    But yeah, that 70s material had a raw magic to it that's difficult to beat. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That was one good thing about Batman in the 70's.....I can't recall any issues in his own book or Detective that didn't have outstanding artwork. Even Frank Robbins grew on me before he was done.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Didn't Alex Toth just do one (outstanding!) Batman story too?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He sure did. I almost included him, but decided he deserved a post of his own in the future. Stay tuned!

      Delete
  8. Great post! Bats sure has a lot of awesome artists - I actually think that Frank Robbins was the superfly bat-cat of the groovy era - it happens:-) what it is, yo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am down wit'chu when it coes to Frank Robbins' Batman art, Riley! You can tell by how many of those moody masterpieces can be found here in Groove City!

      Delete

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
Note to "The Man": All images are presumed copyright by the respective copyright holders and are presented here as fair use under applicable laws, man! If you hold the copyright to a work I've posted and would like me to remove it, just drop me an e-mail and it's gone, baby, gone.

All other commentary and insanity copyright GroovyAge, Ltd.

As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1970s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!