The Art of Batman

Cover art by Bob Kane

In April, 2019, Batman turned 80. In New York City, there is a current exhibition at the Society of Illustrators titled “Illustrating Batman: Eighty Years of Comics and Pop Culture” which shows the evolution of Batman with vintage and modern original comics art, as well as interior and cover pages.

Batman debuted in Detective Comics No. 27 on March 30, 1939 and has evolved over the last 80 years with a myriad of different artists. The first appearance of Batman in 1939 was, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," written by Bill Finger and drawn by Bob Kane. The character was so popular that within a year, Kane hired art assistants Jerry Robinson and George Roussos, who worked out of Kane’s studio in The New York Times building (although Kane himself did all of his drawing at home). When DC wanted more than Kane’s team could deliver, the company assigned a number of in-house pencilers as “ghost artists,” who drew uncredited under Kane’s supervision.

Art by Dick Sprang
art by Tony Daniel

In 1940, Batman earned his own self-titled comic book, while continuing to be featured in Detective Comics. Dick Sprang, who drew Batman in the 1940s, created a character who tended to smile often through his adventures, something which would change over the years. Sprang is responsible for creating the “classic” look of Batman: athletic with a completely square jaw, where every move is charged with adrenaline. Neal Adams, on the other hand, looked to realism for his rendition of Batman, creating a very striking, almost cinematic style of character. Jim Aparo was one of the longest-tenured artists in Batman’s history, creating a dramatic character who was often in full-action mode in the 1970s and 1980s.  By the 1990s, Norm Breyfogle had adapted the character into a more exaggerated fashion, using proportions that were unrealistic, yet somehow worked. Jim Lee’s rendering, on the other hand, is of a character who is more elusive and distilled down to the most important elements to highlight a powerful figure. Tim Sale’s interpretation of Batman, on the other hand, takes a painterly approach, using saturated colors.  One of the more recent definitions of Batman is by Greg Capullo, who has cited artistic influences both inside and outside the world of comics. Tony Daniel is another artist who has worked on Batman recently, using shading and shadows to convey mood (and his character usually boasts a huge cape).

Art by Greg Capullo

The bat-ears, cowl and dark silhouette are instantly recognizable, although it’s fascinating to see the character through the eyes of the many different artists. We have named just a few in this post, but we welcome you to explore the world of Batman.  If you are not able to make the exhibit, which runs through October 12th, we have plenty of materials in our collection to explore Batman’s long career.  Here are a few suggestions (and for many more, search our Catalog for “Batman”):
Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman Deluxe Edition  
Batman: The Golden Age Vol. 1

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