David Kane ‘15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Batman has been leaping off of the page and screen to bring people endless hours of excitement for over seven decades. This list commemorates the amazing people who have spent hours carefully crafting his stories, and working with artists and editors to bring the fans the best Dark Knight they possibly can.
Lorenzo Semple Jr. wrote Batman: The Movie in 1966, and many episodes of the Batman television series from ’66 to ’68. This included the pilot that introduced the world to Adam West in the title role. The series was a group effort, but Semple Jr. stands out due to his amazing screenplay for the movie that pits Batman against a team of greatest foes. This definitive interpretation of the Dark Knight turned him brighter, with a campy tone that would light up fans’ hearts for generations to come.
Essential Contributions: Batman: The Movie, Episode 1 “Hi Diddle Riddle”
9. Denny O’Neil
Denny O’Neil is an instantly recognizable name for comic book fans, as he revitalized many popular characters in the 70s. He returned Batman to dark roots after the campy dynasty of Adam West, and was one of the first writers to show the Joker as a homicidal maniac. He helped create the characters Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, and Leslie Thompkins. Comics’ historian, Les Daniels, describes O’Neal’s Batman as “a vengeful obsessive-compulsive” that has influenced every subsequent version of the Dark Knight.
Essential Contributions: Batman: Birth of the Demon
8. Chuck Dixon
DC’s most prolific Batman writer in the 1990s, Chuck Dixon left an important mark on the mythology. He pioneered the series for Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl, while also creating the book Birds of Prey. He is famous for creating the popular villain Bane for the famous Batman story Knightfall, and was a key writer in the mega-arc “No Man’s Land” that literally shook Gotham at its foundations. His Batman was dark and violent, and contemplated his limits when they were pushed.
Essential Contributions – Knightfall, No Man’s Land, Birds of Prey
A student of serious literature, Grant Morrison is a strong voice for the consideration of comic books as a vital part of the cultural zeitgeist, and his stories reflect that agenda. He took Batman down the rabbit hole of his own psyche in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, a book that brought him worldwide fame and launched his comics career. His run on JLA (Justice League of America), and has been a strong influence on the “Bat-God” interpretation of Batman. In addition, his writing for pre-New 52 Batman brought audiences Damian Wayne and the creation of “Batman Incorporated” that spreads the crime-fighter’s influence across the globe.
Essential Contributions – Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, Batman and Son, Final Crisis, Batman Incorporated
Christopher Nolan receives credit as the director, but he, his brother Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer collectively wrote each screenplay for the Dark Knight Trilogy, named so for one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. The Dark Knight typified what a great superhero movie could be, reaching a level of quality that few have been able to match. The trilogy not only captures so much of what makes great Batman stories, it also has been praised as thematically complex, using classic comic book characters to explore grand themes like vigilante justice and urban terrorism. Nolan’s Batman is fierce and protects Gotham with everything he has, proving that one man can do so much when he becomes a symbol.
Essential Contributions: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises
5. Paul Dini
Paul Dini has been an immensely influential voice in Batman’s history since the early 90’s when he wrote many of the best episodes for Batman: The Animated Series, including “The Laughing Fish” and the Emmy-winning “Heart of Ice.” He went on to write excellent episodes for multiple television series, including Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. One of his most memorable additions to the Batman mythos is the original character Harley Quinn. She first appeared as Joker’s henchwoman in the animated series, and went on to become a fully-fledged comic book character with her own series. Moreover, Dini was brought in to write the first two installments of Rocksteady’s highly successful Batman: Arkham video game series, placing him as one of the top Batman writers in at least three mediums. His Batman is authoritative and emotional, usually having the benefit of the voice actor Kevin Conroy, and never loses his power over the audience.
Essential Contributions: Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Justice League: Unlimited, The Batman Adventures Mad Love, Batman: Arkham Asylum (VG), Batman: Arkham City (VG)
4. Jeph Loeb
The man who put the “detective” back into “World’s Greatest Detective,” Jeph Loeb has repeatedly produced stories that challenge Batman (and the reader) to solve a mystery, revealing more about the Dark Knight’s character that the audience thought they could know. His understanding of the characters is astonishing, with even minor players having compelling motivations complicating the plot Batman is trying to unravel. Loeb’s Batman suffers intense internal conflict over his trust issues; whether it’s trusting Harvey Dent as an ally or letting himself fall in love with Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne is always reaching out to people, and his failures are heartbreaking.
Essential Contributions: Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Batman: Hush, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
3. Frank Miller
Five words. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The title of Miller’s world-famous graphic novel didn’t just refer to Batman’s return to crime fighting, but also the return of the darkness that the character had been born in. The 70’s heralded Batman’s return to darkness, but Miller brought the violence and emotional instability that hadn’t truly been touched upon in the character’s history. The dialogue is sharp and strong, with inner monologues revealing Batman’s dark thoughts, and unrelenting drive. Soon after, Miller wrote Batman: Year One to similar critical success, establishing the origin story as canonical for almost all iterations of the character.
Essential Contributions: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One
2. Scott Snyder
The captain of the New 52’s flagship series, Batman, has steered into success with expertly crafted stories, introducing exciting new enemies and allies into the DC Comics mythology, and still focusing on how they affect Batman as a character. His oeuvre already includes a chilling Joker story, and a re-imagined origin story that adds new depth to Gotham and its inhabitants. Snyder works to great effect showing his Gotham City as a powerful entity that hardens its heroes and corrupts its villains. He understands how to build characters in his world and use them to tell amazing and unique stories that is sure to become classics in the Batman pantheon.
Essential Contributions: Batman: The Black Mirror, Batman: Court of Owls, Batman: Death of the Family, Batman: Zero Year
1. Bill Finger
People see a certain name plastered before every Batman movie or book, and it isn’t Bill Finger. Bob Kane was the man who devised the first drawing of the Dark Knight, but Bill Finger wrote the first story about the world-changing character. Kane’s Batman drawing wore a primarily red costume and had a very different crime-fighting style; it was Finger who suggested the black cape and elusive method to strike fear into criminals’ hearts. Several issues into their Detective Comics run readers were able to understand Batman’s origin story, conceived and written by Finger himself. Adding more ideas for his allies and villains, writer’s contributions helped form the world that other writers would dive into for decades. Every Batman fan can thank Bill Finger for what he has done with and for the Caped Crusader since he wrote the first issue seventy-five years ago.
Essential Contributions: Batman.