Last year, a new Batman comic series was released. The Dark Knight Returns, an all-time great, received rave reviews and became one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time. It was a triumphant return to form for the Caped Crusader.
If you’re a fan of the classic Batman comics, you’ll definitely want to check out this collection of outstanding artwork by Don Heck (pencils) and Harry Bates (inked, colored and lettered versions of the classic Batman characters).
It doesn’t hurt that the artwork is stunning. The artists have brought the characters to life with vibrant colors and dynamic poses. One look and you’ll instantly recognize Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Two-Face and many others. The book includes detailed credits, so you’ll learn the names of the artists who worked on each page. It also has many interesting notes from co-creator Dave Gibbons, showing some of the inspirations behind the comic book.
There are six different artists featured in this volume, displaying their unique styles and bringing new interpretations to the classic Batman characters. In some cases, they’ve even improved on the designs, giving the characters a more realistic appearance. Check out the stunning artwork below.
A graduate of the Art Students League of New York, Don Heck has been drawing Batman for the past three decades. It’s clearly inspired him to bring a new life to the Caped Crusader. His style is very realistic and gritty, with an emphasis on the dark and brooding nature of the characters he draws. It makes for a more mature take on the Batman mythos.
The result is wonderful. Heck gave the characters a more human appearance, a gritty edge and an overall darker tone. You can almost hear the crickets chirping as you turn the pages. Some fans might even say that he nailed it.
One of the most renowned and accomplished artists of all time, John Romita has been working on pinups and comics for almost 70 years. His style is instantly recognizable and has been featured in multiple books, films and video games. Romita has created the look of the classic Spiderman and Daredevil as well as many others. He’s best known for his work on the X-Men and for designing the characters specifically for the movies. His artwork is a perfect match for the sophisticated mood of the Dark Knight Returns.
However, Romita didn’t just create visuals for film. He’s been working on comic books for almost 40 years and has authored or co-authored numerous DC and Marvel comics. He also works with editors and writers to develop story lines for major events. It’s quite an impressive resume, but it’s even more impressive when you think about the fact that he continues to work at such a high level at the age of 83. In his lifetime, Romita has created some of the most iconic and recognizable images in comics history.
Cho is a self-taught, Canadian-born comic book artist best known for his work on Batman and Wolverine. He is a master of realistic character representation and uses his talents to bring these two iconic characters to life. It’s no wonder that he was chosen to draw the adult section of DC’s Rebirth comics given his ability to make even old characters look as young as possible.
Cho made several tweaks and adjustments to the classic Batman design, giving him a slimmer and more athletic appearance. He added some scar tissue and more angular features, giving the character a more defined look. It’s certainly a unique take on the Dark Knight and one that really makes him pop.
Another talented Canadian born artist, Hiro Matsumoto is best known for his work on Wolverine and Batman. He’s been honing his skills for over two decades and uses a unique and elaborate coloring process that gives his work a three-dimensional quality. It’s fascinating to see how he applies this process to his illustrations of Wolverine and the X-Men as well as several one-offs for DC and Marvel. He even did a few original graphic novels, so you’ll see a variety of styles from him.
Matsumoto adjusted several of Batman’s defining characteristics, giving him a slimmer and more muscular appearance. He also gave him an edgier look by adding more scarring and some facial hair. It’s a unique and individualistic style that will undoubtedly make you reconsider what exactly is “classic” about the Batman.
Another of DC’s master artists, Mark Chiarelli has been working on comics for over 30 years and is best known for his work on Batman, Superman, Dark Knight, Nightwing, Green Lantern and the Legion of Doom. He’s worked on many iconic projects for DC and it’s clear that he has a gift when it comes to creating images of superheroes.
Chiarelli took a more realistic approach to the Dark Knight and did a remarkable job capturing his essence. His body language and facial expressions are also incredible, making the reader feel as if they’ve stepped into the iconic detective’s shoes. It’s clear that Chiarelli put a lot of thought into capturing the essence of the Dark Knight. His version is truly unique and you’ll want to add it to your collection.
Some people might say that Chiarelli replaced the “good guy” vibe with a “bad guy” one, but that’s not entirely true. Although he did give him a sleeker appearance and a more muscular build, he still kept the classic Batman smile.
The legendary comics artist and co-creator of the House of Mystery, Drew Struzan has created iconic artwork for countless projects, characters and mediums. Most people know him from his poster work or his legendary pinups, but he’s also a phenomenal artist who does graphic novels. There’s a reason why he’s been the subject of numerous art auctions and why he’s still considered one of the greatest living illustrators.
Struzan took a more artistic approach to the Dark Knight and gave him a more refined look. He gave him a slightly slimmer appearance and adjusted his clothing, adding a touch of color and pattern. It’s clear that he put a lot of effort into this piece and you can see the results. It’s amazing how much he was able to accomplish using just his hands. As a comic book artist, Struzan has worked on projects for Marvel and DC and created numerous original graphic novels. It’s safe to say that he’ll forever be associated with Batman and this collection of artwork.
Another Scott McDermid drawing, this time of the Incredible Hulk. McDermid is probably best known for his work on Batman, but has also worked on many high profile Marvel and DC projects. On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be a traditional Batman story, but McDermid weaves a tale of mystery, intrigue and scientific discovery that will keep you turning the pages. It’s a wonderful read and a must-own for any serious comics collection.
In a similar fashion to his work on Hulk, McDermid brings a real-life, gritty quality to Batman, making him look like a more mature and realistic version of the Dark Knight. He also gives him a more athletic appearance, slimming down the character and making him appear more coordinated. It’s clear that McDermid put a lot of work into this and it shows. Like with the others on this list, there’s also a lot of detail for you to examine. It’s quite an impressive individual collection.
He’s one of the great masters of American comics, Jack Kirby. He had a hand in creating some of the most memorable characters of all time. It’s no wonder that his fingerprints are all over so many characters. Although he created hundreds of different characters, he is perhaps best known as the man who created Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer and several others.
Kirby drew several different iterations of Batman over the years and gave him a more mature, realistic appearance. It’s easy to see why he was chosen to draw the adult section of DC Rebirth, as his work always seems to fit perfectly with the overall vibe of the company. Like others on this list, Kirby slimmed down the character, giving him a more athletic build and a less blocky appearance. It’s quite an interesting look and one that will no doubt make you reconsider what exactly is “classic” about the Batman.
Kirby also gives the Dark Knight a more sinister appearance. He made several tweaks to his face, giving him a sharper and more alert appearance. It’s quite the transformation and you’ll wonder what makes the Batman so special.