FRANK MILLER’S BATMAN RETURNS: THE RETCONNING OF A RETCON.

DC has announced on their blog that Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder, will return . . . Sort of.  In 2011, Miller and Lee will publish a 6-issue mini called, “Dark Knight: Boy Wonder,” which will fit into the whole Miller batverse (Batman: Year One; All Star; Dark Knight; and Dark Knight Returns).  When I picked All Star Batman and Robin as one of the best series of the last decade, I got some gripes in the comments about how Miller hates comic books, Batman, capes, etc., but I stand by my pick.  Now, adding a sense of continuity to the narrative (effectively retconning the All Star retcon), we’ll get an even clearer picture of Miller’s genius vision.  It got me thinking: Who created the best Batman?  Here’s my top 10:

10.  Paul Pope. Some may find Pope’s “Batman: Year 100” a bit derivative of Miller’s Dark Knight, but it’s really worth a read for the art.  It’s also got a lot more Sci Fi elements to it than any other (successful) Bat-story.  Oh, and then there’s the visuals.  Incredible.

9.  Mike Barr and Jim Aparo, Batman and The Outsiders. Marrying the dark Batman with the more kid-friendly (and more fun) takes on the character, this series was about a group of superhero misfits and their tutor: Batman.  Basically, instead of one Robin, you had six.  The series was around for a long time, but it was the 1983 Barr/Aparo run that made this a series worth reading.  It’s also worth nothing that Aparo’s Brave and the Bold team-up book was a ton of fun as well.  But some will complain that it is Batman-lite.

8.  Jim Starlin. Starlin was a brilliant artist in his own right (if you’ve never checked out Dreadstar, shame on you), but his work on Batman was extraordinary.  Under the guidance of Denny O’Neil as editor (see #3, below) he penned “A Death in the Family” (pictured)

which featured the horrible death-by-bludgeoning of Robin.  (Of course he didn’t stay dead—but supposedly DC is done resurrecting people now, at least according to Blackest Night #8.)  The art chores were by the amazing Jim Aparo (then also of The Brave and the Bold), but Starlin’s run also included work by the great Bernie Wrightson.

7.   Alan Moore. Yeah, he only did The Killing Joke, which is mostly Joker without much Batman, but . . . Wow.

6.  Bill Finger and Bob Kane. The creators.  Lots of folks forget—or never read—Detective Comics #27 and the issues that followed.  In those early years, Batman was a dark, mysterious figure known to kill his enemies and was without an origin for the first six issues.  Soon, though, they started introducing all kinds of Bat-paraphernalia, including Robin, and the character descended into cartoonish lamestream for decades.  Until he was rescued by Denny (see #3).

5.  Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, with Michael Lark on art chores. Batman wasn’t really in the Gotham Central series, but I still say it is one of the best Bat-series of all time.  It’s out in bound volumes, and if you like Brubaker’s crime stories, it’s well worth your investment.

4.  Grant Morrison. I know I’ve said a lot of bad things about Morrison’s Batman: R.I.P., and I stand by every one of them.  Morrison’s Batman is simply too powerful, too omniscient, and the narratives are too hard to follow(!)  At the same time, though, the story itself was pretty good (it just wasn’t told very effectively).  And with the new Batman and Robin book, the best D.C. book on the market today, he’s more than redeemed himself.  (I know, that’s Dick and not Bruce, but the cowl is the cowl.)  He’s actually made me look forward to future Batman stories, something I haven’t experienced in a very long time.

3.  Jeph Loeb. With “The Long Halloween” and “Dark Victory” (art by Tim Sale) and “Hush” (Jim Lee), Loeb’s Batman run is largely why people respected him enough to forgive that steaming pile of Ultimatum.  Unfortunately, he’s used up most of his good will on Red Hulk.

2.  Dennis O’Neil. In 1969, O’Neil and Neal Adams came along and tried to make The Bat into a serious character.  Along with Dick Giordano (whose style fit with horror books like Tomb of Dracula), they revamped the character into something worth reading again.  Oh, and they created R’as al Ghul.  That alone should give this run mad credibility, no?

1.  Frank Miller. Say what you like, but between Dark Knight and Daredevil, Frank Miller put more comic books in the hands of adults, teens, and movie execs than anyone, ever.  He’s responsible for, in my view, bringing comic books into the modern age.

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