by Robert Greenberger
British-born Alan Davis made a name for himself in America with the Titan Book collection of D.R. & Quinch, a whimsical science fiction series from 2000 AD, written by Alan Moore. At the time he was producing the feature, he knew that many of his mates were busily sending their work across the Atlantic to attract the attention of editors at DC Comics and/or Marvel Comics.
At some point, DC bit first and Alan heard from Executive Editor Dick Giordano, wanting to work with the artist. He was initially thrilled with the chance to revamp Aquaman in a miniseries to be written by Art Director Neal Pozner. The script and new costume design arrived in the mail and he set to work penciling the feature. However, after completing the first issue, he was told the company needed his services on a higher profile project and after some cajoling he signed on to replace Jim Aparo on Batman and the Outsiders beginning a productive relationship with writer Mike W. Barr.
Soon after leaving BATO, he and Barr were tapped by incoming editor Denny O’Neil to take over Detective Comics, the first post-Crisis on Infinite Earths creative team. Davis arrived with issue #569, a nifty two-parter where the Joker saw to it Catwoman’s mind was “restored” to its criminal setting thanks to the ministrations of Dr. Moon. And from there, the creators were off and running.
The non-Outsiders collaborations with Barr are being collected in Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis, the latest collection of artist-centric Batman tales. The book contains the complete Detective run from #569-575, Batman Full Circle, and the black and white adventure from Batman: Gotham Knights #25.
Davis explained to Jeffery Klaehn at Graphic Novel Reporter. “Mike was the most visual writer I ever collaborated with. He worked full script and nine times out of ten his panel descriptions were spot on and easy to draw—but if I had a better idea for a layout, scene, or even a story alteration, Mike would welcome the input.”
It should also be noted most of this material was lushly inked by Paul Neary and his contributions should not be overlooked.
The work on ‘Tec turned out to abbreviated with Davis quitting after #575, a dark period he obliquely referred to and most sum up to editorial differences between O’Neil and Davis. It’s a shame because based on the seven issues they completed this could have been a tremendously successful and creatively satisfying run. As it was, the seven issues are very strong and entertaining.
While Batman reintroduced Jason Todd and went through creative turmoil, Barr and Davis methodically worked their way through the rogue’s gallery, revisiting them and cleaning them up for a new readership, effectively using the Crisis’s clean slate. After the Joker and Catwoman took their bows, we went right into a Scarecrow one-off story that was a nice character piece. Issue #573 did the same with the Mad Hatter, letting Davis cut loose with some nice design work.
In between, ‘Tec celebrated its anniversary with an oversized issue that involved Batman and the only other man who might be considered the World’s Greatest Detective – Sherlock Holmes. Davis contributed a chapter with others illustrated by E.R. Cruz (who illustrated DC’s Holmes one shot years earlier), Terry Beatty, Carmine Infantino, and Dick Giordano. Barr, perhaps Batman’s best mystery writer, delivers the goods in the affectionate story.
By then, Batman Year One had been cemented in everyone’s mind as a classic and the desire to continue exploring Bruce Wayne and Batman’s early career was huge. As a result, issue #574 re-tells the origin, more fully integrating Leslie Thompkins (created by O’Neil but adopted by Barr). This was merely the prelude to the saga known as Batman Year Two. Unfortunately, Davis quit after part one, and the mad scramble led to Todd McFarlane and Pablo Marcos stepping in to complete the tale.
Years later, Davis and Barr reteamed for the prestige format one-shot sequel, Full Circle, which tried to put a button on the whole Reaper story arc.
The last time the pair collaborated on the Caped Crusader was the fun Last Call at McSurley’s and we’re reminded once more how much we miss this particular partnership.
Detective #573 cover from the Grand Comics Database.