The Top Ten Batman Stories Ever Told (IMO)
I have been spending a lot of time with the Caped Crusader recently. I finally beat Arkham Asylum yesterday and have been re-watching the awesome 1990’s animated series. Ever since I got into funnybooks in the 90’s, Batman was my favourite. My collection got started when my Aunt sent me Amazing Spider-Man #365 . I was 13 years old. It had an annoying hologram cover and I had no idea who anyone but Spider-Man was, but i found myself gripped by its superior artistry and Peter Parker’s smart quips.
But it wasn’t till I picked up a copy of Detective Comics that I fell in love with a superhero. After reading Spider-Man for a year, this was a whole new world. The Dark Knight was bigger, badder and was an adult. Sometimes, you weren’t sure if he was anymore sane than his enemies. And that was another big draw of the Bat: he has the greatest rogues gallery in comics.
He also has some of the greatest stories ever told, and I ‘m gonna list my favourites right here. Just try and stop me! This list is for the two people who read this blog. I’m going to include all media formats – comics, novels, TV shows. Not films though, enough has been said about those in my opinion. Just to show the different interpretations and shades that each one gives to this legendary loonie. Let the listing begin! Yay!
Batman: The Animated Series – Heart Of Ice
Written By: Paul Dini
The first truly great episode of the Animated series managed a phenomenal feat: it completely revitalised a Batman villan. During the 60’s TV show, Freeze was a basic, one-note bad guy for Batman to defeat easily, and had no qualities or gimmicks other than being really cold. Pretty lame. Heart Of Ice turned Victor Fries into a tragic figure with a heartbreaking story of a man driven to the edge by the loss of his wife. Both the animation and the writing were excellent (what else would you expect from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini?) and the episode won the show it’s first Emmy and is widley considered the greatest episode ever. Here is the final scene:
The planned ending was to have a weeping Freeze in his cell, with his tears freezing and turning into snowflakes. Timm and Dini mentioned that if they could go back and do any episode again, they would do Heart of Ice and would include this. That would have been perfect.
Batman Adventures: Mad Love
- Written By: Paul Dini
- Art: Bruce Timm
I must admit something: I’m in love with Harley Quinn. I know, I know; she has an annoying, high pitched voice, dresses like a nut and loves her unique verbal slang (puddin’!) but there is something utterly adorable about her undying love for her Mister J. This is more great stuff from Timm and Dini, this time in comic form. It traces the origins of Harleen Quinzell, one of their own creations on TAS that proved so popular she got introduced into Batman canon. It has really great, playful art and wonderful writing. Frank Miller, who will crop up later in this list, said it was one of the greatest Batman stories of all time. I agree!
- Written By: Jeph Loeb
- Art: Jim Lee
Hush was an epic year long arc and was boundry-pushing in every way possible. It took me a while to get used to Loeb’s writing on Hush, as it seemed like he was intent on mixing up every relationship in the Bat-universe (Batman kicks Supes ass, starts dating Selina Kyle and Two-Face recovers from his madness) and relied on shocks too much for my liking (Jason Todd missing from his grave? Really?). But the caliber of the mystery within the story is worth it. Loeb excels at setting up whodunnit’s and throws almost every rogue in Bat’s gallery in for a cameo. Plus, Jim Lee owns most other artists.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Written By: Grant Morrison (novel) Paul Dini (game)
- Art: Dave McKean (novel) Rocksteady (game)
I have chosen to include both the game and novel in one here, as they both inform each other in my opinion. Fellow Scot Morrison came up with the idea first – throw Batman into Arkham and see how sane he is compared with the other inmates already in there. Teamed with Dave McKean’s awe-inspiring art and a revolutionary novel was created. But Rocksteady had the idea of running with the idea and in turn created a game which made me feel like I was Batman.
Crucially, the game not only involves pummeling bad guys, but also relies on the Dark Knight’s detective skills and his use of stealth too. Combined with the classic voice acting of TAS stars Kevin Conroy (the greatest Batman of all time in my opinion), Mark Hamill and my beloved Arleen Sorkin, it’s a truly interactive Batman experience .
Batman: The Long Halloween
- Written By: Jeph Loeb
- Art: Tim Sale
A far superior book in comparison to Hush, this dark and sprawling tale is up there with the very best. Contained within this book are large parts that would form the basis for The Dark Knight’s exploration of the character of Two-Face (which in turn borrowed from the awesome episode of TAS – again!). Even more pleasing is the artwork in this book; it could be the greatest Batman has ever seen. In particular Poison Ivy is a beautiful creation with Sale’s expert pencil. Special kudos to the covers, each one is unique and exceptional.
Batman: The Killing Joke
- Written By: Alan Moore
- Art: Brian Bolland
It wouldn’t be a ‘greatest comics’ list without Alan Moore making an appearance somewhere. The Killing Joke is an infamous one-shot which concerns itself not with Batman, but with the Joker instead. This story brought to life the ‘multiple origins’ idea, in which Joker will exaggerate of fantasize events that prompted him to become the twisted Clown Prince of Crime. He also takes shit way too far with the Gordon family by shooting and crippling Barbara and then torturing Jim with naked pictures of her. That’s just mean. I love the enigmatic ending too.
Batman The Animated Series: Robin’s Reckoning (Pts 1 + 2)
- Written By: Randy Rogel
Another Emmy winner for the Animated Series, this episode was a true coming of age story for the much-maligned Robin, and most Bat-aficionado’s consider this to be one of the most mature storylines involving the Boy Wonder. Finally caught up with his parents killer, Dick defies Bruce’s orders and hunts him down. Another fantastic episode.
Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?
- Written By: Neil Gaiman
- Art: Andy Kubert
I don’t really buy comics anymore, apart from the odd trade paperback (or Graphic Novel but lets not use that term) that takes my fancy. But I shelled out my hard-earned pounds for this beauty. A tribute to the Batman’s entire career? Sure. Written by my favourite author, Neil Gaiman? Now that’s what I’m talking about! The book lives up to the hype by being a fantastical summation of all of Bruce Wayne’s adventures and guises over the years. It may be a little confusing for anyone who doesn’t know certain areas of the Bat’s history, but it’s nothing that will impair enjoyment of the story. This one is for the true fans.
Batman: Year One
- Written By: Frank Miller
- Art: David Mazzucchelli
After rocking the industry with The Dark Knight Returns, Miller was asked to draw up the story of Batman’s beginning in Gotham. Smartly, Miller focused not only on Bruce Wayne’s transformation, but that of his closest ally (so far, as there is no Robin), Lieutenant James Gordon. What follows is the basis for the film Batman Begins as well as Burton’s Batman. It perfectly expresses the obsession and pain of two men, and the darkness of a city gone mad. No-one will be able to top this Batman story. Only one person could…..
The Dark Knight Returns
- Written By: Frank Miller
- Art: Frank Miller
Hyperbole it may be, but DKR is the best Batman story of all time. An elderly Wayne has been retired for 10 years after the death of Jason Todd, and Gotham is a mess. Having funded Harvey Dent’s rehabilitation program and medical bill to fix his face, Wayne lives a hermits life. Regardless of help, Dent turns to crime. Bruce decides to become the Knight again. From here on, the narrative throttles along at an incredible pace and the action is nigh-on-perfect.
DKR is incredibly influential in the comics medium. Even though Watchmen gets all the credit for this idea, superheroes are outlawed in , which raises the discussion of the need/lawfulness of a vigilante like Batman. The book works as a study of the politics of the 80’s (the talking heads splashed throughout provide snarling social commentary) as well as a critique of psychology and the media. It also features the greatest battle with Superman and Batman EVER. Why? Cause Bats wins.
There are so many unforgettable scenes in DKR, and I urge you to find the book and discover them for yourself. I will leave you with one which was animated for the TAS show called Legends Of The Dark Knight.