In the wonderful celebration that is Batman Day, we here at Archonia have a few special things planned! One of which is a our Top 10 Batman Stories list, completely subjectively created by Archonia’s biggest Batfan (Hello!), so don’t be a sourpuss if it doesn’t add up with yours and maybe just share your own version in the comments! I would love to see some of your favorite Batman stories!
Of course there are almost innumerable good to great Batman stories, from all different media, but this list will only take a look at my personal top 10 Batman stories. If we would include other media as well I am sure The Dark Knight Trilogy, one of the Batman Arkham Games and animated movies like Batman: Under The Red Hood would take at least a shot at the top ten as well.
So, before we continue with entries 1-5, I will mention the top 5 runner ups, which nearly made the top 10, but are still amazing Batman stories in their own right:
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Batman RIP by Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel
but now onwards to our final top 5 Batman stories!
Comic Mastermind Alan Moore takes the Dark Knight, Joker, Jim and Barbara Gordon on a horrific ride in the Killing Joke. Drawn in an almost realistic fashion by master Brian Bolland, this story gets deep into the relationship between Batman and the Joker… between Batman and Jim Gordon… and between sanity and insanity.
The Joker bursts into the home of Jim Gordon, shoots his daughter and kidnaps the Commissioner, for Batman to find him. The clown prince of crime prepares a trap for the bat at an abandoned carnival and waits until it snaps shut. What seems like a very basic plot is really just the action dressing for an examination of the characters presented therein and the meat of the story actually focuses on Joker himself and not Batman as much.
In a way only Alan Moore could pull of, we get an origin story for the Joker at the same time as we don’t get one… and don’t get me started about the ending of this book. I won’t spoil anything for the uninitiated… but lets say there are a couple of ways to interpret the ending of the Killing Joke and some are really scary and terrifying. So much so, that you can read thick scientific analysations about it online afterwards, if you should so please. No matter how you chose to see the ending for yourself… its a stunner that is not going to leave your brain forever.
The Black Mirror was the first Batman story Scott Snyder ever did for DC. It was right before the relaunch of the New 52 and part of the period of time where there were actually two Batmen in the DC universe. So this story is the first mention on this list that does not feature Bruce Wayne behind the cape and cowl, but his grown up Robin Dick Grayson, who took over the Batman identity for quite a while before the New 52. The second main protagonist of this story is Commissioner Gordon, which is a great thing since he is a character that doesn’t get used as often as he should (where is my Jim Gordon ongoing book, dammit!). Black Mirror has this new Batman take on a few mysteries in Gotham, while at the same time Jim Gordon’s long lost son, Jim Gordon Jr. returns to Gotham… and might or might not have become a crazed lunatic himself. A few different mysteries begin developing threads that intersect and Batman/Gordon are going to do their best to find out what is really happening in Gotham. Writing wise, this is Snyder’s best work by far, with smart written cases for the heroes and an ending that he hasn’t topped in his career since. The art is by superstar artist Jock, who uses his unique style to give Gotham a super real, dark and gritty feel, while also not forgetting about Dick Grayson’s ability for high flying acrobatics, even as Batman!
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On A Serious Earth is a very special book. So special, in fact, that it is almost more a piece of art than it might be a comic book. Written like in a fever dream by Grant Morrison and realised in a way that would make an art history mayor’s head spin by artist/designer Dave McKean (who never did another comic after this one), Arkham Asylum has been one of the most popular, but still highly controversial comics of all time. The story is very simple, Arkham’s inmates have taken over the madhouse, took hostages and called the police that they want Batman to come to them… otherwise nobody leaves Arkham alive. It is deceptively simple, but what then actually happens, when Batman enters the Asylum is more of a psychoanalytic examination of the characters, than a “smash-pow-wam” superhero comic book. Batman is nearly driven insane himself and the biggest fight he has to win is inside his own fragile psyche. Also: another, amazingly creepy Joker re-design, this time in high heels and a big, big gun. From a visual standpoint, maybe the scariest Joker of all time.
So, yeah, if you aren’t scared of something a little deeper than a normal (but still awesome) superhero book, this is something you have to check out.
Right on the heels of Batman RIP, Dick Grayson ha sto take over the identity of his mentor to protect Gotham as Batman from the crazies that would swallow it whole, if it weren’t for the Bat! Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by the incomparable Frank Quitely (at least the first storyline) Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn is only the start of a three tradepaper run you can and should get as one book here. As the Batman of Gotham, Dick Grayson still has a lot to learn, which is one of the key themes of this book. He is not Bruce and never will be, so he has to find his own rythm and style of being Batman while at the same time having to deal with the absolute brat Damian, who will be the new Robin… and Damian has no respect for… well… anybody. The two become a great crime fighting team after a while, and shift the usual balance between Batman & Robin in a fun way from serious/grumpy Batman and funny Robin to funny Batman and serious/grumpy Robin, which is a blast to see!
This is it. Still my favorite Batman story of all time, due to the bone crushing realism and awesomely depicted 80s Gotham setting, created by Frank Miller and artist David Mazzuchelli, both doing career best performances here. This is the story of Batman’s first year back, but also Jim Gordon’s first year as a police officer in Gotham City, as Year One is as much a Batman tale, as a Commissioner Gordon one. It is so exciting to see Bruce return to his home, with the right training to make a difference in this corrupt town, but still unable to find the right approach of how to do it exactly. The criminals don’t fear a man in an army jacket and fake scars in the face… so what can he do… what can he become to make them afraid. At the same time Gordon has to realise that America’s worst city is that way because either the good guys decide to do nothing about it, or they are so corrupt that they actually contribute to the misery. While a strange bat creature gets introduced to the Gotham underworld, Jim rises through the ranks of the GCPD and both men change their city forever.
This is Batman, as realistic as it gets. This is “what would it be like, if Batman existed in our world” and therefore a huge influence on the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy, especially Batman Begins. Since I love the more realistic depiction of the character the most, this book is pure heaven for me and the Batman book nobody should miss! I mean, come on… Batman appearing in front of the mafia and organised crime bosses for the first time ever is just a masterclass of comic book storytelling. Take a look below… this is just amazing:
I rest my case