Guaranteed to be a better conclusion than The Dark Knight Rises! Because what isn’t?! With more pictures than last time because Fair Use is a wonderful copyright law.
5. Strange Apparitions (1977-8)
Collecting issues of Detective Comics, Strange Apparitions was a run by Marshall Rogers and Steve Englehart that featured Deadshot, Hugo Strange, The Penguin, Rupert “Boss” Thorne, and the famous “Laughing Fish” issue with the Joker. The scene between Batman and Robin in the Batcave at the beginning of the Deadshot issue defines the father/son dynamic between the two. Silver St. Cloud is also a fabulous love interest. Must read for anyone looking to see an exemplary monthly comic book.
4. The Dark Knight Returns (1986)
Without this Frank Miller work, there would be no Batman movies and little serious Batman work. Frank Miller’s Batman, working after years of retirement, fights in a Gotham City overrun by street gangs, corruption, and terror. The limited series is gritty, dark, and portrays an obsessed yet still utterly heroic Batman. Miller’s interpretation is perhaps the most historically significant Batman publication outside of the character’s conception. This book is where I would direct any fan of the Christopher Nolan movies. Not for the squeamish.
3. Batman Black And White (1996)
I just love this book. A collection of one shots from some of the greatest creators to ever work with the character, this book contains famed villains, new characters, crime dramas, character portraits, psychological profiles, postcards of Gotham City, light stories, dark stories, and so much talent. Must read for anyone who wants to see the range of the character and understand how great Batman can be in small, self-contained issues. He doesn’t have to save millions of people every time we see him: sometimes just one man or woman in need is much more powerful.
2. Batman: Year One (1987)
The definitive origin story of Batman, Frank Miller’s Year One is on one hand much lighter than Miller’s other work but also startlingly complex. As a young Bruce Wayne tries to find his purpose and new cop Captain James Gordon meets his corrupt co-workers, a legendary partnership is formed to help clear the streets. Featuring a mob feel much like Long Halloween, which is set directly after the events of this story, Year One is as good as it gets in Batman stories. It has influenced every telling of the hero’s origin story since its release. Anyone getting into superhero comics is encouraged to read this first, then move outward. To me, this is the epicenter of every Batman story ever made and one of the best superhero stories ever told.
1. Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)
The Killing Joke, written by Alan Moore, is a work of art in every way. The Joker has broken out of Arkham, more violent and terrifying than ever. In a plot to drive Commissioner Gordon insane, he critically injures his daughter and puts him through hell and back. Batman, in the meanwhile, has realized that either him or the Joker must die. And one of them will kill the other. Recounting one possible beginning for the enigmatic villain from the unreliable psychopath, Batman and The Joker reach their turning point in this book and consider whether there can be an end to their perpetual, gruesome battle. To me, Batman and the Joker stand at two polar opposite places: one man exists for life, one for death. Alan Moore understands that and lets life and death fight one amazing battle through his characters. This, to me, is the best superhero story ever written. Disagree with me below!
I hope this satisfies you enough that I can have some time to get back into the comics, both superhero and non-superhero. Thanks to Beta Fish Magazine for letting me write about a love I do not often get to express.