Uh oh, here we go. Time to find out what takes the top spot and why. I am sure there will be disagreements and possibly even anger for some reason…….that’s how the internet works I guess. So here we go, time to finish this thing up. Let me know your thoughts folks. I’ve been enjoying the feedback so far. soooooooo……
19. Haunted Knight: Year-1993-1995
I’m a massive fan of horror. Horror novels, horror movies, horror video games and so on. From splatter punk to psychological, from slasher to body horror, I’m a horror nut. So here we have the superstar team of Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb coming together to create Halloween specials based on the Dark Knight. Sounds like a recipe for fun and sure enough it was. For 3 straight years they would contribute one shot stories to take advantage of the Devil’s night and since there is a TPB that collects them I am going to lump them all into one spot. Sale and Loeb would go on to achieve major success with several characters from DC and Marvel and this collection shows their roots. The first story “Fear” features….unsurprisingly….the Scarecrow and has Batman trapped in a maze all doped up on fear gas pure tripping and freakin oot. Next up is a brilliant Mad Hatter story (eh?…they exist?) called “Madness” in which Hatter is kidnapping children for a tea party, with his unwilling Alice being Barbara Gordon. Excellent stuff. Then there’s “Ghosts” the weakest of the three but still an enjoyable take on “A Christmas Carol” involving Batman being visited by Poison Ivy, Joker and a surprise third ghost. Although the duo would go on to create masterpieces later on, and these tales are no epics , this early collection of one shots is well worth your time and hey even if you don’t like the writing…..just looking at Sale’s art is a pleasure.
18. Dark Knight Dark City: Year-1990/91
Peter Milligan is a great, unique and horrendously overlooked writer, creating abstract stories that seem like (I’d imagine) an acid trip gone wrong. He’s a graduate of the school of awesome 2000AD short story writing and it shows in his vivid, imaginative work. Dark Knight, Dark City is grim…..I mean this story is, as the title suggests…dark. It revolves around the Riddler suddenly becoming a super violent thug, very unlike his usual character. The Riddler is usually shown as a non violent character trying to pull Batman’s strings through a series of elaborate puzzles and….well, riddles. Let’s just say Batman is forced into performing an emergency tracheotomy after the Riddler stuffs a table tennis ball down a baby’s throat….JESUS CHRIST!. As the story progresses it becomes more about secret societies and demon worshipers and it’s just so well written that it makes you hungry for more of Milligan’s take on Batman. Nice art from Kieron Dwyer and excellent covers from Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame just sweeten the deal. It’s a shame that this story has been lost in the shuffle but I do see it mentioned in lists a lot from hardcore fans. Quite right too.
17. Ego: Year-2000
The brilliant Darwyn Cooke strips Batman butt naked to examine his psychosocial relationship with Gotham City and it’s inhabitants. While he believes he is in control of the city, he witnesses an event that makes him question absolutely everything he does, every action that he considered to be helpful to the people of Gotham is now in question. That event is the suicide of a citizen that he had shook down for information earlier. Knowing that The Joker would find out he had squealed, he knew his life and that of his family’s were in grave danger and thus took himself out of the equation. An injured Batman arrives at the batcave after this, where he sees an apparition of his alter ego and spends most of the story discussing his lifestyle with him. Some find the section in the batcave to be a little pretentious but I don’t see it that way. It examines his justifications and philosophies while beating him up with the negative connotations he has unwittingly brought forth through his actions. As is often the case, Cooke writes and draws this story. He’s another artist that whose work you can easily recognise as it has a very distinctive style that looks as if it should be animated. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else but to me it looks like a lot of his pages are screenshots of an animated movie. It’s a compliment, just a very strange one, I’m a strange person or so I’m often told. Anyway yea, Ego is good….go get it.
16 (Tied). Batman And The Monster Men: Year-2005/06
Matt Wagner is a very accomplished writer and artist with a distinctive and somewhat old school feel to his art and was given the task of re imagining the early Batman stories by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. He brought Batman and the Mad Monk into the modern age and Batman and the Monster Men was The Dark Knight’s first encounter with Dr Hugo Strange and was originally published in Batman #1. A heavy responsibility for Wagner to take on it would seem but he takes a short story from 1940 titled “The Giants Of Dr Hugo Strange” and develops it into a very entertaining limited series. This particular version is set after Frank Miller’s “Year One” and focuses on a young and fresh Batman who’s glass is still half full at this point. My favourite thing about this is how Wagner brought back Julie Madison who was Bruce Wayne’s love interest in the very early days of the comic and I always wondered why she was a character that was never explored in the modern age. Batman has prepared to beat up a bunch of thugs and gangsters to make Gotham a safer place but uber mob boss Maroni is funding the insane Dr Strange to experiment on and create giant monsters to terrorize the city. It’s fun to see Batman completely at a loose end trying to figure out how to take these beasts down. He can beat humans up all day long but his combat skills are coming up short so he must use his brain to figure out a way around it. Wagner’s art is always welcome and his writing is also very consistent…..multi talented sod so he is. Isn’t one major talent enough? Greedy
16 (Tied). Batman.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:Year-2015/2016
Ok there are some entries lower than this that are more epic or better written etc but anyone who knows anything about knows that this is a dream crossover for me. I’m a massive fan of the turtles and as you can tell I’m fond of Batman too so this is right up my street. Freddie Williams II’s art is beautiful as usual and seeing his take on the likes of Shredder and The Foot Clan is so great. Dream moments for fans as James Tynion IV has ShUpload Filesredder meet Batman, the rogues gallery mutated and of course the team up of TMNT and Batman itself. Magical stuff.
15. Batman Black And White: year-1996
An anthology of 8 page stories from a series of respected and popular writers and artists in…..you guessed it….black and white. A very British style of storytelling with short, captivating tales often told with a nice helping of humour. The picks of the bunch come from Bruce Timm, the artist behind the Batman animated series in the 90s who’s tale concerns Two Face having surgery to repair his scarred face but is struggling to fight his urge to go back to how he was before. Neil Gaiman, as usual comes up with a joyous, intelligent meta story where Batman and the Joker are actors performing for the reader and at the end they discuss their performance…..just brilliant. In the collected trade, Brian Bolland delivers a disturbingly upbeat diary of a “normal” man who sets out to kill Batman as he sees it as the perfect crime. An updated version of this was released in the deluxe version of The Killing Joke from 2008. Chuck Dixon, Matt Wagner , Archie Goodwin and Joe Kubert are just a few more who contributed. It’s a who’s who of great professionals all captured in one little book from the 90s. There will definitely be something in here for you and you never know….you might find a writer or artist you love so much that you’ll want to check out their other work.
14. Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader: year-2009
Neil Gaiman is one of the most revered writers in the medium with impressive work such as The Sandman and Swamp Thing so when I heard he was doing a two parter for Batman I was excited. Personally, I was not loving the series at the time as this was during the aftermath of Batman R.I.P. A confusing mess of a time for dc comics in general, I was just so put off by everything going on that I paid little attention to it. When I picked up this two parter I was not disappointed as Gaiman displays his trademark wit and creativity as the villains and friends of the “late” dark knight gather to attend his funeral, each telling their story of how he met his end. Joe Chill is the bartender, it’s being held in Crime Alley’s Dew Drop Inn and there are so many nods to his history that it makes me giddy. Catwoman, Mad Hatter and Superman all give eulogies but Alfred’s is so good it actually gave me goosebumps. Andy Kubert’s art compliments this with his usual brand of top notch art and this is sure to go down as a classic for years to come. The title is an obvious reference to Alan Moore’s 1986 Superman classic “whatever happened to the man of tomorrow”
13. Ten Nights Of The Beast: Year- 1988
Ahhh KG Beast, not only do you have the greatest name in super villain history, you also dress like a wrestler. This man is money, why DC don’t use him more is beyond me. Introduced here by Jim Starlin, Anatoni Knyzav (KG Beast) is a super assassin who has been trained by a secret division of the KGB called Hammer, in every martial art and is an expert with every weapon in the world……oh and he has cybernetic enhancements to enhance his power. You know how anyone from the middle east is villified these days in western media? (and life). Well in the 80s that job was taken up by the Russians because as we know there is no greater fear to Americans than left wing politics. Anyway the Beast has been hired to eliminate ten important members of an American space program which was a nod to the tensions that existed in real life over American/Russian space programs. Beast is one of the few people who get the better of Batman. He’s stronger, better tactically, seemingly more intelligent and wants to kill Ronald Reagan. Seriously, why the hell is this fella not used more? Before the new 52 reboot he was killed off in a pathetic, wet fart of a scene along with Scarface and Ventriloquist. Boy I hated that story (Face the Face). This is Starlin’s best work on Batman and Jim Aparo manages to create superb sequential chase scenes that flow like a high octane 80s action movie. There is a much talked about scene where Batman is hanging on a rope that is attached to KG’s (that’s what I’m calling him now) arm. Not wanting to be caught by police, he uses an axe to cut……no not the rope……his hand off. I take it back about his intelligence. Stupidity aside, KG ends up attaching a gun to his stub Evil Dead 2 style…..GROOVY!. Also much talked about is the ambiguous way in which Batman ends the battle which was incredibly controversial due to his no kill policy. Is leaving someone to die the same as killing them?…..hhmm? well? This is such a wacky story with such a kick arse villain (his look may seem laughable to anyone other than wrestling fans) and it is so unbelievably entertaining. I love it.
12. Club Of Heroes: Year-2007
I’ve said before that my feelings on Grant Morrison’s epic run fluctuate wildly. Sometimes I think it’s a load of convoluted nonsense and other times I think it’s incredibly clever and quite involving. One thing that never changes is my respect for his run. The scope and ambition Morrison had to create a run that included moments from Batman’s entire history and make it work within the confines of this one, tightly wound modern day story is just incredible. Never was this more apparent than in The Club Of Heroes 3 part tale. The club themselves were a group of international heroes that were briefly in the Batman comics in the 50s but Morrison has made them relevant to present day Batman. J.H. Williams III’s art excellently blends flashbacks that present a beautiful 50s aesthetic and today’s fuller, thicker colours. It’s such an interesting and clever way of presenting the story that seems so daft when discussing it but works so well on the page. The story itself is a murder mystery that starts with the club’s founder being murdered and the rest of the team and Batman spend the rest of the time trying to avoid being picked off while trying to find out who the hunter is. A highlight of Morrison’s run for sure.
11. Anarky In Gotham: Year-1989
Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle are back again and this time they’ve brought a new…..villain?….anti hero? Depending on your politics you’ll no doubt make your own mind up on this far left wing character. Myself? I love the the character Anarky for many reasons such as his desperation to expose and punish the elite who run Gotham through tax evasion and criminal activity while the poor are forced to find shelter under bridges. In a way this story shows Batman to be a hypocrite as what he does isn’t too dissimilar to what Anarky is doing although their motivations may differ. Batman decides Anarky must be stopped after he kills one of his targets and realises that his targets are based off of letters being sent to the local paper complaining about certain criminals causing disharmony in the city. Alan Grant was deeply interested in anarchism as a philosophy and enjoyed injecting his extremist political beliefs into what was essentially a mainstream comic. Anarky’s power comes, not from strength or martial arts but through charisma and the ability to rouse crowds of people into believing in him and fighting for him. It’s an incredible idea and especially fun when you find out he’s a twelve year old boy!. The character would become a fan favourite and have a couple of miniseries both written by Grant. Another character that is sadly underused, perhaps due to being a little one note and frankly when anyone other than Grant writes him it just comes off as disingenuous. Plus although he’s seen as somewhat of a villain, his intentions are always seen as admirable in the eyes of Batman and for an American company selling to a large amount of Americans, far left politics probably don’t go over too well. Left wing Americans please don’t take offense, you know what I mean. His debut here in a two part story was excellent and due to my interest in politics and my political leanings I identify with this story and hold the character dearly. A great way to infuse a political ideology into the medium of comics.
10.The Long Halloween: Year-1996/97
Can a year long, 13 part miniseries really be a miniseries? Meh, that’s what DC call so I’ll go with that. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are back on the list with their smash hit ….miniseries The Long Halloween which ran from Halloween to Halloween (Halloween) while Batman, early in his career, is hunting a killer known as Holiday who kills somebody once a month on a specific holiday. There Is also an excellent sub story involving Harvey Dent’s downfall from hot shot district attorney to the villainous Two Face which is arguably the main attraction here. People love a good origin story and this is an excellent one, it’s hard not to feel for the idealistic Harvey as he descends into madness. In my opinion this is Tim Sale’s greatest work and that really is saying something because he is a fantastically talented artist and has created some stunning works over the years. He is on absolute fire here and each page jumps out with sharp angles impossibly expressive facial features and immaculate detail. This is one of those classic epics that everyone suggests for people trying to get into the Batman comics and yea that’s fair enough. There are some plot holes and a couple of times things don’t entirely add up but all in all it’s a story that works well and it’s incredibly engrossing. That’s why it makes the top ten.
9.Dark Victory: Year-1999/00
Well… The Long Halloween hit the number 10 spot and and it’s sequel just pips it past the post. It’s usually the other way according to most people I have discussed this with and to be honest on another day I may have swapped them as they are both excellent. Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb return to basically round off most of the loose ends left from it’s predecessor but more importantly it’s an updated retelling of Dick Grayson’s evolution from tragic circus kid to The Boy Wonder. I’m a big fan of Robin, I’m a fan of the idea and the whole insanity of it. It’s got to the stage where you see Batman and Robin together and it doesn’t even phase you that a grown man is fighting thugs dressed as a bat and leading a child into battle. It’s mental!, he’s a child….whatever reasoning I can come up to rationalise it, the whole situation is utter insanity……and I love it. Batman is often written as such a dark, tortured character that having the innocence and effervescent energy of a kid acts as a form of mood stabiliser . He’s the voice that reminds him that there was a time where his head was filled with more than pain, anger and a relentless desire for vengeance. Robin is more than Dick Grayson, he’s a symbol…..a symbol that shines a light on a life that has none. This is Loeb’s best work as he builds up a budding kinship between two polar opposites that is so achingly beautiful, bizarre and somehow relatable that it makes you forget everything you know about the dynamic duo and takes you back to a time where they were just working things out. Tim Sale …..as has been repeated ad nauseam, manages to capture the brutal humanity of Dick’s pain and Bruce’s empathy. In particular the scene building up to and directly after Dick’s parents death is so utterly devastating that despite Sale’s sharp angles and unnatural features, you can’t help but want to reach through the page and wipe away the tears from a child who never asked for any of this but will now embark on a life of adventure and danger that we have followed for years. This story means a lot to me as I first read it at a time of severe introspection and existential obsession regarding my impending adulthood. ……it’s good is basically what I’m trying to say……It’s good.
8. Madmen Across The Water (Showcase ‘94 #3) Year-1994
Ok let’s see….let’s see……writer is……Oh for god sake it’s Alan Grant again. On art we haaaave…….sigh…..Tim bloody Sale of course. Well when you have a type, you have a type. Now, this one is going to be a bit of a head-scratcher. “How can a story I’ve never even heard of make the top 10?!! sacrilege” they’ll scream and I’ll reply ” it put a smile on my face for days” . This is why I started reading comics as a child, why I couldn’t go to sleep without reading page after page of “Oor Wullie”. That comic strip meant so much to me and my wonderful Gran would ask her friends if they had any they would be willing to give me. So despite being born in 1984 I would be reading comics from the 60s that exuded simple, working class Scotland and it filled me with such warmth and made me smile. Now, a lot of this list is filled with dark examinations of psychological, psychosocial elements of a character filled with pain and hatred and that makes for great reading but sometimes it’s nice to pick up a comic and feel good about it. This is dark humour no doubt but it’s wonderfully written stuff by Grant. So the premise of the story is that the Arkham inmates are being re-housed to Blackgate penitentiary due to Bane destroying their walls during the events of Knightfall. A lot of the prose comes from letters sent between Jeremiah Arkham and Governor Zehrhard, the head of Blackgate. Zerhard is not happy with the switch and does everything in his power to demean the Arkham arrivals and strips as many rights as he can from them. The two leaders have very different approaches with Arkham (a Grant creation) has a very liberal outlook, sympathising and trying to relate to his subjects while Zehrhard believes their is no such thing as mental illness and the inmates are all fakers, trying to avoid real punishment. The antagonism and mockery of the Arkham bunch at the hands of Blackgate’s group help form a bond between them as they try to fight back against their ruthless hosts. Amusingly, the story is written for the Arkham side to be the good guys of the piece and you really do begin to side with them despite knowing the horrific things they have done over the years. Brilliant convention manipulation from Grant, flipping the switch. Things get so heated that Jeramiah and Zehrhard agree to pit their men and women against each other in a game of softball for their rights to be upheld. Watching Scarecrow, Poison Ivy Amygdala and the rest of team led by Dr Faustus, talking tactics for a sport none of them have played is hilarious. It becomes a sort of weird, inexplicably upbeat Rocky story involving serial killers. It’s one of the most surprisingly brilliant little stories I’ve ever read in comics and fully deserves it’s place on this list. It’s also strange to see Tim Sale before his art became…..well, the Tim Sale style we know now…..and yea I know I’ve cheated again as Batman doesn’t even show up in this but I love this so much that it’s going in anyway. So myea!
7. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth: Year-1989
A fresh face young Scot named Grant Morrison burst onto the scene when he was given the chance to step up from the UK comic scene to the worldwide platform and effectively kicked the world in the balls with this stunning horror classic. There was a real British invasion around this time with notable works coming from Morrison, Alan Moore, Alan Grant, Neil Gaiman etc and being published by the American giants. It was a style of witty, cerebral and darkly humorous writing that the rest of the world was not used to but they obviously craved something different because these writers would go on to become household names within the business. In this particular graphic novel Batman is forced to enter Arkham Asylum as the Joker has a young staff member hostage and, pardon the expression, the inmates are running the asylum. Once he gets there he is basically opening the door to his nightmares where he has to run the gambit of supervillains we all know …….but we don’t know them like this. Dave Mckean (famous for the Sandman covers) was on artistic duty and it’s hard to call his work anything other than art…..talk about expressionism. Terrifying, horrific expressionism that manages to make a comic book genuinely unsettling and even scary at times. There has been much debate over the years as to whether the art played more of a part of the book’s success or Morrison’s writing…….I say why separate the two?. The whole point of a comic is for prose to team up with visual to create a story…..the two are married, not divorced so why try to separate them. True if art is awful it can certainly take away from the story but in this case the discussion involves art and story that are both well liked but there seems to be a need to priorities one and credit it for the success. This is one of the perfect marriages of the arts where everything just clicks. If I may suggest picking up this book I would definitely go with the 15th anniversary special edition as it includes a fully script and layout from Morrison that helps explain little nuances that you definitely missed …..you did mate, pipe down…..and shows the insane amount of detail and imagination of the talented writer. It’s also a great way of seeing where Mckean has looked at Morrison’s insanely specific art direction on just decided to his own thing. To be honest, without this script as a guide, the book is a lot worse as it can be very difficult to follow due to the unorthodox art and paneling so having this director’s commentary of sorts helps clarify and add to things. One interesting thing that comes from and included Morrison interview is that Robin played a small part in the story in the layout stage but Mckean refused to draw him due to him being too silly……..THE NERVE!. There is a page with the scarecrow with no dialogue and only a couple of small panels showing him that is so haunting you can just imagine it being in a movie along the lines of Ringu, it works so so well and such a tiny little detail that had no right to work as well as it did. It’s also interesting that from the interview, we learn that each villain Batman comes across is a manifestation of his repressed sexual thoughts with the Joker representing homosexuality for instance. Incredible horror story telling from a man who would go on two decades later to have one of the most critically praised runs on the title ever.
6. The killing Joke: Year-1988
Alan Moore is a man known for many things, one of which is taking preconceived notions of what to expect from a certain series and slapping them in the face. Such is the case in the much lauded Killing Joke which acts as a terrifying reminder that the Joker is not some fun, wacky villain, indeed he is a psychopath intent on causing chaos and destroying every part of Batman’s life just for giggles. This is the famous story in which the clown prince of crime paralyses Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) after which she went on to become Oracle, an empowering symbol of possibilities for the disabled. She’s then stripped naked and has photos taken of her that are shown to her tied up (also naked) father Jim Gordon…..yea this one isn’t really for kids. This is an examination of the relationship between Batman and the Joker and while there have been plenty of those, this was the first to seriously delve into the psychology and it remains the best. Moore claims this project was a throwaway for him and was just an excuse to get artist Brian Bolland’s art exposed to a global audience. I call shenanigans on that, there’s no way there wasn’t a hefty amount of thought put into this project and Moore would tell you the grass was pink just to be awkward so I’d take that with a pinch of salt. Speaking of Bolland, his work here is truly sublime, it’s gorgeous and it’s now not without controversy due to the deluxe edition. This edition had new inking from Bolland himself and many people felt that the artistic soul had been taken from the original. My opinion? Honestly I love both for different reasons. The original feels like some kind of fever dream, an acid trip gone wrong. It creates a blurry juxtaposition of bright colours and horrific events makes for uncomfortable reading but also asks if it maybe is a dream after all. The deluxe edition is more devoid of colour and feels more literal. It probably shows off the technical quality of the art a little better but it does take away from the dreamlike vibe and create a more straight forward vision. Both great and it’s worth checking them out as you can find what works for you. It’s a dark, bleak thriller that really hammers home the evil of the Joker and works as a wonderful argument that Batman and he need each other. With page after page of glorious Brian Bolland art too, can’t lose with this one.
5.Year One: Year-1987
Frank Miller was given the opportunity to rewrite a new origin story for the bat and for Bruce himself and took it with both hands, creating one of the most beloved comic books of all time. Partnering with artist extraordinaire David Mazzucchelli, he managed to somehow create a believable evolution of Wayne from the moment he loses his parents to a desperate mugger, to the moment he first dons the cowl. It also greatly flashes out the character of Jim Gordon who at the time was not Commissioner and was struggling to come to terms with the fact that the department he works for is completely corrupt and there is little he feels he can do about it. The story really shows the growth of both Bruce and Jim side by side and reveals both men’s flaws and strengths. It’s incredible character work from Miller and plays out in a very cinematic manner with both the pacing of the writing and the action conveyed in the art really whizz past in no time. Richmond Lewis did the colours and they work really well in presenting a bleak, wishy washy look to the book that is almost hypnotic in it’s beautiful simplicity. The fact I’ve mentioned how cinematic the book is should come as no surprise as Year 1 was the basis from which the blockbuster movie Batman Begins was made, particularly the scenes where Bruce travels the world training in every martial art he can. A spectacular monster of a pop cultural achievement that many people probably expected to be higher. Nonetheless I love this story and I’m yet to meet a reader who does not enjoy it. It’s an easy sell for anyone looking to get into Batman comics.
4. Knightfall Trilogy: Year-1993/94
This is the one where Bane breaks the Batman!. A massive, year long crossover that is now collected as part 1- Knightfall, part 2, Knightquest and part 3 Knightsend sent Batman through a gauntlet of supervillains, exhausting him before coming face to face with the mastermind behind it all, Bane. The 90s were a terrible time for crossovers, many of them made little sense and did little but grab money from punters who needed to buy 20 comics to find out what the hell was going on in the main story. Thankfully Knightfall was coherent and served an artistic purpose as midway through, Batman is taken out of commission by Bane’s brutal attack. He replaces himself with Azrael, a young man named Jean-Paul Valley, who he had been training in case of an event like this…(nice exposition) much to the chagrin of Robin. It turns out to be a nightmare as Azrael becomes a vicious vigilante with no limits, throwing out Batman’s rulebook and abandoning Robin. As Batman heals, he must find a way to stop a now completely out of control Jean-Paul who is losing his mind and what started off as a teacher student relationship has devolved into hero villain battle for control of the mantle of protector of the city. I like Bane when he is written like this, he was the architect of an Arkham Asylum break out, freeing all the crazy criminals to wreak havoc on Batman in order to tire him out. He’s a tactical genius and I was delighted he was going to be the subject of the movie The Dark Knight Rises…….yea, I hated that movie but I still like non-movie Bane. The crossover features a who’s who of writers and artists including Chuck Dixon, Norm Breyfogle, ……Alan Grant……Klaus Janson, Jim Aparo and many more. It takes some time to read it from top to bottom but it’s the only way it’s worth doing it and it’s definitely worth you time, especially as it’s collected in 3 books that run chronologically now. No excuse now folks.
3. Saturday Night At The Movies: Year-1991
“Eh?” I hear the crickets in the crowd groan. Well it’s my list and I’ll tell you this. This might be the most human comic book ever made. By that I mean it may seem like a simple, generic story but it has everything. Regret, sorrow, pain, love, remembrance, action….it has everything I want. The synopsis here is that Jim Gordon meets up with Sarah Esson from Year One with whom he had an affair. They go to the movies and rekindle a long burnt out flame ….only Gordon says that the flame did not burn out and that he had always loved her in the time they had been apart. Outside, Batman is beating up thugs like he does when the action leads him to the movie theatre too. In a wonderful callback to Bruce’s childhood trauma, he saves the lives of a family who were about to be attacked outside the cinema his parents lost their lives. The fact Zorro was the movie playing is not lost on the reader….at least it shouldn’t be as he’s on the cover. Zorro was the movie Bruce and his parents went to see before they were mugged you see. The date ends as Gordon takes Sarah back to her place and as he gets home he falls to his knees clutching his chest. Just as he has found the one piece of happiness he’s had in years, life tries to take everything away from him. ……life can be a right twat. I’m giving up sighing or making jokes here as for the last time on the list the writer is Alan Grant. A man I didn’t realise I was in love with until I wrote this list…..the things you learn eh?. His regular partner in crime Norm Breyfogle did the art….which to be honest isn’t his best but does nothing to take away from how much I love this issue for giving Gordon both hope and then tragedy. Damn you Grant for playing with my sensitive emotions!.
2. The Dark Knight Returns: Year-1986
Where to start? There has been essay after essay after blog after discussion about this four part masterpiece from Frank Miller and there isn’t much more I can add so I’ll just blether on about what I like about it. Set 10 years after Batman has “retired” Gotham has turned into even more of a dystopian nightmare and Bruce realises that the city needs Batman again. So now we are presented with with old man Batman, the most kick arse pensioner since Zatoichi. His return inevitably brings the return of The Joker and Two Face which begs the question, does Batman’s presence itself draw out these supervillains? Is he doing more harm than good? One of the many interesting themes Miller examines with neat backup from colourist Lynn Varley and inker Klaus Janson. We also get a new Robin Carrie Kelly, a strong willed, adventurous teenage girl who has become a cosplayer’s delight. Some of the action set pieces are amazing. For instance, Batman’s fight with the mutant leader in the tank is stunning. then he fights Superman dammit! and what a fight it is, showing just how ruthless and smart Batman really is. Then there’s the Joker fight in the carnival….poetic, symbolic and down right violent. We even get a cameo from a grizzled, one armed Green Arrow. There’s just so much amazing stuff crammed into these 4 issues that it almost seems unreal to look back and realise it was so short. This is Miller at his vicious, cerebral best, creating an unforgettable, grim look at what might become of our hero. Miller’s art is at it’s strange, effective best. Just a monumental achievement in literature.
1. The Cult: Year-1988
More than likely an unexpected entry at number 1 but there are many reasons behind this choice. This was one of the first Batman stories I ever read and despite that not really being a reason to solely put it here there is no doubt that nostalgia has popped it up higher than it might have been. This was the mini series that made me realise what Batman could be in terms of what I was looking for at the time. I always felt older than my age when I was a young lad and wanted to be treated as such. I loved horror at an age that I shouldn’t have been watching it, I listened to punk, metal and rap and wanted the media I took in to treat me with respect. I already loved Batman the animated series and the 66 series as well but I wanted something that challenged me a little more. Something to take things to a darker place. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still liked to watch The Fox And The Hound when the mood fit….I wasn’t an angry, angsty child (I left that to my aduthood) but I liked adult themed media. The Cult, written by Jim Starlin with sublime art from Bernie Wrightson brings a new villain called Deacon Blackfire to the fray. Blackfire is a shamanic figure who leads an army of down and outers from the sewers of Gotham (no they are not ninjas and no they are not turtles). This is another element that was used for one of Christopher Nolan’s movies as The Dark Knight Rises had Bane lead a group of followers in an underground army. The Cult did it much better. Going back to reading this when I was younger, I was shocked to see Batman treated the way he was here. Batman is captured and tortured in the sewers in an attempt by Blackfire to break his spirit. After a long while….it works and even though he escapes, he is not the same anymore. It’s incredible to see him so vulnerable and he has to fight back with a shattered soul. This is one of the only collected stories that features Jason Todd as Robin and it’s one of the very few times he was actually useful which is great to see. Starlin was not always great when he was writing Batman but every so often he just nailed it and that’s exactly what happened here. Writing the gradual torture and fracturing of Batman’s spirit is haunting and is amplified by Wrightson’s stunning art style. This wonderful art is hugely helped by Bill Wray’s glorious, trippy colouring which deserves far more credit than it gets. Colourists often get a raw deal when it comes to praise but believe me when I say Wray’s work is essential my love of this book. I love love love this mini series and I don’t care who knows it. I’ll shout it from the top of the Dundee Law. This is my number one Batman story.
So there we have it folks, a controversial but hopefully fun and helpful trip through Batman’s greatest stories (according to this numpty anyway). Hope you enjoyed and even if you didn’t, thanks for reading anyway. I’ll try harder next time. Give me a shout and tell me what you agree with and don’t agree with on here or you can catch me on @swing_kinker or @BigGlasgowComic Cheers everyone, especially my buddy Darren Yeats for the suggestion. Thanks for coming on the ride with me.