In celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, I asked Michael Uslan to provide a list of the most important Batman comic book stories ever by decade. I decided to exclude the 90s, 2000s and 2010s because I didn’t think enough time has passed to legitimately declare any comics from those decades as “classics”. In other words, there needs to be a few more ticks off the clock -- or pages turned in the calender -- before determining which stories from those decades are the most important.
In Part 1 (CLICK HERE TO READ), we covered the 1930s through the 1960's. In Part 2 below, you’ll find the most important Batman stories from the 1970s and 80s as chosen by Michael Uslan. Enjoy!
For the decade that gave us Watergate, disco, two Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victories and, sadly, the death of the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Mr. Uslan says that the following are the most significant Batman comic book stories of that ten year span…
“The Demon of Gothos Mansion!” (BATMAN #227/December 1970), “The Ra’s Al Ghul Story Arc (starting with BATMAN #232/June 1971), “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” (BATMAN #251/September 1973), and “Night of the Stalker” (DETECTIVE COMICS #439/March 1974).
In “The Demon of Gothos Mansion” – which features a cover and storyline based on DETECTIVE COMICS #31 (September 1939) – The Batman goes looking for the kidnapped niece of Alfred, Daphne Pennyworth. Batman hopes to reach her before she is sacrificed by a bunch of idiots hoping to raise the spirit of a demon named “Balik”.
The great Batman villain Ra’s Al Ghul – perhaps the best and most iconic Batman villain created during the second half of Batman’s 75 year history – makes his first appearance in the June 1971 issue of BATMAN #232. Of course, Ra’s – created by Deny O’Neil and Neal Adams – would eventually be brought to cinematic life in 2005’s BATMAN BEGINS via the terrific thespian skills of Liam Neeson.
“The Joker’s Five Way Revenge” is one of the greatest Batman stories ever, regardless of decade. If this big of internal dialogue isn’t “The Joker”, then I don’t know what is…
“His life is mine...I can crush the breath out of him...effortlessly! I can, at last, triumph! But such a hollow victory! It was mere luck that caused my attack on him to succeed. I'd always envisioned my winning as a result of cunning…at the end of a bitter struggle between The Batman and myself – him using his detective skills and me employing the divine gift men call madness! No! Without the game that The Batman and I have played for so many years, winning is nothing! He shall live...until I can destroy him properly!”
Thank you Denny O’Neil!
Mr. Uslan’s final entry for the 1970s is “Night of the Stalker” from DETECTIVE COMICS #439, March of 1974. In this dialogue-less story, The Batman witnesses a couple being shot dead in front of their young child.
Sound familiar? Anyway…
This causes The Batman to flashback to a very similar event years ago that inspired him to dress up like a giant black bat and kick criminal ass.
For the decade provided the world the end of the Cold War, the destruction of the Berlin Wall, Madonna, and tremendously bad clothing choices, MU says that only Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (1986) and THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #200 (July 1983) make the cut.
What can I say about THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS other than it’s one of the greatest comic book stories ever regardless of comic book company or character. It was a game changer; not only for Batman – as it purged the “Pow, Zap and Wham!” from the conscious of the mainstream audience – but for comic book genre as well.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #200 was the final issue of this long-running Batman team-up title. The comic ended by pairing Batman with…Batman. Written by Mike W. Barr and featuring art by Dave Gibbons, The Batman of Earth 1 teamed up (sort of) with the older version of himself from Earth 2. Gibbons’ artwork continually changed as a nod to the different eras of Batman’s history. THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #200 also featured a four-panel comic strip featuring Bat-Mite as well as a 16 page preview of Batman’s new superhero team, The Outsiders.
So there you have it, the most important Batman comic book stories of the 1930s through the 1980s. Let's recap Mr. Uslan's list again in chronological order...
1) DETECTIVE COMICS #27 - "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" (May 1939)
2) BATMAN #1 - "The Joker", "The Cat", and "The Joker Returns" (Spring 1940)
3) BATMAN #47 - "The Origin of Batman" (June 1948)
4) DETECTIVE COMICS #156 - "The Batmobile of 1950" (February 1950)
5) DETECTIVE COMICS #235 - "The First Batman" (September 1956)
6) BATMAN #156 - "Robin Dies at Dawn" (June 1963)
7) DETECTIVE COMICS #327 - "The Mystery of the Menacing Mask" (May 1964)
8) BATMAN #217 - "One Bullet Too Many" (December 1969)
9) BATMAN #227 - "The Demon of Gothos Mansion" (December 1970)
10) BATMAN #232 - "The Ral's Al Ghul Story Arc" (June 1971)
11) BATMAN #251 - "The Joker's Five Way Revenge" (September 1973)
12) DETECTIVE COMICS #439 - "Night of the Stalker" (March 1974)
13) THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #200 - "Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death" (July 1983)
14) THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (1986)
What do you think of Mr. U's list? Talk about it below in the discussion section! Also, a BIG THANKS to Mr. Uslan for taking the time to visit with me (yet again) and providing me with this list in honor of Batman's 75th anniversary!