For Joker/Robin/Catwoman 75, My Favorite Stories Author: Bobby Barrett (Follow @BATBOBBY)
Date: December 11, 2015
As 2015 is fast coming to an end, so will BOF’s celebration of the 7th anniversary of Robin, Catwoman, and of course, The Joker.
I’ve asked some of my BOF contributors to reveal their personal favorite Robin, Catwoman, and Joker stories – from any medium – for BOF’s readers.
Below you'll find those of BOF contributor Bobby Barrett.
Anyone who's read my comic book reviews for BOF knows I can't get enough of current Robin, Damian Wayne, but Tim Drake's introduction to the mythos is what made me a lifelong believer in the Boy Wonder.
In the late '80s/early '90s, Robin was in dire need of a makeover. Audiences had grown more sophisticated, as had the stories they expected from The Dark Knight – and the classic Robin as the world knew him was simply outdated. The pixie boots with green briefs and bright yellow cape had lasted nearly 50 years, while iconic, would look flat out ridiculous standing next to Michael Keaton's Batman in a film.
Months after the fan-mandated death of the second Robin, Jason Todd, A LONELY PLACE OF DYING by Marv Wolfman and George Perez presented the thesis for the enduring necessity of Robin: if criminals believed Robin was dead, that would mean Batman can be killed as well! Batman needed Robin to keep his urban myth status alive and untainted. Enter Tim Drake – a kid with ties to the very beginning of the Batman and Robin legend…a kid who singlehandedly deduced Bruce Wayne's identity!
The stories that followed (recently collected all together for the first time as ROBIN VOL. 1: REBORN…highest possible recommendation if you're a Robin fan!) would provide Tim with a trial by fire, and the modern re-imagining of the Boy Wonder would emerge. The masterful team of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle would bring Tim face to face with loss like he'd never known, strengthening him and giving him the drive to rise up from the crushing weight of the mantle of Batman's sidekick. One slick new Neal Adams-designed costume later, and Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle would have the new Robin globetrotting to finish his training in the first solo ROBIN mini-series. Dixon would go on to pen a vast library of Bat Family stories, including continuing the saga of Tim Drake for years to come, but those initial stories got the ball rolling and cemented my generation's Robin as a permanent fixture of the Dark Knight Legend.
ROBIN RUNNER'S UP:BATMAN AND ROBIN VOL. 1: BORN TO KILL – the start of a phenomenal run by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason – as well as LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #100 – my personal favorite retelling of Robin(Dick Grayson)'s origin – courtesy of Dennis O'Neil and Dave Taylor.
My entire life, I can't think of a time when I haven't enjoyed Catwoman. Selina Kyle's presence in Bruce Wayne's world is one that's had more twists and turns than most, and I know I'm not alone in appreciating her presence in every medium. It's a tough one to narrow down, but what truly defined Selina as her own character to me was Ed Brubaker's phenomenal early '00s relaunch of the CATWOMAN comic book. A "soft reboot" of sorts, Brubaker and the tremendously talented Darwyn Cooke brought together elements of BATMAN: YEAR ONE and Golden Age DC (featuring original DETECTIVE COMICS star Slam Bradley), all with a modern, sophisticated twist. Here Selina, reunited with her friend/accomplice Holly Robinson, truly steps into her role as the "Robin Hood of Gotham City".
Previously known largely for looking out for #1 and little else, this iteration of the Feline Fatale steps up as the guardian of the citizens of the city's East End. Prostitutes, addicts, people the police (and The Batman) wouldn't typically concern themselves with now fell under Catwoman's protection. In what's currently available collected as CATWOMAN VOL. 2: NO EASY WAY DOWN, she even finds a neighborhood project to invest in that she actually cares about! Of course, this is Gotham, and nothing good is meant to last. Selina finds herself at odds with the crime lord known as Black Mask, the climax of which is one of the most gut-wrenching comic reading experiences I've encountered.
CATWOMAN RUNNER'S UP:HEART OF HUSH, from the comics dream team of Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen; as well as the opening arc in BATMAN, INCORPORATED, by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette. That chemistry is something else, man!
Saving the most difficult choice for last!
The Joker is frequently thought of as the "yang" to Batman's "yin". It's possible that The Dark Knight wouldn't have lasted to this day without the Clown Prince of Crime as his arch-nemesis. There have been so many phenomenal stories pointed out by BOF'ers and I love them all! But for me personally, I need to recognize Mr. J's part in Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel's BATMAN R.I.P. as outstanding. Truth be told, Joker plays more of a supporting role in this story, but his presence adds so much that it couldn't possibly be the same without him!
I should mention that this was published in 2008, when Heath Ledger was igniting movie screens with his electrifying performance in THE DARK KNIGHT. Naturally, DC Comics had to find their match to this cinematic glory, so Grant Morrison's Joker has been shot through the face –leaving his lips a stitched-up grin, with an exit wound on his forehead. His mind had taken a turn as well, to its most primal level. As Bruce Wayne himself explains it, The Joker has a personality that reinvents itself time after time. At certain points (the Silver Age, the Adam West era), he was little more than a devious prankster. Other times, a homicidal maniac.
So this Joker, after participating in The Black Glove organization's scheme to destroy Batman, proceeds to watch in delight as The Dark Knight turns the tables and returns with a vengeance. It's as if Joker knew the whole time that these idiots could never best him at beating The Bat, so he becomes Batman's cheerleader--taunting the Black Glove members as Batman barrels his way toward them.
To me, this is a definitive moment for the Batman/Joker relationship. Mirroring the symbiosis depicted in Christopher Nolan's masterpiece, this comic book Joker is capable of the most heinous of acts, but refuses to allow outsiders to tamper with his and Batman's eternal struggle.
JOKER RUNNER'S UP: Mark Hammil in the BATMAN: ARKHAM video games. "That actually is…pretty funny…"
Bobby Barrett is a lifelong Batman enthusiast living in Fresno, California, with his wife and several cats.
He enjoys reading, writing, acting, and playing very loud rock music.