The 10 Best/Must-Read Individual Batman Comic Book Stories Of All-Time! (Part 1 of 2) Author: Robert Reineke
There have been thousands of Batman stories and picking ten that would satisfy everyone is an impossible task. So, consider this is a list of ten great stories that try to encompass the totality of Batman, hitting on many varied aspects. I further limited myself to issues that can more or less stand on their own. As great as the third part of “Year One” is, you can’t really appreciate it in a vacuum without reading the first two parts so I didn’t include that or a whole bunch of issues that are great as part of a longer arc but need that added context. Given that the one or two-parter has largely disappeared in favor of longer arcs, which demand a different list, this list skews older.
But that’s enough explaining the methodology, on to the list. - Robert Reineke
#10BATMAN #400 – “Resurrection Night” by Doug Moench & Various Artists
Batman’s 400th issue was a massive celebration of pre-Crisis Batman. Ra’s Al Ghul releases all of Batman’s foes from Arkham and Gotham Penitentiary and then makes an offer to eliminate the foes once and for all freeing Batman to take his place at Ra’s Al Ghul’s side. Batman, of course, refuses and attempts to bring them all to justice against overwhelming odds with whatever allies he can round up. The art is great. Just about every character of importance to Batman shows up. It’s a true appreciation, complete with a Stephen King essay to top it off.
#9BATMAN #250 - “The Batman Nobody Knows!” by Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano
Perhaps more than any other superhero, Batman has adapted to the times.
The Weird Creature of the Night, The Caped Crusader, The Darknight Detective, and The Dark Knight are all labels applied to Batman over the years reflecting the changing image of Batman.
Frank Robbins explored the legend of Batman as a series of campfire tales told by children that explored various visions of what Batman could be and why Batman was destined to adapt to the times. Loosely adapted for the episode “Legends of the Dark Knight” for Batman: The Animated Series – as well as being an inspiration for today’s Batwing – it remains a succinct reminder that Batman is not strictly limited to what has come before but is open to reinterpretation and possibilities.
#8THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #197 - “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” by Alan Brennert & Joe Staton
Ever since they decided to remove Julie Madison from Batman in the early 1940s, a string of girl friends and love interests has constantly been involved in Batman’s life. Catwoman is undoubtedly the most prominent.
In general, nothing ever gets resolved positively in regards to Batman’s love life, but this issue is the exception. Alan Brennert wrote a small number of Batman stories, with “To Kill a Legend!” being a strong contender for this list, but this is his most character driven. Using DC’s old pre-Crisis Earth-Two, Brennert returned to the 1950s where Batman – after being exposed to a dose of Scarecrow’s fear gas which causes him to imagine all his loved ones disappearing – turns to Catwoman to help him track down The Scarecrow. They both let down their guards in the process and expose their innermost secrets. It’s both an effective capper for 1950s era Batman, and a story that cuts to the core of Batman being alone and needing a soul mate. There aren’t many truly romantic stories involving Batman, and this is at the top.
#7BATMAN #156 - “Robin Dies at Dawn!” by Bill Finger & Sheldon Moldoff
Batman (sort of) in space?
Goofy 1950s style monsters?
Gorilla mask wearing gangsters?
I can understand the skepticism. But, underlying the surface is a smart script that understands that atman’s greatest weapon is his mind and by damaging that you put in peril his very existence. And it’s only by call forth his will and what truly matters to him that he can overcome that peril. Sure, it’s goofy, but it also is a statement about what Batman stood for at that moment in his history. Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis did their own spin on the basic concept with the Scarecrow, but the original still stands. It would be over 40 years before someone attacked Batman’s mind to that degree again, which is a credit to the power of the original story.
#6BATMAN #47 – “The Origin of Batman!” by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, & Charles Paris
Much of the origin of Batman has been treated as vague legend throughout his history and particularly in the 1940s when the original 2-page origin was all the background necessary. Times were changing in post-war America and a revenge driven vigilante wasn’t needed so much as a forward looking, optimistic hero. Batman had been moving in that direction for years, but it was apparently too tempting not to write a story about Batman burying his demons.
The result is a classic that has lost very little of its power as Batman discovers the killer of his parents, Joe Chill, confronts him, and has fate take a hand in punishing the killer. Even today, it’s seldom that Batman faces a case this personal and emotional.
Robert Reineke is a Civil and Environmental Engineer residing in Wisconsin.
He earned a BS and MS degrees from the University of Wisconsin and has been reading Batman comics since the 1970s.
He’s of the firm belief that there are plenty of Batman comics written before Frank Miller that are worthy of discussion.
Robert is also writing a monthly column on the films of Akira Kurosawa at Where the Long Tail Ends.