Batman has been around longer than almost any modern-day superhero other than Superman. Batman made his first appearance in 1939 in Detective Comics #27 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. While early appearances just had Batman fighting organized crime, soon his world opened up to include a sidekick and some of the best villains in comic book history.
Through the years, Batman reinvented himself over and over again. From the original mafia fighting vigilante, he morphed into an overly comic superhero full of jokes before transforming again to the serious Caped Crusader that influenced the future of Batman. Along the way were some of the best stories in DC Comics history.
Updated on February 24th, 2021 by Melody MacReady: Batman is, without a single doubt, the poster child for the DC multiverse as a whole. As such, there are so many Batman stories out there that have enchanted the hearts of generations of fans. For over eighty years, the Dark Knight Detective has been and continues to be in so many iconic stories; some are so famous that they were turned into their own animated films such as Under The Red Hood and Gotham By Gaslight. As a result, it’s impossible to stop at just ten of the best Batman comics to recommend newcomers who are looking to get into the comics.
14 Tower Of Babel
Technically this is a Justice League story but it does focus heavily on Batman and his need to always be prepared. Someone is taking out the Justice League one by one using carefully planned methods and exposing their weaknesses.
It turns out that someone is using and modifying Batman’s own contingencies for stopping the Justice League should they go rogue. It’s a beloved story that shows that powers do not make someone completely indestructible and how dangerous Batman’s mind can be.
13 Three Jokers
Despite the divided response to Three Jokers from the fans, it still was a massive event for the comics. This was a DC Black Label story by Geoff Johns, Jason Fabok & Brad Anderson that presented the idea that Joker was not one person, but was three different villains.
This explains why he changed over the years in Batman comics. These Jokers were the criminal, (which was the original version), the clown, (which was the one who killed Jason Todd), and the comedian, (which was the one from The Killing Joke).
12 No Man’s Land
After Gotham suffers a massive earthquake, the city is evacuated and fittingly labeled as a no man’s land. Thus begins a war for the city between gangs, the police, and the Bat-Family. No Man’s Land was the follow-up to Cataclysm, another great story but No Man’s Land dials everything up to the max.
No Man’s Land can be credited as the story to introduce Cassandra Cain as Batgirl. With a multitude of villains and heroes battling, it’s quite the intense experience akin to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York.
11 Under The Hood
Under The Hood brought one of Batman’s most significant regrets and brought it back to life as an almost unstoppable enemy. This story, by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, Eric Battle & Shane Davis, brought Jason Todd back to life.
Jason came back and donned a red hood, which was a callback to Batman’s dealings with Joker in the early days. He was revived and depowered thanks to the Lazurus Pit and had an intense hatred for Batman, blaming his former mentor for his death.
10 The Court Of Owls
While almost all of DC rebooted with the New 52, Batman didn’t change hardly at all, with Scott Snyder taking over as the creative lead. Court of Owls was the first major storyline for Batman after the New 52 from creators Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
The Court of Owls had controlled everything in Gotham City since colonial times, wealthy men using kidnapped circus performers to work as their muscle. When Batman learned about them, he faced a group more powerful than any in his history.
Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee was a true mystery story and a great one for anyone who loves Batman as more of a detective than a superhero. The story has someone trying to sabotage Batman’s life and ruin it from afar by pulling strings.
Several members of the Batman rogues’ gallery are showcased and it even has Batman dealing with Superman at times. In the end, the mystery revealed that the villain was someone close to Bruce Wayne, someone who held a longtime grudge. This was also where Batman and Catwoman’s relationship took a major turn.
8 The Killing Joke
While Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke remains one of the most controversial stories because of the way it treated Barbara Gordon, the comic, nevertheless, received much praise from the fans due to the writers’ focus on the Joker.
As fans remember, The Killing Joke sees the feud between Joker, Commissioner Gordon, and Batman culminates as the clown tortures and abuses Barbara Gordon in an attempt to break the Commissioner. However, this was not the only focus of the story as it also showed how Joe Kerr also became the Joker too. With many fans considering it the greatest Joker story ever told, The Killing Joke went on to win an Eisner Award for Best Writing.
7 Year One
Released in 1987 by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Batman: Year One does exactly what the title describes; billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne returns home after a long absence to take over his parent’s company.
However, he also returns with a new secret, as he has become Batman. In this series, Batman is still learning his place in Gotham City and meets an ally in a young Jim Gordon, who is also earning his spot in Gotham with a family at home.
6 A Death In The Family
Batman: A Death in the Family is a controversial Batman storyline from Batman #426-429 by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo. The controversy comes because DC allowed fans to vote in and determine whether Robin would live or die at the end of the story.
Jason Todd’s mother returned, and she betrayed her son by selling him out to Joker. However, Jason proves in the end that he is a true hero as he tries to save his mother. Sadly, he failed because fans voted that Joker should kill Robin in the end.
5 Zero Year
The New 52 era of DC was a mixed bag for most fans, some stories were way better than others. One of them was a new retelling of Batman’s first days as a vigilante in Gotham known as Zero Year. Zero Year keeps a more grounded approach to the Caped Crusader while taking place in a more modern era.
This portrayal made for a unique Batsuit harking back to Batman’s first appearance, the reincarnation of villains such as Doctor Death for a more terror-inducing threat, and so much more to enjoy. This along with the Court Of Owls storyline made for easily the best Batman material of the New 52.
Knightfall was a massive Batman comic book storyline that saw Gotham City brought to its knees. It all played out from April 1993 until August 1994, with a year-and-a-half of stories playing out between all the Batman comics.
Bane is a new supervillain in Gotham City, and he sends out all Batman’s enemies to attack him one by one. When Batman was finally wearing down, Bane attacked and broke Batman’s back. Jean-Paul Valley replaced Bruce as Batman and became an unstable and vicious replacement until Batman finally returned.
3 The Long Halloween
The Long Halloween might be the best Batman story that takes place in the regular continuity of Batman comics. Created by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, this occurs early in Batman’s crimefighting career and focuses on a killer named Holiday, who kills individuals on specific holidays.
The story then brings in most of Batman’s iconic villains to make the case even tougher to crack. This is what Matt Reeves’ The Batman is seeming to be heavily inspired by.
2 Dark Victory
Those that enjoyed The Long Halloween will enjoy Dark Victory from the same writer and artist. Dark Victory is essentially a sequel that retells the story of how Batman met Dick Grayson and his transformation into the first Robin.
Fitting within The Long Halloween‘s style, it is a much darker and grittier detective thriller story than anything shown prior at that time. There are several returning characters from The Long Halloween as well as some references to create some continuity.
1 The Dark Knight Returns
In 1986, Frank Miller created the best Batman story of all time with The Dark Knight Returns. This takes place in the future when Bruce Wayne has retired as Batman, quitting after Jason Todd’s death.
However, 10 years later, Bruce realizes crime in Gotham City has grown to an uncontrollable level, so he comes out of retirement. The problem is that the Gotham P.D. and U.S. Government won’t allow it and eventually sends in Superman to stop Batman once and for all.
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