After the essentials, there are several notable mostly self-contained Batman tales well worth hunting down for anyone with an interest in the caped crusader.
Son of the Demon
An original graphic novel by Mike Barr and Jerry W. Bingham as Batman teams up with Ras Al Ghul against a new enemy. This story was considered out of continuity for some time, although it would later play a major role in shaping Grant Morrison’s run on the title.
Father And Son
Grant Morrison’s seven issue run on the Batman comics started in Batman, before going to two spinoff titles: Batman & Robin, and Batman Incorporated. It all started here in Batman #655-658 with artist Andy Kubert, clever twists on old villains and the introduction of Damian Wayne.
The Black Glove
Morrison’s entire run is worth reading for anyone with an interest in the series, although the Black Glove three parter from Batman #667-669 is both accessible and important to the series, reintroducing the Club of Heroes, an international assortment of caped crusaders influenced by the Batman. It’s also illustrated by JH Williams, probably the premier bat-artist of the 21st Century.
Batman and Dracula: Red Rain
In the Superman Elseworlds stories, his adventures were sometimes reimagined in different settings, while Batman is often reimagined as a different genre. The Red Rain trilogy is likely the most significant, as the masked detective is essentially transported to a horror series, taking on an actual vampire, in a story in which all the pieces aren’t put together in the end. Sequels Bloodstorm and Crimson Mist proceed as if it’s a Universal Horror saga. Just when you think the story is over, the monster is brought back to life.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight
The first Elseworlds pits an inexperienced Batman against Jack the Ripper, with gorgeous art by Mike Mignola, best known now for his creator-owned work on Hellboy. It’s fun to see how Bruce Wayne would be different if he had to operate in the late 19th Century.
Batman: The Man Who Laughs
The most accessible story from Ed Brubaker’s run on the character, this one-shot also provided the best comic book version of Batman’s first encounter against the Joker. Although it may also be worth checking out one of the numerous reprints of the 1940 Batman #1 to see what the hero was like when he became so popular.
Death in the Family / A Lonely Place of Dying
Death in the Family (Batman #426-429) This was Batman’s “Death of Superman” a much referenced story that got a lot of media attention at the time. It’s controversial, and there are arguments about the quality, but it’s certainly an important touchstone for the Batman comics. A Lonely Place of Dying (Batman #440-442, Teen Titans #60-61) was a follow-up introducing the Tim Drake Robin, probably the most effective of the bat-sidekicks (Damian Wayne is still the most entertaining).
This was part of the universe of the excellent 1990s cartoon, providing the origin for Joker sidekick Harley Quinn, making her comic book debut. And it’s one of the most memorable clashes between Batman and his archenemy,
I was conflicted about including this one. It’s a great story which is deservedly on a few best of lists, but it hasn’t been referenced much since. However, it is probably the strongest appearance with the Jason Todd Robin.
This three parter from Detective Comics #698-700, was written by the guy responsible for the 1989 Batman movie, except unlike that film, it’s actually quite good. It’s best known for the introduction of Henry Ducard, the most memorable of Batman’s mentors.
Haunted Knight/ Dark Victory
Haunted Knight collects Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb’s annual Halloween themed Legends of the Dark Knight specials that eventually led to the Long Halloween mini-series. It has memorable clashes against the Mad Hatter and Scarecrow, as well as a great take on the Christmas Carol with Bruce Wayne as Scrooge. Dark Victory was the sequel to TLH, as a new villain started making holiday-themed murders, and Batman’s path crosses with a young acrobat named Dick Grayson. Both are recommended for anyone who enjoyed The Long Halloween.
Batman, for a variety of reasons is well-represented by some excellent standalone stories. To Kill a Legend from Detective Comics #500 is a fantastic anniversary story, exploring his partnership with Robin, as he has an opportunity to prevent a great tragedy from happening to the Bruce Wayne of another universe. “No Hope in Crime Alley” from Detective Comics #457 explores what it’s like to live in Gotham City. “Death Haunts the Skies” from Detective Comics #442 is the only bat-story by the great Alex Toth, an artist who almost seems built for the series. Joker’s Asylum: Penguin has a creepy take on the villain by Jason Aaron.
Complex.com has a list of the 25 greatest Batman stories. Some of the stories pop up there.
- 20. Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1-4
- 14. Gotham by Gaslight
- 11. Batman: Black and White
- 10. The Man Who Laughs
- 8. A Death in the Family
- 7. Dark Victory
- 6. Batman: The Cult
IGN has a list of the 25 greatest Batman Graphic novels. Some of the stories pop up there as well.
- 24. The Man Who Laughs
- 19. Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying
- 15. A Death in the Family
- 14. Black and White
- 13. Gotham by Gaslight
- 12. Blind Justice
- 10. Batman: Dark Victory
- 9. Batman: Red Rain
- 7. Batman: Son of the Demon
- 6. Batman: The Cult