In order to celebrate Bruce Wayne’s long-awaited return as Batman in the monthly comics, we rounded up the 10 best Batman stories ever put in print. While doing this we realized that not only were these the best Batman stories, but they are also some of the greatest comics of all time. So even if you aren’t a Batman fan, these are some books worth tracking down.
The Dark Knight Returns
Spawned by Frank Miller’s fear of actually being older than Batman (when DC asked him to write a Batman story), the Dark Knight Returns is legendary. If you enjoy comics, this is a book that is required to be on your shelf. Featuring a much older Batman who comes out of retirement one last time to face the Joker, there is not a better Batman story. The sequel, while nowhere near the brilliance of the original, is also worth a read if only to see how far “out there” Miller went.
The Killing Joke
Alan Moore’s classic Joker story really is more Joker than Batman, but it has had huge repercussions on the Batman mythos. This is one of the books Heath Ledger was given to prepare to be the Joker, and its here where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) to pave the way for her to become Oracle. And Batman laughs at the end.
A Death in the Family
Part promotion from the 80’s and part classic, A Death in the Family is remembered for the book where people called a 900-number to vote if Jason Todd would live and die. Obviously he died and then they brought the punk back to life recently, but when they did this it was a shock to see Batman carrying Robin’s dead body. And the way the Joker kills him is just classic Joker.
Frank Miller wrote another classic Batman story, this one dealing with his origin. This is what Batman Begins is very heavily based on. Many of the secondary characters, and even events, in Begins come directly from Year One and the comic remains one of the mandatory reads for any Batman fan.
The Long Halloween
Before Jeph Loeb ruined Heroes and turned The Hulk into a complete joke, he actually had some talent on the DC side of things. A great example of this is a sequel to Year One, titled The Long Halloween. Batman is still young, and the story details the fall of Harvey Dent into Two Face as well as the emergence of the rogues gallery into full villains.
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
If you ever played the best Batman game ever made, Arkham Asylum, then you’ll want to check out this Grant Morrison graphic novel. The game is loosely based on the story here, where the inmates have taken over the Asylum and Batman has to go in to stop them.
After DC killed Superman in the 90s and sparked what would become a downfall of the comic industry at the time, they decided to take Batman out of commission. Instead of killing him off (like they recently did), they decided to have Bane snap Batman’s back like a twig. The result was a crossover that was actually better than the whole “Death of Superman” debacle.
Gotham by Gaslight
This is an Elseworld’s tale, although the comic isn’t labeled as such. It’s set in 1889 and features Batman hunting down Jack the Ripper who has come to Gotham. Batman eventually learns the identity of Jack the Ripper and it ties directly back to the Wayne family.
Jim Lee’s collaboration with Jeph Loeb on Hush has become a modern Batman classic. It’s absolutely epic with multiple Batman villains appearing, and it even involves Superman. Add to the story Jim Lee’s amazing art, and you get a must-have Batman book.
All Star Batman & Robin
Why is this here? The series isn’t even finished yet, but it’s such a crazy Frank Miller storyline (that he claims is set in the same universe as The Dark Knight Returns and its sequel) combined with Jim Lee’s art that I had to include it here. The series has been on hiatus for two years, but the final six issues will begin coming out in February 2011 under the name Dark Knight: The Boy Wonder.