10 Awesome Batman Stories You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Even the casual comic book fan can recite the list of greatest Batman Stories ever. “The Dark Knight Returns,” “Year One,” “The Long Halloween,” “Arkham Asylum,” “Strange Apparitions,” “The Killing Joke,” “Hush,” etc. This list of Batman stories will be debated by fans for as long as the Caped Crusader is in print. But there are a lot of great Batman stories that don’t get the credit or the glory they deserve. This list can run on forever, but I wanted to offer up ten that have fallen through the cracks. These are Batman stories that, for the most part, were never collected in trade paperback. The few stories that were have since gone out of print. They’re worth seeking out, and many can probably be found in the dollar box at your local comic book shop.
1. Prey (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15)
“Prey” is set during Batman’s first year, and features a retelling of his original fight against Professor Hugo Strange. In this version, Strange is presented as a pop psychologist who is obsessed with Batman, attacking him on TV. The Professor teams up with a disgruntled police officer who isn’t fond of Jim Gordon’s Batman policies, and the ensuing carnage nearly destroys Batman’s mind and body. Classic Batman writer Doug Monech scripts, and the gorgeous art is by Paul Gulacy.
2. The Messiah of The Crimson Sun (Batman Annual #8)
After the Joker, Ra’s al Ghul is probably the coolest villain in Batman’s rouge’s gallery. The classic Ra’s stories by Denny O’Neil have been collected and (justifiably) celebrated, but this 1982 Ra’s story by writer Mike Barr tends to be ignored. Batman must solve the mystery of why the entire population of a small town was wiped out upon sunrise, and do so before the same action is committed against Gotham. The artwork is by Trevor Von Eden, here in his prime, and the ending will shock you.
3. Batman: Year Three (Batman #436-439)
While “Year One” and “Year Two” were straight reworkings of Batman’s origin, “Year Three” altered the storytelling style a bit, setting the main action in the modern day continuity. The origin of Robin is told throughout in flashbacks, contrasted against an intense and reckless Batman, crushed in the wake of recent tragedies. This story helped to set up the introduction of the third Robin, Tim Drake, in “A Lonely Place of Dying”, but for some reason has never been reprinted. Track it down and judge for yourself.
4. Eye of the Beholder (Batman Annual #14)
Most Bat-fans know that the 2008 film The Dark Knight was heavily inspired by the 1996 comic “The Long Halloween”. Many are unaware, however, that “Long Halloween” drew from this Two-Face origin story written by Andrew Helfer with art by Chris Sprouse. A young Batman allies himself with Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent, and the vigilante is learning that Dent might be as unstable as some of the criminals they’re hunting. When Dent is horribly burned by acid, it only unleashes the monster that was waiting all along. A fantastic Batman story.
5. Absolute Terror (Detective Comics #835-836)
Writer Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics from a few years back is excellent and worth seeking out. However, this fill-in tale by writer John Rozum from 2007 has mostly been overlooked. The concept is simple: The Scarecrow learns that without his fear gas he’s viewed as a joke, so he decides to cement his reputation by creating horror in a new way. He perpetuates a wave of random terror upon Gotham by committing murders with no pattern; in movie theatres, restaurants and homes. While the city shuts down in a panic, Batman and Robin have to find a way to capture the Scarecrow, who is literally striking anywhere and at any time. The creepy art by Tom Mandrake perfects this dark gem.
6. The Return of Boss Thorne (Detective Comics #505-522 & Batman #337-356)
This is the biggest story on the list, a sprawling tale that crossed over between Batman and Detective Comicsfrom 1981 through 1983. Rupert Thorne, the corrupt Gotham councilman who nearly destroyed Batman in the classic “Strange Apparitions,” has returned home to wipe out the vigilante once and for all. Thorne’s story develops slowly behind the scenes for most of Gerry Conway’s excellent run writing the two Batman series, but the ride is worth it, and the payoff is excellent. DC might consider collecting this mega arc in its affordable black & white Showcase line of trade paperbacks.
7. Original Sins (Secret Origins Special #1)
This one-shot special tends to be more recognized then the others stories on this list, as it contains early DC Comics work from superstar writer Neil Gaiman. But Gaiman’s terrific Riddler story aside, my favorite tale contained here is a dark Penguin origin by Alan Grant. Grant had a run of over a decade on the various Batman titles, and his work here is a great example of how well he understood the Dark Knight’s world. The Penguin is often considered something of a joke, but read this grim story of a long held grudge and brutal revenge and you’ll see why he has remained on the A-list of Batman villains.
8. Dark Knight, Dark City (Batman #452-454)
Writer Peter Milligan had a brief but excellent run on Detective Comics in the early 90’s, but he proceeded it with this twisted Riddler story. Edward Nigma comes out of retirement and decides to put himself on the map by dealing with the devil- literally. Now the former joke of a super criminal has suddenly got blood on his hands, and Batman must run a vicious gauntlet to stop it. The art by Kieron Dwyer lends itself well to the supernatural element of the story, which ranks among the best uses of the Riddler ever.
9. Blood Secrets (Detective Comics Annual #2)
A few years before he made his name on The Flash and Kingdom Come, writer Mark Waid co-wrote this little known story of Bruce Wayne’s pre-Batman adventures. A 20 year old Bruce Wayne journeys to a small Alabama town to learn from expert private eye Harvey Harris. Along the way he stumbles upon a decades old murder investigation involving the Klan and several prominent townspeople. This is a great take on a Batman who was still learning the ropes, and dealing with his own demons.
10. Fear Itself (Batman Adventures #17)
From 1992 until 2004, DC published several series of comics inspired by the superb 90’s Batman Animated T.V. Show. Free of the heavy continuity and cross-overs of the main Batman titles, Batman Adventures was a great showcase of self-contained Batman stories by top talent. The final volume ended with a single issue story written by Ty Templeton with art by Rich Burchett. It features a twist on the often told tale of Joe Chill, the man who killed Batman’s parents. Batman’s confrontation with Chill has been handled by writers as far ranging as Bill Finger and Grant Morrison, but never has the encounter unfolded like it does in this comic. The entire final volume (with frequent co-writing by Dan Slott) is worth seeking out, but this excellent finale is a must have.
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