This year is the Caped Crusader’s 80th anniversary since his debut for DC Comics, and in the past eight decades there have been a lot of great Batman stories from some amazing writers and illustrators. They’ve taken Bruce Wayne’s story in so many different directions, through so many different perspectives, and in so many different styles that each great Batman story is as fresh and exciting as the next, with each one influencing the Batman mythos in one way or another.
In celebration of the Dark Knight turning 80 and the recent Batman Day last September 21, we’ve listed down five graphic novels that we think anyone interested in getting into Batman stories should definitely check out.
Batman: Year One
What better way to start getting into Batman than the beginning. Originally published in 1987, Batman: Year One covers the first year of the careers of Bruce Wayne as The Caped Crusader and Jim Gordon as part of the Gotham City Police Department as well as the formation of their eventual friendship. Written by the legendary Frank Miller, Year One is one of the quintessential Batman stories and graphic novels around. It was also adapted into an animated feature back in 2011.
The Dark Knight Returns
Another classic Batman story by Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns tells an alternate story of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City. After being retired for a decade due to the death of Jason Todd ten years prior, Bruce, now 55-years-old, dons the cowl once again to fight crime in a dystopian Gotham against a new criminal gang, Two-Face, the Joker, and more. The story ultimately culminates in a battle between Batman and Superman. Originally published in 1986, the story of The Dark Knight Returns would shape the tone for Batman for years to come.
The Long Halloween
Hailed as one of the definite Batman graphic novels, The Long Halloween, written by Jeph Loeb and originally published in 1996, tells one of the most engaging and intricate stories in the character’s history. While the story focuses on a mysterious new killer named Holiday, it also brings in a slew of Batman characters and villains including the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison, Ivy, the Riddler, Calendar Man, and more. The Long Halloween also shows the events that lead up to Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face.
The Killing Joke
In spite of its relatively shorter length, The Killing Joke is one of the most popular Batman stories ever written and undoubtedly the definitive Joker story. In The Killing Joke, writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland present a more tragic Joker origin story in an attempt to show the psychological similarities and contrasts of Batman and Joker. It also laid down the foundation for Barbara Gordon to eventually become Oracle and many of its elements have influenced future Batman stories, whether in comics or other media.
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Originally published in 1989, Arkham Asylum is one of the most unique Batman graphic novels out there. Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean, the story follows Batman as he attempts to stop a riot that has taken over Arkham Asylum. In the process, he ends up learning about how the psychiatric hospital was built as well as the history of its founder. The story and artwork of Arkham Asylum are so surreal and twisted that the book feels like a visual journey into the insanity of the hospital’s residents.