Batbooks To Keep In Your Utility Belt...
opening of Batman
Begins, we always have the hope that interested moviegoers
will wander into a comic book store or a website with links
to Amazon looking for "the good stuff," Batman comics or collections
that will recapture the buzz the movie gave them.
For monthlies, DC has a wide variety of titles that feature
Batman. Perhaps the best right now is the actual Batman,
written by Judd Winick with art by Doug Mahnke. The two
deal with Batman in the most mainstream superhero interpretation,
with last month's issue featuring a cameo by Superman. Over
in Detective Comics, David Lapham has been telling
a dark and gritty crime tale that may take casual readers
But if you are a casual reader, you want to pick
up something self-contained, and you don't want to gamble.
You want the best of Batman that a store can offer. Fortunately,
we can help. Following are some good places to start if
you want to enjoy the graphic adventures of the Dark Knight.
Writer/artist Frank Miller (Sin City) had earlier
wowed fans with a look at the end of Batman's career. It
wasn't that big a stretch, then, for him to examine the
beginnings. With artist David Mazzucchelli, Miller spun
a tale that barely features the Bat, instead focusing on
the man. Young Bruce Wayne (specified as 25 here) may have
anger issues towards criminals, but he isn't yet the fearsome
creature of the night that keeps Gotham safe.
elements of Batman Begins originate here, including
a younger Lieutenant James Gordon. Until Miller, nobody
had really thought to explore Gordon's humble beginnings.
filmmakers also nod toward this work with Wayne first donning
a ski mask and being a little overconfident in his ability
to leap from rooftop to rooftop. If the straight-up superheroism
of Batman makes you uncomfortable, this book is your best
The Killing Joke
Some people consider this the single best Batman story ever
written. Coming from the mind of Alan Moore, definitely
one of the best comic book writers ever, this tale pits
Batman against his greatest enemy, The Joker.
same time, it offers a tremendous character study of both.
Those who consider Batman insane love this book for making
the point that he and the Clown Prince of Crime have more
in common than not.
from beautiful art by Brian Bolland, The Killing Joke
also had a lasting impact on continuity. Just for kicks
and to tick off Batman, The Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara
Gordon, the daughter of the Commissioner.
he didn't know was that Barbara was also Batgirl, thus ending
one phase of her career as a crimefighter. (The failed WB
series Birds of Prey even used the scene.) For its
time, it was a shocking moment, and though Barbara recovered
and has become the information broker known as Oracle, fans
can point to this as the moment that Batman passed into
a darker era, albeit one he may have originally started
The Long Halloween
Though Batman is obviously known for his weird villains,
he can be just as effective facing the evil that ordinary
men can do. In this collection, originally a year-long series,
writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale chart Batman's first
year of struggles with the mobs of Gotham City, while also
trying to capture a serial killer calling himself "Holiday."
moody and gripping, this book puts mob boss Carmine Falcone
in the spotlight, a character David S. Goyer could not forget
for Batman Begins. He also paid tribute to this story
by naming the movie's Commissioner after Loeb, who teamed
with Sale on a follow-up, Dark
that provides the rationale for Gotham's underworld to have
become so colorful and outright nuts.
important contributions from Loeb to the Bat-mythos include
the creation of the villain "Hush."
The Dark Knight Returns
Often credited as the graphic novel that got people talking
about Batman again, this story features a Bruce Wayne that
has long been retired. Sick of his culture's decline, he
dons cape and cowl once more. Unfortunately, that attracts
the attention of his old foes, and one very ticked off Superman.
When they mix it up, bad things happen.
Frank Miller wrote and drew this, making
his career and saving Batman's. In recent years, Miller
returned for a sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again,
that veered into more overtly satirical waters than the
first book. Of the two, The Dark Knight Returns is
the stronger work, and absolutely worth your attention.
War on Crime
Or "Alex Ross' Vision of Batman." The second of six over-sized
editions designed to show off Ross' incredible painting,
War On Crime features a very human Batman facing
the root causes of the misery in the poorer sections of
Gotham City. The text gets lost in the sweep of the art,
but at least one of writer Paul Dini's ideas echo in Batman
Begins as Bruce Wayne learns early on to have some sense
of mercy toward those who are as much victims as criminals
Archives, Vol. 1
Goyer and Director Christopher Nolan went back to these
stories as their base. Though the character is credited
to Bob Kane, the young artist actually contracted a stable
of creators to flesh out his basic idea, so let's credit
the work of writer Bill Finger and artist Jerry Robinson
as well. This book collects the first year or so of Batman's
appearances in Detective Comics, with many elements
that will surprise you.
Though obviously crude by today's standards,
the stories still have energy, and can be read in quick
bursts. Go back to the beginning and marvel at how this
1939 creation can still be so fresh in 2005.
If you're intrigued by villain R'as al
Ghul, played by Ken Watanabe in the film, DC has several
books available. The best of these still in print would
Son of the Demon,
which puts a unique spin on the rivalry between the immortal
madman and the hero he calls only "Detective." Though Batman
Begins never mentions it, it has been accepted comic
book lore that the name "R'as al Ghul" means "The Demon's
Head" in a proto-Arabic language. Son of the Demon
is actually part of an unofficial trilogy; if you can find
them, the other titles are Bride of the Demon and
Birth of the Demon.
The earliest appearances of R'as al Ghul
have also been collected in Batman:
Tales of the Demon,
mostly in tales written by the character's creator Dennis
DC has also released the first issues of
two mini-series focusing on R'as and The Scarecrow, but
again, these are serials. If you're venturing into a comic
book store for the first time, you're going to have to come
back to find out how the story ends. Of course, we hope
you would anyway, especially after reading one of the above