As much as I love Spider-Man and Superman, Batman is the one that EVERYONE knows and loves. In my twenty seven years on the planet I have never met anyone who does not like Batman in some form or another. The character is everywhere, ever present in pop culture from the comics themselves to the latest superhero movie releases from Warner Brothers.
Batman as a franchise crosses media like no other with more huge successes than fumbling messes. From blockbuster movies to ground braking TV and animated shows to thought provoking AAA video games. Batman is the guy to beat.
Today is the day that DC Comics (that’s Detective Comics Comics named after the very book Batman first appeared in) has designated as, Batman Day in honour of their most successful character hitting 75 years of awesomeness.
75 years of Batman. 75 Years of stories.
75 years of people outside of comic books completely misunderstanding the basics and key elements of key elements and characters like Robin. 75 years of people loving the character in all his forms.
So go celebrate by indulging yourself with the latest Batman comic books out today or go ahead and grab some classic stories for a steal in ComiXology’s current sale of over 750 Batman comic books.
you can stay here and read about why the Dark Knight and his word is a deeply personal for me. Followed by of course some recommendations for you to check out.
The Batman of today is known to the majority of people as a dark and brooding figure, with a deep gravely voice. Always prepared and always alone. A lone figure standing against the tsunami of crime that constantly envelops Gotham City. The most well known interpretations of which these days are the Dark Knight trilogy of films from Christopher Nolan and the Arkham video games series from Rocksteady and WB Games. Each grim and gritty in their own way with the Arkham games being more willing to dip into the absurd and weirder sides of the character.
For me though my Batman journey began with the Adam West TV Show. When I was a kid it was regularly repeated on TV. I don’t remember on which channels, I just remember Batman, Robin, the bright colours and the adventure. I watched it at just the right age to enjoy the action and find the campishness of it funny to a degree. (It is only now that I can truly appreciate the show’s particular brand of humour fully)
My obsession with the show culminated in me being given a VHS tape of Batman: The Movie which over the years I have watched god knows how many times. It is one of my favourite movies. It is pure joy to watch as both a piece of media from a time gone by and a fun family movie.
I think that because I came to Batman by way of Adam West and Burt Ward walking up the sides of buildings I tend to love the wacky side of the character a lot more than most people. When the crazy hits the fan in a Batman book I am the first one to declare it the best thing ever. From being killed and sent back in time to fight his way to the future because a dying god knew that Batman is the only one who could do it and provide the energy generated from said shenanigans to fuel their last ditch attempt to destroy everything in existence (true story). To being lost in the newest fear gas concoction that The Scarecrow has cooked up causing the video game I am playing to start messing with my head. To beating a lion in combat with his bare hands. This is the Batman I love. The one that faces truly impossible and crazy odds and still manages to win the day. Every time.
Do not get me wrong though, I love the grim and gritty side of the character too. Some of my favourite Batman stories are the more grounded ones. The murder mysteries, the suspense filled thrillers, the just down right depressing tales that hit home far to often. Batman as a character and an idea fits any story and situation. That’s what is brilliant about him.
The global brand of popularity the character enjoys forces this upon the franchise meaning that the more you dig into it the more acceptable things like Batman fighting off alien invaders standing side by side with Superman one week then solving a straight up homicide case the next becomes. He is more versatile than his utility belt and that is the true magic of the character. Batman constantly shifts and changes to reflect the themes of the day and as a result the character has a rich, detailed and crazy history full of whimsy and beautiful stories.
One major aspect of the character that for me, always seems to be left out or sidelined is Batman’s family. Characters like Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and more always seem to be left out of any look at what makes Batman, Batman. Which is incredibly weird because as any long time Batman reader will tell you, these characters are crucial not only to the Batman mythos but show that beneath the cold and rough exterior is still a little boy who wants nothing more than his family back. Personally I find the continuing reluctance to include these characters in current non-comic book interpretations of the character a crime.
Batman needs Robin just as much as he needs Alfred. The movies get so much right by including key villains and references to the wider Batman and DC Universes but still characters like Dick Greyson and Barbara Gordon are nowhere to be seen. It is an odd omission from the cinematic Batman. (And no, John Blake from the Dark Knight Rises does not count. He was not and will never be “Robin” and that particular throwaway line was a slap in the face to me!)
The other enduring aspect of the character that has helped his longevity is that he is just a man. Albeit Bruce Wayne is a very extraordinary man with a bank balance so big that his crime fighting costs are a mere dip in the ocean of his personal wealth. Still, he is a powerless superhero who regularly stands toe to toe against people far more powerful than him. His intelligence and preparedness often winning the day.
I suppose that is where the character’s ultimate appeal lays. He is a representation of the pinnacle of what man can achieve. A self taught man, with an unwavering sense of what is right and wrong. Incredibly intelligent with a family he has put together himself out of a sheer force of will. Unlike his Marvel counterpart Iron Man, Batman more often than not relies on his finely honed martial arts skills and never give up attitude rather than brute mechanical force. But when called for he can and will bring out the big guns and wipe the floor with any opponent.
For me though, Batman will always be the slightly eccentric billionaire doing everything he can to protect his city and when called for, the world, from threats of all shapes and sizes. The crazier and grander the better. That’s my Batman. That’s what Batman has been for 75 years. That’s what Batman will be for the next 75 years.
To wrap things up here is a list of my personal favourites and recommendations of all things Batman!
Favourite Batman Movie
The Dark Knight
While I have already professed my love of the Adam West starring, Batman: The Movie. The Dark Knight is in on a whole different league of films. My second favourite comic book movie of all time (Avengers has the top spot naturally), The Dark Knight is a film I happily watch 2-3 times a year.
For me it is a near perfect film. The action and set-pieces still amaze to this day and the characters ooze with detail. There is a great undercurrent of tension throughout the whole film and pretty much everyone involved is doing some of their best work on screen. It is a film I defend from all the naysayers. They say it is too long, I say it could easily have had another hour of awesome. They say the editing makes the film hard to follow, I say it’s a movie and it is not hard to follow if you pay attention while watching it like you are supposed to! They say that The Joker overshadows Batman for the majority of the film, I say HE’S THE JOKER WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?!
I love it as both a movie in its own right and as a piece of comic book entertainment.
Favourite Batman Animated Movie
Batman: Mask of The Phantasm
If you ever encounter someone who has never watched the ground breaking Batman: The Animated Series get them to watch Mask of The Phantasm as soon as possible. It serves as a brilliant introduction to the animated Batman, a great origin story and as a brilliant end point. It is a self contained story that hits all the key things every great Batman tale has to have.
Also because this is a film rather than an average episode of the series it stretches its legs a bit. Taking more time to focus on the quieter character defining moments between the mystery and the punching. It is also just a tiny bit edgier and more adult than the Animated Series. So it is a great transitional piece for more mature Batman fan into the wonderful world of DC Comics Animation.
Favourite Batman Animated Series
Batman: Beyond/Batman of the Future
While Batman: The Animated Series is required viewing for any self respecting fan of the Dark Knight, Batman: Beyond (called Batman of the Future in the UK) is a great cartoon that tries something different with the Batman formula. Casting Bruce Wayne as an old man reluctantly training a new ward Terry McGinnis in how to be Batman against a backdrop of a futuristic Gotham City inspired by Blade Runner and Cyberpunk Anime. Beyond stands apart from almost every other take on Batman.
New villains, some of which are really good and interesting re-imaginings of the old favourites too. This is a very fun and deep cartoon. Also don’t forget to check out the special “Epilogue” episode that ends series two of Justice League Unlimited to truly get the full story and a tear in your eye.
Favourite Batman Video Game
Batman: Arkham City
While Arkham Asylum is technically the better designed game with a tighter story, Arkham City’s freedom is a Batman fan’s wet dream. The area of Gotham City that the game is set in is packed full of references and nods to stories from both the comics and Batman: The Animated Series. It also has a wider cross-section of Batman’s rogues gallery that leads the game into some interesting territory. There is also punching, lots and lots of punching which is always good!
Batman Comic Book Recommendations
The Dark Knight Returns
While it is really starting to show its age and its more right wing leaning politics you cannot deny The Dark Knight Knight Returns impact on both Batman as a character and comics as a medium. A bleak but colourful comic that forced the medium (along with Watchmen) to grow up into a mature art form that has since gone from strength to strength. It is required reading for both the Batman fan and the comic book aficionado.
The Long Halloween
I love The Long Halloween so much that I forked out the cash for the oversized Absolute Edition several years ago. The book is one of the main sources of inspiration for the Nolan Batman films and has some of the most beautiful and breathtaking comic book art ever committed to the page from Tim Sale. A long form story full of intrigue and fully realised characters. Set in the early “Year One” time period of Batman history it is very new reader friendly too!
While I have already written about the virtues of Hush as a Batman comic in the past. It is worth repeating that this is a must read greatest hits style story with awesome art from Jim Lee. Again similar to The Long Halloween (also from the same writer, Jeph Loeb) it is very new reader friendly despite, in this case covering a broad ground of Batman comic tropes and recurring themes.
War Games is an often overlooked Batman event storyline but for me it holds a special place in my heart. This is because it is the storyline to showed me the wider world of the Caped Crusader’s life. War Games is packed to the brim with Batman villains and allies. All wrapped up in an action packed story that is focus on what happens when Batman’s need to plan for everything goes too far.
Grant Morrison’s Batman Run
Grant Morrison’s almost decade long run with Batman across multiple books and series has resulted in some of the best Batman stories I have ever read and also probably the best long form comic book story I have had the pleasure of reading. Almost every arc and issue feeds into the larger narrative in someway or another. At its core though it is about Batman having a son and paying the ultimate price for scorning a woman he loved.
It ranges from Batman and Son introducing Damian Wayne to readers to Batman dying and being lost in time and ending with Batman becoming a global brand of Justice protecting the world from evil. It is grand, spectacular and compelling reading. Provided you can keep up with Grant Morrison’s tendency to throw ideas at the page and seeing what sticks.
In Particular check out: Batman: The Black Glove, Batman RIP, The Return of Bruce Wayne, Batman and Robin, Batman: Incorporated (both Pre and Post New 52)
Superman/Batman: All of it!
Anther long form series to sink your teeth into. Superman/Batman is an incredibly fun series that was published from 2003-2011 and I love every issue of it. Focusing on Superman and Batman’s friendship and the conflicting similarities/differences between them. Each story is crazy fun. This is not a book to take seriously so just sit back and enjoy the action.
The New 52 Batman: Scott Snyder’s perfect Batman
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are managing the impossible with each story arc they churn out in one of the New 52’s strongest titles. From a strong start with the Court of Owls to then telling one of the best Joker stories ever written this book just gets better and better. Snyder’s Batman incorporates all the elements of Batman’s colourful history and turns Batman into a rich character who truly stands the test of time. This series is redefining Batman for the next generation and it is spectacular to watch it unfold month in month out.
Go. Read. It. Now.