The Best (And Most Important) Batman Comics Of All-Time

Fans are getting ready to see yet another cinematic version of Batman on the big screen, as Matt Reeves prepares his new, youthful take on the Dark Knight. The director revealed the film will focus more on the detective aspects of Bruce Wayne and feature multiple villains, though Reeves hasn't revealed any specific storylines as inspiration for the tentatively-titled The Batman.

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Of course, there is no shortage of great Batman stories for Reeves to draw from, especially considering DC gets ready to celebrate the character's 80th anniversary. We are going to take a look at a few of not only the best Batman comics but also the most important to the character of Bruce Wayne and the mythology built around him.

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Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger and first appeared in Detective Comics #27,  but it wasn't until Detective Comics #33 that fans got the first glimpse at the origins of the character. The murder of young Bruce's parents by a mugger was first shown in this issue, the first of many retellings of the dark but iconic beginnings of the Bat.

Bruce Wayne's childhood candlelit vow to avenge his parents coupled with the epiphany for his costumed identity are two key moments in the Dark Knight's origin that also make their first appearances in this issue.


Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's "Year One" storyline that began in Batman #404 took place in the first year of Bruce Wayne's career as a crime fighter, which coincided with Jim Gordon's first year in Gotham as a police officer.

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While Wayne formulated his identity of Batman (largely by trial an error), Gordon was forced to find his way on a corrupt police force that didn't have his back. "Year One" developed Batman and Gordon's ongoing partnership during the darkest days of Gotham City, two soldiers coming up in the trenches told wonderfully by Miller and Mazzucchelli.


Following the success of "Year One," the superstar team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale followed in the same vein and told another year-long tale from the Dark Knight's life. The limited series focused on the mystery behind the Holiday Killer, while also telling the story of Harvey Dent and his partnership with Batman and Commissioner Gordon before his fateful transformation into Two-Face.

Sales' beautiful art featured a distinct take on Batman's greatest villains and the series detailed the evolution of Gotham's rogues into full-blown supervillains. The Long Halloween also spawned two sequel series from Loeb and Sale, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome.


Any look at important stories from the storied history of Batman would be incomplete without the first appearance of his young partner Dick Grayson, who first appeared in “Robin the Boy Wonder” by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson. The issue introduces young Dick, whose parents were murdered in front of Bruce Wayne and the rest of the circus by the Zucco Gang.

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Wayne adopts young Dick as his ward and trains the boy to be his partner, Robin. Together the pair take down Zucco and his gang, accomplishing something Batman was never able to do himself, as the Wayne murders went unsolved in most continuities.


A Death In The Family

Unfortunately, Batman's history with Robins isn't always great. Following Dick Grayson's decision to quit as Robin, Batman replaced his former partner with street tough Jason Todd. Fans were not happy that Grayson had been replaced by Todd, and DC Comics launched a phone-in voting campaign to decide the fate of Jason Todd.

Fans voted to kill the young hero, and "A Death in the Family" featured his violent death at the hands of the Joker, who beat Robin viciously with a crowbar before setting a bomb and blowing up the boy wonder in the unforgettable scene from Batman #427.


The Killing Joke Barbara Gordon

Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke took a close look at a few key players of Gotham City - Batman, the Joker, and the Gordons. This one-shot, which was originally considered a non-canon story, told a possible origin story for the Joker, whose origins as the criminal known as the Red Hood were largely still shrouded in mystery.

RELATED: Joker Set Photos Reveal A Killing Joke Connection

The iconic graphic novel also featured the graphic paralyzing of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, which would later become a part of the mainstream continuity when the character would reappear as Oracle. The Killing Joke helps define the unique relationship between Batman and the Joker by revealing the extremes each character can reach when pushed to their limit.


Bane breaking Batman's back in Knightfall

Bane was a new villain that was introduced in the 90s who proved to both a physical and intellectual threat to the Batman. Arriving in Gotham City with the goal of defeating Batman, Bane easily uncovers Batman's identity, then sets about wearing down the hero by releasing the inmates of Arkham Asylum onto the streets of Gotham City.

Bane watched Batman push himself to the limits over and over again to regain control of his city, and only when Bruce was at his weakest did Bane attack. Bruce Wayne suffered the single greatest defeat of his career at the hands of Bane, who famously broke the Batman's back in Batman #497.


The Tower of Babel

To truly understand the extremes Batman is prepared to go one needs to step outside Gotham City and examine some of Batman's adventures with the Justice League. In particular, "Tower of Babel" by Mark Waid, Howard Porter, and Steve Scott, which reveals that Batman had created plans to neutralize his fellow members of the League in the event they were to go rogue.

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Unfortunately, Batman's plans were stolen by Ra's Al Ghul and put to good use against the League, creating seeds of doubt and distrust between Batman and the rest of the DC superheroes. This storyline perfectly exemplified Bruce's steadfast dedication to his mission to protect innocents, even if it meant having to take out his friends and allies.


Batman Hush

Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's 12-issue "Hush" storyline is basically the perfect snapshot of everything that makes the Dark Knight who he is, while also featuring every villain and supporting character that matters in Batman's life. This series is also known for making Batman and Catwoman's romantic relationship official for the first time in comic history.

While "Hush" tells a compelling story as the Batman struggles to solve a mystery revolving around a new villain known as Hush, it also features incredible art from Jim Lee that even includes one of the best Batman vs Superman fights ever seen in comics.


Dark Knight Returns

It's nearly impossible to discuss the best and most important Batman comics without talking about Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley's epic The Dark Knight Returns. The 4-issue series was set in a future Gotham City with an aged Bruce Wayne long retired as the Batman as he is forced to return to the streets to save his city.

MORE: Comic Legends: How Did Dark Knight Returns End in Miller's Original Plot?

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