Assorted Batman Stories from the Past 28 Years

500-2 Last month, I looked at my collection of Superman comics. I had so much fun writing about the not-quite random assortment of Superman stories and titles that I thought I’d do it again with Batman. Once again, I’ve never been a consistent Batman collector. I love the character (I once dressed up as Batman for Halloween as a little kid). But by the time I started buying comics regularly, there were so many Batman titles that it was hard to know where to begin (of course, I didn’t have that problem with the X-Men- I just bought everything). So here it is: an assortment of Batman stories that have caught my attention over the years.

Detective Comics #500 (March, 1981):
I would have bought this out of a back issue box at some point. I don’t remember exactly when, but I do remember why. The promise of 7 “special stories.” The list of prominent creators, including Joe Kubert and Walt Simonson. The cover with its numerous guest-stars, including Hawkman, Hawkwoman and the Elongated Man. Happily, the stories between the covers lived up to my expectations. This issue falls right in the midst of the best of Batman. Len Wein is one of my favorite writers, in general and on Batman, and this comes near the end of his tenure. Jim Aparo is one of the artists whose style defines Batman for me. Having those two as the creative team for the main story was exhilarating. Everything else- Hawkman by Joe Kubert, Elongated Man by Mike Barr and J.L. Garcia-Lopez- was just icing on the cake.

Batman #436-442 (Aug.-Dec., 1989):
Even though I like Batman (as I mentioned in my introductory paragraph), I’m more of a team fan, a Titans fan and a Nightwing fan. And that pretty much explains why I bought these issues. The first four are the “Year 3” story by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick, re-telling the origin of Dick Grayson as Robin. The final three are part of the “Lonely Place of Dying” crossover with New Titans in which Bruce and Dick mourn for Jason Todd in their own ways while Tim Drake discovers their secret identities in an attempt to convince them that the world needs a Robin. It’s great stuff. I’ve probably re-read this short run more than any other Batman stories.

1267_400x600 Batman: Prodigal (Nov. 1994-Jan. 1995):I’ll admit it: I like Knightfall. I thought it was a great, epic story. But I don’t actually own it, as I borrowed it from a friend. So we skip to this epilogue of a sort. Dick Grayson was miffed that Bruce had asked Jean-Paul Valley to fill in as Batman instead of him. So, now, shortly after reclaiming the cowl as his own, Bruce takes an intentional leave of absence so that Dick can have a turn. It’s not always a great story as it jumps through four titles, with a varied quality among its creative teams.
But, as a Dick Grayson/Nightwing fan, it’s a story that always brings a smile to my face. And, with contributions by Chuck Dixon and Phil Jimenez,
it’s occasionally a very well-told and well-drawn story, too.

BatmanThrillkillerNewPrinti Batman: Thrillkiller and Thrillkiller ’62 (1997-98): I love this one. It’s an Elseworlds story by artist Dan Brereton of Nocturnals fame. It features a sexy romance between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon as an adult Robin and Batgirl. It’s a highly stylized noir story. It’s just really different, and really good. And the sequel, with Dick as Batman, Barbara as Robin and a gang of Joker ladies as the villains, is even better.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83, Batman #563, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #120, Batman: Day of Judgment (March- November 1999):
At this point, you might notice that my Batman collection mirrors my Superman collection. They both include ‘80s arcs by favorite creators like John Byrne, Marv Wolfman and George Perez. 83-1 And they both include ‘90s events, as I dropped in on the titles to see what was going on. These four issues represent a sampling of the big Batman crossover “No Man’s Land.” I would have picked up these issues based on their cool covers (the new Batgirl by Tony Harris, Joker by J. Scott Campbell) or because they featured supporting characters like Nightwing and Robin. I wouldn’t have picked up more because the few issues I did buy were either disappointing or misleading. For example, the Joker doesn’t actually appear in the issue for which he’s on the cover. The disappointment was more of a spillover effect because I was annoyed by the way in which Nightwing’s own storylines were being interrupted by the big crossover. Even so, I kind of like the underlying story with Batman’s supporting cast caught in a modern wasteland, fighting against chaos and anarchy.

Batman #575-581 (March-September 2000):
Once again, my Batman collection mirrors my Superman comics. Only a couple of months after giving the Superman titles their first real chance, I did the same for Batman. I was drawn in by the creative team of Larry Hama, whose work I had loved on Wolverine, and Scott McDaniel, who had been a star on Nightwing. They started out with a bunch of done-in-one stories focusing on street level criminals, before moving on to a trilogy against new villain Orca. I’m not entirely sure why I dropped the series after only half a year, but it’s possible the Orca trilogy had something to do with it.

Batman #655-658 (Sept.-Dec. 2006):
And the correlation continues. As with Superman, I gave the Batman line another chance as part of One Year Later. This time, the creative team of Grant Morrison, whose work I loved on JLA, and Andy Kubert, whose work I loved on the X-titles, were the draw. And the opening story, “Batman and Son,” featuring Batman’s son Damian as an annoyingly precocious adolescent, is incredible. Plus, Morrison brings in Man-Bat as a second villain. It’s hard to beat that. And the Kubert art is simply gorgeous.

Batman #663 (April 2007):
I skipped most of the Batman fill-ins. That’s one difference between my Batman and Superman collections. But I actually picked up this predominantly prose story by Grant Morrison with illustrations by John Van Fleet. This is probably the scariest Joker story I’ve ever read, beating even Alan Moore’s “Killing Joke.” It’s downright creepy. Batman-667-001

Batman #666-669 (July to Nov. 2007):
This is the story that broke me from my most recent Batman habit. I loved the idea of an international gang of Batmen. I just like international heroes and kooky ideas like this. But the story fell apart for me somewhere along the way. I was pretty much confused before it was done. Grant Morrison is like a mad genius. Sometimes, he’s genius (see the previous two entries). Sometimes, he’s mad, as in crazy, and I have a lower tolerance for that than a lot of other readers.

And that’s an assortment of comics from my Batman collection. I didn’t mention everything, but that should give you a general idea of what I like and what I’ve bought. It’s only about half the size of my Superman collection. For some reason, I’ll try two Superman titles at a time, but only one Batman title. And I have yet to hit upon a long run of collecting Batman, as I have with Superman over the past couple of years. Of course, I also have a long run of Batman and the Outsiders. But that’s another story.

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Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on August 15, 2009 at 11:06am
Good post. Chris. I loved the Thrillkiller stuff as well. You assessment of Grant Morrison mirrors my thoughts on him.
Comment by Chris Fluit on August 15, 2009 at 11:16am
Thanks for the comments, Travis.
Comment by Batmatt Beyond on August 15, 2009 at 2:08pm
You're probably right that the Orca story led you to drop Batman in 2000. DC had charged Hama to write a superheroic Batman in Batman, but the whole Orca thing felt a little too Haney-esque for Batman in that era. Hama was off the book immediately following that story. Had I known who Brian K. Vaughan was at the time, I would have kept buying the book. He wrote his Matches Malone story shortly (maybe immediately) after the Orca story ended.

If you ever get a chance, pick up some Grant/Wagner/Breyfogle stuff from the late 80's and early 90s. I've said it a thousand and one times, but that's my favorite era of Batman and Detective. Most of the stories were done-in-one (done-in-four, at most), and featured some quirky and creepy new villains. I've been introducing Mrs. Beyond to that run over the last few months, and she's really loving the Breyfogle art, too. He always gave you at least one cool image of Batman per page while still telling the story with that image.
Comment by Figserello on August 16, 2009 at 1:05am
Loved the Breyfogle stuff myself. That was good Batman.

Alan Davis drew an excellent short run in Detective around the time of Crisis (possibly just after) It seemed to meld the serious post-DKR Batman with the 60s camp. It doesn't get enough props.

Regarding the Black Glove/Club of International Batmen arc, the art was just astounding. JHW III, man! What tripped me up while reading it, and I had to read it a few times to get it, was that The Knight character and the Wingman characters looked very similar and as one was a traitor and the other was the biggest assistance to Batman in the story, that was a real stumbling block.

Especially when Grant's writing doesn't keep saying who's who as the story goes on.

I did have to read it a few times to get everything that was going on there, but there is a lot to enjoy in it, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it again.
Comment by Chris Fluit on August 18, 2009 at 2:42am
Thanks for confirming my thoughts on those stories guys. You pretty much summed up why I didn't like the Orca or the International Batmen stories.
Comment by Figserello on August 18, 2009 at 3:52am
We all expect different things from our comics, but did you read it in monthly form and with a month between reads? Not the best way to enjoy stories like this.

And I have to ask, what criteria did you use to pick the comics in the article? 28 years is a long time...

And why do you think you have so much time for Nightwing? How are you enjoying the latest phase of his career? Batman & Robin is a kind of sequel to Prodigal

I'm just being nosey now!
Comment by Chris Fluit on August 18, 2009 at 10:59am
We all expect different things from our comics, but did you read it in monthly form and with a month between reads? Not the best way to enjoy stories like this.

Yeah, I was reading it monthly.

And I have to ask, what criteria did you use to pick the comics in the article? 28 years is a long time...

I just started with the oldest issue of Batman that I own. And then I wrote about the issues I felt like talking about (skipping over a few that I didn't).

And why do you think you have so much time for Nightwing?

Nightwing has long been one of my favorite characters. The Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans was one of the cornerstone books of my youth. I liked everyone on the team but I especially identified with Nightwing. I also felt like we grew up together. Nightwing was always a little older than me. He was a teen when I was a pre-teen. He was in his 20s when I was a teen. And so on. Then, the Dixon/McDaniel/Land Nightwing series was one of the first titles I bought regularly when I came back to comics as an adult. He's just always a character who's been there for me and close to me.

How are you enjoying the latest phase of his career? Batman & Robin is a kind of sequel to Prodigal

As you mentioned earlier, Morrison reads better in trade. I really enjoyed All-Star Superman that way and decided to take the same approach with Batman & Robin.
Comment by Batmatt Beyond on August 19, 2009 at 5:43pm
I was planning to tradewait Batman & Robin, too, but I decided to try the first issue to see if I would even be interested in a trade. Admittedly, we're only two issues into the run, but it reads really well as a monthly thus far. Morrison tells a straightforward story in this series, rather than a complex mindbender as he did with his Batman run. I also love J.H. Williams' art on "The Black Glove" story, but his style wasn't the best for a murder mystery. It made an already confusing story even more hard to follow.

I'm preparing my August Previews list as we "speak", and I'm thinking about cutting my Bat-consumption down to Batman & Robin and Detective..


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