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75 Greatest Batman Stories: #3-1

by  in Comic News Comment
75 Greatest Batman Stories: #3-1

In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Batman, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Batman, culminating with the official 75th anniversary of Batman on July 23rd. We’ve done Batman covers, Batman characters, Batman creastors and now, finally, Batman stories!

You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 75 Greatest Batman Stories! Here are #3-1!


NOTE: Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section. If you are not a fan of a particular creator, that’s fine, but be respectful about it. No insulting creators or otherwise being a jerk about creators. I’ll be deleting any comments like that and, depending on how jerky the comment was, banning commenters.

3. “The Career of Batman Jones” (Batman #108)

Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris delivered this classic about a young boy named after Batman who decides to become a crimefigher in his own right…

Batman figures that if he humors him, he’ll eventually grow out of it, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happens…

Come on, Scott Snyder, where is Batman Jones in Batman Eternal!?

Oh, and yes, on to the actual countdown…

3. “The Killing Joke” (Batman: The Killing Joke)

The Killing Joke is a remarkable one-off story by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland that works as basically a Joker origin story (“basically” because it has never been officially determined that this version of the Joker’s origin story is the TRUE origin of the Joker), showing events that turned a decent enough guy down on his luck into the madman known as the Joker. The Joker loos at his own circumstances and develops a theory – he became the Joker because, in effect, he had one really bad day. Therefore, could he break a good man by giving THAT man just “one bad day,” as well? The man that the Joker chooses to test his theory on is Commissioner Gordon, which leads to one of the most famous sequences in DC Comics history…

We then see how the Joker becomes the Joker in the past while we intercut with the modern day Joker torturing Gordon. Batman rescues Gordon but we see that the Joker did not win – he did not break Gordon…

However, can Batman bring himself to just bring the Joker in one more time after what the Joker did today? When the two men share a joke, is it really the final joke that they’ll ever share?

Bolland took a long time to draw this series (well worth the wait) so this project would be difficult to be any more hyped than it was when it finally came out (Alan Moore doing a Batman graphic novel with Brian Bolland?!?!) and yet it still managed to exceed the hype.

Go to the next page for #2…

2. “The Dark Knight Returns” (Batman: The Dark Knight #1-4)

The Dark Knight Returns is one of the most influential Batman comics, well, ever, really. In his four-issue series set 10 years after Bruce Wayne retired as Batman, Frank Miller (with inker Klaus Janson and colorist Lynn Varley) basically established the way Batman would be presented in comics for the next…well…28 years and counting!

The comic is literally about the return of the Dark Knight, as Bruce Wayne realizes that his city needs Batman again, so he, well, returns.

Miller plays with the concept (not originated by Miller but certainly cemented by Miller) that perhaps Batman’s existence draws OUT the crazies in an action-reaction deal.

As soon as Batman returns, so, too, does Two-Face and the Joker.

The other major characters in the story (besides Alfred) are Carrie Kelly, the teenaged girl who becomes the new Robin…

and Superman, whose conflict with Batman makes up the finale to the series (Superman is depicted as a servant of the United States)…

Miller’s art is in strong form in the series, especially the action sequences, which are dramatic as all hell.

Batman has three (one is a two-parter) extremely memorable fights in this series.

The first is against the leader of the Mutants, the screwed up gang of thugs who are terrorizing Gotham (in his first night back, Batman saves Carrie Kelly from a pair of them, leading to her wanting to become Robin), where Batman tries to compete like he was still young…

The second is a chilling conflict with the Joker, who figures out the best way (in his mind) to “beat” Batman – it’s quite twisted.

The third is the aforementioned battle between Superman and Batman, where we see perhaps the debut of the whole “if Batman had enough prep time, he could beat anyone” mode of handling Batman.

So yeah, Dark Knight Returns – major comic book work.

Go to the next page for #1…

1. “Year One” (Batman #404-407)

Whatever aspects of the Batman character weren’t already re-defined by Frank Miller in his Dark Knight Returns series were done so with this landmark new origin for Batman, courtesy of writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli.

The story tells the tale of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon, and how one man became Batman and the other became the symbol of honest cops in Gotham City (Harvey Dent also plays an important role, but Batman and Gordon’s stories are the main ones in the story).

Originally, Bruce tried to be a vigilante without a costume. It did not go well. He barely gets home alive and that’s when a new idea comes to him…

That this story was the basis for the blockbuster film, Batman Begins, is of no surprise, since Miller writes the story in a totally cinematic style, and Mazzucchelli’s brilliant artwork certainly has a cinematic style to it, as well.

This is especially evident in the way that Miller uses the passage of time via calendars. Check it out in this legendary sequence from the second issue of the story, as Jim Gordon tries to get extra support to take down Batman but his superiors ignored him…

What a great use of the passage of time.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the comic is just how strong of a character Jim Gordon is in it. He truly works as the co-lead of the story. While writers certainly had done solo Gordon stories before this storyline, never had he gotten the attention Miller gave him, and a result, Gordon HAS had the same attention since.

Richmond Lewis’ colors should get some attention – she does a marvelous job setting the mood. Very evocative washes.

Add it all together and you have an engaging and entertaining new origin for Batman as we see him go from green vigilante to a trusted friend of the Gotham City police (as the police also go from being totally corrupt to only being significantly corrupt – a major step up!).

NOTE: The votes between #1 and #2 were the closest I’ve ever seen on one of these polls. They were separated by less than five points total. Just crazy.

That’s the list! I hope you all had fun with it!

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