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 #6-4!
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.
6. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
On the one hand, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s graphic novel, Arkham Asylum, is built upon a fairly straightforward premise – the residents of Arkham Asylum have taken control of the facility and they will only stop killing people if Batman agrees to turn himself into the asylum…
However, that’s just the necessary set-up to allow Morrison to basically deliver a series of striking set pieces featuring the various members of Arkham Asylum, with Batman visiting many of his old foes in states never before seen.
Dave McKean does a fantastic job making the various villains seem almost like brand-new characters. Meanwhile, two actual brand-new characters, the head of the asylum and an ambitious therapist, play a key role in tying the whole thing in with the history of Arkham Asylum itself, as the asylum’s adminstrator believes that he is destined to follow in the path of Amadeus Arkham, who was haunted by a “bat creature.” Meanwhile, the therapist has been doing some sketchy approaches to the patients, including trying to expand Two-Face’s choices from a simple 50/50 coin toss to a die toss to a tarot card drawing – it’s driving Two-Face madder than he already was.
A comic like this nowadays would still be off the beaten path, but in 1989, it was like a whole new world – Morrison and McKean were delivering a story unlike any Batman story ever told.
Gaspar Saladino, by the way, needs to get major props for designing the various distinct lettering for each character in the book. Dude was already a lettering legend by this time, but he was in his 60s when this book came out and yet he still NAILED it. Very impressive.
5. Strange Apparitions (#469-479, less the reprinted parts of #477)
For whatever reason, Steve Englehart decided to leave Marvel in the late 70s, and quickly found work at DC, which was totally fine with taking on one of Marvel’s most prominent writers. Englehart began an acclaimed run on Justice League of America, and an equally acclaimed run on Detective Comics, with issue #469, where he began the story that would become known as Strange Apparitions.
Initially working with Walter Simonson but ultimately with Marshall Rogers, Englehart’s Batman stint was in many ways based on a similar structure to Jeph Loeb’s later Hush series, in that Englehart tried to work in as many major Batman villains into his story as he could, including re-introducing two early Batman foes that had fallen into disuse. Both of the villains, Hugo Strange and Deadshot, were rejuvenated by Englehart’s useage and later went on to prominent appearances in later stories. Deadshot, in particular, was an extremely minor villain that saw his coolness factor shoot up 736% percent when Marshall Rogers gave him one of the coolest costumes you ever will see (years later, it was that cool costume that piqued John Ostrander’s interest and got Deadshot a spot on the Suicide Squad).
Englehart had a good Penguin story, he had a good story involving Robin (he wanted at least one issue to involve Robin) and in the Laughing Fish, he had one of the best Joker stories of all-time (the Joker tries to get a federal trademark on fish that he has altered to have his Joker grin).
Englehart introduced a crime boss named Rupert Thorne who became a notable part of the Bat-mythos, as well as Silver St. Cloud, one of the best love interests Batman has ever had.
In one issue, Englehart even did some metafictional stuff by having Batman fight Deadshot on giant typewriters (evoking the 1950’s Batman comics) and in the fight, Silver makes a realization that few people ever had before…
Rogers stayed on the book for three more issues as Len Wein came in to wrap up any loose ends from Engelhart’s run, including writing Silver out of the book (people have mostly treated Silver St. Cloud as Englehart’s baby, and usually only he writes her). Wein and Rogers also introduced a new Clayface.
4. “The Long Halloween” (Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13)
Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale had already produced three great annual specials spotlighting Batman during Halloween. So they decided to do one better by doing this epic year-long mini-series where they had us follow Batman from one Halloween to the next by following Batman trying to hunt down the mysterious villain Holiday, who murders people on holidays, one a month.
The comic is set in Frank Miller’s Year One timeline, with the backdrop of the murders being the crime war between the Maroni and Falcone crime families. In addition, the comic deals with District Attorney Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face for the first time. This comic was a major influence on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy of films.
An undercurrent throughout the work is that this is the small period in Batman’s life where he thinks that he might actually be able to pull off a war on crime.
Check out this sequence to see what I mean (while also getting a glimpse of how amazing Tim Sale’s art is in this story)…