A word often applied to the Batman is “iconic,” though it is not a descriptor that comes easy. The Dark Knight has been starring in stories for decades now, becoming one of DC's most famous faces. You could never read a comic in your entire life and you would still know the Bat, with a few of his villains to boot. Of course, part of becoming a famous face in comics involves having quite a few books under your belt, which Bruce does... in spades. Some of these have been miniseries, while other Batman-led books have lasted generations.
These titles have come to feature everyone from Batman himself to the myriad of colorful cronies and sidekicks that live in Gotham City, more commonly known as "The Bat Family." With them in mind, and all of their many books lining our collective shelves, CBR has decided to count down the books from the Batman universe that have had the longest runs. As a caveat, we are specifically looking at continuous publications, reboot or not.
15 Batman and Robin
- Number of Issues: 71
- Run Length: 2009-2015
It seems almost hard to believe that the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin didn't get their own original monthly title until 2009. It is perhaps even more incredible to consider that the series didn't originally involve Bruce Wayne. On the contrary, the very first "Batman and Robin" book featured Dick Grayson as Batman, and another Robin entirely.
In the wake of Bruce Wayne's apparent death, Dick had taken up the cowl, and taken charge of Bruce's son-turned-Robin, Damian Wayne. The series would be taken into the New 52 reboot in 2011, and Bruce would eventually return to the role, tying into Bat Family storylines. The series temporarily shifted with Damian's death in “Batman, Inc.,” becoming “Batman and ...”, dropping the “Robin.” Eventually, Damian would be revived and return to main DC continuity, with the two eventually splitting up. Ultimately, the series would have a continuous run between the 2009 debut and past the New 52, lasting six years.
14 Batman: Gotham Knights
- Number of Issues: 74
- Run Length: 2000- 2006
Batman is, as we already established, quite the popular character. But Bruce Wayne is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to figuring out just why people love to read about Gotham. This may be just why “Batman: Gotham Knights” ran for so long. Unlike prior titles, these books often put their primary focus on the ensemble characters that help to make Gotham City so interesting, with Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, Oracle and even Alfred finally getting their times to shine in the limelight.
As the series went on, the focus would shift even more to give a look into the lives of Batman's infamous Rogues Gallery, providing a new perspective on the Dark Knight's villainous rivals. The series would come to see work from the likes of Jim Lee and John Buscema, but was canceled at the end of the “Infinite Crisis” crossover arc after six years. If there is one thing that its time on the shelves tells us, however, it's that Batman's family, friends and even enemies are as vital to the formula as the cape and cowl.
- Number of Issues: 87
- Run Length: 2003-2011
Around the 1940s, "World's Finest" became successful for teaming up the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight for the first time. It was in that same spirit that “Superman/Batman” came into creation, and the series ended up being an exploration of the relationship between the two heroes. One of the hallmarks of the "Superman/Batman" was its narrative structure, dividing the stories and narration between the two heroes explicitly meant it could simultaneously highlight the contrast between them. This was the inspired work of co-creators Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness, .
Unlike other titles on this list, “Superman/Batman” would largely steer clear of crossover arcs that would involve the other Superman and Batman series alongside it. The book would instead focus on exploring the dynamic between the two heroes outside of any defined continuity, a relationship that could go from best buddies to clashing enemies depending on what you were reading. With its now iconic amalgamated symbol of Supes and Bats emblazoned on the cover, and starring arguably the world's two most well known superheroes, "Superman/Batman" did very well for itself, even having an animated movie produced using its storyline as inspiration.
12 Shadow of the Bat
- Number of Issues: 96
- Run Length: 1992-2000
“Batman: Shadow of the Bat” was fairly unique from the other Batman titles in the ranks. While titles like "Year One" would aim to show what was going on when Bruce Wayne was on his own in his job, “Shadow of the Bat” explored the world of the Batman universe's characters as a whole. The series began with the four-part storyline “Batman: The Last Arkham,” which told the tale of Batman being sent to Arkham Asylum as a part of a deeper investigation. This would go on to introduce comic book readers to characters such as Amygdala, Zsasz and Jeremiah Arkham.
The series ran alongside the other main Batman titles of its time, including the standalone "Batman" series and “Detective Comics.” "Shadow of the Bat" would eventually be canceled and replaced with “Batman: Gotham Knights,” but not before making its mark in the Batman universe with an impressive eight year run.
- Number of Issues: 96
- Run Length: 1993-2008
Catwoman, like Robin, is another character who goes way back. However, also like Robin, she didn't get her long-term standalone title for quite a few years, and only after a limited 1989 run. Selina Kyle's version of the character got her chance at a standalone title over 50 years after her first appearance. The series would see Selina getting up to the sorts of things only a Batman villain could: adopting runaway Arizona, becoming the CEO of a company through unorthodox circumstances, and even considering a run for mayor of New York City after moving to the Big Apple.
Common contenders for future plot lines included her danger-fraught romance with Bruce Wayne and trying to resolve the balance of her identity as Catwoman with her everyday life. The series would end for the first time in 2008, only to be revived a few years later with the New 52 and releasing new books into 2016. The second volume's run, however, was nothing to sneeze at, lasting 15 years total.
10 Azrael (Vol. 1)
- Number of Issues: 100
- Run Length: 1995-2003
Azrael isn't quite as big a star in Batman's sphere as some other Gotham denizens, but his run in the comic world hasn't been a flash in the pan, either. The character first came along in the 1992 “Sword of Azrael” story line, beginning with assassin Ludovic Valley passing on the title to his son, Jean-Paul, who would eventually take the lead role in the title when the Azrael series launched in early 1995.
The series began with Jean-Paul in a state of mental disarray after the events of “Sword of Azrael” and “Knightfall,” eventually getting help from both Bruce Wayne and a doctor who he met by chance. The ensuing story would see Jean-Paul exploring his identity as Azrael, and would later see his series crossing over with other characters in the Batman universe. Azrael's original run would eventually end with Jean-Paul's death and would only appear a few times after that. Michael Valley would inherit the title in 2009 in a new series. While Jean-Paul is no longer the face of Azrael, he had a run that went on for an impressive eight years in total.
9 Birds of Prey (vol.1)
- Number of Issues: 127
- Run Length: 1999-20009
Once again, it appears that the members of Batman's ensemble have the potential to shine brightly on their own. The original “Birds of Prey” title saw a team-up between Barbara Gordon (who was still acting as Oracle at the time) and Black Canary. While the series originally started with Barbara and Dinah, the main lineup would expand to include Helena Bertinelli's Huntress, a former Batgirl in her own right. The series would go on to include work with a number of DC's heroes and villains, including familiar Batman faces such as Nightwing, Poison Ivy and Catwoman.
Not unlike “Brave and the Bold,” “Birds of Prey" would also go on to include characters from outside the typical Gotham lineup. Power Girl acted as an operative for Oracle, Vixen collaborated on mission work, and Ice is discovered by the team in Russia, just to name a few interactions. Batman himself is hardly involved here, but the heroes his success helped create are put into feature roles. Going on to become one of the more popular lineups in DC's history, the original series ran for 10 years.
- Number of Issues: 155
- Run Length: 1996-2009
It seems like almost every Robin is fated to take on a new identity at some point. Jason Todd became the Red Hood, Tim Drake became Red Robin and Stephanie Brown actually got her start as Spoiler. But the first Robin is perhaps one of the most famous for his non-Boy-Wonder work: Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing. Dick would go on to take the title in 1984, naming himself for a hero he met with Superman in another storyline. The standalone “Nightwing” series would begin in the mid-90s, pausing in 2009 as Dick took up the title of Batman (see the “Batman and Robin” entry).
Nightwing would resume with the New 52 reboot, but not until a two year gap of wearing the cowl had passed. Alongside the other members of the Bat-family, "Nightwing" can still be easily found in the comic shop, maintaining a five year run between the reboot and 2016. This still has nothing on the original run, however, which stood on its own for 13 years.
- Number of Issues: 155
- Run Length: 2000-2016
Batgirl first appeared in the 1960s as a sort of follow-up to Batwoman, a female companion for Robin the Boy Wonder. Barbara Gordon's Batgirl quickly became a vital part of the Batman universe, and was a hotly debated crux of 1988's “The Killing Joke,” when the Joker infamously shot her, a contentious action which left her paralyzed. She had been a vital part of the Bat-family for many decades before Batgirl's first monthly title was released in 2000, but it wasn't Barbara Gordon under the mask.
The Batgirl many would come to know was Cassandra Cain, a trained assassin who was a far cry from the bright-eyed Babs. However, Cassandra would go on to become a popular part of the Batman family tree, one that who fans still hold dear. She would soon pass the cowl on to former Robin Stephanie Brown, who would maintain the role for two years. In the New 52 reboot, Barbara took back the part, and would start her adventures as Batgirl anew. The title was initially published in 2000 and made it through the reboots, leading to a 16 year run in total.
- Number of Issues: 185
- Run Length: 1993-2009
Like some heroes, the title of “Robin, the Boy Wonder” has been passed down between many a character, and not all of them boys. Since Dick Grayson's debut, the name has gone between the likes of Stephanie Brown, Jason Todd, Carrie Kelly and Damian Wayne. The standalone “Robin” title began with the mantle being inherited by Tim Drake, who was given a miniseries in 1992. From there, the main monthly series would begin in 1993.
Tim Drake would become arguably one of the most beloved of all Robins, moving on to the role of "Red Robin" and later starring in the hit "Young Justice" cartoon in his original Robin role. Not long after it ended, a minor successor entitled “We Are Robin” would appear in 2015, chronicling the various other Robins who've taken the title, including a cadre of new characters, many of them ill-fated. The original series would go on to last 16 years, leaving Tim Drake a significant spot in DC character history.
5 The Brave and the Bold (vol. 1)
- Number of Issues: 200
- Run Length: 1955-1983
- Number of Issues: 218
- Run Length: 1989-2007
- Number of Issues: 323
- Run Length: 1941-1986
- Number of Issues: 770
- Run Length: 1940-2016
- Number of Issues: 946
- Run Length: 1937-2016
This title isn't strictly a Batman series. "The Brave and the Bold" was fairly eclectic at first -- an anthology-style publication to write comic stories about heroes from various periods and settings. DC would later utilize it as a way to give new characters and ideas test runs. By issue # 28, it had become the comic to house the debut of the Justice League of America. Batman's primary role in the series would come later on, when the popularity of the "Batman" television series in 1966 had caused a newfound desire for Dark Knight stories. So, in issue #59, the series began to revolve around Batman teaming up with Superman yet again.
By “The Brave and the Bold" #74, the series revolved almost exclusively around Batman team-ups, and would do so until the end of its run. The title would go on to be associated with Batman further, when a 2008 animated series of the same name would run under a similar team-up concept. At its conception, “The Brave and the Bold” had basically nothing to do with Bruce Wayne. By its end, after 17 years, it had become almost entirely his.
4 Legends of the Dark Knight
“Legends of the Dark Knight” is a pretty far leap in time from the previous comics on this list. Far off from the times where comics cost a few cents, this title was born in the wake of the popularity of the 1989 “Batman” film. This was hardly a fool's gamble, between the amount of money the movie took in and the years that the title would run. The series would follow in the footsteps of “Year One,” the Frank Miller tale of Bruce Wayne's early days in the cowl. To that end, the series primarily revolved around his formative days crime fighting. There was no Robin, though Dick Grayson could be spotted in his Flying Graysons troupe.
This was Batman on his own, no Superman cameos or Green Lantern team-ups. Though the series itself had a significant run, it would also go on to gain a revival of sorts five years after its end, with a weekly series that would see digital-first release in 2012. Even without this resurgence, however, the series had a pretty strong go, lasting long after the release of the film that prompted it.
3 World's Finest Comics
“World's Finest” was mostly a Batman series. He was certainly a star of it, gracing the cover of the very first issue (with Robin at his side, naturally). But it wasn't strictly about him. The main draw of World's Finest was that it boasted the biggest names in DC's repertoire: Batman and Superman. The first issue of the series had essentially been the 1940 edition of “New York World's Fair Comics,” a 96-page tome that was a successor to a comic with an identical title the year before, which had only starred Superman.
If anything, the inclusion of Batman and Robin into this title just goes to show how much of an impact the two had made onto the comics scene. Just one year before, Batman had made his standalone title debut, with his character only appearing for the first time one year before that. They were already fitting to stand alongside the “Action Comics” superstar (who, in all fairness, had only shown up in 1938, himself). The comics would go on to occasionally feature other DC heroes, including Black Canary, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman, but Batman and Superman were at the core. The series would go on to mount an impressive 45 year run.
When Batman was first introduced to readers in May of 1939, he quickly made a splash. Fans quickly came to know his origins, his sidekicks and his villains. Around a year later, in 1940, “Batman #1” would hit the shelves. While characters such as Robin the Boy Wonder got their debut in “Detective Comics,” the self-titled series would introduce some of the biggest players in Gotham City: Alfred, Catwoman and of course, The Joker, were all products of this new series. The Silver Age incarnation of the series would see the debut of even more iconic characters, including the likes of Batgirl and Mr. Freeze.
It would appear that, while “Detective Comics” set the stage of Batman's rise, the standalone series would become the title in which his universe could really shine, and would come to serve as a major branch of crossover story arcs in Gotham for years to come. Running from way back in the 1940s and continuing on today, “Batman” has 76 years to its name.
1 Detective Comics
Interestingly enough, the very first Batman title had nothing to do with him initially. The very first volume debuted way back in 1937. For the hefty price of a dime, readers could thumb through stories of suspense and intrigue. One thing that could not be found in the first issue of "Detective Comics," however, was Batman. Nor would readers find him in the first 20 issues. No, Batman's debut was in “Detective Comics" # 27. He officially swung onto the scene in a Bob Kane-illustrated cover, not too unlike the design he's known for today.
The Bat quickly became a popular staple of the title, sometimes running under the header of “Detective Comics featuring Batman.” A look at the shelves today might make it hard for most outsiders to believe there had ever been a time when this wasn't a Batman series, but it quickly became home for him, and would run well over 800 issues prior to the New 52. Now into the 900s, “Detective Comics” is still a staple of DC's lineup. With nearly 70 years under its belt, it's not only the longest Batman comic, but the second longest ongoing run under DC comics, just behind "Action Comics."
Which is your favorite longest-running Bat book? Let us know in the comments!