Batman is easily one of the most popular and well-established comic book characters of all time. Because of his mass popularity, new Batman books are available in comic shops virtually every single week. Despite his massive presence in comics and pop culture, Batman never feels overused or over-done. However, because the character has had so many great stories over the years, some of them often get passed up by even the most dedicated fans.
While some stories have been worse than others, many are simply too short, too old, or just not popular enough to receive the recognition they deserve. To help shed some light on some lesser-known Batman tales, here is our list of 10 criminally underrated Batman stories.
10 Dark Night: A True Batman Story
Batman author Paul Dini is most known for his work on Batman: The Animated Series, and other things like the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game. For as successful as Dini has been beyond the comics, he has still made his mark with Batman within the comics as well. In a standalone series called Dark Night: A True Batman Story, Dini actually recounts a terrifying true experience that he went through while working on the show.
On a walk home, Dini was mugged and nearly beaten to death. As part of the recovery process, Dini explains how Batman and everything the character has stood for eventually helped him get back to his usual self. Though the graphic novel has received high praise, many Batman fans have yet to give the book a read, making this one of the great undiscovered gems in the character’s history. For everything Dini has done for Batman, it is incredibly interesting to see what Batman does for him.
9 Batman: Long Shadows
Following the events of Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne’s absence led Dick Grayson, the original Robin, to assume the mantle of Batman. With Damian Wayne as his Robin, the two set out to protect Gotham as the new dynamic duo. For the most part, Dick actually made a great Batman, with very few individuals being able to tell the difference between him and Bruce. However, in one more surprising and lesser-known story, Two-Face of all people was able to enact a surprising attack against Dick.
Towards the climax of the story, Batman: Long Shadows, Two-Face actually manages to break into the Batcave, which was then vacant due to Bruce’s “death.” After being confronted by Dick, Two-Faces notes that he isn’t actually Batman, as no one had ever succeeded in breaking into the Batcave before. Though Harvey wasn’t able to figure out anyone’s secret identity, Long Shadows still draws a lot of interesting comparisons to Dick and Bruce, as well as Two-Face to other villains of Gotham.
8 Battle For The Cowl
Battle For The Cowl is actually the story that established Dick Grayson as the new Batman in the first place. When rumors began to circulate of Bruce’s death, several other people stepped forward to try and replace him. Unfortunately, several villains including Two-Face and Red Hood thought themselves to be Gotham’s new savior.
While Grant Morrison’s run with Grayson as Batman is highly celebrated, Battle For The Cowl often gets overlooked. However, Tony S. Daniel’s art and story are both great in this instance, covering a wide cast and excellently capturing why Dick had to be Bruce’s true successor.
7 Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Serving as an “end” to Batman as a whole, Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader sees Batman attending his own funeral. Though this is a bit strange in and of itself, some of Batman’s closest allies and worst enemies are all gathered, each telling a different story of how Batman died. With an incredibly wide cast and a great analysis of Batman as a character, it is surprising that so many Batman fans are unfamiliar with this work.
The story itself only takes place over two issues, yet manages to perfectly capture everything that is great about the Batman character. It brilliantly acknowledges his flaws and humanity while still portraying him as an immortal symbol. For all of Gaiman’s other great works, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader easily belongs among the other greats.
6 Batman: Venom
Even before Bane himself was introduced, the drug, Venom, was causing problems for the Dark Knight. After failing to save a young girl, Batman comes to rely on the drug in order to improve his performance. However, as Batman becomes more and more dependant on the enhancer, he also starts making more and more mistakes. At one point, he even let criminals escape in order to obtain a larger supply of the drug that he kept for himself.
Though the story was published as comics were shifting into much darker themes, this one took things to a whole new level. Despite this, Batman: Venom still shows just how strong Batman’s will is, as well as how he saves himself when he falls. Likewise, the series also serves as a great prelude to Bane’s introduction as well as the popular Knightfall storyline. Though some fans still haven’t heard of it, Batman: Venom is easily one of the more underrated Batman stories out there.
5 Superman: Speeding Bullets
What is technically a Superman story is also one of the best Batman stories that many people are unfamiliar with. Superman: Speeding Bullets is an Elseworlds tale that explores what would happen if Superman’s rocket landed in Gotham City instead of Smallville. Growing up as Bruce Wayne, the young Kal-El must come to terms with his powers after bullets ricochet off of him, killing his adopted family.
From there, “Bruce” dons a Batman costume, flying around Gotham City as the Batman. Speeding Bullets also explores Clark Kent’s absence from Smallville, leading to certain changes such as Lex Luthor becoming the Joker. Though it is technically a Superman story above all else, the story still draws some very interesting parallels between the two heroes. Likewise, its obscure nature has made it easy for fans to miss, though it is a truly incredible read.
4 Batman: As the Crow Flies
Author Judd Winnick is most known for bringing audiences stories like Batman: Under The Red Hood. However, his story, Batman: As the Crow Flies, is also a great read, despite its smaller impact on Batman’s world. After many criminals in Gotham’s underworld begin to suddenly go mad, all evidence starts to point to Scarecrow. Yet, as Batman digs further, he begins to uncover a far greater plot at hand.
Though there are definitely some weirder elements to this story, certain aspects of it prove how terrifying Scarecrow and Penguin can be. While it is not the best Batman story ever told, As the Crow Flies is a great arc that any fan of Batman can enjoy.
3 Batman: Superfriends
Current Batman author Tom King has (mostly) received incredibly high praise for his run with the character. Unfortunately, between arcs like The War of Jokes and Riddles, The Wedding, and now City of Bane, Superfriends is easy to overlook. The 2-issue arc sees Lois and Clark spend time with Bruce and Selina at a fair, shortly before Bruce and Selina are supposed to get married.
In a surprising change of pace, both issues juggle a great amount of humor, especially for Batman. However, the parallels drawn between Batman and Superman are easily the most intriguing aspects of the whole book. Seeing the two open up to each other a bit shows just how much respect they actually have for the other, despite the many differences that they do share. For all the other good King has done for the character, it is surprising that so few fans talk about this story.
2 Batman & Robin Eternal
Though Batman Eternal isn’t the most celebrated Batman event of all time, its sequel series is arguably much better. At this point in the DC Universe, Bruce Wayne was no longer Batman and Jim Gordon was the new Dark Knight. However, after the Robins discover a mystery deep within Batman’s past, it is up to the four of them to work together to solve it.
Featuring a wide array of guest appearances and a much more streamlined story than its predecessor, Batman and Robin Eternal was simply a great story. Very few issues felt like “filler,” and it actually set up a few major things for later. Likewise, seeing the Robins working together despite Batman’s absence made for a great dynamic between the characters, easily making this worthy of any fan’s time.
1 Batman: Heart of Hush
As mentioned previously, Paul Dini eventually transitioned to writing Batman comics for a time. During his run on Detective Comics, the author turned the spotlight back on the villain, Hush, a popular but lesser-known adversary. As Batman: Heart of Hush began to unravel, Batman found himself trying to rescue Selina Kyle’s heart after it was surgically removed and placed on a timer.
Not only does the arc read a lot like an old episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but it excellently captures the dynamic between Batman and Catwoman. The story also offers a very in-depth look into Hush’s backstory, proving just how dark and twisted the villain truly is. For a simple, standalone arc, Heart of Hush is easily one of the most overlooked and underrated Batman stories ever.