Batman has been a pop culture icon for over 80 years now and in that time, many of the best Batman comics have then been used as the basis for the countless film adaptations. The Batman is the latest of these, and if you’ve found yourself wanting to dive into the Batman comics world after watching it, you’ve come to the right place.
Of course, given that Batman has been starring in comics for the better part of a century, the character has been reinterpreted and reimagined so many times over. This can be a great thing if you love seeing different takes on your favourite character from various creators, but it can also feel daunting if you’re used to seeing a certain type of Dark Knight.
We’ve created this list for those who may not have read many (or any) Batman comics before, so that you can kind of make your way into the comic book adventures, without feeling lost or confused. This is a selection of eight of the best Batman comics which are not only excellent in their own right, but are also great intros to the Batverse.
Here’s our selection of the best Batman comics:
- Batman: Year One
- Batman: The Case of the Chemical Syndicate
- Batman: The Long Halloween
- The Doomsday Book
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Batman: The Killing Joke
- Batman: The Man Who Laughs
- Batman: Dark Victory
Batman: Year One
Written by esteemed comic book author, Frank Miller, Year One was written as a revised origin story for Batman in 1987 – a fresh start free from the bloated continuity that had grown since the 1930s. This is probably the most famous version of Batman’s origin to be written, so it would be an ideal place for new readers to start.
It’s very gritty in a 1980s comic sort of way, and it not only introduces Bruce Wayne as he becomes Batman, but also shows Commissioner Gordon coming into his role for the first time and the development of the relationship between the two men. You also get to see Selina Kyle’s origin as Catwoman. It’s a great comic and definitely worth a read.
Batman: The Case of the Chemical Syndicate
Speaking of origins, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate is the genuine origin of Batman: the character’s first appearance in any capacity. If you’d love to start at the beginning, then this comic is a real curiosity, though it isn’t an ‘origin story’ by any means.
The vintage art style actually looks really cool and so does Batman’s original design. However, fans who are familiar with Batman and his well-established attitude of not killing his enemies may be surprised by the very violent way that he deals with the villains of this story. It’s fascinating to look back on this first adventure and it’s been republished with several other vintage Batman comics in Batman: The War Years, a collection that includes key Batman comics published during the Second World War.
Batman: The Long Halloween
This is a really superb Batman comic which details the caped cruasder’s clash with the villainous Calendar Man. Though that name might sound a little bit silly, he’s a serial killer who commits murders to coincide public holidays and other key calendar dates.
Batman and Commissioner Gordon work together in this murder mystery story, which is comprehensive and features appearances from Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Joker, and others. Veteran DC writer, Jeph Loeb, crafted a really gripping story here and Tim Sale’s art brings it to life beautifully. It also serves as an origin story for Two-Face, but instead of being ‘about’ his origin, it’s a solid story in its own right, which happens to be the origin of Two-Face as well.
The Doomsday Book
The Doomsday Book is a little different from the other comics on the list, because it’s not strictly a Batman comic, but rather a comic in which Batman plays a key role. It was written to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Detective Comics and, as such, was a sprawling mystery tale that spans one hundred years.
While Batman and Robin investigate in the modern day, they cross paths with fellow DC heroes, Slam Bradly and the Elongated Man, while Sherlock Holmes himself starts off the whole story a century in the past. Don’t know who those other characters are? The trade paperback, DC’s Greatest Detective Stories Ever Told, introduces you to all the characters with their own stories, so that you can truly appreciate the crossover aspect of The Doomsday Book and though it’s a bit silly in some ways, it’s also a lot of fun.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Nowadays, when most people hear the title Arkham Asylum, they’re probably going to think of the popular video game, but it was this comic by Grant Morrison (full title: Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth) which inspired the game and it stands strong as one of the very best Batman comics.
Now, how to describe this comic… it’s kind of like a nightmare. Batman goes to Arkham Asylum after the inmates have escaped, and what follows is a mind-bending sequence in which Batman encounters various villains (including Joker, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, and more) in the darkened prison, while we get disturbing flashbacks into the life of Amadeus Arkham, the asylum’s founder. The art by David McKean gives it a real trippy quality and you’ll probably find that it’s quite unlike anything else you’ve ever read before.
Batman: The Killing Joke
Alan Moore is very highly regarded in comic circles and it was he who wrote The Killing Joke. If you enjoy stories that try to make The Joker into more of a tragic figure, then this is something you’ll want to read. Here we get flashbacks into his life before he became The Joker, where he fails in his dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, while also experiencing a huge tragedy in his family.
On the flipside of making him more tragic, this story also highlights just how depraved the Joker can be, and you get to see him in one of his most evil moments. This is a comic that deserves its place on any Batman fan’s shelf.
Batman: The Man Who Laughs
This is another one for Joker fans. When most people think of the character, they think of an insane killer who’s obsessed with Batman – but where did that relationship begin? This story tells a version of their first meeting.
In this The Man Who Laughs, murder victims are discovered, with the corpses mutilated to resemble a disgusting charicature of The Joker himself. This story offers another potential Joker origin, one which differs from the one seen in The Killing Joke, but which is still rather intriguing. Overall, it’s a classic Batman adventure and another very easy jumping in point.
Batman: Dark Victory
This one is actually a sequel to The Long Halloween, so we would recommend reading that comic first – however, the main thing you need to know is Two-Face’s origins, so if you’re already familiar with that character, then there’s no reason you couldn’t read Dark Victory on its own.
This story is another ‘origin’ which details the first meeting between Batman and the first Robin (Dick Grayson), and explains how he became Bruce Wayne’s ward and Batman’s sidekick. Aside from that, it’s another really solid story about crime in Gotham City, with a focus on gang wars taking place between rival factions. It deals with Batman’s guilt following Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face and with more fantastic art by Tim Sale, it looks absolutely amazing too.
So those are our choices for the best Batman comics – if you’ve never read any of them, we hope you enjoy going through them and acquainting yourself with the Dark Knight’s comic book adventures. For more on Gotham’s protector, check out our articles on the comics that inspired The Batman, and on The Batman Easter Eggs that you might have missed.