Craving the Caped Crusader: A Batman Primer
I don't recall the first time someone asked me about my favorite superhero. What I can tell you, is that it has always been Batman. I'm now 27, and my mom still laughs and says, "Batman was never not your favorite. You liked him because he didn't have superpowers."
Putting aside the common "money as a superpower" argument, Bruce Wayne is a person who experienced great trauma (witnessing the murder of parents) and used the resources he had to rise above and become a symbol of justice in a city polluted with crime and corruption. Obviously, it's more complicated than that, but for me, Batman has been a tireless symbol of survival and perseverance in the face of anxiety and dark moments in my life.
My goal is to bring new readers to these Batman storylines I hold dearly. This is not an exhaustive list, but here's 8 titles I have gone back to over the years. To the Batcave we go...
A quick note about links: I am not affiliated with any of the links in this post. They are simply here so you can get reading and support the creators! If you want to explore the artwork inside, I highly recommend clicking.
Get Admitted to Arkham
1. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (a.k.a. Batman: Arkham Asylum)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dave McKean
The 15th anniversary version of this book was included in my first comics purchase around 10 years ago! I was drawn to the horror-like elements of the cover and the creepy aesthetic contained within. As you read, you feel as if you are against the clock with Batman, running through the world's most terrifying gauntlet.
What it's about: A braided narrative of the history of Arkham Asylum and Batman's journey into the depths of chaos as the Joker takes over the institution.
For fans of: John Constantine, Hellblazer, the Batman: Arkham videogame series, and haunted houses
2. Batman Arkham: Scarecrow
Writers & Artists: Various
Have a favorite Batman villain? Then chances are they have their own Arkham collection. I own the Scarecrow and Riddler editions, and both are a must-have for a fan of either character.
What it's about: From delightful to dark, this volume in the series focuses on Scarecrow's origins, creating a time capsule of his appearances reaching all the back to the era of Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
For fans of: Batman Begins (Scarecrow's first live action appearance), classic comics, and good old-fashioned villainy
Start a Storyline from the Beginning
3. Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are the dynamic duo of the New 52 era. Their run on Batman is always included in lists of top Batman storylines. I encourage you to start here and read their entire run. You won't regret it! This is an excellent place to start if you are new to comics or new to Batman comics.
I had the pleasure of meeting both of them at my first C2E2 convention a few years ago. Not only are they excellent creators, but they are also delightful people.
What it's about: A murder referencing an old Gotham folk tale sets in motion a chain of events that proves bats aren't the only creatures that hide in the dark.
For fans of: conspiracy theories, mysteries, and urban legends
4. Batman: The Dark Knight Vol. 1: Knight Terrors
Writers: David Finch & Paul Jenkins
Artist: David Finch
The New 52 Dark Knight series is also a great place to start, however I would caution you to read Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls first, due to some details at the end of this volume. That is to avoid slight spoilers, but you can easily start here if that doesn't matter to you.
I love this volume because the narration allows us to really get in tune with the Dark Knight's fears. As the reader, you feel as if Batman is confiding in you and trusting you with his deepest secrets.
What it's about: When Arkham inmates begin exhibiting immense strength and rage, Batman must figure out what is causing it while overcoming his own fears in the process. Features appearances from Wonder Woman and Superman!
For fans of: high-octane blockbuster action and crossovers
Get to Know the Batfamily
5. Batman: Battle for the Cowl
Writer & Artist: Tony S. Daniel (a.k.a. Tony Daniel)
Another delightful creator who is full of sage advice, Tony Daniel creates a heartfelt narrative about how Batman's allies come to grips with his death. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, this title will speak to you on an intimate level.
I would also highly recommend Tony's New 52 run on Batman: Detective Comics as a starting point. I did not include it on this list because I do not own a copy of the first volume. But you better believe I'll be grabbing some volumes after I finish writing this post!
What it's about: Batman is gone. Someone has to fill the void in a riotous Gotham City, and fast. Batman's closest allies must determine who shall wear the cowl next, as Nightwing (Dick Grayson, the original Robin) questions if he has what it takes and if he is really meant to take Bruce Wayne's place.
For fans of: underdog stories and strong, emotional characters
6. Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert
I found this title due to my love of Neil Gaiman's novels and his comic series, The Sandman. I loved this title so much, that I wrote a paper in my 19th century British literature course in college about how it mirrors John Keats' "Ode to A Nightingale." I challenge you to read both!
What it's about: A touching look at Batman's relationships with not only his friends, but also his adversaries, as he looks in on his own funeral.
For fans of: Neil Gaiman, out of body experiences, and campfire storytelling
Lurk in the Shadows with the Dark Knight
7. Batman: The Complete Hush
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Jim Lee
I have extremely vivid memories of being in high school and working at my local library, hoarding as many Batman trade paperbacks as I could, hoping no one would ask for them before I had a chance to check them out. Batman: The Complete Hush was one of these titles.
What it's about: When a briefcase full of money intrigues Batman's rogue's gallery, it is clear that something larger is at play. But who is pulling the strings? A childhood friend of Bruce Wayne's also reappears in his life and readers get a chance to see Bruce as a child without being defined by the loss of his parents.
For fans of: Batman/Catwoman storylines, intricate plotting, and crossovers
8. Batman: Noel
Writer & Artist: Lee Bermejo
This a title I read every year on Christmas Eve at 1 a.m. Batman: Noel does what all great retellings of classics do: it takes a well-known and well-loved narrative and creates something new from it, while keeping the meaning behind it intact.
What it's about: On Christmas Eve, Batman tracks Bob Cratchit in order to apprehend the Joker, and encounters three very special visitors.
For fans of: Charles Dickens, self-contained storylines, and high contrast colors