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Warcry
2012-09-24, 09:51 PM
I've been a Batman fan for ages, but I'd never actually read any of the comics until very recently. And there are so many of them that I'd never even consider trying to keep up with the modern stuff (there's, what, a dozen Bat-books running concurrently now?).

I've recently read The Long Halloween, and I thought it was pretty good. I'm really not a fan of the art style, but it usually did an adequate job of telling the story (the biggest failure in that department was at the worst possible time -- when the killer was dramatically revealed I had no idea who it was because the art was so sketchy and minimalist). I think I would have enjoyed the book more, except that The Dark Knight lifted so many ideas from it and (IMO obviously) TDK was a bit more focused and sold the premise a little better.

That's about as far as my experience with the comics goes, other than sampling the current ongoings and backing away slowly. As a kid I watched the 60s show, the Burton/Schumacher movies and Batman:TAS. As an adult I've rewatched TAS (and enjoyed it more than I did as a kid), seen the Nolan movies and played Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I can find something to like about all of them (other than maybe Batman and Robin), though the video games do sometimes push the boundaries of good taste.

I'm interested in reading more, but I'm not sure what. Blackjack's recommended a few things to me (Knightfall, Hush and No Man's Land), and I've heard good things about the stories that follow up on Long Halloween (Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome). I don't know where to go after that, though.

What are the "must read" Batman stories? I'm a fan of his supporting cast too, so if there are some good stories focusing on his sidekicks or enemies fell free to suggest those as well. Batgirl, Catwoman, the Riddler, Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze are especially favourites of mine.

relak
2012-09-24, 09:58 PM
A few must reads

Batman year one - origin story
The killing joke - great piece on the joker and the main inspiration for Heath ledger's joker

Skyquake87
2012-09-24, 10:26 PM
Here are Batman things what I have liked:

The Dark Knight Returns - praised to the heavens by all and sundry, but i think that probably says more about the state of Batman comics at the time (this was done in 1986)

Batman : Year One - Frank Miller's early years of Batman.

Batman ; Arkham Ayslum - Grant Morrison & Dave McKean's swirly weird bleak look inside the place the Joker escapes from all the time.

Batman : Hush - simple flashy Batman story by Jeph Loeb. Owes much of its status to Jim Lee's gorgeous art. Really obvious twist.

Batman : Noir - short crime caper alternate universe grpahic novel by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips. Really good, despite unnecessary working in of the Joker.

Batman : Mad Love - Paul Dini & Bruce Timm - excellent spin off from the '90s animated series that tells the origin of Harley Quinn. A story so good that it was good enough to use when the character made the tranisition to the 'proper' DC Universe during No Man's Land (on which note I shall just say that i don't hold much truck with the late '90s Batman 'Events', NML and Contagion and all the other stuff that came out of that period all seemed a desperate attempt to maintain interest post- Knightfall and it was a bit too much)

Batman : The Killing Joke - a sort of origin of the Joker. By Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. Shorter than you think too!

Venom/ Sword Of Azrael/ Vengeance Of Bane/ Knightfall/ Knightquest / Knightsend - i do like this story, but really, its a load of silly nonsense. Venom is bascially Batman with a drug addiction (links into Bane's origin) SOA that introduces Jean Paul Valley whom will take over as Batman is decent, but Dennis O'Neil writes rubbish endings - this story just stops, leaving you going 'oh'. VOB introduces Bane, its alright, but the usual 'my-depressing-childhood'. A sort of Angelas Ashes for over muscled morons with a chemical addiction. Knightfall is fun for pitting Batman against his entire rogues gallery, but DC drop the ball with both Knightquest and Knightsend by just crassly making Azrael a mental shouty person. The section of the story that sees Bruce Wayne's back fixed 'Knightquest: The Search' isn't collected either, but that's probably a good thing as its embarrasingly bad.

Of more modern stuff

Batman & Son, Batman R.I.P and another one with 'Glove' in the title from Grant Morrison's initial run on Batman are all excellent, and quite perplexing. The stuff with 'The Return Of Bruce Wayne', 'Batman & Robin' and 'Batman Incorporated' are , I found, quite patchy.

Scott Snyder has wriiten some grand stuff;

batman ; black mirror (dick grayson as batman) and the court of owls. both worth checking out.

anything else..? hmmm...

Batman - Vampire Doug Moench & Kelley Jones, alternate universe hijinks that I really like.

Batman : Earth One (Geoff Johns & Gary Frank) is a new take on the origin story that a lot of folk say is great - yet to read it myself though.

Likewise, Azarello & Banjero's Joker is supposed to be quite good.


And that's all I can think of off the top of my head.

Denyer
2012-09-24, 10:38 PM
Gotham Central. Bats is rarely in it, but a presence that's never far from the cops. Similar for Batgirl: Year One... less is more.

I prefer the character as part of an ensemble when the JLA is written well, personally. It doesn't happen very often, but give New Maps of Hell by Ellis a try as an intro.

Also Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth, which is one of the best Batman stories out there.

Skyquake87
2012-09-25, 08:30 AM
Just remembered i have also bought the first trade of Judd Winick and Guliem March's take on Catwoman from DCs new 52, which i also thought was great. Nice exploration of what makes Catwoman tick and her relationship with Batman. March's art is excdellent too :)

inflatable dalek
2012-09-25, 05:48 PM
The BBC Radio version of Knightfall is well worth a listen as well.

Warcry
2012-09-25, 08:40 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. That's...uh...that's a lot of stuff. I suppose I'll have to make a list and slowly work my way down it.

I prefer the character as part of an ensemble when the JLA is written well, personally.
My tastes are literally the exact opposite. Older or more lighthearted takes on the character I can enjoy in crossovers, but modern Batman takes itself so seriously that suspension of disbelief just crumbles away for me whenever I'm reminded that Superman or Wonder Woman live just over the proverbial next hill.

Cliffjumper
2012-09-25, 08:47 PM
He's in Hitman a bit and Hitman's bloody ace.

relak
2012-09-25, 11:53 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions, guys. That's...uh...that's a lot of stuff. I suppose I'll have to make a list and slowly work my way down it.


My tastes are literally the exact opposite. Older or more lighthearted takes on the character I can enjoy in crossovers, but modern Batman takes itself so seriously that suspension of disbelief just crumbles away for me whenever I'm reminded that Superman or Wonder Woman live just over the proverbial next hill.

Well recent batman stories, especially the new 52 series, incorporates the science fictional super hero styles into the batman comics sch that it gels well with the worlds of superman and wonder woman

Warcry
2012-09-26, 06:15 AM
Sounds interesting. A sci-fi take on Batman would be a nice departure from the brooding noir style so much of the modern stuff embraces, if it's done well.

I read The Killing Joke today. I thought it was good, but not nearly as amazing as it's reputed to be. The thing that struck me the most about Joker wasn't how monstrous he was portrayed, but surprise at how...tame it was. I mean, sure, he kills a guy or two and traumatizes the Gordons, but compared to Joker's usual mass murder and zany schemes it almost seems pedestrian. I think my reaction would be a lot different if I'd read the story without prior knowledge of the modern Joker, though.

The story's treatment of Barbara Gordon really rubbed me the wrong way too. In my mind she's one of the most important characters in the mythos, so to see her treated as a disposable accessory to her dad was a bit jarring. But she wasn't actually all that important at the time, was she? I think her time as Oracle and her prominent role in a couple animated shows did a lot to raise her profile. So I guess my objection is actually retroactive, and not really fair.

I read The Man Who Laughs right afterwards since it's another Joker story that gets a lot of hype online, and honestly I liked that one a lot better. I thought it captured Joker nature a bit more clearly, sketching him out as a wild, nigh-unstoppable force of nature who's so broken that he can't do anything but hate. I also liked the insight it gave into Batman and Gordon's early relationship and how they adapted to the rise of dangerous costumed villains like Joker.

Skyquake87
2012-09-26, 07:43 AM
You see, I have the exact same problem with all these 'critically acclaimed' comics, they never quite live up to what you expect of them. I think it's often difficult to contextualise stuff like that. At the time I first read 'The Killing Joke', (early 1990s), the comics I was reading then were quite mature anyway, so i didn't grasp what made TKJ so important.

I do get the impression that before this book, the Joker was just a shrieking loon and subsequent writers have thought a lot more about how to handle the Joker.

What I like about TKJ is the great disconnect that's happened between the Joker's apparent former life and what he is now and how his entire 'past life' is forgotten and doesn't even register a little with him, and has shown him how ridiculous life can be with tradgedy quickly becoming farce. The blackly humourous off -screen death of his pregnant wife I particulalry like.

I'm not sure I agree with your comments about Barbara Gordon though. She's just at home with her dad, doing family stuff and the Joker bursts in and puts a bullet in her. She's not really expecting to be Batgirl right then and nor is she on guard - but would you be? Would you be expecting terror in your own home all the time? It's the casual dismissal of her that's most chilling. And as the bullet severs her spine, and she's lying disabled and covered in blood, she's not really in any position to stop the Joker doing disgusting things to her to wind up her dad.At least, that's my take. I personally find that the recent return of Barabara as Batrgirl rubs me up the wrong way, as it undoes all the great work done with her over the intervening years in her time as Oracle - worse, it just seems a really crass attempt to grab headlines and sales.

I think its the quiet, understated lunacy of the Joker that boils over into all this showboating (where does he get the money for all these elaborate set ups anyway?) I have grown to enjoy about this story and his relationship with Batman.

Warcry
2012-09-26, 03:48 PM
I do get the impression that before this book, the Joker was just a shrieking loon and subsequent writers have thought a lot more about how to handle the Joker.
I think that's it, more or less. Most portrayals of the Joker since have used The Killing Joke as a baseline for his characterization and some have even taken him further into monstrous territory. The story is a victim of it's own success, essentially.

I'm not sure I agree with your comments about Barbara Gordon though. She's just at home with her dad, doing family stuff and the Joker bursts in and puts a bullet in her. She's not really expecting to be Batgirl right then and nor is she on guard - but would you be? Would you be expecting terror in your own home all the time? It's the casual dismissal of her that's most chilling. And as the bullet severs her spine, and she's lying disabled and covered in blood, she's not really in any position to stop the Joker doing disgusting things to her to wind up her dad.At least, that's my take.
I don't disagree, but that's not quite what I meant either.

To me, Barbara Gordon is a strong and vital character -- in a wheelchair, in a cowl or even carrying a badge like in Batman Beyond. But here she's none of that. Her past as a superhero doesn't matter. None of the good things she's done in the past matter. She's only there as a plot device to hurt her father, and the story could have been written with Gordon's wife or son in her role without changing anything (well, crippling James Jr. would have saved some trouble later, but that's neither here nor there). The pain and suffering she's put through, and the huge change that it implies for her character, don't matter here -- they're only a cudgel used to humiliate her father. Even Batman seems to forget all about what was done to her as soon as he leaves the hospital and by the end of the story he's offering to help Joker and sharing a laugh with the man who just destroyed one of his best friends' lives.

The same attitude is reflected in real-world terms too. DC's willingness to write out one of their only strong female characters purely based on how it'll effect the male leads attracted a lot of flak (rightly, IMO) -- the editor's reaction when Moore pitched the idea was apparently "cripple the bitch", which is rife with unfortunate implications. But that bothers me a lot less than the treatment of the character in general. Regardless of gender I'd consider Batgirl a fairly prominent and popular character, and DC had no plans at all to follow up on her after this story -- if not for a couple of their staff taking umbrage with how she'd been treated and insisting on revamping her as Oracle, this story would have either been the end of the character, or gotten swept under the rug a few years later when she returned having been magically uncrippled.

In Transformers terms, it'd be like blowing Bumblebee up in an incidental walk-on cameo in MTMTE purely to show how it effects Drift and Cyclonus.

I personally find that the recent return of Barabara as Batrgirl rubs me up the wrong way, as it undoes all the great work done with her over the intervening years in her time as Oracle - worse, it just seems a really crass attempt to grab headlines and sales.
I can see both sides of that argument. She has been Oracle for over twenty years now, and I don't think reinventing the character after that long is necessarily a bad thing. But the way it was done does seem a bit crass, I agree. Having Barbara slowly regain her ability to walk and train herself up to the standard she'd kept pre-injury all the while keeping up her work as Oracle would have been nice, but as I understand it they just rebooted the series and she was Batgirl again like nothing ever happened? And while I've only read a couple issues of the new series, she didn't show much sign of having the technical skills she had as Oracle or an increased awareness of her own mortality and the risks she was taking like you'd expect.

I'm reading Year One, now. I'm not far enough into it to judge, but I have to admit I burst out laughing when Catwoman showed up...as a whore. Is Frank Miller even physically capable of conceiving of female characters who aren't?

Denyer
2012-09-26, 06:07 PM
In Transformers terms, it'd be like blowing Bumblebee up in an incidental walk-on cameo in MTMTE purely to show how it effects Drift and Cyclonus.
Someone please get onto this, the character's been butchered to date by IDW continuity anyway. It'll be a mercy.

Older or more lighthearted takes on the character I can enjoy in crossovers, but modern Batman takes itself so seriously that suspension of disbelief just crumbles away for me whenever I'm reminded that Superman or Wonder Woman live just over the proverbial next hill.
Thing is, Batman as a concept falls apart about after five seconds -- one wide area explosive and the character's a goner. "Fantasy tactician" is, if anything, more believable.

I miss Oracle, although the character was rarely particularly well-written (she's the more fallible and human member of the bat-family, fair enough, but writers have tended to take this to an extreme) and some parts of the concept are even less plausible than Bats' survival given that in the DC universe anything up to and including death is a quick fix.

Miller... if you have a strong stomach, try All Star Batman & Robin. It has to be self-parody.

Warcry
2012-09-27, 06:41 AM
Thing is, Batman as a concept falls apart about after five seconds -- one wide area explosive and the character's a goner.
To be fair, he did lose one of his Robins in exactly that way.

But most of his enemies are random mobsters or mask-wearing psychos who are even nuttier than he is. Someone like Zsasz or Killer Croc simply don't have the resources to do what it would take to bring down Batman unless they get in a really, really lucky shot against him. And most of the ones that do are too crazy to use them properly (like the Riddler and his constant need to prove he's better than Batman, or Joker and his obvious man-crush).

And the one time that someone with the brains and physical strength to challenge Batman, the resources to wear him down and no crippling psychological issues to hold them back actually showed up in Gotham Bats wound up on the receiving end of a broken back.

I miss Oracle, although the character was rarely particularly well-written (she's the more fallible and human member of the bat-family, fair enough, but writers have tended to take this to an extreme) and some parts of the concept are even less plausible than Bats' survival given that in the DC universe anything up to and including death is a quick fix.
Even if you ignore the non-Bat DCU, the fact that Batman had the same sort of injury and was magically cured within less than a year made Barbara's lingering paralysis a bit tough to buy into. But even fully healed I don't see any reason for her to go back to active superheroing. Gotham already has a dozen people in capes, one more isn't going to make that much of a difference. Certainly not as much of a difference as she could make as the team's dedicated tech expert and information-gatherer.

Miller... if you have a strong stomach, try All Star Batman & Robin. It has to be self-parody.
Now that you mention it, I'm familiar with the Goddamn Batman. I read the first issue or two a few years back and thought it was hilarious, but not enough to actually read the whole thing (or even remember until prompted, apparently). I agree that it's self-parody, but I'm not sure if it's intentional or if he's slipped into accidental self-parody like a lot of (admittedly far less talented) 80s writers like Clairmont, Furman or Larry Hama.

angloconvoy
2012-09-27, 02:44 PM
I just read Year One and Dark Knight Returns this week, first time since I was very young, and I finally see why the big deal. I can see what they did and that they are great super-hero stories.
But they are clearly a product of their time, and Miller's preoccupations shine through very clearly. The thing is, back then they were acceptable (enough), and the general public hadn't seen enough of Miller's work to realise that visualising a strong female character as a hooker was basically his go to. It was interesting reading Gordon as an openly sexist ass though.
They are important and as a lifelong fan of comics in general I can see that a lot of the works I've come to love would never exist without this grounding, but I could only actually enjoy the story because I remember enough about the 80s to visualise the mindset of the time.

Warcry
2012-09-27, 06:41 PM
I've finished reading Year One and agree about it being a product of it's time. Otherwise it's a good story, but nothing truly world-shattering. Batman honestly seemed very two-dimensional, and in spite of the title it really feels like the secret origin for Jim Gordon.

A Death in the Family is even more dated, surprisingly so in places. The casual racism toward Arabs and Iran is actually fairly familiar, considering current events, but the jingoistic tone the book takes is downright hilarious -- not all that far from Superman telling readers to "slap a Jap" during World War Two. I was surprised to find out it was written in the late 80s because it seriously felt like propaganda slapped together during the Iranian hostage cricis. On the other hand, the book includes a really nice, concise illustration of the difference between Superman and Batman so it's not all bad.

They are important and as a lifelong fan of comics in general I can see that a lot of the works I've come to love would never exist without this grounding, but I could only actually enjoy the story because I remember enough about the 80s to visualise the mindset of the time.
I can agree with that sentiment. The stories don't feel groundbreaking to us because they changed the face of the franchise (and comics in general) so thoroughly that they're just normal Batman stories now.

Denyer
2012-09-27, 07:10 PM
even fully healed I don't see any reason for her to go back to active superheroing.
Oh, completely agree. Batgirl grew up to be far more interesting -- and was succeeded by a fairly interesting Batgirl, for that matter (I'm thinking Brown rather than Cain.)

Again, the other connections (BoP, JLA) make for better and more varied fare than the rather claustrophobic dynamic of the Bat-books, though.

Paul053
2012-09-27, 07:21 PM
For me,

Under the Red Hood is a must read. The cartoon movie is also awesome.

The Court of Owls.

Faces of Death is also not bad.

Skyquake87
2012-09-27, 08:34 PM
Oh, completely agree. Batgirl grew up to be far more interesting -- and was succeeded by a fairly interesting Batgirl, for that matter (I'm thinking Brown rather than Cain.)

Again, the other connections (BoP, JLA) make for better and more varied fare than the rather claustrophobic dynamic of the Bat-books, though.

I LOVED the Stephanie Brown Batgirl. Its not an Earth shattering comic by any stretch, being fairly simple superheorics, but by gum did it shine a ray of light into the po-faced hubris of the other Bat-Books. One of my favourite books of the last tne years and I was genuinely gutted when it was cancelled in favour of bringing Barbara Gordon back as Batgirl. There was so much more life in it. Stupid DC.

Cyberstrike nTo
2012-09-28, 10:05 PM
Outside of the known and famous stories and series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Batman: Hush, Batman: The Killing Joke, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Back, and Batman: Arkham Asylem, Batman: The Cult, and Batman: A Death in the Family, I generally don't have much love Batman as a comic book character he comes off as (to me at least) a pompous, arrogant jackass who thinks his shit doesn't stink.

If he was written more like as he was in Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight you know as a flawed human being I might be more inclined to read him more. The longest time was I ever Batman vol. 1 was 18 months which was the Hush storyline and the storyline that followed it and frankly Hush is forgettable as a story and was only memorable for Jim Lee's artwork.

Strangely as much as I LOATHE Batman, I absolutely love Kate Kane the new Batwoman and that is the ONLY DC comic I'm reading, because waiting for the TPB was too damn long! This the Bat Book that everyone should read.
The artwork by JH Williams III is beautiful and challenges the reader to pay attention.

Since Kate joined the DEO and not Batman, Inc she's stayed out of the rest of the line's major events. She's probably the character that I relate the most on a personal level and not because she's a lesbian. Now I won't lie that was a factor to peak my interest in her but once I read Rachel Maddow's intro in Batwoman: Elegy TPB I knew this was a character I was going to have to read because even though I'm a heterosexual man i find Kate Kane the superhero that I relate to the most on a very personal level. I know the pain of the loss of her mother and sister at a young age and even decades later I still find it hard to get over it.

Her strained relationship with her father is something I can understand (although thankfully my relationship my father is great).

She's also a rookie superhero and she makes a lot of mistakes (like accidently stabbing her cop girlfriend with a knockout drug made based on the Scarecrow's fear toxin) and her relationship with Maggie Sawyer is a mess because while Maggie loves Kate Kane she has no love for Batwoman (or any other of the Bat-related characters in Gotham) and she's a more down to Earth character.

Warcry
2012-11-10, 05:51 AM
I've read Dark Victory now. It's, um...well, I think it works far better as a comic than Long Halloween did, honestly. The story and especially the resolution makes a whole lot more sense, probably because there are fewer distractions along the way. In particular, focusing on Two-Face and keeping the other rogues in the background supporting him works a lot better than TLH's approach of "cram in as many baddies as we can, even if they're a completely pointless tangent".

Taking the two together, though, it doesn't paint a very good picture of Batman as a character. Two years in a row he was vexed by exactly the same kind of serial killer, and both times it took him a year to have even a vague idea of who he was looking for. And honestly, if not for Dick and Catwoman (who, it has to be said, is probably the best-written character in the book) I don't think he would have figured this out out at all.

Oh, and I totally agree with Cyberstrike about Batman being a "pompous, arrogant jackass". With some writers he's an awesome pompous, arrogant jackass, though.

Halfshell
2012-11-11, 08:10 PM
I've recently read The Court of Owls (vol 1 of Scott Snyder's New 52 run) and that's really rather good indeed.

Also worth tracking down Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader" as that's quite nice.

I probably should read more Batman, but most of the "you should read this!" stories are written by Jeph Loeb, and that's just not happening.

LKW
2012-12-02, 09:16 AM
Honestly... Jeph Loeb before his son died - Hush, for example - is usually better than after....

Though, his (Red) Hulk was better in the final half-dozen issues or so...

Also - Halfshell lives!!! Hello there, sir !:cheers:

Warcry
2013-04-18, 06:16 AM
I've read Hush now, which brings my total up to three of Loeb's big "must read" Batman books, and I've come to the conclusion that all three are basically the same story. A mystery villain shows up, acts with impunity for around a year, somehow suborns/manipulates Batman's existing (and far more interesting) rogues into doing his dirty work and eventually turns out to be someone who was believed to be dead/crippled/whatnot. Batman himself is hugely ineffectual, never even coming close to unraveling the villains' plot until it's literally thrown in his face, and generally acting more like a brooding thug than the world's greatest detective. The story is interesting the first time I read it, but after seeing it recycled three times over it starts to wear a bit.

That comes off a bit harsher than it needs to be, and Hush certainly isn't bad, but it was also exactly what I was expecting from the writer the moment I picked it up. My favourite part of the book was probably Catwoman, who is easily Loeb's best character across all of his stuff that I've read.

Next up on my to-read list is Knightfall, which will hopefully be a bit less formulaic than Loeb's stuff.

Skyquake87
2013-04-18, 07:38 AM
Hush is what I would call a good 'entry level' story. It basically gives you a good grasp of Batman's world, whom his friends and enemies are and how things work in his life. Probably wouldn't be as good if Jim Lee hadn't drawn it.

I've re-read Batman : Black Mirror and I think I can honestly say its probably the best Batman story I've read. I like Dick Grayson as Batman, he brings a more warm approach to Batman and isn't as stoic and miserable as Bruce frequently is. With Bruce, these days he is just Batman and there's nothing left of the man he once was. Dick retains his own personality and identity in addition to the Batman persona, and I like that. The opening three part story in this collection is a little light (but still pretty horrible), but leads into a really great pyschological crime thingy featuring Jim Gordon's son (whom I'm not familar with). Snyder has a great grasp of the things that make people tick and their behaviours and has a great handle on what its like for someone when their behaviour is abnormal by societies standards. I found it oddly chilling all the way through as well. Great stuff. Art is by Jock, whom has a nice scratchy style and another guy whose name I can't remember but has a nice, clear style which i really like.