Happy 75th Birthday, Batman!
For comic book fans everywhere, today means just one thing: the 75th anniversary of arguably the greatest comic book character ever.
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, Batman has irrevocably changed the comic book industry and pop culture by turning the caped superhero from frothy entertainment for kids to something serious and psychological.
Boys, girls, people of all ages recognize the Bat-Signal and experience a chill of excitement knowing that the Caped Crusader is nearby.
We here at the Geekiary want to celebrate Batman’s anniversary by recommending a couple of our absolute favorite Batman comics to you. After all, there’s a lot to choose from after 75 years.
Batman: Year One -Written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis, lettered by Todd Klein
Frank Miller is one of those comic writers that you either love or hate. Regardless of your feelings for him, he did hit it out of the park with this solid and serious look at the beginnings of Bruce Wayne’s vigilante career in Gotham, along with Jim Gordon’s start with the Gotham City Police Department.
Numerous of our favorite Batman characters make their “first” appearances as Bruce struggles with the corruption of his hometown: Selina Kyle, Carmine Falcone, Harvey Dent and more. Year One is one of the most cinematic feeling graphic novels, mostly because it’s like reading a more expansive version of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. We recommend this especially for non-comic readers as it definitely calls to mind that movie and therefore, is an easy and exciting read.
Year One is worth a look if only for the last panels, which will make you shiver in excitement.
The Batman Adventures: Mad Love – Written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Bruce Timm, Glenn Murakami, lettered by Tim Harkins, colored by Bruce Timm, Rick Taylor
Oh, Mad Love. This is probably the most nostalgia-riddled entry simply because a) it’s illustrated by Bruce Timm, the animator behind our favorite childhood cartoons (Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Tiny Toons, and so many more) and b) Harley Quinn is a deeply beloved character and her fans are fiercely protective of her.
Unlike other Batman characters, Harley was created for the DC Animated Universe and then found her way into the comics canon. This one-shot comic takes place in the continuity of Batman: The Animated Series and focuses completely on our favorite mad fangirl.
In love and ignored by the Joker (or Puddin’, as she likes to call him), Harley decides to kill Batman in an effort to get him to just notice her. Featuring some hilarious moments (Batman calling the Joker “Puddin’” is never not funny), awesome lines (“If you have to explain a joke, there is no joke!”) and a guest appearance by the underrated Renee Montoya, Mad Love is oddly adorable and endearing.
Sure, the Joker treats Harley badly and yes, it’s a deeply unhealthy and one-sided relationship but in Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s hands, Harley isn’t so much a villain as someone to root for. While we know, rationally, that she is way too obsessed with a terrible man, we kind of want her and the Joker to make it. And if your heart doesn’t clench at the ending of this comic, you’re lying.
Batman: Lovers and Madmen – Written by Michael Green, illustrated by Denys Cowan, colored by I.L.L., lettered by Travis Lanham, Ken Lopez
People love writing Joker origin stories. We guess it’s because none of them really count because it’s canon that the Joker is not sure of who he was before he was the Joker. But we still want to know just who he is and why he became the greatest supervillain of all time. So we keep writing and reading Joker origin stories, though they’re very often hit or miss.
Batman: Lovers and Madmen may turn off some readers, but for me, it demonstrated the clearest and best rendition of the sick, codependent obsession between Batman and the Joker in years. It’s not the best-written comic ever, but it has an eerie atmosphere and a refreshingly grown-up look at the psychopathy of the Joker. He’s oddly realistic and terrifying: criminally insane, indifferent to pain and head over heels for Batman.
Batman gives the Joker a reason to live and vice versa, demonstrating that without the Joker, there is no Batman. The comic also explores that if Bruce hadn’t started his vigilante career, the Joker would’ve never existed in the first place. I love that.
Lovers and Madmen also features a great short scene with Jonathan Crane, the future Scarecrow, and a quick peek into the psychosis of Gotham City. While this may not be the Batman/Bruce Wayne that readers are used to, the comic offers a dark and disturbing look at our favorite vigilante and his decidedly messed up relationship with his enigmatic other half: the Joker.
Batman: The Long Halloween – written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale, colored by Gregory Wright, lettered by Comicraft, Richard Starkings
This is the Batman that we all love and need. He’s a crimefighter, a detective, a confused and guilt-ridden man, and a billionaire trying to juggle his numerous identities
At its heart, The Long Halloween is a mystery story: who is Holiday, the mysterious killer offing influential criminals and mobsters on holidays, and where will he strike next? It’s a distinctly noir-feeling comic, influenced by gangster movies and real-life mob corruption.
It focuses on the three men who are trying to solve Gotham’s crime problem: Batman, Harvey Dent, and Jim Gordon. Of course, they take different paths and this brings the reader in contact with more obscure villains in the Batman Rogues Gallery, such as Solomon Grundy and Calendar Man. Yet, Loeb manages to turn vaguely lame villains into creepy and deadly killers. The mystery of Holiday affects everyone in Gotham and the entire city is on edge, adding a level of suspense that is often missing from comic books.
Of course, the conclusion of the mystery is not exactly straightforward and some fans argue that Loeb simply painted himself into the corner. Perhaps that’s true, but the ride along the way is one of the best-written and engaging Batman comics of the 20th century. It’s grown-up, moody, sexy, and a hell of a lot of fun.
There’s plenty more Batman that we don’t have space to mention (everyone knows about Batman: The Killing Joke at this point) so please recommend your favorite Batman comics below!
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