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Old August 29 2008, 06:35 PM   #1
Lapis Exilis
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Essential Batman

I'm creating a website that collects a kind of "best of" Batman - it's primarily for fan fiction ('cause by god someone needs to sort the wheat from the chaff - there's some really amazing writing out there but of course 95% of the stuff written is utter drivel). But I want to include a selection of comics, books, animated and movies - a kind of annotated bibliography of Batman. The site focuses on the noir aspects of Batman - Bats as hard-boiled detective, mad criminals and the harsh city. My current list is:

Year One
Strange Apparitions (the original Englehart run in Detective Comics in 77-78)
Dark Knight, Dark City
Gotham Central (which I just finished reading and it blew me away)
Blind Justice (I don't know how I missed this gem from the early 1990s, but it's fantastic)
Faces and Blades - two three-issue runs from Legends of the Dark Knight
The Killing Joke
Arkham Asylum
The Joker's Five-Way Revenge (Batman #251)
The Dark Knight Returns will go on the list, with some caveats.

I'm considering Face the Face, but I haven't read it yet, and possibly Detective Comics #569-570, which tells of the Joker's corruption of Catwoman, but again I haven't read it - so if anyone can give me a review of either of these, I'd appreciate it.

I need to reread Long Halloween before I put it on the list, because I remember it as okay, but not great. There'll be mentions of No Man's Land, A Death in the Family, Dark Victory and Hush, but none of these overly impressed me as being great writing. And I am really trying to concentrate on stories that have a Nolan-verse-esque real crime kind of feel.

I know there's a great story from the 70s, that's mostly written in prose with only a few illustrations - I think it's in one of the collection TPBs, maybe even Batman in the 70s. If someone could come up with that title or issue number, I'd be ever so grateful. I think it was an O'Neil story and it was just Batman tracking a gangster.

Any other recommendations?

I also need some help identifying the best of the animated series material that's in this vein. I've only seen bits and pieces of the animated series. If there are any really standout episodes, I could include those - or maybe I'll just do short paragraphs on each series.

Books are going on the list too. I read Ultimate Evil ages ago and it was pretty good, and I'm reading one called Dead White right now. It seems to be based in the Nolan-verse continuity and it's not half bad. Any other novels out there that I might not know of?
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Last edited by Lapis Exilis; August 29 2008 at 06:51 PM.
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Old August 29 2008, 07:23 PM   #2
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Re: Essential Batman

As far as the animated shows go, the "Mask of the Phantasm" movie is easily one of the best. If you bought the two disc Gotham Knight DVD then you'll also find some of the better episodes from the show on there; "Heart of Ice", "Over the Edge", "I Am the Night" & "Legends of the Dark Knight".
"Robin's Reckoning" is probably one of the more definitive takes Grayson's origin. "Mad Love" is defiantly worth a look. Very important Joker/Harley episode. "Almost Got 'Im" also a good noir yarn. "Beware the Gray Ghost" also very noir and you get to hear Adam West talk to Batman (always fun.) Oh and if you really want noir, "It's Never Too Late" is practically a Bogart film.
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Old August 29 2008, 07:27 PM   #3
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Re: Essential Batman

Awesome, Reverend - thanks! But just to be clear, you said the Gotham Knight DVD, but you don't mean the recent TDK companion piece right? There's a TAS DVD called Gotham Knight?

Mask of the Phantasm is going in the movie section of the list, for sure.
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Old August 29 2008, 07:36 PM   #4
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Re: Essential Batman

No, I really do mean the companion DVD to TDK. The old animated shows are on the second disc I believe.
Oh and at the risk of self promotion, I like to think we did some passable noir on the DKA fancomic. "Night of the Crow" especially.

P.S. Like your choice of avatar.
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Old August 29 2008, 08:11 PM   #5
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Re: Essential Batman

No Long Halloween would be crazy.
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Old August 29 2008, 09:57 PM   #6
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Re: Essential Batman

In my opinion, The Long Halloween is vastly overrated.

In fact, just last night I saw this blog community entry that went through it, pointing out a lot of the problems with the story, primarily where Gilda Dent is concerned.

Tim Sale's work in it is great. Loeb's, not so much.
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Old August 29 2008, 10:08 PM   #7
Lapis Exilis
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Re: Essential Batman

Reverend wrote: View Post
No, I really do mean the companion DVD to TDK. The old animated shows are on the second disc I believe.
Oh. I only rented it so I missed that.

Oh and at the risk of self promotion, I like to think we did some passable noir on the DKA fancomic. "Night of the Crow" especially.

P.S. Like your choice of avatar.
Fabulous! I'm looking for recommendations to add to the archive or links page. Could you let me know where to find that? If you know of any other material, good authors, stories, fan comics, whatever, please, please point me that way.

The Evil Dead said:
No Long Halloween would be crazy.
I have to agree with Spiff - while Sale's work is fantastic the story as I recall it, leaves a lot to be desired. It's confusing and unsatisfying and, as the linked page points out, it doesn't illuminate any of the characters even one tiny bit. It's all just little writer's pawns being moved around to work within the particular mystery gimmicks Loeb is using. But I'm going to give it another read. And it'll get a discussion on the page, if for nothing more than it was an influential piece for the Nolan movies and thus needs to be mentioned. I just don't know if I'll recommend it as a great read.
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Old August 29 2008, 11:08 PM   #8
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Re: Essential Batman

Lapis Exilis wrote: View Post
I need to reread Long Halloween before I put it on the list, because I remember it as okay, but not great.
Long Halloween and Dark Victory are two of the few stories to include the mob as serious antagonists in Batman's fight on crime. If these stories don't cover Batman as a figure in noir storytelling, I don't know which do.

Any other recommendations?
I note you've included "Year One"...perhaps you should include the four Batman "Year One" annuals released in 1995 (for Batman, Detective Comics, Shadow of the Bat, and Legends of the Dark Knight). Each annual depicted Batman's first encounter with one of his rogues gallery members (Scarecrow, Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Man-Bat, respectively), with artwork and writing very reminiscent of Miller's "Year One" (these were intended as continuations of Miller's storyline). Also, there's more stress on Batman as a Detective in these.

They are also collected together in the TPB "Four of a Kind."

For similar reasons, "The Man Who Laughs" would be an excellent addition as well - you'll note that "Year One" ends with hints of the Joker. "The Man Who Laughs" tells that story of the first battle between Batman and the Joker, continuing directly from "Year One." It's a prestige one-shot, recently re-released in hardcover.
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Old August 30 2008, 12:08 AM   #9
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Re: Essential Batman

Spaceman Spiff wrote: View Post
In my opinion, The Long Halloween is vastly overrated.

In fact, just last night I saw this blog community entry that went through it, pointing out a lot of the problems with the story, primarily where Gilda Dent is concerned.

Tim Sale's work in it is great. Loeb's, not so much.
Absolutely agreed. The Long Halloween is little more than Jeph Loeb simply discovering his favorite storytelling method (a murder mystery that includes appearances from just about every member of the hero's rogues' gallery), with some good ideas -- like the war on the mob -- enveloped by writing that is largely shit.

Dark Victory is just awful.
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Old August 30 2008, 12:18 AM   #10
Lapis Exilis
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Re: Essential Batman

Haytil wrote: View Post

Long Halloween and Dark Victory are two of the few stories to include the mob as serious antagonists in Batman's fight on crime. If these stories don't cover Batman as a figure in noir storytelling, I don't know which do.
Quality is the first rule of the site, noir is the second. Yes, those two books include the mob, but they're just not great stories. JKTim's reasons are the same as my main complaints about both books.

I note you've included "Year One"...perhaps you should include the four Batman "Year One" annuals released in 1995 (for Batman, Detective Comics, Shadow of the Bat, and Legends of the Dark Knight). Each annual depicted Batman's first encounter with one of his rogues gallery members (Scarecrow, Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Man-Bat, respectively), with artwork and writing very reminiscent of Miller's "Year One" (these were intended as continuations of Miller's storyline). Also, there's more stress on Batman as a Detective in these.

They are also collected together in the TPB "Four of a Kind."
Thanks for that heads up, I haven't run across those before. Are they well written?

For similar reasons, "The Man Who Laughs" would be an excellent addition as well - you'll note that "Year One" ends with hints of the Joker. "The Man Who Laughs" tells that story of the first battle between Batman and the Joker, continuing directly from "Year One." It's a prestige one-shot, recently re-released in hardcover.
I've been looking at The Man Who Laughs, but I haven't read it yet. There's kind of mixed opinions about it out on the web. I'm not trying to give anyone a comprehensive continuity on Batman - there are other sites that do that. I'm just trying to list the material that has really strong storytelling and character-based writing.
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Old August 30 2008, 12:18 AM   #11
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Re: Essential Batman

I quite liked the Emperor Joker Storyline. It's more Worlds Finest than pure Batman, but it's nice.
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Old August 30 2008, 12:36 AM   #12
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Re: Essential Batman

Lapis Exilis wrote: View Post
I know there's a great story from the 70s, that's mostly written in prose with only a few illustrations - I think it's in one of the collection TPBs, maybe even Batman in the 70s. If someone could come up with that title or issue number, I'd be ever so grateful. I think it was an O'Neil story and it was just Batman tracking a gangster.
It's in several collections. It's called "Death Strikes at Midnight and Three", and it can be found in 2 of the 3 "Greatest Batman stories Ever Told" collections.

It was printed original in 1978 in DC Specials No.15.

The first Greatest Stories Ever Told volume from 1988 in which it appears is now out of print, but that story was printed again in one of the 2 that exsist now. I don't remember which though.
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Old August 30 2008, 12:42 AM   #13
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Re: Essential Batman

Lapis Exilis wrote: View Post
I'm just trying to list the material that has really strong storytelling and character-based writing.
The storyline itself is largely ridiculous, but I have to admit that I still enjoy re-reading Denny O'Neil's novel version of Knightfall.
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Old August 30 2008, 02:25 AM   #14
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Re: Essential Batman

Spaceman Spiff wrote: View Post
In my opinion, The Long Halloween is vastly overrated.

In fact, just last night I saw this blog community entry that went through it, pointing out a lot of the problems with the story, primarily where Gilda Dent is concerned.

Tim Sale's work in it is great. Loeb's, not so much.
Interesting. Some of the complaints that he has with TLH were the same ones that I had with TDK such as Batman being a non-character and that we are not given any prior hints that Harvey is off his rocker.
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Old August 30 2008, 02:31 AM   #15
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Re: Essential Batman

In terms of animated material, I Am The Night is my favourite BTAS episode; the villain is an ordinary mobster who grievously wounds Gordon, provoking a crisis in Batman's life (the whole "is being Batman worth it?" routine is done a lot, but I always remember seeing this episode as a kid and being struck by how well-done it was).
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