Batman… forever

Celebrate 80 years of Batman by taking a look at five of his most influential stories.

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Batman… forever

Russell Spacy, Freelance Writer

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This year marks a momentous year for the Dark Knight and the man under the mask, Bruce Wayne, as fans celebrate his 80th anniversary. With the release of its 1,000th issue on March 27, Detective Comics, the series that first introduced Batman, becomes the second line in DC’s repertoire of comic books to hit that publishing milestone. Created in early 1939 by Bob Kane, Batman has become ingrained into today’s popular culture. Over the years, many prominent stories have become essential to the Batman mythos, these are the Caped Crusader’s five best comic book stories.

5. “The Killing Joke”

Written in 1988 by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland, “The Killing Joke” has become famous for its hyper-graphic imagery and for giving the Joker a loose origin story through flashbacks. Throughout the main story, the Joker strives to break Commissioner Jim Gordon, proving to Batman it only takes one bad day for anyone to go as crazy as him. This graphic novel proved to shake up the status of Jim’s daughter Barbara Gordon, who was forced to retire as Batgirl after an injury sustained from the Joker. She later became Batman’s technology and surveillance guru, codenamed Oracle. This story shows just how far the Joker will go to fight against Batman and his allies.

4. “Batman: Year One”

Written in 1987 by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, “Batman: Year One” has become the definitive look at the early days of Batman since it takes place during the first year Bruce Wayne put on the cowl. On the flip side,  the story introduces Lieutenant Jim Gordon, who has just relocated to Gotham and his journey of learning the ins and out of the city. This book redefined Batman’s origin for the modern era, becoming the standard adaptation for the character’s origin stories, and even inspiring Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” series. The story also shows the reader the seminal relationship that develops between Gordon and Batman, forever entwining their lives.

3. “Batman: Hush”

Written in 2002 by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, “Batman: Hush” is one of Batman’s more personal stories, following new villain Hush who is hell-bent on breaking Batman. As he does, it becomes apparent that Hush knows Bruce Wayne’s secret. This story is great because it demonstrates Batman’s detective skills while also bringing in many of his greatest villains as supporting characters, proving just how twisted this new villain could be. Additionally, Jim Lee’s art is absolutely phenomenal and worth reading just to see his illustrations of Batman, his villains and his many allies.

2. “Batman: Under the Red Hood”

Written in 2004 by Judd Winick and primarily illustrated by Doug Mahnke, “Batman: Under the Red Hood” has become known for resurrecting Batman’s second Robin from the dead. Through the story, a new player comes on the scene to take control of the street crime scene by killing most violent criminals. As Batman tries to solve the identity of this mystery man, he is confronted with the realization that this new player was Jason Todd, the Robin murdered by the Joker in what Batman came to consider his biggest failure. This story ponders whether or not Batman would be more effective in stopping crime if he killed the villains and street criminals he meets.

1. “The Dark Knight Returns”

Written in 1986 by Frank Miller and illustrated by both Miller and Klaus Janson, “The Dark Knight Returns” is considered by many as the greatest Batman story ever told. The story takes place in a dystopian future, where an aging Bruce Wayne has retired the cape and cowl, leaving Gotham at its worst. Finally deciding that  enough is enough, Wayne returns but faces opposition from both the Gotham Police and the United States government, who send Superman to convince him to retire again. This graphic novel is credited with making the character of Batman much grittier, even inspiring Ben Affleck’s representation of the character in Zach Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The mythos of the Caped Crusader has ingrained itself into our society as a hero who fights for justice, and a hero who protects the innocent, something everyone can try to emulate.

As Batman says in Christopher Nolan’s film “The Dark Knight Rises,” “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”