Previously, I got the chance to speak with comic book writer and podcast host Chris Sims(X-Men 92′, Deadpool: Bad Blood) at NC COMICON 2019. There, I gave him the nearly impossible task of recommending X-Men runs to people who wanted to start reading the X-Men. And while we both greatly enjoyed that conversation, the entire time we kept getting off track and talking about Batman, a character both of us are passionate about. Last weekend at HeroesCon 2019 in Charlotte, North Caroline, I was able to speak with Sims again. This time, we dove straight into the nitty-gritty of the Dark Knight. Astonishingly enough, Sims has read almost every Batman story on the planet and has been considered a Batman expert. Needless to say, this list he’s put together of his top ten Batman stories should not be taken lightly.
10. Detective Comics #500 – “To Kill a Legend” by Alan Brennert, Dick Giordano, Adrienne Roy, and John Costanza
In To Kill a Legend, The Phantom Stranger takes Batman and Robin to an Earth where they can stop Joe Chill from killing Thomas and Martha Wayne. However, doing so will prevent this world’s Bruce Wayne from becoming Batman. And while the choice is offered to him as a serious conundrum, Batman beats up Joe Chill without a single hesitation. However, Sims admits the book has one flaw: this world has no heroic literature – the idea of a hero really doesn’t exist. Either way, the story is still compelling enough to earn a spot on this list.
9. Batman: Knightfall by Chuck Dixon, Jo Duffy, Alan Grant, Dennis O’Neil, Doug Moench
Batman: Knightfall is the famous Batman story where Bane breaks the Bat. In addition to being one of the best Batman stories, it is one of the best Bane stories. In Batman: Knightfall, Bane is a smart villain and succeeds in beating Batman by forcing Batman to “beat himself.” According to Sims, the story asks “how to take a character who always wins and make them lose.” Even more than his persona, his morality is even manipulated as he sets aside his identity as Bruce Wayne.
8. Batman: Ten Nights of The Beast by Jim Aparo and Jim Starlin
Batman: Ten Nights of The Beast, my favorite comic that was described to me by Sims on this list, is “if the movie Commando was a Batman story.” Written like a 1980s action flick, Ten Nights of The Beast follows the KGBeast as he shows in Gotham, in an attempt to kill Ronald Reagan, and causes mass chaos. Within the span of four issues, KGBeast manages to kill at least 153, per Sims’ count, and blow up a plane.
7. Batman Adventures Vol. 1 #3 – “Joker’s Late Night Lunacy” by Kelly Puckett, Ty Templeton, and Rick Burchett
In the comic, based on Batman: The Animated Series, the Joker forces Batman, Harvey Dent, and Commissioner Gordon to star in his late night TV show. And despite being, “a comic for babies,” Sims’ recalling being absolutely terrified of the Joker as a child. As he has said previously in his own writing, “I remember reading this when I was ten and being legitimately scared of the Joker for the first time in my life. I’d gone from watching Batman ’66 for an hour every day after school to reading this story — which again, was in a book for kids based on a cartoon — where the Joker ties up Jim Gordon and breaks his arms with a baseball bat on live television while Batman watches, his face not showing any emotion other than grim resolve.”
6. Detective Comics: Fear For Sale by Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, and Paul Neary
While not from the Silver Age, Detective Comics: Fear For Sale is a throwback to that era. The comic features throwback layouts including dynamic splash pages. The comic follows Jonathan Crane, Scarecrow, as he takes away Batman’s fear. The comic brilliantly shows Batman’s conflicts while wrestling with the no-fear drug concoction created by Scarecrow. Additionally, Sims said, “Davis’ art is very good.”
5. Batman #156 – “Robin Dies at Dawn”
The only Silver Age comic featured on this list, Batman #156 – “Robin Dies at Dawn,” follows Batman as he hallucinates the death of Robin, Dick Grayson. Following the hallucinations, and watching Robin die over and over again, Batman suffers from PTSD. According to Sims, the story is “oddly deep for a Silver Age Batman comic” which at the time was more zany and kooky than dark.
4. Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City by Peter Milligan, Tom Mandrake, Jim Aparo, and Kieron Dwyer
Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City is an absolutely bonkers story that starts with Thomas Jefferson performing a ritual called the “Ceremony of the Bat” that summons the bat daemon Barbathos, who is more or less Satan. After being trapped, Barbathos finds his way out by possessing the Riddler. Through some very strange occurrences, which are so even by supervillain standards, Batman is forced to perform a Satanic ritual for Barbathos. The cleverness of the story and the bizarre nature of it makes it a top pick for Sims.
3. Batman: Zero Year by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and James T. Tynion IV
Batman: Zero Year, the most recent comic on the list and is a modern origin story for the Dark Knight crafted by Snyder and Capullo. The story is intended to redefine Batman’s origin for The New 52 continuity, making it unconnected to other origin stories including Batman: Year One. The story does, however, borrow several elements from Miller’s interpretation. Sims loves the story as a modern retelling of Batman origins and because it has everything from Batman in a tank, to bone monsters, and finally, Batman fighting and taming the lions.
2. Batman: RIP by Grant Morrison, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Guy Major, Robert K. Washington III, Trevor Scott, Randy Gentile, and Jared K Fletcher
Batman: RIP according to Sims “has the best chance of dethroning Year One.” The book accomplishes the nearly impossible task of convincing the readers that the bad guys finally got Batman. “Morrison understands you have to convince your readers Batman won’t make it through.” In Batman: RIP, Bruce is missing and The Club of Villains take over the city of Gotham. The book also features one of the best Joker moments in comics as he expresses his frustrations with the Bat in a personal way. Both Sims and I agree that this book is an “unsung modern masterpiece.”
1. Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, Richmond Lewis, and David Mazzucchelli
While Sims will actively admit that Batman: Zero Year is a much better modern-day origin story, it doesn’t have the rawness of Batman: Year One. The origin story, by Miller, tells the entire dramatic story of Batman’s first year fighting crime and features one of the best versions of Jim Gordon in comics. According to Sims, “If someone was getting into Batman, I would recommend Batman: Zero Year but if someone wanted the rawest shit in comics, I would recommend this [Batman: Year One].”
Did Chris Sims or I miss any of your favorite or must-read Batman runs? What are your personal favorite stories from the Caped Crusader? Let us know in the comments below.