Batman comics seem to be plentiful no matter what, and that’s only going to continue now that The Batman has hit theaters. Matt Reeves has been fairly open about the comics he read while prepping his take on the Dark Knight; he lists Batman: Year One, Batman: The Long Halloween, and Batman: Ego as the three major influences. With 80 years’ worth of canon under his utility belt, Batman has plenty of tales to choose from – and plenty that could inspire a sequel. Here are five comics that fit with the general tone of The Batman and also happen to be great reads in their own right.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s decade-long run on Batman contains some of my favorite Caped Crusader stories, including Batman: Last Knight on Earth. The duo had their chance to put their own spin on Batman’s origin with Zero Year, which finds Bruce Wayne forging the identity of Batman as he battles multiple threats. In addition to the Red Hood Gang and the twisted Doctor Death, the Dark Knight must also face off with Edward Nygma, better known as the Riddler. Elements of Zero Year can be found in The Batman, as the Riddler is the main villain, and it features a younger Batman. Both Reeves and Robert Pattinson have also expressed their love for the Snyder/Capullo run, with Pattinson expressing a desire for the Court of Owls to appear in a potential sequel.
The beauty of Batman comics is that they can often transcend genres. You have standard superhero stories, detective stories, and in the case of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, a horror story. Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Dave McKean, A Serious House on Serious Earth finds Batman entering Arkham Asylum in order to stop a riot led by the Joker. Along the way, he discovers the diary of the asylum’s founder Amadeus Arkham and learns the history of the asylum. Morrison is responsible for introducing the concept of the Joker’s “super sanity,” which explains his shifting nature over the years. And McKean’s artwork is a living nightmare; Batman himself is depicted as a towering shadow while his speech bubbles are black with white lettering. If you want to see how the boundaries of comics can be pushed, but you’re also sick to death of deconstructionist fares like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, this is the book for you.
In the pantheon of Batman comics, Batman: The Long Halloween is held up as a golden standard. But its sequel Batman: Dark Victory, is just as great – if not better. Taking place after the events of The Long Halloween, Dark Victory finds Batman growing darker and more lonely following Harvey Dent’s turn to villainy as Two-Face. Not helping matters is the mysterious serial killer known as the Hangman, who targets corrupt members of the Gotham City Police Department. Dark Victory is best known for reinterpreting the origin of the first Robin, Dick Grayson; both Batman and Robin find a connection with each other after losing people close to them. I could definitely see a sequel to The Batman incorporating elements of this book.
Batman’s rivalry with the Joker has spanned multiple comics, including Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: A Death In The Family. The Man Who Laughs, written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Doug Mahnke, tells the chilling tale of their first encounter. After his fateful fall into a vat of toxic material at Ace Chemicals, the Joker plans to poison Gotham’s water supply —leaving Batman to face a foe who won’t stop until he gets what he wants. Elements of The Man Who Laughs play off of the end of Batman: Year One and I fully expect it to be adapted in some form for the Reeves-produced animated series Batman: Caped Crusader since Brubaker has been tapped as its head writer.
Though Reeves and Peter Craig are credited as the sole screenwriters of The Batman, Mattson Tomlin also contributed material to the screenplay and would wind up translating more of his ideas into the Black Label series Batman: The Imposter. The Imposter features Batman chasing after a killer wearing his costume while also attending therapy sessions with psychiatrist Leslie Tompkins and pursuing a relationship with GCPD detective Blair Wong. Tomlin’s choice to explore the mental toll that Bruce’s double life takes on him makes for a refreshing read, and paired with the gritty art of Andrea Sorrentino; this makes for a truly realistic take on the Caped Crusader. Elements of The Batman, including a Dark Knight who’s a year into his career and wears a more armored costume, can be found in this book as well.
The Batman is now playing nationwide in theaters.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.