Today we’re turning things over to my good friend Daniel Kalban. I think you’re going to hear lots of great things from him in the future and I hope you’ll check out the links at the bottom of this post so you can sample his talent. In the meantime, let’s jump right in and see what Daniel’s here to talk about!
I’ve always been fascinated by Batman. I was born two months before the Tim Burton film came out, my earliest TV memories was fighting with my little sister over watching Batman: The Animated Series versus Rugrats, and my first costume was a homemade Batman outfit.
As an aspiring comic writer, I’d love to write Batman stories (heck, I’d kill just to write the backups). He has the most interesting villains, an amazing supporting cast (which I’d like to add to, long story), and tales that are high adventures, noir mysteries, and psychological horror stories.
When Barry asked me if I wanted to do a guest column, he suggested that I’d list my top 10 favorite Bat-tales; the ones that inspire me as a writer.
So, without further ado…
10. Bruce Wayne: Murderer?
Oh I love the set up of this: Bruce Wayne accused of a murder he didn’t commit…but all the evidence, and his need to protect the big secret, is not helping him. This also results in his supporting cast being split on whether he is guilty or not of the crime; leading to a great examination of the ties between the Bat-clan and their leader. Seeing Bruce crack under the pressure is also very entertaining, especially when he takes down a bunch of Neo Nazis in Blackgate. Sadly, the follow up volumes have yet to be rereleased (HURRY IT UP, DC!)
9. The Killing Joke
A great one shot that sent repercussions through the DC Universe ever since, it also contains my favorite “choice” for Joker’s origin. Not only is it a horrifying tale from the pen of Alan Moore (the torment of Commissioner Gordon and the paralyzing of Barbara Gordon especially); it’s also a tragic tale for Joker, if his memories are true. It’s an exploration of madness, and perseverance even in the face of said madness. Combined with The Man Who Laughs, and you get a complex portrait of Joker. That being said, I disagree with Grant Morrison’s interpretation of the ending. And speaking of Morrison….
8. Batman and Son
While I’m still angry about Damian’s demise (let’s just say I’ve written a couple articles on the subject and I’m glad he’s likely coming back), his first appearance is one of my favorite moments. Unlike many fans, I loved the idea of Batman having a biological son, and I pitied Damian because he was trying to reach out for a parent. And in the end, between Dick and Bruce, he does become a better person over time. Here, it’s just hilarious to see his antics. However, it’s not higher on this list due to the slow transformation of Talia into cackling villainess. That is an insult to her character.
7. Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul
Morrison is great, Paul Dini is great; combine the two and you get a rousing adventure story that explores not only the history of one of Batman’s greatest villains (and his return to life); but also builds upon the characters and plants seeds of things to come. One of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever read is the scene where Nightwing confronts Robin, and Dick hopes Tim hasn’t fallen to the dark(er) side, as he puts it. It also has several laugh out loud moments, as well as moments of sheer terror. The middle act of the massive arc between Son and Batman RIP is a rousing adventure, as well as a meditation on the ultimate fear: of death itself. It’s also a very interesting look into Bruce’s family and quasi in-laws.
6. Dark Victory
More than just a retelling of how the Dynamic Duo came to be, it’s another exploration of family ties (for a loner, family is still important to Batman). It also deals with plot points from Loeb’s and Sale’s Long Halloween (more on that in a bit), and helps bring many of the remaining strands of that tale. It also caps off what I call the “Year One Saga” (Year One, Long Halloween, and this one). Weaker than its predecessors, it still is an adventure and also explores Bruce’s eventual opening up of his life to more people than he, or readers, ever expected. It’s also one of the livelier depictions of young Dick Grayson.
5. The Long Halloween
Combine Batman with The Godfather, and you get this tale. It also is the tale of how Gotham crime became less the acts of the Falcone cartel and instead became the actions of the lunatics of Arkham (though Falcone has recently returned to the comics in Batman: Eternal). It’s also a tragic tale for Harvey Dent, as well as having one of the most interesting endings in Batman comics: Who Was Holiday? As Loeb will later show, he’s great at giving Batman a good mystery to solve. But the most important tale is Dent’s fall into becoming Two-Face.
4. Year One
My favorite take on Batman’s earliest days (though Zero Year is giving it a run for its money); Miller’s tale is dark and dramatic. It also shows Gotham in the days before it was overrun by garish madmen. It’s also a great origin tale for Gordon, and how the events of this year would forge a powerful friendship, not to mention potentially one of Arkham’s creepiest future inmates. Of all of Miller’s Bat stories, this is the sole one I enjoy; and his take on an unexperienced Bruce is a very interesting one. Backed up by a noir atmosphere, this is truly a definitive take on Batman’s earliest crusades.
Need I say more? The tale of how the Bat was Broken, how an Avenging Angel was chosen to step in, and how the Dark Knight regained his strength, his cowl, and his city. It gave us Bane, who has been criminally badly written off as a simple thug (thankfully, there are enough writers who remember his cunning, and his code of ethics, which are admittedly twisted). It is also a Greek tragedy for Jean Paul Valley, who proved to be a poor choice for a Batman. It also made me fascinated with the Order of St. Dumas, which I think is also underused as a villainous society in recent years. If Jean Paul comes back from the dead, the Order is likely not far behind. Knightfall is a grand tale, and it’s a pulsepounding one from start to finish.
2. Court of Owls saga
The most recent tale on here, it’s a terrifying tale as it shows Batman doesn’t know Gotham as well as he thinks. Add a puppeteer behind the scenes who might have a connection to our hero, a dark family history for Dick Grayson, the unleashing of undead assassins on Gotham and the Bat-Family…you got one heck of a story. It also connects to ideas first broached in Snyder’s Gates of Gotham mini, and it makes one interested in Gotham’s storied, dark past. It’s also one of the few stories where Bruce really has doubts, is horribly wounded and has to overcome them in the end.
My favorite Batman story. Not only does it have a great noir mystery, not only does it have a great cast, it’s just an overall great story. We have a peek into Bruce’s life before the Wayne Murders, we have the seeds planted for Jason Todd’s return, and we have a great villain (can’t wait to see Hush in the N52). Not to mention that numerous other villains get their time to shine in this series. We also finally got the Batman/Catwoman relationship that we’ve been wanting for ages (seriously, you think Talia would be a healthy relationship?). Not to mention there is BEAUTIFUL art by Jim Lee to go along with the story. The entire package is why Hush is my fave.
There are a ton of other stories that I love (Death In The Family/A Lonely Place of Dying/Under the Red Hood for example), but there are my top 10 faves at the moment. Each is a tale that influences me and reflects different facets of Batman and his universe.
Daniel Kalban is an aspiring writer from Brooklyn, NY, who wants to write for DC Comics one day. He is a writer for Word of the Nerd (www.wordofthenerdonline.com), his various script ideas can be found on Deviantart (dkalban.deviantart.com), and is the co-writer of Legends of the Teen Wonder: Armor, a fan webcomic about Tim Drake (http://teenwonderobin.tumblr.com/)