Debuting in DETECTIVE COMICS #27 eighty-one years ago, there are literally thousands of comic book issues, stories, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels starring Batman.
But if you objectively could only pick four to make up a “Mt. Rushmore of Batman comics,” which ones would you pick?
Here are my four and trust me, I had a very hard time choosing. In fact, I had to exclude some of my all-time favorites — and others that are classics and tremendously important to Batman history — because I was, you know, trying to be objective.
Here we go!
DETECTIVE COMICS #27 (1939)
“The Bat-Man” made his debut in a story titled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” (by Bill Finger with art by Bob Kane) and the rest is history.
And thank you Bill Finger!
BATMAN #1 (1940)
In the very first issue of what would become DC Comics’ flagship Batman comic book, but both Catwoman (as “The Cat”) and The Joker made their first appearances in this issue.
Not only are both more than iconic Batman supporting characters/villains, but each is also as well-known as Batman himself in the world of pop culture. And hell, while The Joker is the greatest comic book villain in the history of, well, comic book villains, Mr. J is one of the greatest bad guys in all of literature.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (1986)
Not only is TDKR a classic Batman story, but it’s also one of the most important graphic novels in the history of comic books — a total gamechanger.
Not only did show the mainstream audience that Batman wasn’t simply the “Pow!/Zap!/Wam!” from the 1960s BATMAN TV series (which I love), but it (along with WATCHMEN) showed that comic books weren’t just for kids and could be mature and serious.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE (1987)
The story of The Batman — who he is and how he came to be (See what I did there?) — will never be depicted as gritty, grimy, grounded, and yes, realistic, as it was told in Frank Miller’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE.
This noir take on Batman’s beginnings (See what I did there, again?) is the definitive Batman origin story. Others have tried (BATMAN: ZERO YEAR anyone?) and fallen short, but YEAR ONE is still standing.
The runners up…
I could make an argument that each of the following could/should be on the Mr. Rushmore of Batman Comics. However, I tried to be objective as possible and base my choices on both historical and cultural significance. With that said, here are my runners up…
DETECTIVE COMICS #38 (1940)
The Dick Grayson version of Robin — and the original Robin — debuted in DC #38.
BATMAN #217 – “One Bullet Too Many” (1969)
Dick Grayson leaves for college, Batman and Robin are no more, Bruce Wayne and Alfred move from Wayne Manor to a penthouse in Gotham, and — most importantly — Batman is again portrayed as a “dark and serious vigilante of the night” as he was originally conceived in 1939.
As Bruce tells Alfred, “Got to face up to it — no matter how it hurts! From now on, everything is going to be different–it has to be!”
BATMAN #251 – “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” (1973)
I considered including this one because it’s my all-time favorite single Batman comic book story. Also, it’s the first Batman comic book that I actually read — and didn’t simply “look at” — as a child.
However, it’s historically important because it marks the comic book return of the mass-murdering and crazy AF Joker — and not the annoying prankster — for the first time since the very early 1940s (see BATMAN #1). AND…
It also sewed the seeds of what would soon become “Arkham Asylum.”
BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN (1996-1997)
Arguably, the greatest Batman “detective story” ever told in the comic books.
So there’s the Mt. Rushmore of Batman comics: DETECTIVE COMICS #27, BATMAN #1, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and BATMAN: YEAR ONE. and my four runners up. What would be on your monument? And remember, it’s not based on your personal favorites, but important to the Batman mythos and history. – Bill “Jett” Ramey