A Recommended Reading List - Batman

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

Trying to pick a starting point for comic book reading can be an incredibly overwhelming process. In a recent interview, Robert Pattinson discussed his current preparations for taking on the role of The Dark Knight. In this interview, he states that he had no idea just how many Batman comics existed, as there are literally thousands of stories out there.

When I began reading Batman comics, I truly had no understanding of chronology or the order by which comics were composed. So, I really just picked titles that seemed appealing to me and read them.

Today, after reading a plethora of Batman comics, I have a better understanding of the mythos and the method by which one should tackle it when they are getting acclimated with the character.

Thus, I thought it would be helpful to assemble a reading list for those of you who may want to dip your toes in the waters of Gotham City but may not know where to start.

So, without further ado, here is my recommended reading list for the DC Comics character, Batman.

Batman: The Long Halloween (1996)

Batman: The Long Halloween

I have decided to begin this list with a strong start. Batman: The Long Halloween is actually my favorite comic book story of all time. It is the story that catalyzed my love for Batman and, honestly, comics in general.

What's it about?

The Long Halloween traces back to the earlier days of Bruce Wayne's tenure as Batman. As a result, we witness a fallible Batman who is susceptible to immature mistakes and trusting others too easily. Ultimately, The Long Halloween traverses the story of a serial killer known as "Holiday", a name deriving from the killer's tendency to kill on a monthly holiday.

Alongside Captain James Gordon and new Gotham City DA, Harvey Dent, Batman fine tunes his detective skills to track down the killer, while also combatting members of his rogues' gallery along the way.

What makes it great?

Batman: The Long Halloween, 13-issue series released in 1996 and 1997, is a quintessential Batman story to say the least. It showcases Batman's skills as the World's Greatest Detective as the story emulates characteristics of a noir-esque mystery. Tim Sale's moody art perfectly juxtaposes the grittier, noir elements of the work as well.

Additionally, the story is a psychological thriller through and through. Writer Jeph Loeb continuously keeps readers at the edge of their seats with his engaging narrative, full of unexpected, though nuanced, twists and turns.

So, overall, Batman: The Long Halloween provides a flawless exemplification of the Batman mythos without ever feeling overcrowded or mundane.

Batman: Contagion (1996)

Batman: Contagion

One of the most intriguing aspects of Batman's mythos is the way in which Its world expands. Oftentimes, people perceive Batman's character to be that of a loner, one who establishes few alliances.

In reality though, the symbol of Batman has perpetuated an entire Bat family.

What's it about?

Batman: Contagion comprises a run that focuses on the outbreak of a deadly virus throughout Gotham City. As a result, Batman, alongside figures including Nightwing, Azrael, Robin, and Catwoman, must destroy the threat of the virus before the obliteration of Gotham City peaks.

What makes it great?

Firstly, the creative ensemble behind Batman: Contagion comprises a wealth of talent including iconic figures such as Chuck Dixon, Christopher Priest, and Dennis O'Neill.

With this, Batman: Contagion's narrative is incredibly nuanced. The "bad guy" of the saga does not come in the form of a notable Batman villain, but, rather, in the form of a rampant disease and a class of pompous Gotham City elite that are unwilling to take part in contributing to the salvation of those infected when they, in fact, have the means to do so.

Thus, Batman: Contagion presents itself as a fast-paced thriller that distributes the focus across the entire Bat family. The story is also noted for its portrayal of Catwoman, in which she explores her own heroic tendencies.

So, if you are looking for a work that gets you better acquainted with Batman's closest allies and the dynamic The Dark Knight facilitates with those allies, Batman: Contagion fits that bill.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986)

The Dark Knight Returns

One of the most fascinating aspects about Batman is his own mortality. He has fought alongside gods and monsters, yet Batman has never faltered in his fortitude as it pertains to crimefighting on behalf of the innocent.

What's it about?

The Dark Knight Returns is a 1986 comic book story from Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. The work depicts Bruce Wayne at an aged state. Additionally, he has had The Cowl of the Bat hung up for quite some time.

However, when Bruce comes to realize that Gotham City has devolved into something terrible, he feels the need to reemerge. Thus, Batman returns to combat a new era of villains Gotham City has birthed.

What makes it great? The Dark Knight Returns features a plethora of iconic aspects including the introduction of Carrie Kelley as Robin and the epic confrontation between Superman and Batman themselves.

Simply, The Dark Knight Returns is an epic comeback story. Despite his age and weakened nature, Batman maintains the fortitude he had when he initially decided to become The Dark Knight years prior.

With this, I love Batman stories that breathe life into Gotham City, rendering the city as its own character. Gotham City and Batman ultimately sustain each other, whether positive or negative is up to interpretation. However, The Dark Knight Returns addresses that relationship while also challenging Batman's perception of his own career as The Dark Knight and how his lifestyle has impacted the city.

Batman: The Killing Joke (1988)

The Killing Joke

If you know who Batman is, then one can assume that you know exactly who The Joker is. Operating as Batman's archenemy, many believe Batman cannot exist as the crimefighter he is without the opposing existence of The Clown Prince of Crime himself.

What's it about?

Alan Moore is undoubtedly one of my favorite comic book writers. Thus, his collaboration with Brian Bolland on The Killing Joke is a definitive one within the mythos of Batman. Ultimately, it challenges anyone's understanding of the relationship between The Joker and Batman.

Additionally, it delves into possible origin stories of The Joker himself, a subject of great mystery and controversy throughout comic book history.

What makes it great?

The Killing Joke is one of the most thought-provoking works on this reading list as it proposes a multitude of concepts, including whether or not Batman needs The Joker in order to maintain a reason to exist.

With this, the story challenges Batman's "no-kill" rule, driving readers to ponder whether that rule is sustainable for a man of Batman's disposition. One may also ponder whether the rule is in fact detrimental when it means that Batman has let a killer like The Joker live on for so long.

Also, The Killing Joke is arguably the most tragic tale on this list as it presents a heartbreaking and pivotal event in Barbara Gordon's comic book history. Thus, The Killing Joke is certainly not for the faint of heart. However, when it comes to essential Batman comics, there is no doubt that the tale is a part of this list.

Batman: Hush (2002)

Batman: Hush

The complicated love-and-hate-on-and-off story of Batman and Catwoman is one that has persisted for generations in comic books. Both individuals have challenged the very nature of the other, which has promoted both personal growth and controversy within the respective individual themselves.

Thus, despite having persisted for so long, the dynamic between Batman and Catwoman never fails to be engaging as it is ever-evolving.

What's it about?

Batman: Hush traverses the story of a mysterious foe known as "Hush", who has a tendency to strike at Batman at a personal level.

With this, the comic digs into Bruce Wayne's own struggles in letting people in. Sure, Batman establishes a circle of trust. However, he is not the best at establishing a fulfilling life outside of his role as Batman.

Batman: Hush establishes a great emphasis on Bruce's attempt to let Selina Kyle aka Catwoman into his life as they embark on the Hush investigation together.

What makes it great?

Undoubtedly, Batman: Hush is one of the greatest stories depicting Batman and Catwoman's relationship.

Sure, Hush can be considered a love story in the Batman mythos, though it is also a Batman story that depicts the repercussions of betrayal and distrust. Thus, if you are seeking a Batman story that depicts The Dark Knight's motivations in evolving his own nature, Batman: Hush is the story for you.

The Bat

The Beginning

As aforementioned, there are a multitude of Batman stories available to read, and, to be honest, if I could have fit thirty more titles into this list, I would have.

However, I wanted to start off simple and provide five solid comic book stories that any person interested in Batman could pick up and enjoy.

With this, each of these five stories present their own unique takes on the very characteristics that contribute to the essence of Batman while each exploring various facets of various genres.

So, get started and pick up any one of these titles, and happy reading!