Essential reading in advance of The Dark Knight Rises
he final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is in theatres July 20, appeasing many eager fans. Nolan has proven to be extremely knowledgeable about the history of Batman, and what a history it is. Batman’s history is rich and full of stories by the best and brightest writers and artists in comics. We dusted off some of our old graphic novels to recommend some Batman comics to get you even more hyped for The Dark Knight Rises.
The Long Halloween/Dark Victory – Written by Jeph Loeb, art by Tim Sale
These pair of graphic novels by popular writer/artist duo Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale probably have the most direct influence on Nolan’s Batman films than any other graphic novel (he wrote the introduction to the deluxe edition of The Long Halloween released in 2007). Both graphic novels are self-contained mysteries that are a cross between the machinations of Gotham’s mob bosses and the so-called “freaks” who make up Batman’s rogues gallery. Sale’s distinct art is particularly evocative— he casts shadows everywhere, making Gotham truly terrifying.
Batman: Knightfall – Written and drawn by various
This “Broken Bat” arc is best known for being the one where Batman finally meets his physical and mental match— Bane, a billionaire souped on steroids and crazy enough to want to destroy the Dark Knight. With Bane appearing as a the primary villain in The Dark Knight Rises, it’s likely Nolan has done his homework— can we expect to see Bruce Wayne maimed as he was in Knightfall?
Catwoman: When in Rome – Written by Jeph Loeb, art by Tim Sale
When in Rome can be read as a follow-up to Loeb and Sale’s The Long Halloween. It picks up with Selina Kyle— better known as Catwoman— in Italy, as she tries to uncover the truth of her parentage. Kyle’s character throughout Batman’s run is the very definition of grey area; sometimes she’s a hero, sometimes a villain but most often she doesn’t fit neatly into either slot. When in Rome highlights this as Kyle tries to find out who she is following no other code but her own.
Gotham Central – Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, art by various
Fans of The Wire, HBO’s critically acclaimed police drama, will love this series that turns the spotlight on the men and women of Gotham’s Police Department. These police have to deal with the Joker and the rest of Batman’s rogue’s gallery without the aide of superpowers or billions of dollars of high-tech gear. The real strength of this story lies in the diverse cast of characters who’s personal journey’s are as engaging as those of the force at large (for example, detective Rene Montoya, a lesbian who struggles with her father’s intolerance and maintaining her reputation in the department).
Batman: Death and Maidens – Written by Greg Rucka, art by Klaus Janson
It’s long been rumoured that Ra’s Al Ghul— the villain from Batman Begins— may figure in some way in the plot of The Dark Knight Rises. Ghul is one of the more shadowy villains that Batman faces, and it’s never more apparent than in this arc in which the two form an uneasy alliance against Ghul’s own ex-lover.
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? – Written by Neil Gaiman, art by Andy Kubert
Neil Gaiman, creator of the popular Sandman series, is second only to Alan Moore when it comes to comic book cred, so it’s no surprise that his take on Batman’s death is an instant classic.
In Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, Batman finds himself a Tom Sawyer at his own funereal attended by his rogues gallery and every other character he’s touched since he appeared in comics almost 70 years ago. Each eulogy given represents a different facet of his life and is told through a different lens— some campy, some dark, all of them unique.
The story serves as an ode to the timelessness of Batman. The reason why the Dark Knight is such a popular superhero is that is that he can be all of the versions that exist of him without conflict. He can be cheesy Adam West in the 60s; he can be the hardened detective as drawn by Neal Adams; or the violent vigilante of Frank Miller’s imagination; and even Christian Bale’s serious, angsty take. While the core ingredients are always the same, Batman can be anything we need him to be.