11 Batman Stories to Read Before Watching ‘The Dark Knight’
Batman Begins and its upcoming sequel, The Dark Knight, are both feature films that deal with Bruce Wayne at the beginning of his career as a crime-fighting detective. But some in the movie audience may be curious about how these rookie years unfolded in the continuity of the comics.
So, here at ComicMix, we’ve put together a timeline of the stories you should read (and the order in which to read them) to learn about Batman’s early days. This list is focused on collected storylines from the single issues and one-shot stories rather than individual issues, and includes what is deemed to be currently in continuity within the mainstream DC Universe (so certain stories such as BATMAN: Year Two are not included). If a story’s place in the greater Batman continuity is uncertain, but hasn’t been directly contradicted by other stories, we’re including it.
Please note that this is focusing on Batman’s early solo years and is, as stated above, a timeline. Therefore stories such as Arkham Asylum and The Killing Joke, while famous, aren’t being included here since they take place much later in Batman’s career.
ADDED NOTE: If you like this, be sure to check out our related article, the Top Six Greatest Joker Victories.
Now let’s begin …
Batman: Year One – It all starts here in this story by Frank Miller (Sin City) and David Mazuchelli (DAREDEVIL: Born Again). After years of learning how to be a detective and training in the martial arts and ninjitsu in the
This comic also features the reason Bruce Wayne chose a bat as his symbol and his first encounter with Catwoman. The end of this story leads directly into another item on our reading list, BATMAN: The Man Who Laughs.
Batman and the Monster Men – In Year One, you might notice a large gap of time that passes between November and December. This story, written and drawn by Grendel’s Matt Wagner, takes place during that gap and reimagines one of Batman’s earliest stories from the Golden Age of Comics. Meet Bruce Wayne’s early girlfriend, Julie Madison, and watch his first encounter with the sociopathic Professor Hugo Strange. This story also introduces the proto-version of the Batmobile.
Batman and the Mad Monk – Another Golden Age story is brought into the modern day by Matt Wagner with this follow-up to Batman and the Monster Men. Following his encounter with the monsters of Hugo Strange, Batman now faces a potentially supernatural enemy and a deadly cult. Batman’s car truly becomes the Batmobile in this story and we also see the developing partnership between him and Jim Gordon. And see just what happened to make the Dark Knight lose the first serious love in his life.
BATMAN: The Man Who Laughs – Ed Brubaker (Captain
NOTE: If you get the new, hardcover edition of this story, it includes a more recent tale featuring a more experienced Batman and the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott) teaming up to solve a strange series of murders.
BATMAN: Four of a Kind – A variety of storytellers bring you four stories featuring
BATMAN: Rules of Engagement – Writer Andy Diggle (GREEN ARROW: Year One) and artist Whilce Portacio (Uncanny X-Men) create a story that feels very much like a summer blockbuster. While still a rookie developing new weapons for his war on crime, Batman finds himself facing the schemes of visiting billionaire scientist Lex Luthor. This story also shows the beginning of the Wayne Foundation and Batman coming into possession of Joe Chill’s gun, the very weapon that killed his parents.
BATMAN: Gothic – A twisted, horrific story brought to you by the loveably crazy writer Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman) and artist Klaus Janson (The Dark Knight Returns). This story features Batman fighting the psychotic killer Mr. Whisper, a villain who may have ties to his childhood.
BATMAN: Venom – Sometimes a hero can get desperate. In this story written by Trevor Von Eden and ComicMix‘s own Dennis O’Neil, and illustrated by Russel Braun, the Batman begins to doubt that he’s good enough for the war he started not too long ago. So with the help of an experimental chemical called "Venom", he tries to get himself some good old fashioned superhuman strength. Too bad it’s also warping his mind in the process. Watch the Dark Knight learn what lines he won’t cross and see him overcome a very relateable problem.
NOTE: Events in this story would later lead to the creation of one of Batman’s arch-enemies: Bane (featured in the Knightfall story which takes place many years later).
BATMAN: Collected Legends of the Dark Knight – Brought to you by a variety of writers and artists, this collection features three short stories from different points in Batman’s early career. Watch as Bruce Wayne has a re-match with Poison Ivy and meets the enigmatic Cavalier. Oh, and hear a junkie’s tale about a mystical imp known as the “Bat-Mite.”
BATMAN: The Long Halloween – From Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (the creative team of Spider-Man: Blue and Daredevil: Yellow), The Long Halloween is a year-long story featuring Batman, Capt. Gordon and D.A. Harvey Dent as they combat the forces of Carmine “the Roman” Falcone while also trying to discover the identity of a man who’s killing mobsters every month on a holiday. This story features several of Batman’s famous enemies and includes the transformation of Harvey Dent into Two-Face. This trade also shows the first time Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) engage in a romantic relationship.
BATMAN: Dark Victory – Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale created this sequel to The Long Halloween, which features the further shift in
Though not really earning a place on this list, an honorable mention goes to BATMAN: Turning Points. A collection of tales from various points over Batman’s career, the first story seems to take place between The Long Halloween and Dark Victory as Gordon deals with a serious problem at home.
Well, that about does it. This should be all the reference material you need to get caught up on your early Batman history and
annoy impress your friends with your Batman IQ. So, what are you waiting around for? Go out and start reading!
Alan Kistler has his own batarang, but it’s only good for opening beer bottles. He has been recognized by Warner Bros. Pictures as a comic book historian and can be seen on the Adventures of Aquaman and Justice League: New Frontier DVDs. He really wishes Marvel or DC or the kind folks at Doctor Who would realize he has some fun story ideas to share and write. His personal web-site is http://KistlerUniverse.com.