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Batman at 80: Five Essential Reads

What did you want to know about the Caped Crusader?

It’s hard to imagine a world where comic books and superheroes don’t exist. Today, they take up most of the buzz and fanfare in the world of popular culture. These men and women in tights, capes, and costumes have become the new icons many look up to, just as Greek mythology inspired the writers and artists through the decades.

One of the heroes who has transcended generations of fans is DC Comics flagship superhero: the Batman. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, the caped crusader is portrayed as a hero with no superpowers, using his own wit, intelligence, and training his body to the peak of human perfection. He’s a man with an iron will and the determination to rid his city of crime and corruption after he witnessed the murder of his parents as a child.

Photo courtesy of Filbar’s

It was in the comics where he was born, but Batman would also find success in other media, including television and film. A 1940s black and white serial, as well as the Adam West Batman television series, helped establish the character as a household name. It was years later, though, in cinema, that the character rose to legendary status. Director Tim Burton fashioned the very first dark and heroic tale of a dark crimefighter in his 1989 Batman film, starring Michael Keaton.

As Batman’s legend expands beyond his 80 years in comics, here are some essential reads that should get you introduced to the character.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

This is a masterpiece by Frank Miller, and a watershed moment for the Batman’s return to his dark and gritty roots. This explores a possible future where our Caped Crusader is older and retired but he decides to come back after a ten-year hiatus because he can no longer sit idly by and watch crime and corruption go unchecked.

Batman: Year One

Here’s another classic by Frank Miller, tackling the early years of Bruce Wayne as he begins his war on crime. You see Bruce adopting the persona of a bat and forging a grudging alliance with newcomer cop Jim Gordon: a friendship that would define the two men and help them in their mission to clean up Gotham for the better.

Batman: Hush

This is an action-driven mystery, and a visual treat for mainstream Batman fans. From the creative team of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, this story sees Batman’s greatest rogues set loose, attacking him systematically under the direction of a mysterious new foe. Meanwhile, the Dark Knight’s resolve to find this new enemy is tested by his renewed romantic relationship with Catwoman, which leads to new twists and turns that leave a new status quo after all is said and done.

Batman: The Black Mirror

Here’s a unique chapter in Batman’s history, following his temporary successor Dick Grayson: the man known as Nightwing, and the very first Robin. The first Batman story written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Jock, it’as  murder mystery that is as genuinely psychological as it is terrifying. This one explores just how far Batman’s mission might go, even if it isn’t Bruce Wayne wearing the cape and cowl anymore.

Batman: The Wedding

The newest entry in this list follows the “DC Rebirth” era of DC Comics. Batman and Catwoman finally decide to settle down and attempt to tie the knot after years of dancing around their feelings for one another. Written by current Batman writer Tom King, who is literally redefining the character, this is one event that looks to have Batfans talking for some time.

There are many other tales to explore, of course: about 80 years’ worth of tales. Better start reading.

Photo courtesy of Filbar’s