For the second Batman film in Graphic Content’s history, we decided craft another awesome Bat-book list. In these pages you will find designs and stories that reminded us of those found in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and will surely do the same for you. In addition to being chosen by Erin and Matt, we’ve added a third curator in Zachary Palmer, the new Comics Manager at Warp One Comics and Games.
Gotham Central TPB 1: In The Line of Duty (originally published 2003)
Zach: A collaboration between Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker – two of modern comics’ most esteeemed crime writers – Gotham Central tells the stories of the detectives of Gotham City’s Major Crimes Unit. From the accounts of the police and the civilians they interview, a picture emerges of a city living in the shadow of a legendary struggle high above their heads. Characters that intersect with that world are always profoundly affected, with reactions ranging from awed respect to frustrated resentment, not to mention the death and trauma left behind. Through this citizens’-eye view, Rucka and Brubaker write both excellent police stories and a compelling re-examination of the Batman mythology, despite the rare appearance of the Dark Knight himself. Batman: The Animated Series, the series that precedes Mask of the Phantasm, would also periodically show the audience the perspective of ordinary people living in a city where a billionaire crimefighter regularly fistfights a bunch of crooks in Halloween costumes on rooftops. Episodes like “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement” and “The Man Who Killed Batman” do a similar job to Gotham Central by imagining the effect of a brush with the extraordinary on normal people. As a further point of connection between Batman: TAS and Gotham Central, one of the most prominent characters in GC is Detective Renee Montoya, a character created for the animated series, only later appearing in comics.
Batman: Mad Love (originally published 1994)
The definitive portrayal of the Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn, aka. Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who slowly becomes as mad as her patient during one of his many stays in Arkham Asylum. Harley Quinn, like Zach mentioned above with Detective Renee Montoya, was a character originally created for the animated series who became so popular that she entered the regular Batman mythos. Mad Love is perhaps one of the best Batman stories of all time, and the collection comes with supplementary stories done in the animated style, including a great noir take on Two-Face, Harvey Dent.
Batman: The Long Halloween (originally published 1996-1997)
One of our favorite Batman stories here at Graphic Content, The Long Halloween shows the Dark Knight Detective struggling against one of the most puzzling mysteries of his storied career. For an entire year, the people of Gotham City live in fear of the Holiday Killer, a maniac who strikes like clockwork on the holiday of each month leaving grisly murders in their wake. In addition to dealing with this menace, Batman is also privy to the catastrophic fall of Harvey Dent, whose descent into his Two-Face persona is chronicled here as well. And if that weren’t enough, a baker’s dozen of Batman’s deadliest foes come out of the woodwork to hit him when he’s down. Created by the all-star comics team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween is an essential introduction to the world of Gotham City.
Batman: Year One (originally published 1987)
This book, a reinvention of Batman’s earliest days after donning the cowl, completely changed the progression of the character forever upon its first printing in the late ’80s. The parallel story of Bruce Wayne in his very first outings as Batman and Jim Gordon’s rise in the Gotham City Police Department, writer Frank Miller (of Dark Knight Returns fame) and author David Mazzuchelli crafted what became the definitive origin of the character in this story. The scenes in Mask of the Phantasm where Bruce Wayne trains and goes out on his first sortie owe a lot to this book, as do the means by which Christopher Nolan showed Batman’s origin in the Christian Bale films.