The Bat-Mania and the Comics that Fuel it
What is your first Bat-memory?
With the release of the Robert Pattinson-starring, Matt Reeve's The Batman on March 3, 2022 (ahead of its release in the States), this question kept running through my mind over and over.
While I initially had the image of the end credits of Batman: The Animated Series circling my mind, I also thought about 1989's Batman, 1992's Batman Returns, 1995's Batman Forever, and the abysmally delightful Batman & Robin of 1998. But none of them felt quite right, not even when I thought about the seminal Dark Knight trilogy helmed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. Eventually, though, I did land on it, my first Bat-memory. It originated where my fandom for most superheroes originates—the land of comic books, more specifically, the cover of JLA #1 (by Grant Morrison and Howard Dell), where the all-black-clad vigilante with a yellow signia stood out even amongst the pantheon of superheroes.
In sync with the release of the new movie—the trailers of which were tremendously well-received by the audience—I wanted to highlight some of the most notable works that have inspired the entertainment offerings of who I like to think is the World's Greatest Detective, in multiple mediums (especially the films including the newest one):
Batman: The Long Halloween (Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb)
The 13-issue limited iseries is one of the major influencers for Robert Pattinson's new film with a whodunit mystery at the centre of it, involving multiple members of the Rogues Gallery and a major role for Catwoman. The kind of characterisation presented in this book has become the gold standard for the Bat-mythos, parts of which were eventually adapted for Nolan's trilogy as well as a celebrated animated film in 2021 with the same name.
Batman: Year One (Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli)
The 4-issue run part of the main ongoing 'Batman' title has been the primary inspiration for any early-era Batman story of the last 30+ years, including an animated adaptation. With a decidedly shaky alliance with the GCPD also being depicted in the new movie, Year One continues its streak of being a central focus for Bat-narratives on the silver screen after informing major beats in Batman Begins (2005).
The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller, Lynn Varley and Klaus Janson)
The iconic cover and story of an older Batman still waging his war on crime against Mutants, the Joker, and even Superman(!), has been adapted into an acclaimed two-part animated feature but is probably now known more for Zack Snyder's botched adaptation with Batman Vs Superman (2016). While this book is not a primary inspiration for the new film, it serves as a cautionary tale for what not to do when adapting such carefully crafted and iconic stories.
Batman: Dark Victory (Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb)
The less-celebrated than the other titles in the list but equally fascinating sequel continues the story of The Long Halloween with the identity of the killer once again at the crux of the tale. The dark red colour palette of the comic book has heavily inspired the promotional materials of the latest movie, sometimes drawing comparisons between Daredevil and the Bat.
Batman: Hush (Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee)
This book was the most responsible for returning the Riddler to the apex of the Rogues Gallery after Jim Carrey's over-the-top portrayal in the '90s, by introducing a memorable new villain in the bandage-wearing Hush. Further solidifying the Riddler's antagonist status is the animated version, which introduced a surprising twist to the proceedings. The version played by Paul Dano is more in line with the one reintroduced in this story amidst a menagerie of Batman's more celebrated foes, like the Penguin and Two-Face.
While these only scratch the surface of the masterworks that have inspired the films, television shows, video games, etc. related to Batman, it must be stated that excitement for the new film and the character is at a fever pitch (with both Micheal Keaton and Bat-fleck's return still to come later in the year), which is why the comic books that created Bat-Mania deserve a shout out just as it returns in full force with the release of the most anticipated movie of Q1 2022!
Mir Zariful Karim exists in the multiverse as a curator of comic book lists and works as an MTO at APEX DMIT LTD. He has previously written for the Prestige Global and Daily Star Books, and is currently doing his best to manage his diet of sports, comic books, and professional wrestling.