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75 Greatest Batman Stories: #65-56

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In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Batman, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Batman, culminating with the official 75th anniversary of Batman on July 23rd. We’ve done Batman covers, Batman characters, Batman creastors and now, finally, Batman stories!

You all voted, now here are the results of what you chose as the 75 Greatest Batman Stories! Here are #65-56!

Enjoy!

NOTE: Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section. If you are not a fan of a particular creator, that’s fine, but be respectful about it. No insulting creators or otherwise being a jerk about creators. I’ll be deleting any comments like that and, depending on how jerky the comment was, banning commenters.

65. “Heart of Hush” (Detective Comics #846-#850)

After being the main villain of the storyline that bore his name, Hush had fallen by the wayside as a Batman villain, reduced to basically being a henchman of other villains like the Joker. Paul Dini, though, changed everything in his Heart of Hush story (art by Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs) where Dini brings Hush back to his mastermind days while also spotlighting his surgeon skills by first having him horrifically remove Catwoman’s heart and then to perform surgery on himself to make himself look like Bruce Wayne…

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Dini also did some fine work examining Thomas Elliot’s relationship with his family growing up (the mother he tried to kill when he was a kid, only to see her saved by Bruce Wayne’s surgeon father).

64. Bruce Wayne: Fugitive (Batman #603-607, Detective Comics #768-775, Batman: Gotham Knights #29-32 and Batgirl #29-33 plus some other tie-ins here and there)

In the crossover Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, Bruce Wayne stood accused of murdering one his old girlfriends, Vesper Fairchild. The bigger issue is that while there is no apparent motive to outside examination, to those who know Bruce’s secrets, they discover that it appears as though VESPER knew his secrets, as well. Could their friend and mentor really be a murderer? Nightwing, Batgirl, Oracle and Robin have to wrestle with that doubt while still trying to set Bruce free.

Eventually, Batman decides that he has been off the grid for too long and decides to escape from prison as Bruce Wayne and then simply retire the identity and become Batman full-time.

The largest piece of the Bruce Wayne: Fugitive crossover is about Batman’s allies still trying to prove his innocence while he doesn’t seem to care at all. Ultimately, the series becomes about the importance of Bruce Wayne in Batman’s life, which comes to a head when he is hanging out with Catwoman and Batman risks himself to save another crook….

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The last Batman crossover by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker (Rucka would leave Detective Comics soon after and Brubaker would finish up about a year later, after taking over Detective Comics from Rucka while Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb took over Batman.

63. “Going Sane” (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #65-68)

In this intriguing storyline, J.M. DeMatteis explores just what would happen if Joker DID kill Batman. He theorizes in this story that he would basically go…well, SANE…

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Of course, he didn’t REALLY kill Batman and that’s where things begin to fall apart (the art is by Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell).

Go to the next page for #62-59!

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39 Comments

The only one of these I voted for was Knightquest, but they’re all good… except War Games. War Games was horrendous on nearly every level. But hey, at least it killed off Stephanie Brown, until she wasn’t. Everybody acted so stupidly, especially the police,

I myself found a copy of “Resurrection Night!” (Batman #400) a few months back in a longbox in a comic book store and snatched it up quickly. It didn’t quite make my list, but I adore it and the parade of artists that drew it. It’s sort of a proto-Knightfall.

I also have a copy of “Heart of Hush” in TPB form. It’s the only storyline with Hush in it that I enjoy.

Heart of Hush is ranked entirely too low. It is indeed the best Batman story.

Heart of Hush did a lot to make Hush a believable rogue after his initial awful story(which is likely to be in the top 20 here, natch). Dini had a knack for getting down to the core of his bad guys and seeing what makes them tick, such as “Heart of Ice”, “Mad as a Hatter”, “Harley’s Holiday” and “Catwalk” from the Animated Series. Dustin Nguyen is great, as expected.

Going Sane is one of the better Joker stories I’ve read; like Dini, DeMatteis is quite adapt at characterization and getting into his psychologically warped character’s heads. A bittersweet mix of sentiment and heartbreak.

War Games is awful on damn every level a story could be awful, complete with Leslie Thompkins, beacon of hope and compassion, kills Stephanie Brown cuz she wanted to teach that mean ol’ Batman a lesson.

KnightsQuest has its moments. One of my favorite Joker stories come out of there, Detective Comics 673 where he’s directing a movie out of the events of the story. Ebert and Siskel show to talk about how this whole event started well and then just kept going in this random messy assembly of ideas. He kills them both of course, two thumbs down! Take that, 90s crossover critics!

Holy Terror is the best DC Elseworlds ever, written by one of its finest writers, drawn by one of its finest artists. Most Elseworlds seem to settle on “Ok, its Batman…BUT IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND!” or “Ok, its Batman…BUT PART OF THE SPANISH INQUISITION!”. Holy Terror actually had something to say, it used its alternate universe setting to powerfully embark on a tale about religion, politics, self-identity, and the price of freedom. Not to be confused with Frank Miller’s repugnant Holy Terror.

I really wish Resurrection Night got a reprint. So many great artists tackling a big fun project, and its stuck on that awful, awful cheap page production.

War Crimes was a lot of fun – and it’s nice to see that it made the list despite how many people think it’s terrible.

Ditto (to a lesser extent) for City of Crime.

Going Sane made my shortlist. Excellent story (though let down by the art).

Holy Terror and Faces I forgot, but would have at least made my shortlist if I’d remembered them. They’re great.

Prose stories in comics irritate me a bit. I don’t much like reading prose stories and that’s why I read comics. Just personal preference.

I’ve just realised that Resurrection Night has merged in my memory with the Mike W Barr anniversary issue around the same time that had Sherlock Holmes. Now I feel the need to dig them both out and reread them – and that great Superman anniversary issue with people from the future looking back at Superman.

I like Holy Terror though I can never buy the premise that If X Had/Hadn’t Happened the Church Would Control Everything Today (it’s been used in a number of SF stories)–I think it’s more likely the schisms we’ve seen in our own world would rip things apart in the alternate timeline too. But past that, it was excellent.
KnightQuest, War Games, not ones I would have voted for.
I must read Going Sane sometime.

Batman #400 is my first one to show up, one of the first Batman books I read, in fact one of the first DC ones, when I started to convert to DC in the mid-eighties.

Going Sane and Broken City are two that I read, and that I think I found to be pretty good, but that I couldn’t bring myself to vote for because I couldn’t remember anything that got me really excited or really resonated with me (and I think I read Going Sane twice). I think a lot of those types of stories are gonna show up for me, including some of the big significant 80s ones.

Nice to see “Death Strikes At Midnight & Three” and Batman #400 getting some love.

I wrote an article about Batman #s 300 & 400 for BACK ISSUE #69 last year. Doug Moench was very nice and gave me some cool stories for the interview.

AverageJoeEveryman

July 12, 2014 at 8:02 am

HATED Broken City, enjoyed the others that I have read.

So far, Heart of Hush is the only story on my list to make it to the Top 75. It’s good to see that the modern fans are open-minded enough to consider a story that’s as old as Heart of Hush.

War Games is a lot of fun, but it’s also pretty stupid. But it gets lots of points for the Gulacy art.

Faces made the Wizard Top 100 Trades list, where I read it first. Such a good story. I want to say it is number 100.

Glad J.M. DeMatteis make the list

“Death Strikes At Midnight & Three” was the one time I got my mom to reach a Batman comic. Since it was in prose and the art was very gorgeously rendered, I figured it was worth a shot. She read it and said she enjoyed it but still held to her belief that Adam West was the true Batman. Well, it was worth a shot

Never heard of Death Strikes at Midnight and Three, but I wonder if Morrison’s idea to do a prose issue was inspired by this?

Voted for Heart of Hush. It was more of a symbolic vote for Dini’s run on Detective Comics, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I wonder if anything else from it will show up on this list. There was so much good stuff going on in that run: reformed Riddler as a PI, Peyton Riley, Hush, and even the Zatanna stuff was enjoyable. I love #826, the issue with Joker and Robin’s joyride, and #831 where Harley gets out of Arkham. The latter was a touching character moment, something Dini’s always had a keen knack for when it comes to the villains. Dini’s one of my favorite Batman writers, and his handling of the villains is a big reason why. Little surprise that he’d find some way to make Hush a compelling character.

I haven’t read any of the Knightsaga stuff. It’s probably the most well known Batman story I’ve yet to tackle. Keep meaning to get around to it, but the sheer size of the thing makes me back away at the last second and I end up reaching for something else. One of these days, though…

Never heard of Death Strikes at Midnight and Three, but I wonder if Morrison’s idea to do a prose issue was inspired by this?

Probably. There are also Batman prose stories in Detective Comics #500 (By Walter Gibson, creator of The Shadow with illustrations by Tom Yeates) and in Secret Origins #50 (a Dick Grayson origin written by Denny O’Neil with illustrations by George Perez).

I really love this current list! Reading the snippets is akin of reading a great noir story. Heart of Hush is a great read for it also establishes Bruce Wayne’s true love to Selina Kyle (that’s before the New 52). Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s Batman really delved on the who-do-it stuffs with an incredible balance of action until the very end of the story. Furthermore, Broken City is a good detective read, combining with the dark contrast that resonates the story Azzarrello attempted to convey, and lastly, this “Resurrection Night”…WOW! I’m a huge fan of Knightfall saga, and after reading and drooling on the above snippets, I can say that where exactly the former premise came from (and to some extent, the future connectivity between Ra’s and Bane). Excellent entries!

@Bullio

KnightSaga is indeed quite large, and as you might expect, it drags a tad, especially in the middle, but even as it is exhausting, it’s also quite good. And it has some great work from both the writers and artists, at least as far as Dixon, Moench, Nolan, and Aparo go. Denny O’Neil even wrote the climactic chapter in KnightsEnd (and the novelization, which might be an easier read).

I don’t think “The Search” was collected, because a lot of people disliked that section, the part with Bruce out to rescue Tim’s father and Shondra Kinsolving, but probably because of the resolution to it. I honestly like Bruce’s bluffs when he can barely stand.

“Never heard of Death Strikes at Midnight and Three, but I wonder if Morrison’s idea to do a prose issue was inspired by this?”

I believe Grant Morrison and DC published the “Batman: THE BLACK CASEBOOK” in 2009, after wrapping his Batman: R.I.P. (Covering his selected Batman 50s-60s inspirations). Also, Morrison said he read tons of Batman stories from 1940s up to the 1990s, so there’s a huge possibility he used that one in one of his Bat-stories.

2 of my choices in there.
War games (9) and Resurrection Night (7)

interesting selection of stories appearing

IIRC, Morrison specifically mentioned “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” in interviews at the time.

I think the last page of “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” is one of my favorite splash pages of all time. Such an excellent combination of art, prose, and lettering.

I hate seeing all these event comics on this list. I realize we haven’t hit fifty yet, but some of these comics are god awful. War-Games, Fugitive, and Knightsquest!?

The comics that will suffer from this will probably be the hidden gem individual issues that are never discussed. Written by guys like Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, or Chuck Dixon. Shame.

“Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” is the third story from The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told collection to make this list.

“Faces” and “Resurrection Night” are both fantastic stories.

“Going Sane” is great too, and one of the better efforts at showing the human side of the Joker. It does have some pretty big plotholes, IIRC (or more accurately, some aspects of the plot were pretty difficult to swallow).

I’ll give Dini credit for giving it his best in “Heart of Hush”, but it still didn’t sell me on the villain.

interesting to find wargames so low on the list for thought it would not show up to way way later. plus heart of hush proves that hush not only likes playing god but also his hatred of batman is so much he is willing to almost be him. and love the bit about batman saying making a deal with rhas would be making a pact with the devil himself.even refusing to let rhas make him forever free of the joker.

Great to see “Death Strikes at Midnight and 3″ — didn’t make my list, but it is a favourite. As Roman said, that last page is dynamite. Hope that “Night of the Reaper” gets the same love. I’m a big fan of “Faces” as well.

but also his hatred of batman is so much he is willing to almost be him.

One of the points of Heart of Hush (and especially the follow-up story when Catwoman pursues him) is that Hush doesn’t hate Batman. He hates Bruce Wayne, and is potentially well suited to fit in with Bruce’s social circle and figure out ways to use those connections to hurt Wayne.

I just want to throw out there that “Holy Terror’s” portrayal of “the church” appears to be a form of English Puritanism, specifically based on the story’s reference to Oliver Cromwell NOT succumbing to illness (as he did in the real world). The misnomer of “the church” might lead some to think that the story was about the Catholic Church, as indeed I did when I was a teenager, read the story, and wasn’t really up on my English history. There’s some Episcopalian dress and architecture in the story, and high Episcopal trappings do bear a strong resemblance to traditional Catholic appearances as well. The story is certainly about religion and politics gone mad, but if it’s picking on any particular church, it’s 17th century British Christianity.

Anyway, good stuff otherwise. I only wished that we’d seen MORE DC cameos in the story. I kept musing on what would have happened to Wonder Woman in this patriarchical and puritanical world gone mad.

These lists reflect the best and worst of fandom in equal measure. I’d really love for anyone who voted for “War Games” to defend that decision. If you’ve read even 11 Batman stories, any 11, surely “War Games” doesn’t make the cut. For God’s sake, Leslie Thompkins kills Stephanie Brown to prove a point to Batman. Leslie Thompkins, who dedicated her life to preventing impoverished kids from falling through the cracks, murdered a teenage mother to prove a point to Batman about HIM endangering minors. And enough people voted for it to put it at #62. I’m scared.

Sorry for the rant, Brian, I know you normally don’t approve. But come on, man, “War Games”? You must want to read this defense as much as I do.

I’m having a brain fart now. I cannot remember if I voted for “Faces” by Mat Wagner. Whatever the case, it is an excellent story.

I’m also curious, Joe C. I’d guess no one who read There is No Hope in Crime Alley when it came out (or even when it was reprinted in Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told) voted for War Games. Perhaps people who voted for War Games only started reading post-NML, and so didn’t really know much about Leslie Thompkins, so weren’t put off by perhaps the most wildly out of character behaviour of a supporting Bat-character since… since… (I don’t want to say “ever”, but no obvious comparison springs to mind)

I definitely want to see the defense of War Games.

When I got back into comics in 2011 after a 7-year absence, one of the first things I got was the TPBs for War Games. It has a pretty good idea at its core and some of the specific chapters are very good. (Gulacy art! The Tarantula sections are great.)

I love Steph, but I don’t think it was out-of-character for her to be so reckless. Batman on the other hand … I really can’t make sense of why he would have something as dangerous as this plan “lying around.” And he seems like quite a dullard when he doesn’t recognize his own plan for several issues. I think they could have found a way to create this horrific situation without making Batman look so ridiculous.

There’s a lot more wrong with War Games, but that’s a start.

But yeah, it has its moments.

I love all the story arcs from “Legends of the Dark Knight” till the moment they jumped into the main time storys with the NO Mans Land x-over Story. After that the series was going to die

That Mat Wagner art on Faces looks amazing. I might have to check it out.

Hopefully someone can clear this up for me – why did Hush want to be Bruce? I remember during Morrison’s run, when Batman was ‘killed off’, that everyone knew Hush was pretending to be Bruce, and I think running Wayne Tech. And I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t try to stop him.

3 of 10 so far.

Holy Terror is good on so many levels. I think what I like most is that it has a Bruce Wayne who is more complex than what we typically get (having to question everything he was brought up to believe in and having that drive him when he discovers what’s been going on) and having that motivate his move to the suit. It really is an interesting take on him if you haven’t read it yet, and it does a fair sight better than “Bruce Wayne becomes Green Lantern…so now Sinestro needs to become the Joker” and some of the other Elseworlds that just dropped everything Batman into a new backdrop.

These lists reflect the best and worst of fandom in equal measure. I’d really love for anyone who voted for “War Games” to defend that decision. If you’ve read even 11 Batman stories, any 11, surely “War Games” doesn’t make the cut. For God’s sake, Leslie Thompkins kills Stephanie Brown to prove a point to Batman. Leslie Thompkins, who dedicated her life to preventing impoverished kids from falling through the cracks, murdered a teenage mother to prove a point to Batman about HIM endangering minors. And enough people voted for it to put it at #62. I’m scared.

Sorry for the rant, Brian, I know you normally don’t approve. But come on, man, “War Games”? You must want to read this defense as much as I do.

I didn’t vote for War Games, but I did enjoy it a lot when I read all three TPBs in one go. It was kind of silly, but it worked for me.

War Crimes was the story that ruined Leslie Thompkins – and was a much worse story because of it. Personally I lived in my own personal world where Leslie actually faked Spoiler’s death to prove a point – because that was much more believable and still mostly consistent with what we’d seen.

Oh and by the way – when people say they like War Games they usually qualify it by stressing that they don’t like War Crimes

Would be interesting if you included years these were published

Face and Batman 400 were both on my “how do I squeeze them into my top 10″ list. And I’m sure I’m not the first one to point out that Batman 400 and Detective Comics 600 basically became the lead in to Batman 500 (Knightfall).

I’ll almost second, though not so boldly, that if Holy Terror isn’t the best pure Elseworld’s tale, it’d be voted into the top few in a list. How I forgot that one completely is baffling.

Travis Pelkie

July 23, 2014 at 6:54 am

Well, most of the ones I’ve read, I didn’t like in this batch, barring “Going Sane”, and the ones I didn’t read sound pretty good.

Don’t forget, Morrison wrote some prose tales for British Bat comics (I learned that from Tim Callahan!)

Most of these I didn’t care for, but Holy Terror is in my top ten – Batman or Elseworld-wise.

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