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75 Greatest Batman Stories: #45-41

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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 #45-41!

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.

45. “Ten Nights of the Beast” (Batman #417-420)

This action thriller by Jims Starlin and Aparo and inker Mike DeCarlo involves the introduction of a soviet super killer known as the KGBeast who has taken an assignment involving killing LOTS of people in Gotham City, including ultimately Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States (who was coming to town for a visit).

The big thing that Starlin wanted to establish in the series was that the Beast was something different than Batman’s typical foes – this was a guy that Batman might not be able to beat on his own…

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There is an (in?)famous scene in the storyline where the Beast even chooses to cut his OWN HAND OFF to escape from Batman. He then has a gun grafted on to place where his missing hand was!!! Say WHAT?

Ultimately, Batman decides that he has to make a decision he never thought he would have to do to finally take the Beast down.

44. “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” (The Brave and the Bold #197)

The first time that we learned that the Earth 2 Batman and Catwoman were married was the same issue that we learned that they had a kid and that Catwoman was killed (which sent their kid, Helena Wayne, into becoming the Huntress), so we never really had much time for background on their romance. As it turned out, it was not until they BOTH had been killed that we finally learned about their courtship, in an issue of The Brave and the Bold by Alan Brennert, Joe Staton and George Freeman.

The concept behind the issue is that the Earth 2 Scarecrow douses Batman with fear gas that makes all of Batman’s friends and loved ones invisible to him. He thinks that they’ve all been killed or taken prisoner. Since he has no more friends to turn to for help, he decides to ask one of his old enemies, Catwoman, for help. As they track the Scarecrow down, though, they begin to bond. First through an awesome moment involving Batman’s history of pain…

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and then a moment of honesty between a pair of old foes…

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Of course, you might be thinking “But if Batman’s loved ones disappear, then what happens if he falls for Catwoman?” Well, read the darned comic book! It’s a really good one.

43. “The Cult” (Batman: The Cult #1-4)

The Cult was essentially Jim Starlin and Berni Wrightson’s attempt to take what Frank Miller did in The Dark Knight Returns and adapt it to both modern times and the then-current Batman continuity.

It involved a man named Deacon Blackfire who has taken over an army of “underworlders.” At the beginning of the series, he has captured Batman and has been torturing him to try to break him. He eventually succeeds. Batman eventually escapes but his spirit is practically broken. Gotham City has been taken over by Blackfire’s army and many Gotham politicians are killed (with Commissioner Gordon almost killed as well). The National Guard is called in but things seem bleak. However, Batman is able to muster up the courage to conquer Blackfire’s brainwashing…

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Go to the next page for #42-41!

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39 Comments

Some strong stories here.

The extract Brian chose from KGBeast ended an issue. Reading it as it came out, this was a very powerful and suspenseful scene, and the first moment that came to mind when I saw this story had placed

Brian also chose the most memorable moment from The Autobiography!

The final issue, in particular, of Knightsend is what gained it my vote. It’s one of a handful of in-continuity stories that would serve perfectly well as a “last ever” Batman story. O’Neil really hits it for six (as we say in cricket-playing nations)

Very much enjoying the list! Would love to see a top 250 :)

Knightsend was the first one of my choices that made the cut. Growing up I couldn’t wait for the next issue to come out. Watching Bruce retrain himself, while being challenged by Shiva was just the coolest thing ever. I also love all the Tim Drake stuff in the story., especially the epilogue. Man those were the days!

Resounding yes! on the Brennert story and Player on the Other Side (why, oh why, did they think it needed a sequel?).
I’m not surprised the KGBeast story made it, but it didn’t work for me. Of course I don’t think anything Starlin has written has worked for me in years which is disappointing, given how much I loved Warlock and his Mar-Vell work. In this case it’s partly that “he’s so good Batman has no choice but to kill him” is a hard proposition to sell me on.

Knightsend is the first story of mine to make the cut. As a kid growing up, I could not wait for the next issue of the story to come out. There was something very cool about watching lady Shiva retrain Bruce. In some ways it was like watching a Rocky montage but with ninjas. I also loved all the Tim Drake stuff. To this day one of my favorite Robin stories is the epilogue to Knightend and watching Tim wonder where he fits into things now. It was a great time to be a Robin and Batman fan.

I voted for “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” from The Brave and the Bold #197. It is absolutely one of my all time favorite Batman stories ever. Alan Brennert’ writing was superb, and the artwork by Joe Staton & George Freeman is beautiful. One of the images that Brian posted, page 19, features such amazing layouts & storytelling.

This one was such an amazing story that, having read it numerous times in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told collection, I went to the trouble of tracking down a copy of The Brave and the Bold #197 itself so I could get it autographed by Staton. He also drew a fantastic sketch of the Golden Age Catwoman for me a couple of years ago.

“The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne” is also the fourth story from The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told to make this 75 Greatest Batman Stories list so far.

As for Jim Starlin… I am not going to be a jerk about him, Brian. However, I will say that perhaps Starlin did not have the best grasp of the character. Yeah, it is up for debate, and I could see that someone could argue he did good work with Batman. I do think that KGBeast should probably have been a one-off villain, because as soon as he was brought back a few years later he started to suffer from a serious case of Villain Decay.

Ethan Shuster

July 15, 2014 at 6:22 am

Michael Golden really should get a chance to draw everything.

I Can’t believe I’ve never heard of the Wrath. So, did Grant Morrison have him in mind when he created Prometheus in JLA and the updated Owlman in Eath-2?

Ten Nights of the Beast is a pretty fun story with a waaacky ending. I get a little hype whenever a story decides to involve the KGBeast, can’t believe he didn’t show up in Arkham Origins, what with the whole “hired a bunch of deadly assassin” plot.

The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne is just great, probably in my top 15 Batman stories. Alan Brennert didn’t write much Batman, but almost he did was classic.

The Cult is one of the many awful stories to come out of The Dark Knight Returns, being dark and edgy and Batman’s got guns on his Batmobile but without the context that it was a much older more cynical Batman, not the default or the incredible amount of ambition, craftsmanship, and kinetic inventiveness on display in Miller’s tale.

The Player on the Other Side was one of my votes, as I wanted to give Mike W. Barr an entry and this is one of his strongest stories. The idea of Anti-Batman is a popular one; Bane is probably the most successful in that he actually beat the Batman in the biggest Batman story ever, and Grant Morrison has used plenty of them from JLA’s Prometheus, to Earth-2’s Owlman, to the various Batman analogs of his 7-year epic run on the character, then you got the OG Catman and Killer Moth, and Azrael up there. Out of all them though, Anti-Wraith is definitely my favorite, with a tight story structure that connects him and Batman together, and gorgeous artwork from Michael Golden.

I like Starlin’s cosmic stuff in the Marvel universe but his DC work where he basically just tries to mimic Miller’s Batman or Kirby’s Fourth World is just really poor.

Autobiography of Bruce Wayne and Player on the Other Side are both awesome stories. Brennert and Barr are amongst the most underrated Batman writers (to be fair, Year Two does not help Barr’s case).

Yay — We’ve finally reached one of the stories I voted for – “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne!” (My #8 choice) and one I easily could’ve included on my list “The Player on the Other Side” — which is one of those story ideas that’s SO brilliant that it looks utterly obvious in retrospect.

Captain Librarian

July 15, 2014 at 7:31 am

KGBeast losing his hand and replacing it with a gun is, as far as comic books go, hardly worth mentioning as strange. It’s the ending (and maybe the political angle involved in it) that people have trouble with.

*Spoiler*
I’m not too high on it, if for no other reason than it seems partly based on the odd assumption that the US would have extradited a rogue Soviet agent who’s killed dozens of Americans, including political leaders and attempted to kill the President. Not going to happen and the USSR would have been stumbling to distance itself from him. I do like the perspective of Batman going, “Yeah I could fight you in some dramatic man to man duo but…nah.” Kindof the opposite of the Dark Knight Returns scene with the mutant.

Jeph Loeb totally ripped off the Catwoman Batman scene from that Brave and the Bold issue.

Also, the battle of the Batmen in KnightsEnd was really awesome.

KGBeast losing his hand and replacing it with a gun is, as far as comic books go, hardly worth mentioning as strange. It’s the ending (and maybe the political angle involved in it) that people have trouble with.

I have problems with the ending, yes, but for me it’s the fact that the Beast chooses to cut off his hand rather than THE ROPE THAT WAS HOLDING HIS HAND is what pushes that story into sheer absurdity/hilarity.

He then has a gun grafted on to place where his missing hand was!!!

Real men graft on chainsaws.

I still reflexively gag when someone mentions The Cult. I try not to be “that” fan, but that’s not MY Batman. Seeing it brought up so often makes me think I should read it again, but I’d rather reread something I know I’ll enjoy. And there are lots of other stories to enjoy on this list.

Regarding “Ten Nights of the Beast,” in general I have never been a fan of stories where a criminal escapes justice due to some sort of “loophole” or “technicality” or due to “diplomatic immunity” or whatever excuse the writer offers up. It is beyond lazy, and it’s only there to give the vilgilante protagonist a supposed rational for taking the law into his or her own hands and killing the bad guy, because the supposedly “ineffectual” or “bleeding heart liberal” authorities are unable or unwilling to do what is “necessary” to stop criminals.

It’s interesting that Starlin has two entries here: one in which Batman makes the decision to kill, and one in which he actually does kill – it’s heavily implied in The Cult that he guns down a civilian while in a drug induced nightmare.

Captain Haddock

July 15, 2014 at 9:21 am

The KGBeast just seemed to me like an action movie that started off promising, then peters out to silliness. It was essentially Batman as a Sylvester Stallone action movie for me….probably “Cobra” if I had to pick.

@John Trumbull – You know, when I saw it, it didn’t occur to me that he could have cut the rope. Then I reread it and I understood that he could have cut the rope, my brain just couldn’t comprehend that he WOULDN’T cut the rope.

Aww, “KnightsEnd” was my #3 and it only made it this far? Darn. But, at least it made the list. I love so much about it. Bruce retraining himself under Shiva, taking down those ninjas and tricking his sensei, his confrontation with Jean-Paul on the bridge, Nightwing’s fight with AzBats, the wonderfully scripted final showdown at Wayne Manor by Denny O’Neil… there are times I like it better than the initial Fall part of the story.

KGBeast story was good if just for the Aparo art. The Reagan/USSR stuff dates it horribly, though.

Jim Starlin said it was a coloring error and that it was suppose to be this uncuttable steel or some shit. Still, it makes him seem more like a dumbass than a badass for cutting off his own hand.

@Bill K What was the memorable last issue of Knightsend to you? Legends of the Dark Knight # 63? I remember liking it, but not feeling like it could serve as a “last ever” Batman story- did you mean that or the Robin epilogue issue?

I can buy the whole miscolored steel cable thing for why the Beast cut his hand off, but even as a kid I never understood how Batman was totally ok after pulling that throwing knife out of his wrist. I may not be a doctor but I feel I can safely say that would mess you up and you wouldn’t be swinging around with that hand seconds later. Either way I love that story :)

Jim Starlin said it was a coloring error and that it was suppose to be this uncuttable steel or some shit. Still, it makes him seem more like a dumbass than a badass for cutting off his own hand.

Which doesn’t work either since Beast cuts the cable right before he is caught up in the cable so it is definitely not uncuttable (HARD to cut, yes, but not uncuttable). It’s just a mistake (although I do believe that Starlin intended for it to be cable and not a rope).

@Brian

Yes, LOTDK #63, Climax. (Spoilers below)

I like the story for many things, not least that Batman “wins” not by beating Azbats in a fight but through his smarts. He may or may not have been able to physically force Jean-Paul to remove the suit against his will, but he doesn’t try. Instead he manages to get Jean-Paul himself to willingly remove it, piece by piece.

But what makes it a worthy final story for me is in relation to the rabbit hole down which young Bruce fell into what would become the Batcave as seen, for instance, in the flashbacks in the Dark Knight Returns.

“A long time ago, I fell through that opening. I haven’t really ever stopped falling. Maybe it’s time to go the other way”

For me, this closes the circle, and brings us back to the start of the whole Batman saga. And even though the last page says there will be more adventures in the dark, “today, he walks in the sun”. It’s like a happy ending, for a moment. I find it very satisfying and moving

@Bill K: Yes, I agree with you. Denny O’Neil did a great job concluding the whole “Knightfall” trilogy in Legends of the Dark Knight #63. It was an exteremly well scripted issue. Of course, the artwork by Barry Kitson & Scott Hanna was fantastic, as well.

Nr 44 – I really get the idea that the artist delivered gorgeously drawn pages, and that then Bob Kane walked in, took an eraser to all Batman’s heads and drew in the ‘contractual’ square-jawed ones… Strange clash of cultures, and the ‘old’ Batman really on his last legs.

Yeah, I loved how Bruce won that fight with Jean-Paul psychologically, making him admit that Bruce was the true Batman.

Ben: ” in general I have never been a fan of stories where a criminal escapes justice due to some sort of “loophole” or “technicality” or due to “diplomatic immunity” or whatever excuse the writer offers up. It is beyond lazy, and it’s only there to give the vilgilante protagonist a supposed rational for taking the law into his or her own hands and killing the bad guy, because the supposedly “ineffectual” or “bleeding heart liberal” authorities are unable or unwilling to do what is “necessary” to stop criminals.”

This. Ten times over.

The Wrath story is out in TPB with the er, less memorable, multi-part sequel.

I liked the Cult, that’s a great story in my opinion. Well worth its placement on the list.

4 of 10 (The Batman Nobody Knows, Holy Terror, Player on the Other Side, Batman vs. Predator)

Player on the Other Side was one of my first Batman stories growing up as part of a digest my parents got me (including some interesting stories involving life beneath Gotham and prize fighting of all things). It’s definitely stuck with me over the years and holds up well today.

That stated, the Wrath should have been left alone; it’s an example of Barr doing a great one-shot story and then others watering the concept down (including the mirror imaging of each character’s thoughts as the story progresses). Highly recommend it to those who haven’t seen it yet.

You just can’t go wrong with Mike W. Barr or Alan Brennert writing Batman. Starlin hasn’t been a favorite since his first runs on Warlock & Captain Marvel, but to each their own.

“Resounding yes! on the Brennert story and Player on the Other Side (why, oh why, did they think it needed a sequel?).”

There’s a sequel? Where? Or do I really want to know?

“Would love to see a top 250 :)

What might be fun (well…maybe not for Brian ;) ) after the 75 are posted to have another vote for the next 75. With the caveat that you can’t vote for any of the 75 just listed. Once you take Dark Knight Returns, Year One & the rest of the obvious choices off the table you’ll be left with a much more diverse group. Just a thought!

The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne is really underrated.

The Player on the Other Side is a favorite. That character should have appeared more.

The Cult is just WEIRD.

I liked The Cult, but it was also one of the first Batman stories I read. And I read it not too long after DKR. As a kid it seemed like the same kind of cool, gritty take on Batman, even though DKR was clearly superior. I re-read it a few years back and I still like it, but I realize it’s a lot to do with nostalgia. I definitely don’t consider that Batman to be “my” Batman. It also has awesome Berni Wrightson art, so that doesn’t hurt.

I didn’t get my list in on time, but Knightsend definitely would have made it. Regardless of all comics and crossovers leading up to it, I think it’s a really solid story with some amazing action sequences.

I don’t think I’ve ever read that Wraith story. I need to get my hands on it.

I’m very curious if all the knight crossovers were combined how high they would’ve ranked combined. I own The Cult though I didn’t vote for it, it along with For the Man Who Has Everything are in the few good Jason Todd stories IMHO. The artwork in Batman Special 1 is tight. Gonna have to look for that story.

been wondering when the bio of bruce wayne the brave and the bold issue that lead to the earth 2 wedding of catwoman and batman would make the list and expected knights end to not show up till way in the top twenty at least maybe the last part. along with the origin of the wraith. plus also though ten nights of the beast. would be in the top twenty even though batman is one character starlin was really was not his cup of tea to work his magic on. espically how the kgbeast ending still to some fans is controversial.

The Cult was the first DC comic (series/individual) that I purchased. I had been “Make Mine Marvel” as young kid (but enjoyed reading other people’s occasional DC comic), but when I went into the local comic store I saw that first issue sitting on the stands and it really jumped out at me, so I decided to grab it.

The brutality and the fact that Batman suffers so badly was a real surprise for a young(er) reader.

It was in my top 10 for this vote (maybe 8th or 9th), probably entirely for nostalgic reasons.

““Resounding yes! on the Brennert story and Player on the Other Side (why, oh why, did they think it needed a sequel?).”

There’s a sequel? Where? Or do I really want to know?”

There was 3 or 4 issues arc in Batman Confidential. I hardly remember what it was about (I think Wrath got his own Robin) but at that time I thought it was pretty solid. And there was recent Wrath nu52 reintroduction in Detective Comics but it was utter crap.

Knightsend was decent – but one of the weaker parts of the whole Knightfall saga (though obviously not nearly as weak as Knightquest: The Search).

The Cult was IMO one of the only two good Batman stories that Starlin wrote (the other one being that one that about the blonde woman who was killed/abducted (can’t remember) where the case went unsolved for several months).

That Michael Golden art is great!

The idea of the Wrath in the original as Batman’s mirror image was incredibly effective. The follow-up story presents him as more a copycat, consciously molding himself in Batman’s image which dramatically had a lot less punch. And more generally it was just “okay” as a story.

Didn’t we already learn the Huntress’s background and bio in DC Super Stars #17 (1977)? This B&B issue is from 1983.

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