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75 Greatest Batman Stories: #20-16

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17. “Robin Dies at Dawn!” (Batman #156)

Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris gave us this striking Batman story that stands out as a strong story NOW but REALLY stood out in the early 1960s when it first was released.

The basic idea is that Batman takes part in an experiment in sensory deprivation. The result are some messed up hallucinations…

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The rest of the story involves Batman’s inability to put what happened in his hallucination out of his mind. How can Batman fight crime when he is constantly imagining Robin dying? Well, he had better get with the program or else he might end up seeing Robin die for REAL!

16. “To Kill a Legend” (Detective Comics #500)

This anniversary story by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano has the Phantom Stranger show up and tell Batman and Robin of a world where Thomas and Martha Wayne have not yet been killed. The Stranger gives Batman the opportunity to save their lives. Robin tags along and once there, he discovers that this world is unique in that it has never had ANY heroes of any kind…

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This brings us to the heart of the matter. Does Batman save his parents and likely deprive this world of its only superhero? Robin has a problem with that idea…

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It’s a tragic question and one it is probably unfair for Robin to ask of Batman, but it is an interesting one nonetheless. How it all resolves is really impressive on Brennert’s part – very cool stuff.

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33 Comments

I was hoping Batman and Robin Must Die would show up, and here we are! For me, this is RIP done right, shred of its rambling Zur-En-Arrh/hobo Bruce sections but still just as bizarre and exciting due to the vastly superior artwork by Frazier Irving, Cameron Stewart, and Chris Burnham. This is also one of my favorite Joker stories, where he’s simultaneously frightening but hilarious, unpredictable but quite ingenious in his planning. You see why he’s Batman’s greatest foe and how guys like Dr. Hurt are only keep the seat warm.

Speaking of Dr. Hurt, I believe that’s suppose to be him in that “Robin Dies at Dawn” story there.

I also voted for “To Kill a Legend”, a classic Batman story by Brennert and Giordano. Brennert didn’t write much, but its quality over quantity as far as I’m concerned. There’s one other story he did that surely won’t be here, “Interlude on Earth-2″. A really heartfelt tale with some of Jim Aparo’s finest work.

As soon as I saw the disclaimer I knew a Jeph Loeb was story was going to show up. EVERY. TIME. ON. THESE. LISTS.

“Robin Dies Dawn” and “To Kill A Legend” were two more stories that were collected in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, bringing that count to nine.

I didn’t vote or any of these, but “To Kill A Legend” is great and I am not at all surprised to see it on this list.

Robin Dies at Dawn is easily the best of the SF Batman stories of the 1950s. And a good story for any age.
The Brennert story is just beautiful. I also love Robin’s reaction to the Phantom Stranger: “I take it you’re heavily into cryptic?”

I forgot “To Kill a Legend.” Great story.

“To Kill a Legend” was my #1 choice.

I’m assuming that “Robin Dies at Dawn!” placed as high as it did because of Grant Morrison’s influence. It never would have placed in the Top 20 five or ten years ago.

I’m assuming that “Robin Dies at Dawn!” placed as high as it did because of Grant Morrison’s influence. It never would have placed in the Top 20 five or ten years ago.

Probably because it hadn’t been released then. :^)

Neal Adams’ Joker kinda looks like Bob from Sesame Street.

To Kill a Legend had a vote from me. It raises fascinating ethical puzzles but it’s the powerfully stirring epilogue that catapults it into the very top tier of Batman stories.

Let’s make sure Grant Morrison gets credit for all the great stories, even the one he didn’t write.

interesting for expected both to kill a legend and dark victory to be higher if not making the top ten. espically to kill a legend given that it asks that would gotham be okay if batman could have saved his parents from joes guns and thus prevented batman from ever existing in the first place. even on another dc earth. plus the jokers five way revenge not only restored the joker to the mad pycho he truely is and works best as in the batman books but proves that even the joker has some honor by not killing batman in his weaken state. and so far seems grant morrision batman stuff is leading the count of batman stories. for dr. hurt really is a true baddie if the batman writters have the joker work with batman to stop him.

The Joker’s Five Way Revenge was my #9 vote. Great story with great art.

Dark Victory has great art too – but I didn’t vote on art alone.

Death of the Family, Blades, and Batman and Robin Reborn so far made it from my list. I’m not sure if it makes me sad or happy, but I’m fairly certain my last seven picks are a lock for the top 15. Although seeing where they land should be fun.

Great list so far! I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Interesting to see “Batman and Robin Must Die!” so highly regarded; I thought that the first Quitely-drawn arc of Batman & Robin would end up being the only representative of that segment of Morrison’s run. Both arcs are really excellent, so I can’t complain. I’m also pleasantly surprised to see “Robin Dies at Dawn” on the list; I read that when I was eight in a copy of The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told and it struck me as being delightfully weird. I never realized how crazy it was until it was referenced in Morrison’s Batman work.

I seriously question Commissioner Gordon’s detective skills if he can’t notice a grown man dressed as a bat standing under a pink umbrella in the rain right next to him.

And was Batman often acting like a dick? ‘Go ahead Commissioner – if it’ll make you feel better!’ I’d love an off-scene panel with Gordon thinking to himself, ‘Well… fuck you Batman. FUCK YOU!’

While I’m glad to see it on the list, I’m really disappointed “Joker’s Five Way Revenge!” didn’t make it higher in the list. I voted for it, all right: it’s my favorite Batman story of all time. It just does Batman and Joker so perfectly. Batman is sharp, but human, and makes mistakes, Joker is murderous, but has some strange sense of honor, there’s a lot of great scenes, like Batman’s encounter with the former Joker associate in a boxing ring, or the part with the shark tank, or how the story ends with Batman in stitches about how his archenemy slipped in some pollution. It was dark and moody but had its darkly humorous quirks, and of course, it was drawn beautifully by Neal Adams.

As soon as I saw the disclaimer I knew a Jeph Loeb was story was going to show up. EVERY. TIME. ON. THESE. LISTS.

The disclaimer has been in every entry.

@Scooby: I’m imagining that panel drawn by Neal Adams, smoke steaming out of his pipe, and its KILLIN’ me…

“Batman and Robin Must Die!” got the token Batman and Robin vote on my ballot. I read all of Morrison’s run that was available during the break between volumes 1 and 2 of Batman Incorporated. Due to the nature of my reading order, when I got to that last page in B&R #15 I completely freaked. That moment alone may have been why I voted for this story over all of the other B&R stories, but this arc deserves a lot of credit for satisfactorily capping the best chapter of Morrison’s entire run. That Morrison’s B&R was a consistently solid read from start to finish is no doubt why it gets as much praise as it does.

I think Dark Victory’s biggest problem is that it depends so much on The Long Halloween (which is a kind of ironic thing to say about a comic), and that dependence results in DV being overshadowed by the behemoth that is its predecessor. That said, I enjoyed DV when I read it but it didn’t grab me in quite the same way TLH did. It’s absolutely worth reading if you liked TLH though.

“Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” is one of the classic (i.e. pre-Year One) stories I’ve actually read, mainly because it’s one of the only ones that’s readily available. A lot of these classic stories that have shown up in this countdown aren’t available digitally (for some reason), but this one is. This was another story that just missed making my list. I imagine it’s an even better story in context of the time it was released, but it’s still a wonderful story that anyone with a cursory interest in Batman comics should read. There are moments when you think “modern Batman would never have let that happen”, but that’s part of the fun of the story. It’s a Bat”man” story as opposed to the sort of Bat”god” the character has evolved into over the last decade or so. And if anyone needs an example of why Adams is as so well regarded of a Batman artist as he is, just show them this issue. That splash of Batman is iconic for a reason, but that opening Joker splash is one of my favorite Joker panels and the art throughout the rest of the issue is handled proficiently.

The “Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section” really gets pushed to the limit any time a Morrison story is selected.

Probably because it hadn’t been released then. :^)

It’s a story from the 1950s.

Correction — “Robin Dies at Dawn!” came out in the June 1963 issue. I was assuming that it was a 1950s story because it was a part of Batman’s science fiction era.

But still, I was a lot closer than the commenter who thought that it hadn’t come out five years ago. :)

The “Don’t be a jerk about creators in the comments section” really gets pushed to the limit any time a Morrison story is selected.

Where?

I bet there’s a few stories on our list that show up in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told as well. Pretty sure Five Way Revenge and his first appearance are in there.

Of the single issue stories that had been published before that and The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told came out, I wonder how many on our list were not in either? I remember some of the longer ones (such as Where Were You…, and Player on the Other Side) were mentioned in the “no room for…” article at the back

Batman and Robin Must Die > Batman R.I.P.

Dark Victory > Long Halloween

:(

I’m pretty shocked that the Jokers Five way revenge wasn’t in the top 5 or at least top ten.
I am starting to think the demographics of the readership here are skewing this poll a little too young/Morrisoncentric

Yeah, I would agree with that. Just guesstimating, I’d say that stories from the last 5 years are making up a good 20% of the list. That seems WAY too skewed towards the recent stuff, IMO.

But still, I was a lot closer than the commenter who thought that it hadn’t come out five years ago. :)

I actually mixed it up with Batman and Robin Must Die but I only realized after posting. My bad.

I think “Robin Dies At Dawn” stands on its own, even if Morrison’s run on Batman drew more attention to it. It did show up in the “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” (pub. 1988), suggesting that even 26 years ago, people thought it belonged high on the list of best Batman stories.

Dark Victory was such a great story!

I think the “Father’s Day” issue of Dark Victory actually holds up really well, especially in the way that Sale handles Loeb’s treatment of Alfred’s different responses to the needs of two boys who’ve just lost their parents (the two sequences run in parallel on the page). Certainly one of my favorite Alfred stories ever.

I would think those of you who prefer the older stuff would be happy about the newer stories being in these early entries. If they take up the higher-digit slots, that probably means the top ten will be full of stuff from Denny O’Neil, Bill Finger, and the other greats of the past. For example, nearly all of Grant Morrison’s run has shown up already, and we haven’t hit the top 15 yet. That leaves plenty of room for your favorites in high positions.

(Obviously I’m coming to this late and the list is already finished, but I’m reading in order so I have no idea.)

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