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75 Greatest Batman Stories: #6-4

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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 #6-4!

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.

6. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth

On the one hand, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s graphic novel, Arkham Asylum, is built upon a fairly straightforward premise – the residents of Arkham Asylum have taken control of the facility and they will only stop killing people if Batman agrees to turn himself into the asylum…

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However, that’s just the necessary set-up to allow Morrison to basically deliver a series of striking set pieces featuring the various members of Arkham Asylum, with Batman visiting many of his old foes in states never before seen.

Dave McKean does a fantastic job making the various villains seem almost like brand-new characters. Meanwhile, two actual brand-new characters, the head of the asylum and an ambitious therapist, play a key role in tying the whole thing in with the history of Arkham Asylum itself, as the asylum’s adminstrator believes that he is destined to follow in the path of Amadeus Arkham, who was haunted by a “bat creature.” Meanwhile, the therapist has been doing some sketchy approaches to the patients, including trying to expand Two-Face’s choices from a simple 50/50 coin toss to a die toss to a tarot card drawing – it’s driving Two-Face madder than he already was.

A comic like this nowadays would still be off the beaten path, but in 1989, it was like a whole new world – Morrison and McKean were delivering a story unlike any Batman story ever told.

Gaspar Saladino, by the way, needs to get major props for designing the various distinct lettering for each character in the book. Dude was already a lettering legend by this time, but he was in his 60s when this book came out and yet he still NAILED it. Very impressive.

Go to the next page for #5!

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88 Comments

So the Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and Year One remains. I hope Year One takes the top spot.

Strange Apparitions was my second-place story. I think the Penguin issue was the first issue of Detective Comics I ever bought. And the Joker issues are just about the best comics ever.

I’ll say this for The Long Halloween: It has great art and it’s better than “When in Rome.”

I read Arkham Asylum when it first came out and I don’t remember it at all.

I voted for “Strange Apparitions.” It’s an amazing, cool story, with superb work by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers & Terry Austin. How could you foget Austin’s inking, Brian? And, since Brian compared it to Jeph Loeb on “Hush,” I would argue that “Strange Apparitions” is a “Batman’s greatest hits” story arc done right.

“The Deadshot Richochet” was part of “Strange Apparitions” and was also collected in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, bringing that count to ten, sort of. Well, since “The Laughing Fish” two-parter was also reprinted, albeit in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, close enough :)

people have mostly treated Silver St. Cloud as Englehart’s baby, and usually only he writes her

Oh lord, I really wish Kevin Smith would have followed that practice and stayed the hell away from Silver!!!

Okay. So we know that TDKR and BY1 are going to be in the top three (probably top two). What’s going to be the third?

1) TDKR.
2) Batman: Year 1.
3) The Killing Joke.

You can switch 1 with 3 if you want.

Arkham Asylum when I finally read it just seemed like a collection of post-Alan Moore, post-Frank Miller grim and gritty trappings, almost to the point of unintentional parody. Took itself way too seriously.

With a few humorous tweaks in the dialogue and a dash of whimsy in the art it could have made an excellent parody of pretentious grim and gritty books. Played straight it wasn’t terrible but was terribly typical however.

I’m going to say its:
1) Dark Knight Returns
2) Killing Joke
3) Year One

Eye of the Beholder should be here instead of The Long Halloween. It’s the best Two Face origin, second only to the original “trilogy”, and was a better story. I think it might be the only superhero comicbook that does “villain childhood trauma” right.

Oh lord, I really wish Kevin Smith would have followed that practice and stayed the hell away from Silver!!!

I was thinking the same thing but I opted to remain silent for fear of triggering PTSD (Post-Traumatic Smith DIsorder) among the people who read it. (It was bad enough that she nicknamed Bruce D.D., but Smith thinking she would then start telling people why she called him that, it showed how badly he understood the character.)

Englehart did two things great that I think two modern writers, both of whom are very opposite in approach and fans, failed at. He did lots of callbacks to old villains and old eras of Batman like Grant Morrison did, but in a way that called less attention to himself as an author, felt less self-congratulatory, and was better-integrated into the modern tone. And like Jeph Loeb he did cram in a lot of villains and seemed to be giving Rogers stuff he wanted to draw and playing to his strengths, but he did so without checking logic at the door and without sacrificing narrative coherence.

Englehart is a really underrated writer. There is a saying that goes “Really good acting is when you forget in the moment that you’re watching an actor act rather than when you say in the moment ‘Wow, what a great actor!'” I feel Englehart’s writing is the same way, it’s great because he doesn’t call attention to himself as a writer when he writes but rather fades in the background and you forget for a moment he’s there crafting the stories.

interesting for figured Arkum Asylum would be number five and strange apparitions would be six. too bad dc did not stick to that bit of only eaglehart can draw silver since he is her baby and told kevin smith sorry you can’t use her in batman the wydering gyro and have her get whacked. and long halloween is actully an interesting two face story too espically given that there is still debate over who holiday really was when doing the killing. and have a hutnch the last three stories already.

Strange Apparitions was one of my votes. Its one of those lightning in a bottle moments, that combo of Engelhart’s scripting and Marvel soap opera sub-plots(Silver St. Cloud! The ghost of Hugo Strange!), Marshall Roger’s wonderful pencils mixed with Terry Austin’s glorious inking. Without any one of the three, the power breaks. The two prior issues drawn by Walt Simonson are totally forgettable. The two issues afterwards written by Len Wein seems clumsy and unnecessary. Just those densely packed, highly accessible, skillfully crafted six issues, the prototypical example of how good an ongoing modern Batman book could be.

Can I ask, are Denny O’Neill/Neal Adams and Steve Engleharts (or any other pre DKR) Batman runs avaliable in trade paperback?

@Daniel: There are a couple of trade paperbacks I recommend picking up.

Batman: Tales of the Demon reprints the original Ra’s Al Ghul stories that Denny o”neil wrote, with artwork by Neal Adams, Dick Girdano, Michael Golden, Irv Novick and others.

Batman: Strange Apparitions reprints the entire run by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin and friends.

Unfortunately I believe that both books are currently out of print. But you should definitely look on eBay or Amazon to see if you can find inexpensive used copies.

These are all good (if expected) choices for the Top 10.

ARKHAM ASYLUM I like, but I’d like it more if it worked on a literal level in addition to a symbolic level. I think Morrison got so caught up in all the symbolism and Jungian archetypes in it that he forgot to have Batman doing much of anything (like solving a mystery or fighting off his foes), so by the end he’s getting overpowered by a psychiatrist in a wedding dress. But still, amazing art of Dave McKean and wonderful lettering by Gaspar Saladino.

STRANGE APPARITIONS I freakin’ LOVE, and I reread that run of Detective Comics about once a year. Englehart, Rogers and Austin were on FIRE when they did these books. They are honestly some of the most well-crafted comic books I’ve ever read, and I keep discovering new things in them when I go back to them. This run was my #2 choice, with only MAD LOVE beating it out.

LONG HALLOWEEN I also like, but with reservations. At times Loeb’s terse writing style and Sale’s penchant for big panels leaves it reading more like an outline than a finished story. The thing’s dripping with a great atmosphere & tone throughout, but I wish there was a bit more meat on the bones. TLH also loses points for me for Batman taking an entire year to solve a series of murders (apparently he didn’t bother to do any investigating IN BETWEEN the murders & just waited for the next holiday to roll around each month), and for having an overly-oblique final twist (“…Want to figure out who committed which Holiday murders? You’ll just have to work it out on your own, guys! We’re out of here!!!”)

…Since I think most folks can figure out what the Top 3 are going to be, can we talk a bit about what stories & runs that didn’t place that SHOULD have? Here are my choices that didn’t make it:

-The original MAN-BAT SAGA by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams from 1970s issues of DETECTIVE COMICS (Great, moody stories by Robbins, and some of Adams’ best art ever).

-“My Beginning… And My Probable End” – DETECTIVE COMICS # 574 – by Mike W. Barr & Alan Davis (In retrospect, I probably should’ve just put their whole run on my list, but this issue is my personal favorite).

BTW, I interview Mike W. Barr & Alan Davis about this run in the latest issue of BACK ISSUE magazine, and I’m pretty damn proud of the article. You can order a copy here: http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_54&products_id=1128

-“Two of a Kind” – BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #1 – Dini & Timm (Seriously, there were a lot of worthy stories in Batman: Black & White over the years, and I don’t think any of them made it on the list. That’s stupefying.)

-THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN mini-series by Len Wein, John Byrne & Jim Aparo

@Ben Herman

Surely Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told has other stories on this list as well? Am enjoying your running tally, thanks for keeping count

I always thought the first Halloween Special Loeb and Sale did was their best Bat-work.

Arkham and Strange both deserve their high rankings

Whatever views one has on The Long Halloween, Sale is amazing.

SA just didn’t make my cut, 10.5 as it were, since I still have a bit of a time reconciling it as one “Story.” as a run it’s fantastic, but other than Silver in the background, it’s more of a greatest hits than even Hush, because at least that had Hush. But it finished probably where it should have anyway. Undeniably great stuff.

And I was going to wait till it was all done to mention it, even though I’ve known it to be the case for awhile now, but I’d like to second RCN’s shout out to Eye of the Beholder in Batman Annual 14. It’s the only one that made my top ten that won’t be anywhere on the list. (And mine were spread out a bit more, because I voted for some less popular things for this topic). Great story, great art, and one of my top ten cover votes too. It really is one of those forgotten great issues.

The two issues afterwards written by Len Wein seems clumsy and unnecessary.

I disagree with that, Jeremy. I love Len Wein’s Clayface two-parter, and Rogers & Giordano make a solid team. Yes, Wein’s writing is more melodramatic than Englehart’s, but it’s really GOOD melodrama. And Preston Payne/Clayface III is one of my very favorite Batman villains. Re-read that scene where Clayface III relates his origin to his dinner guest and tell me that you don’t get a chill from the twist at the end.

It’s almost criminal that DC doesn’t reprint things like Englehart’s run, the O’Neil stories (in order), and other classic stories on a regular basis. There’s a whole chunk of 80s stuff from Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, and Mike Barr that have never been collected in TPB and utterly deserve to be.

I wasn’t a fan of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, because I could barely make out what was happening with that art style, and when I could, it wasn’t that compelling. I do have to applaud Morrison for creative thinking with the theory on Joker’s personality, but it’s just a theory, and up for interpretation.

Only Englehart and Rogers can have Batman fighting a villain on a giant Dick Sprang-ian prop and still maintain a sense of menace and darkness to the story. And, of course, the Joker Fish story is part of this run, so that alone would be enough to make it noteworthy. It was #10 on my list.

Long Halloween was #7. It was great that Loeb came up with the idea (apparently it was inspired by Archie Goodwin) to show how the gangsters from Year One kind of disappeared as a main threat to Gotham and the “freaks” began taking over as the main criminal element. The murder mystery is a little muddled, but it was extremely magnetic.

@John Trumbull- I think you explain well my only issues with Arkham Asylum, and that last line captures my biggest problem with The Long Halloween.

Others not making the list that I at least considered, but not particularly surprised they didn’t make it-
Batman and the Monster Men
Birth of the Demon – O’Neil and Breyfogle

And surprised it didn’t make the top 75 at least-
Batman Year 2 (Not close to Year 1, but a good story with some great art)

SA just didn’t make my cut, 10.5 as it were, since I still have a bit of a time reconciling it as one “Story.” as a run it’s fantastic, but other than Silver in the background, it’s more of a greatest hits than even Hush, because at least that had Hush. But it finished probably where it should have anyway. Undeniably great stuff.

I think that’s more of a reflection of the time that it was written in than anything. Trade collections didn’t really exist in the late 70s, and arcs were held together more by the subplots than the main plots (It’s why the last issue of the KREE/SKRULL WAR ends on an unrelated cliffhanger, for instance). So comic stories were written more as individual issues than as multi-part epics.

We’re sort of lucky that Englehart was planning to make his DETECTIVE run his last hurrah in comics (He went off to Europe once he turned in his last script & wrote his first novel). If he hadn’t, I doubt that we would’ve seen the Silver St. Cloud, Boss Thorne, and Hugo Strange subplots all tie up in the same issue.

Great entries. Arkham Asylum was definitely not run of the mill, and it took me a while to get into it, but it was so compelling I had to pick it up every now and again to figure out what was going on. It’s very horror oriented, which was different for Batman. I should really track down Strange Apparitions. I don’t remember hearing anything about it before Brian started all the anniversary posts.

Following up on Trumbull’s thoughts, I’m kind of disappointed we’re not going to see Planetary/Batman, I’m assuming anyway. And I’d rather have seen Sword of Azrael in than Knightfall, although I understand it was less a spectacle that what it spawned.

Speaking of which, I’m assuming Miller & McFarlane’s Batman/Spawn is in the top 3, or I’d have to ask WTH is wrong with CSBG voters!

Others not making the list that I at least considered, but not particularly surprised they didn’t make it-
Batman and the Monster Men
Birth of the Demon – O’Neil and Breyfogle

Ooooh, yes! Those are both great and deserved a place on the list. BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK is also good pulpy fun.

BIRTH OF THE DEMON is one of the rare long-untold origin stories that actually lives up to expectations, and Breyfogle’s painted art is amazing. I wasn’t a fan of his before that book, but now I am.

And surprised it didn’t make the top 75 at least-
Batman Year 2 (Not close to Year 1, but a good story with some great art)

For me, that story falls down a bit for a few reasons.

1) Mike W. Barr’s twist on the Joe Chill storyline isn’t as cool as Bill Finger’s original story (One that made it to the Top 75), and:

2) The art change from Alan Davis to Todd McFarlane is a BIG stylistic shift and really changes the feel of the story. MASK OF THE PHANTASM does an excellent job of taking what works in YEAR TWO and dumping what doesn’t, IMO.

BTW, I interview Mike W. Barr & Alan Davis about this run in the latest issue of BACK ISSUE magazine, and I’m pretty damn proud of the article. You can order a copy here: http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_54&products_id=1128

Oh, so THAT is who you are! Hmm, yeah, I thought the name “John Trumbull” sounded familiar. You’ve done really nice work on Back Issue. Hope to see more articles from you in the future.

Oh man, I JUST realized the similarity between ARKHAM ASYLUM’s Joker gag with Pearl and the pencil to the “Want to see me make this pencil disappear?” scene in Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT movie. I can’t believe I never made the connection between those two before.

I wonder if that was an intentional homage or just a coincidence?

I was thinking of notable stories that didn’t make the list.

-Eye of the Beholder, the only vote of mine that didn’t make the list. For me, its the definitive Two-Face story, and it was actually #1 when we did that Greatest Two-Face Stories poll, shocked it wasn’t here in any regard.

-Nothing from the shortlived Mike W. Barr/Alan Davis run. Its a particular favorite of mine; “Fear for Sale” and the Sherlock Holmes story were on my shortlist/top 20.

-All-Star Batman and Robin, IDK, DKSA got on here, why not this thing

joe the poor speller

July 22, 2014 at 11:43 am

I really like the two halloween specials by Loeb and Sale, specially the Mad Hatter one. That said, I fail to see the appeal of Long Halloween. It messes with Eye of the Beholder (a great, great story), and Sale’s Joker is just plain dreadful.

Strange Apparitions keeps popping on best/essential Batman stories lists, and still DC haven’t put it back in print.

And, for the stories that didn’t make it: EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, SHAMAN and the best elseworlds ever, THE DOOM THAT CAME TO GOTHAM

Arkham Asylum and Long Halloween are both on my list of re-reads, along with 5-way revenge, Broken City, and “where were you on the night Batman was killed?”

I have the feeling I’ll like reading Long Halloween again, even if it ends weird.

I remember liking Arkham Asylum when it came out, but more for the Mckean art (didn’t even know Grant Morrison at the time). And I recall Two-Face making me smile at the end for some reason.

Never read Strange Apparitions, but kind of curious about it. Like to at least read Laughing Fish someday.

I’m surprised with it placing this high that the Englehart/Rogers comeback Dark Detective miniseries didn’t make the top 75 at all. I got the impression that was pretty well regarded.

Oh, so THAT is who you are! Hmm, yeah, I thought the name “John Trumbull” sounded familiar. You’ve done really nice work on Back Issue. Hope to see more articles from you in the future.

Oh, thanks very much, Ben! I’m glad you’re enjoying reading them as much as I’m enjoying writing them.

And yes, you’ll keep seeing more of me in BACK ISSUE. I have two articles in #76, one about the Atom in the Bronze Age and one about the SWORD OF THE ATOM series from the 1980s. That should be out in September. http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_54&products_id=1161

I’m also in #64, 69, and 71. Right now, I have three other articles in the works for future issues, but it’s a bit too early to talk about them now. You’ll be seeing them in 2015. :)

What John said about Strange Apparitions.
I like the concept of Long Halloween—the age of the mob is over but the freaks are rising—but not so much the execution. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s not even a real turning point, as the mob kept right on mobbing.
Resounding yes! to Strange Apparitions (I had no idea that was now the “official” title).
I think the one I’d most like to have seen in the list was the original Two-Face trilogy.

Looking forward to an all-Haney top three!

Strange Apparitions and the first Ra’s al Ghul stuff are perhaps the two runs I want to read most in Batman’s back catalog at this point, but I can’t because DC hasn’t put any of those issues up digitally (aside from the Joker section from SA) and I don’t want to shell out obscene amounts of money for second hand copies of the trades. Just…take my money already, DC. Please?

The Long Halloween was my number one. It is not a perfect story, but it grabbed my attention unlike any other Batman story I’ve read. It was one of my first Batman stories, and I loved the hell out of every moment I spent reading it. It’s been a couple years since I’ve read it, so part of me is curious to see how it holds up now that I’ve read a ton of other Batman stories. I’m sort of afraid of potentially tainting the memory, though. I’ve yet to read a Batman story that was as completely entertaining and enthralling as TLH was.

“Batman trapped in Arkham” is such an obvious story idea that once you hear it you go “duh! Why didn’t I think of that?!” I don’t know if anyone really attempted it before Morrison and McKean did, but certainly no one did it (or has since done it, really) like they did. McKean’s art is the biggest part of why that story works for me. Morrison concocted one freaky and messed up story, but McKean really captured and brought to life the claustrophobic, nightmare inducing horror of Arkham Asylum. The “Batman in Arkham” plot device has been tapped by other writers since, but it’s proven to be a plot device of diminishing returns. No one’s made one as entertaining as A Serious House. The only one that’s come close for me is Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum game, but that’s a bit of an unfair comparison to make. That game overwhelmed a bunch of other pleasure centers in my brain that Morrison and McKean’s story can’t even access because of the differences in the mediums.

As for stories I voted for that didn’t make the list, there were only two. Not surprised neither of them made the list, though. The first was The Batman Adventures #9, “The Little Red Book”, which is a story I’d put up against anything else in Batman’s catalog. It’s a mostly visual story: Batman’s dialog especially is at a minimum as he’s in combat and “stealth predator” modes for most of the issue. It’s a story that captures and summarizes Batman’s MO as well as the intro to Batman: The Animated Series while expanding to include aspects the intro couldn’t include while fleshing out others (the detective, the creature in the shadows, the utter relentlessness of his pursuit for justice). Since Kelley Puckett’s story is mostly visual, most of the storytelling itself had to be done through the art. And Mike Parobeck’s art does not disappoint (does it ever?). His art here is a cut above even his usual excellence. There are panels in this story deserving of icon status. Character expressions are on point and lively, the action sequences have an energetic flow, the comedic bits hit their marks, etc. It’s a story that’s a good read at face value, but is a fantastic read once you slow down and start paying attention to the details. There’s one page I love a lot where one thug is talking about this guy that was annoying him, and he’s unwittingly narrating what Batman’s quietly doing to his buddies just a few feet behind him. If I were to hand anyone one issue when asked “what’s the deal with Batman?”, it would be this one.

The other issue I voted for was Batman and Robin Annual #1, “Batman Impossible.” Tomasi and Gleason’s New 52 Batman and Robin run has done more than any other Batbook to drive home the sentimentality of Bruce and Damian’s father/son relationship, and this issue is one of the best single examples I can point to as to why that’s the case. Damian, with an assist from Alfred, sends Bruce on an international scavenger hunt. While he’s gone, Damian dons an outfit similar to the “Batman of the future” look he had during Morrison’s run and secretly takes over the crime fighting duties for Bruce while he’s away (and employs Titus as his faithful sidekick). I won’t spoil the significance of Bruce’s quest, or the final scene of the issue, but if this issue doesn’t tug at your heartstrings nothing will.

For some reason I had though TKJ was already on the list.
If it wasn’t, then the top three is obvious. The only question is the order.

I haven’t read all of STRANGE APPARITIONS, but I have read Laughing Fish – and it does deserve its legacy!

Long Halloween, is probably the Batman story I’ve read the most, outside of Morrison’s Batman’s appearances in JLA.

Arkham Asylum, I didn’t get as a kid when I first read but now, I simply love how off from center it is. I like how the video game of the same name, carried the Arkham story once you located the symbols.

@John Trumbull, on various things- I agree that’s how comics were done, and actually prefer it. For that reason I could have had numerous stories from that run that could have populated the Top 75. Almost every story in it deserves a spot (for which reason I can see why Brian treated it as he did). I was looking to put Laughing Fish in the top 10…but still not couldn’t see how that was a continuation of Deadshot’s revival, and so forth. But not complaining it is there.

I don’t think Year 2 deserves to be top 10 or anything, but I can probably think of a few of the top 75 that don’t deserve to be in front of it. The art is jarring, but it’s all so good. (But thumbs up for recognizing how good a job Phantasm does).

And as others have said in this thread, and I mentioned when I first saw it mentioned in the tail end of the last post, Eye of the Beholder was the only one of my top 10 not to make the list somewhere. The others might have been low because I wasn’t grabbing all the obvious ones, but this one missed. And it’s a shame, because it’s a great Two-Face story, maybe his best, and has great art. It also made my top ten Bat-covers list too.

Looking forward to an all-Haney top three!

I’m assuming all Haney stories were exempt from voting because it wouldn’t be fair to the other writers.

There will be a Top 75 Bob Haney Batman stories list soon.

And Number One will be Brave and Bold #78 where Batgirl and Wonder Woman are pretending to be in love with Batman as part of a ridiculous plan to trap the wily Copperhead. But then Batgirl and Wonder Woman really do fall in love with Batman! Hilarity ensues!

Or maybe the one where Batman is in a coma and the Atom shrinks down and operates Batman’s body by stimulating the parts of the brain that control walking and punching and so on. That’s Brave and Bold #115 (I think) and Haney singled it out as his favorite story.

Or the one where Batman goes to Kamandi’s time and fights Bear People. (#120)

Off the top of my head, Eye of the Beholder was the last story cut. Or maybe it was that Len Wein Batman mini-series. Or maybe some other story. Those two were very close to the last story cut.

So the Joker’s origin was not even in the top 78

Oooh, could we have a week of the cut stories, Brian? ;)

I was looking to put Laughing Fish in the top 10…but still not couldn’t see how that was a continuation of Deadshot’s revival, and so forth. But not complaining it is there.

Well, the Deadshot story would cut out of the run fairly easily, since it was added just to avoid having the Joker appear in both BATMAN and DETECTIVE in the same month. But I’m glad it was written, since it provides a nice extra (and much-needed) story beat in the Silver St. Cloud subplot.

Captain Haddock

July 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I’ve got high hopes for “Once Upon a Time” from Detective #500 :D

No All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder? Really???

I know there are plenty of people who hate the book, but I thought there were enough of us who love it to get it in a least the top twenty.

Nothing I particularly love in this batch.

Arkham Asylum has great art and some good bits – especially the handling of Harvey Dent, but doesn’t fully grab me – and The Joker’s red and white lettering is really hard to read.

Strange Apparitions was probably groundbreaking in its day, but I wasn’t that taken. There is a smattering of decent stories and part of a longer arc that never gets resolved in the TPB. I do love Clayface 3 though.

The Long Halloween has incredible art.

IMHO, Steve Englehart is the best comic book writer of the 1970s. Besides a definitive run on Batman that holds up more than three decades later, his Captain America run maybe wasn’t equaled until Ed Brubaker (Cap of the ’50s; Richard Nixon as the head of subversive domestic terrorist organization?); he created what is arguably Marvel’s first summer crossover EVENT — the Avengers-Defenders War. Indeed, his Avengers run included introducing Mantis, the romance/marriage of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, insane Kang-Rama Tut-Immortus time-travel stuff. Not to mention great work on JLA (including a 50s-based “origin”), a Dr. Strange stretch where he destroys and recreates the universe. None of this even includes his early-80s when he took over West Coast Avengers for Marvel and did some great work on Green Lantern for DC. A truly remarkable, diverse talent.

Pete Woodhouse

July 22, 2014 at 4:35 pm

A clue to Arkham Asylum is the subtitle/second part of the title: “A Serious House on Serious Earth”
“Hey everyone: comics are Serious now, we’ve even mentioned it twice. They just aren’t for kids, you know.”
It almost comes across as a parody of a post-DKR/Watchmen, pre-Vertigo grim n gritty comic. Very self-conscious & pretentious, like the worst traits of Morrison.
This is coming from someone who LOVES the Animal Man and Doom Patrol written concurrently by Morrison, by the way.

Arkham Asylum is good. Though a bit out there. I enjoyed it. Voted for The Long Halloween. Just liked the mood of the story. Been meaning to track down Strange Apparitions for some time now. I was kinda hoping Mad Monk would make it. Oh well.

Pete Woodhouse

July 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm

…and just to confirm that comment was on the title of Arkham Asylum only. I haven’t read it in 20-odd years and a lot of it went over my teenage student head. Need to read it again to truly assess it.

Didn’t get time to vote but “Strange Apparitions” would have been in there. A perfect storm of comic teamwork.
The Loeb/Sale/Lee stuff I still haven’t read.

RAGGEDT: ditto on Englehart. Out of that big generation of post-Stan Lee writers, he just seemed to come across a bit less ‘Stan-lite’ and a bit less overly verbose than the rest. From that crowd, him and Steve Gerber stood out for me.
Englehart claims that Dark Detective was a big influence on the Nolan stuff (I did not know that Long Halloween was). Blowing smoke?

Pete W.: Englehart’s made claims that most of his work showed up in the movies (e.g. Strange Apparitions in the Burton films). The major influence for Batman Begins, for me, was O’Neil’s early 70s work, with the League of Shadows (replacing “Assassins” in the original, which is an eerie precursor to al Qaeda, if you think about it). I have to go back and re-read Dark Detective to see the similarities to the later Nolan films.

It sure is time for DC to reprint the 70’s and 80’s runs of Batman and Detective.

Original coloring of course.

About 10 issues per collection.

There’s something I find a little annoying and distracting about Steve Englehart’s writing! But I can’t seem to put my finger on it! I’m at a loss! Perhaps someone here could help me realize what it is! Thank you!

There’s something I find a little annoying and distracting about Steve Englehart’s writing! But I can’t seem to put my finger on it! I’m at a loss! Perhaps someone here could help me realize what it is! Thank you!

Heh. That’s a remnant of an era where comic writers pretty much HAD to end sentences with either periods or exclamation points, to ensure that the punctuation wouldn’t drop out in the printing. But I agree that it could give his dialogue an odd rhythm at times. I remember noticing it on WEST COAST AVENGERS.

Strange Apparitions was probably groundbreaking in its day, but I wasn’t that taken. There is a smattering of decent stories and part of a longer arc that never gets resolved in the TPB. I do love Clayface 3 though.

dancj, I think you have to look at those stories in the context of their time. They might not seem very impressive at first glance, but a lot of the reason for that is because they’ve been influencing Batman writers for over 30 years at this point.

Englehart was the guy who brought the Batcave back when Bruce Wayne was living in the Wayne Foundation penthouse, had a Joker who was crazier than ever before (and once again announcing his crimes over the mass media), had a long-lasting and adult relationship between Bruce Wayne & a love interest (with a great film noir style ending), revived a one-shot Golden Age villain & made him into a sustainable ongoing foe, introduced a political threat with Boss Thorne, had Batman operating as an outlaw again, and brought back Hugo Strange for the first time in about 30 years.

On the visual side, Rogers & Austin brought back the Joker’s trenchcoat & slouch hat (unseen since the Golden Age), gave Deadshot a TERRIFIC new costume, and made Silver St. Cloud one of the sexiest women in comics. The panel borders are thicker like they were in the first stories in the 40s. Heck, even John Workman’s caption lettering is evocative of the Golden Age captions!

I’m curious — what in STRANGE APPARITIONS do you feel is unresolved? I feel like it does a very good job of trying up all of its plot threads.

Raggedt, I agree with you about Avengers/Defenders. Today it would have involved every team member’s comic book for at least two or three issues, run twice as long and been half as good.
(Of course, the same can be said of the wedding of Sue and Reed. Stan and Jack did in one issue what would take either of the Big Two half a year to tell now.)

The Long Halloween is the most overrated anything that ever happened. What a perfect illustration of Jeph Loeb’s canned, simplistic imagination. I’m intrigued by Strange Apparitions, tho. Never read it. My vote for No. 1 is The Killing Joke.

I am a huge fan of “Strange Apparitions” butI will admit that I did feel the Hugo Strange subplot was, well, I don’t know if I should say unresolved, but it did feel somewhat odd in its conclusion.

Batman doesn’t defeat Hugo Strange. Instead, Strange is murdered by Boss Throne… supposedly. There is then the whole question of is Strange dead or isn’t he, is he a ghost or is Thorne just going crazy or imagining it, and if so how did Batman also see him at one point? And it did feel like a bit of a rushed ending that Strange’s ghost assaults Thorne and gets him to spill the beans about all of his political dirty dealings, clearing up all the problems that Batman was having with the City Council.

(Hmmm… I guess that’s one of the reasons this arc is titled “Strange Apparitions” because Hugo Strange’s apparent ghost keeps popping up. I cannot believe that never occurred to me before!)

All that said, I still like “Strange Apparitions” a hell of a lot and, as I mentioned before, it was one of my votes.

God, how I loathe Arkham Asylum. One of the few comics– and probably the only thing on this list– that makes me want to drop the “p” word. And I don’t just mean “pop psychology”. Eeuch. Enjoyed almost every other story here, though, even if I wouldn’t rank some of ‘em so high.

joe the poor speller

July 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Again, I ask… Why is boss Thorne still sidelined? He was great on SA, great on the Conway run (which needs a Tales of Batman), and great on the animated show. Not even Dini (on his ‘Tec run) brought Thorne back.

Don’t care for Arkham Asylum. The other two deserve their spots for sure.

And as someone who was reading The Long Halloween when it was coming out, I can say 100% for sure that all the hate for it is retroactive. NO ONE talked crap about it at the time. People have allowed their opinions of Jeph Loeb’s later work to distort their judgment of his older comics, which is a shame because he used to be quite excellent at times especially when working on Batman and/or Superman. I feel the same way about Ultimatum/Red Hulk/etc. that everybody else does, but that doesn’t make his Tim Sale colabs or his runs on Superman/Batman any less spectacular than they are.

And obviously we know what the rest of the list is. It’ll be interesting to see where they place. I wonder if the two Miller stories might take votes away from each other which could give TKJ the top spot.

Was given a copy of The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, which included “The Laughing Fish”, when I was around 11, during the build-up for the release of Tim Burton’s Batman film. I’ve always seen it as a distinct story within the larger arc because of that, but also noted that it’s pretty integral to the larger story Englehart was telling when I voted.
Will also admit to being at least one of the people (?) that referred to First Tale of The Demon under the “Daughter of The Demon” title, though I can’t recall why in that case….(the parallel to “Son of The Demon” maybe?) I don’t believe I was trying to be intentionally difficult or anything, heh.

Other stories I voted for that likely aren’t on the list at this point:

“The Untold Legend of The Batman” – Originally a mini-series, though I personally know it best from its black and white spinner-rack paperback release. Like “Hush” and the Outsider story-arc, this uses the “somebody has found out who Batman is and attacks him where he feels safest” device to retell some of Batman’s past history (including a rework of “The First Batman” which appeared earlier in the countdown). Personally, I think this is the best of the 3 stories to use that particular framing device, as the ending goes in a completely different direction than the other two did, while putting a rather interesting spin on the whole Bruce/Batman duality issue.

“The Joker’s Utility Belt” – Also included in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told and was one of the stories used in the old Adam West series. Mildly surprised that it didn’t show, but not entirely.

“Identity Crisis”/”Master of Fear” – The three part Breyfogle drawn Scarecrow story that sets up Tim Drake’s fully costumed debut as Robin.

“Robin Meets The Man-Bat” – Basically a condensed version of Neal Adams’ Man-Bat story with a new framing sequence produced specifically for release with Power! Records.

Interesting choices… I think everything about Strange Apparitions is fantastic, even though I think Englehart can be hit-and-miss (for every Dr. Strange, you get a New Guardians…). His Batman stuff was consistently great, though. On the other hand, I greatly admire the art on both Arkham Asylum and The Long Halloween, but the scripts for both stories are weak. Grant Morrison is easily my favorite comics writer of all time, yet even I think that Arkham Asylum is absurdly pretentious and sadly more concerned with showing off and earning its “Suggested For Mature Readers” label than it is with actually telling a good, solid story.

Okay, three left. I really hope Year One gets to be at the top. While TDKR is good, I think The Killing Joke is much, much better. So that’s what I’m hoping for:
1. Year One
2. The Killing Joke
3. The Dark Knight Returns

Am I the only one who’s pretty disappointed by this list? At 75-deep I thought there would be more, I don’t know, deep cuts. This seems to be more like the 75 Best Known Batman Stories, regardless of their greatness. There are stories that didn’t make this list which are unquestionably better than the #4 entry. That’s embarrassing.

Brian, next time maybe have us list our top 25 or 50, so we can at least weed out the people who only know 10 Batman stories; Long Halloween, Hush, and Knightfall inevitably among them. I know it’s more work for you, but if you’ve any interest in a true greatest list it seems like the voters should at least know more than 10 stories. Hell, disregard spots 11-25 or 11-50, and just count 1-10, but at least you’ll know they’ve read them. The composition of the list would change dramatically for the better.

Silver St. Cloud isn’t one of the best, she is The Best. Silver St. Cloud is the only real character to be ever written as a love interest in a comic book. Strange Apparitions was my #1 pick.

Regarding the Hugo Strange subplot in STRANGE APPARITIONS, I don’t think it’s unresolved so much as intentionally oblique. Personally, I love the ambiguity of whether or not Hugo Strange is a real ghost (At least in Englehart’s run. Gerry Conway later gives us a definite answer on that one).

Mr. JR, you’re listing many favorite Batman stories of mine. Next time I say we just let you & me judge this thing. :)

Not really surprised by any of these save the placement of 4; it seems like the top 10 are populated with stories that have all the villains in them (or as many as they can fit). Nothing wrong with that as some of these are good stories, but it does get a bit formula for my taste

Slightly surprising omissions (thought these may have made it in the 75-55 range):

Red Rain, though maybe I perceive it as being more popular than it is.

Noel (pretty solid look at how out of touch Batman can be)

Prodigal

Jouko Ruokosenmaki

July 22, 2014 at 11:46 pm

@Bullio: You can actually find most of Strange Apparitions in the “Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers” collection (well, minus the Simonson drawn chapters), although I have to say the production values of that book are not very good. And of course the Adams drawn parts of “Daughter of the Demon” can be found in “Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams vol. 3″, where the repro work actually is lovely!

So sorry for posting like a newb, but how come this article seems to have missing spots? I can’t seem to find the articles/listed stories in the middle. (Or perhaps when they publish the master list? In which case, please dismiss this foolish rant)

When I liquidated 95% of my collection back in 2008 I kept less than a shelf’s worth. But I kept Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Killing Joke, Long Halloween and Strange Apparitions, so I guess I’m on the same page as the voters.

For my money, Rogers’ art in Strange Apparitions is the best I have ever seen Batman drawn in the 75 year history.

So sorry for posting like a newb, but how come this article seems to have missing spots? I can’t seem to find the articles/listed stories in the middle. (Or perhaps when they publish the master list? In which case, please dismiss this foolish rant)

All the posts are up (just click on the big box that says “75 Greatest Batman Stories” and it will bring you to a list of all the articles in that category), but yes, when we post the master list this weekend it’ll be even easier for you to find them all.

Hell, disregard spots 11-25 or 11-50, and just count 1-10, but at least you’ll know they’ve read them. The composition of the list would change dramatically for the better.

People like Long Halloween a lot. There’s no voting method that would change that. There’s a huge gap in points between The Long Halloween and the next story on the list.

Batman just happens to have so many great stories that even his top 75 stories read like a greatest hits collection.

John Trumbull:

dancj, I think you have to look at those stories in the context of their time. They might not seem very impressive at first glance, but a lot of the reason for that is because they’ve been influencing Batman writers for over 30 years at this point.

Maybe, but that doesn’t help me enjoy the story now – and I vote based on how much I enjoy stories.

I’m curious — what in STRANGE APPARITIONS do you feel is unresolved? I feel like it does a very good job of trying up all of its plot threads.

The “Strange Apparitions” of a ghost popping up. I always thought it was a bit odd that the TPB is named after the thing that is unresolved in the TPB as if to draw attention to it.

Am I the only one who’s pretty disappointed by this list? At 75-deep I thought there would be more, I don’t know, deep cuts. This seems to be more like the 75 Best Known Batman Stories, regardless of their greatness. There are stories that didn’t make this list which are unquestionably better than the #4 entry. That’s embarrassing.

That’s the nature of these votes. This is a list of what’s popular right now with the people who read CSBG and nothing more – and people can only vote for what they’ve actually read.

Am I the only one who’s pretty disappointed by this list? At 75-deep I thought there would be more, I don’t know, deep cuts. This seems to be more like the 75 Best Known Batman Stories, regardless of their greatness. There are stories that didn’t make this list which are unquestionably better than the #4 entry. That’s embarrassing.

If DC Comics would collect more of the older, pre-Crisis Batman stories into trade paperback (or, alternately, make them available for purchase digitally) I am certain that they would become better known among present-day readers. Most of the older stories that I voted for are ones that I know about for that very reason, because I was able to read them in TPBs such as Tales of the Demon, Strange Apparitions and The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.

It all comes down to accessibility. How can you know if “Story X” is great or not if you do not have the opportunity to read it, or don’t even know that it exists?

Strange Apparitions and the First Tale of the Demon haven’t been in print for years and yet they still made it into the top ten. More accessibility is better than less accessibility, of course, but it’s unlikely to make much of a difference overall. People like what they like. This notion that “People will vote the way I want them to if they only read more Batman comics” is a false notion. Shockingly, people don’t always agree on what are the greatest stories.

Shockingly, people don’t always agree on what are the greatest stories.

Yeah, that’s obvious. I think that half of the stories I voted for did not even make the Top 75. To that I say… What is wrong with you people? Don’t you know quality when you see it?!? :)

Okay, seriously, this has been a lot of fun, Brian. Thank youfor all of your hard work.

I’m really surprised Arkham Asylum landed so high. It’s the paragon of “great artwork carrying a sub-par story.”

SInce The Long Halloween came in at #4, I’m having trouble figuring out what the Loeb fans are moaning about.

Some people had no trouble coming up with ten stories they like better than The Long Halloween. You’ll just have to learn to live with that.

If DC Comics would collect more of the older, pre-Crisis Batman stories into trade paperback (or, alternately, make them available for purchase digitally) I am certain that they would become better known among present-day readers

I think people who like modern Juggalo-lite Batman made for Hot Topic shoppers wouldn’t like old Batman stories anyway, even if exposed to them. Those old Batman stories are not relentlessly bleak, Batman isn’t an emotionally stunted jerk with no social skills, dozens of people don’t regularly die on his watch, it’s not loaded with emo noir narration captions, etc. I don’t think being exposed to old Batman stories would change their voting at all.

I apologize to all for the sour grapes, especially Brian. That’s totally what it is. I just find Long Halloween, Hush, etc., so obviously mediocre (and only that good because of the artwork) that I can’t even fathom someone loving them that much. I can’t even grasp it conceptually. So I’ve rationalized it. It’s my bad.

I’ll just add that I think, for me, the disconnect is that there ARE great stories on the list. I just don’t understand how the same person can read and enjoy something like the Killing Joke, Year One, or the Dark Knight Returns, and also think that the Long Halloween or Hush belongs in the same ballpark. I don’t grasp how the same person can hold both of those thoughts in their head simultaneously. It’s not an excuse, just an explanation.

Don’t be so hard on yourself, Joe C. Though I can see why so many fans find it entertaining (even I find it fun and very easy to read, and I’m very harsh on it), The Long Halloween has some major flaws that many fans can’t overlook.

That people like it, I can see that. That they defend it so adamantly, that they make up weird motivations for the critics (because, ya know, how could anybody not think it’s the greatest story ever written?), that they won’t concede that it’s kind of weak as a mystery and the clueless nature of the Loeb Batman (It’s sort of an Elseworlds tale in many ways), that’s what I find mystifying about the whole phenomenon.

Admittedly, I would have preferred to have The Laughing Fish separated out from the rest of Englehart and Rogers’ run because as good as that run is, that storyline is a quantum leap above it. It’s without a doubt my favourite Batman story ever.

There’s one thing that T said that actually isn’t correct (I actually have been agreeing with most of the thing he’s said in the comments.) T said, “[Englehart] seemed to be giving Rogers stuff he wanted to draw and playing to his strengths”

Actually, as I understand it Englehart didn’t even know Marshall Rogers at the time. Englehart thought Batman would be his last comics project for a while as he was moving to Europe. He did the stories with Simonson Marvel style (plot first, scripting the pages) but as time was running out, he did the remainder of his scripts full-script, gave them to Julie Schwartz and flew to Europe). From what I remember, Rogers was burning up the backup features in ‘Tec at the time and he got the shot to draw the main feature, and just went for it. But the two didn’t really interact as creators until later.

If its true (and I might be forgetting something), I think it proves T’s thesis: it’s great writing in that it doesn’t draw attention to what it’s doing and it’s clear enough that a guy who hasn’t worked with you before can just run with it.

T, while I largely share your view of 21st century Bat-stories I have to ask what the heck a Juggalo is.

For anyone looking for older TPBs, bookfinder.com is a really useful site. It let me check multiple sites for used books (including Amazon and ebay) and then I can identify the cheapest option.

While I’m not in synch with the top selections on this list, I’m actually impressed how much range this list covers. We have stuff from the Golden Age, Bronze Age, later ages. So I have to credit the voters with informed taste, even if it’s not my taste.

While I’m not in synch with the top selections on this list, I’m actually impressed how much range this list covers.

But there’s no “New Look” stories!

What about “The Girl Most Likely To Be Batman’s Widow!”?

You blind fools!

Juggalos- https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=juggalo

@Prairie Boy- You make an interesting point. I didn’t really want to get into the whole “Long Halloween is AWESOME!~ No, it SUCKS!” back and forth. I didn’t vote for it; don’t mind those that did. But I wonder how much of the Loeb hate is because his work hasn’t been as good as it used to be (as is the case with a number of creators). I think there’s some really good stuff hes done with Sale, The Marvel color books, Superman for All Seasons, heck the Batman Halloween specials were fine. So he’s not a complete hack. And making everything he’s done sound like it doesn’t really jibe.

Is it OK if we substitute “criticism” for “hate” when making general observations about Long Halloween comments?

Many people have critical remarks about Long Halloween, but there aren’t very many that are so adamant that it can be called “hate.” If one of the Loeb fans wants to talk about some of this alleged “hate,” they should comment on the specific comments they are objecting to.

Frankly, I’m not seeing much in the way of Long Halloween hate. Some people think it’s overrated. That’s not hate.

I agree with HoosierX. There really isn’t much Loeb hate going on. It started making me wonder if there was a lot of Loeb hate going on at some point in the comments thread and Brian had just deleted those comments already. I’ve even been making a person effort in the past few years to really tone down anti-Loeb sentiments, although I did have a slight relapse a few weeks ago.

Graeme – thanks for the correction. Sadly, I actually knew that because Englehart described it in the introduction to the Strange Apparitions trade paperback and I STILL got it wrong.

The “criticisms” of The Long Halloween all seem to just be “it isn’t well written”. Bullshit. It’s not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the writing, it’s just not “plot driven”. It’s basically a character-centric mood piece first and foremost; the focus is really on atmosphere, which it is thick-as-a-brick with. It’s essentially the comic equivalent of Super Metroid.

This is true to varying degrees about most of the Loeb/Sale collabs. They’re basically a showcase for their respective lead characters. There’s a reason so many people recommend TLH to people new to Batman. It pretty much covers what the character is all about in just thirteen issues.

Thinking this is all because of the art is silly when there’s such dramatic tonal difference between something like Long Halloween and Superman For All Seasons or even Spider-Man: Blue and Hulk: Gray.

They did a Vampirella short as well that paid tribute to Archie Goodwin where Loeb did all the heavy lifting (Sale’s art was pretty basic) and they rocked the shit out of that story. Insanely underrated and a reminder that Loeb used to be able to script some solid comics.

I’m thinking there’s a few people who would like to start their own comic-site, with membership being something you have to earn by taking a multi-part quiz on comic book history. If you score high enough, you can vote in the “Greatest (Blank) Stories” polls.

Seriously guys, I don’t agree with everything here either, but there’s no such thing as a right or wrong opinion when it comes to liking something. There are plenty of people who have read a lot of Batman and still like the newer stuff, or the Loeb/Sale stuff, or whatever.

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