Over the course of more than 80 years of history, Batman has made his way through pop culture, leaving a legacy of memorable stories in the comics. The character has gone through various changes in tone and style ranging from the Golden Age to the Bronze Age and beyond, namely from over-the-top camp to gritty black crime.

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This shift started mostly in the early ’70s in the Batman comics, with a crescendo in the’ 80s with people like First year, The return of the dark knight, The murderous joke, Arkham Asylum, etc. By the turn of the 21st century, the Dark Knight had marked his myth along with several other notable storylines with his new narrative reputation.

ten Silence

Split image of the new Batman cover art: Hush and Thomas Elliot as the titular villain.

It is almost impossible for fans of the superhero not to quote Silence discussing iconic 2000s Batman comics. Jeph Loeb returned from his praised stint – with artist Tim Sale – on Haunted knight, Along Halloween, and dark victory to write the arc. This time it was teamed up with another star artist Jim Lee, whose art has become more of a synonym for Batman artwork.

It was also the villain’s namesake debut, and he and the story quickly became a fan favorite. While not as captivating as a crime thriller like Long Halloween and dark victory, it worked out well as a compelling all-star action thriller story. While the trope has been played now, bringing Thomas Elliot alongside Bruce’s upbringing was compelling to see play here.

9 No Man’s Land

Split image of cover artwork for the volumes of No Man's Land, featuring Batman and his Bat-Family

At the end of the 90s, Cataclysm served as a precursor narrative arc to No Man’s Land, with an earthquake that devastated Gotham City. The event was so catastrophic that the US government declared it “no man’s land”, destroying all bridges and putting in place military blockades to quarantine the city after an initial evacuation.

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Although initially started in 1999, No Man’s Land was a sprawling arc that spanned different Batman comic book lines and had ramifications for years to come. The plot, by Greg Rucka and Chuck Dixon among others, involved gang wars between standard criminals as well as supervillains vying for control of this desolate town. He introduced the character of Cassandra Cain, and the premise also served as a partial inspiration for Nolan’s The dark knight rises.


8 Ego

Split image of Ego cover and panel featuring Bruce facing off against Batman.

It’s a bit of a Batman comic book story, but thanks to the release of Matt Reeves The batman, it seems that Darwyn Cooke Ego is increasingly appreciated and recognized. Ego isn’t a long-running event or crossover, but tells a great, intimate and more personal story. It serves as a character study on Bruce Wayne’s psyche which does so by exploring both characters trying to gain more control.

Bruce’s mind is divided into two parts; the vengeful identity manifested as a monstrous Batman, and the more composed and balanced superego represented as Bruce Wayne. The conflict centers around a fascinating debate between the two, highlighting the psychological complexity of the character as a whole – and why he refuses to kill even villains like the Joker.

7 Batman and his son

Split cover image of Batman and Son and Damian arriving at the Batcave.

Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert Batman and his son turned out to be a story that had long-standing effects on the myth of the Caped Crusader and the Bat-Family in particular. As the name suggests, he brought Damian Wayne – the biological son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul – into the cast as the next Robin.

Morrison is a writer who simultaneously wrote famous Batman comics and also used controversial plot points, including some that go wildly into the supernatural and the uncomfortably sadistic Talia. Batman and his son are one of them, and Damian has been notoriously hated by fans for quite some time, but this arc has done well overall in delivering a life-changing story in a fitting way with impact for the titular hero.

6 Gotham Central

Cover for Gotham Central, featuring the cast of GCPD officers

Another well-received Batman comic coming out of the 2000s is one that doesn’t actually use Batman as the main character. Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark – the latter two having been a duet on daredevil–created Gotham Central like a series that shifts the gaze towards the police offerings of the GCPD.

The plot takes the world of Batman and narrows it down further in a way, melting it to the point where it’s a superhero-themed cop procedure in the same vein as HBO’s. Thread. This served as an influence for Fox Gotham, and will also be a basis for HBO’s upcoming GCPD prequel in Reeves’ The batman universe.

5 The man who Laughs

Joker in The Laughing Man

Although a brief one-shot comic, The man who Laughs is an iconic Joker story chronicling Batman’s first encounter with the Clown Prince of Crime. The comic is a direct reference to the novel of the same name, whose main character had a major influence on DC’s supervillain. Brubaker also writes this story, which is essentially a remake of Joker’s original comic book debut in Batman # 1 which was published in 1940.

He also touches on one of the interpretations of the Joker’s possible origins, here using his first pseudonym as the Red Hood gang leader. While other acclaimed stories like The murderous joke proved to be essential to the character’s own story, The man who Laughs is a worthy account of the problem that started it all, now in a modern setting.

4 What happened to the caped crusader?

Andy Kubert's cover for What Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Legendary writer of The Sand seller, Neil Gaiman, started writing Batman during a transition period with What happened to the caped crusader?. This concise story was a twist on the Alan Moore classic What happened to the man of tomorrow? for Superman. The plot centers on Batman having some sort of out-of-body experience, seeing himself in a coffin in his own wake.

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Various members of his rogue gallery are gathered to all claim how they killed him, but there are many discrepancies in their alleged accounts. Batman then has to be a sleuth over his own death, trying to deduce how he ended up there. This comic came after Morrison’s massive run on the character in TEAR and his fate in Final crisis, it’s a great way to both close and open a new chapter of the Caped Crusader in the DC Universe.


Batman coming out of the tomb in the rain in RIP

Morrison TEAR turned out to be one of Batman’s biggest comeback stories. This is another interesting exploration of Bruce’s traumatized mind, as this version is a much more raw Batman due to completely shedding Bruce’s identity. TEAR has been praised for its enthralling complexity and the build-up of much of the hero’s story, but to some extent has also been criticized for requiring too much outside knowledge. Nonetheless, this arc managed to mark her status as one of the character’s best modern stories.

2 Under the hood

Red Hood fights Batman in Under the Hood.

In the 90s, A death in the family made the shocking decision to have Robin killed, and Under the hood brought back troubled Jason Todd from the grave. While this has become a tired trend for comics that shy away from writing with real, hard-hitting consequences, Under the hood–and what he inspired – gave the Bat-Family another remarkable “new” member.

Jason returns from the dead and dons a former Joker character for himself and Batman, and a gripping and tragic new dynamic is created between the former Robin and his foster father. Even still, the Under the red riding hood the animated film adaptation he received resulted in one of the best Batman movies overall. Red Hood continues to be an influential and dominant figure in modern Batman comics, fighting alongside fellow former Robins Dick Grayson and Tim Drake to fight crime in Gotham City.

1 Batman and Robin reborn

Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin Against Red in DC Comics.

In the aftermath of Bruce Wayne’s disappearance following the Final crisis arc, the Bat-Family must come together and establish the status quo. Once the dust settles, the first Robin – Dick Grayson – takes over from Batman in Bruce’s absence, with Damian continuing to play the role of Robin, while also introducing new enemies like Professor Pyg.

It’s another piece in Morrison’s vast catalog and makes for a gripping new story. The story shows Grayson struggling to become Bruce’s successor and a still immature Damian who now must grow up without his father guiding him. What’s remarkable about this iteration on the Dark Knight is how lovable and fun he is. In a surprisingly effective role reversal, it’s Robin who is haunted by the past, while Batman is carefree and funny while fighting crime.

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