Through the course of my blog browsing I came across The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesdays, and as I am nothing if not a list lover, I thought I would join in on the fun!
This week’s list is Top Ten Books If You Like X (any tv show/movie/comic/play etc, basically any sort of other entertainment). So as I recently saw The Amazing Spiderman 2: Rise of Electro and lost my MIND over it, this week’s list will be of the superhero genre (and to me, graphic novels are books, okay?) as my top ten books to read if you like superheroes, but more specifically Batman movies (Whether that be the Christopher Nolan movies or the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series). 2014 is also the 75th year of Batman, so I expect this will not be the last of my tributes to the world’s greatest detective. I will endeavour not to spoil the major plot point of each story as I go along, hopefully the little tidbit I give you will intrigue you enough to go out an pick up a copy of the book yourself!
- The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, 1986)
Notable for: being THE definitive Batman graphic novel, by a man in Miller who revolutionised not only the character and the world of Gotham, but the world of comics overall.
The Dark Knight Returns remains one of very few comic books to make the New York Times best-seller list. It tells the “last” Batman tale, that of an aged Bruce Wayne who, decades after hanging up the cape and cowl, realises that his city has become the worst possible version of itself and that he must fix it before he dies. What Culture puts it exquisitely when it says “if Nolan and company do choose to take one more crack at Batman after the trilogy concludes, there is little doubt that this would be the story they would adapt. In any case, it is the definitive Batman tale, and one that has made audiences question their beliefs about the Dark Knight and his place in the world for almost twenty years. Read it.” (2012)
- The Killing Joke (Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, 1998)
Notable for: being a significant inspiration for The Dark Knight movie as well as (technically) the beginnings of The Oracle.
This book delved into the Joker’s master plot to break Batman’s spirit by attacking those closest to him. The specific elements of the plan bear very little similarity to the elements used in The Dark Knight, but this was one of the first tales to truly explore the Joker’s psychosis, and was key to understanding Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.
- The Long Halloween (Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, 1996-1997)
Notable for: a definitive Two Face origin story and a who’s-who of Batman villains.
A year-long Batman mystery sees the Dark Knight dealing with a figure known as the Holiday Killer who wipes out a member of the Falcone crime syndicate during a holiday of every month. This also depicts Harvey Dent’s tragic transformation into Two Face, and the way The Long Halloween encompasses every downtrodden aspect of Gotham City’s structure, from organised crime to law enforcement, to Batman’s rogues’ gallery to the Dark Knight himself, creates a comprehensive and engaging picture of this fictional locale.
- Batman: Year One (Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli, 1987)
Notable for: where the modern Batman mythology began.
Batman Year One chronicles a young Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham after a long absence, his first failed attempts at crime-fighting, his conflicts with the corrupt Gotham City Police Department, and an idealistic Jim Gordon’s struggle to accept that a madman may be the best hope for a city that has lost its mind. It is the primary source material for Batman Begins. A great many of the thematic elements from this book, as well as a several nearly-complete scenes, made their way into the Nolan film.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, 1989)
Notable for: being the impetus of the classis Arkham Asylum series of video games.
- Batman: Knightfall (Multiple writers, 1993-1994)
Notable for: Bane’s origin.
This is the only one on this list that I have not read, only because I have not managed to track down a copy for myself, even though I know basically what happens in it. With particular significance to The Dark Knight Rises, this book introduces Bane, giving him a rich backstory that serves to highlight why he holds a significant place in Batman lore. Without spoiling the story, I think the Nolan/Tom Hardy Bane far exceeds the Schumacher Bane because of how much of Knightfall is referenced in building his character.
- Murder at Wayne Manor (Duane Swierczynski and David Lapham, 2008)
Notable for: Introducing Roman Sionis and being an interactive mystery.
What? An actual book on the list? Shocking I know. I bought this book many years ago now, partly because of it being a Batman story and also because it is an interactive mystery book. This means that it tells the eponymous tale of death while providing physical clues (letters, photos, journals to name a few) that the reader can interact with and try solve the mystery with. I really enoyed it because it was something so different to my previous Batman experiences, and yet still touched on so many of the inherent themes that I love about the world’s greatest detective. For lovers of the movies I that this book in particular adds another layer to not just Batman, but Bruce Wayne as he is forced to question his own sense of self in solving a mystery in his own home.
- Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories (Paul Dini and Bruce Timms)
Notable for: Harley Quinn’s starring turn.
Harley Quinn is actually a creation of Paul Dini’s for Batman: The Animated Series however she proved so popular that she spawned her own series of comics. Mad Love is essentially the comic version of the BTAS episode that details her origin story. Harley is my favourite villain in Batman’s rogue gallery for a number of reasons, but I think mainly because her origin story just hooked me in straight away. This book I think should be read by movie Batman fans because it not only casts a certain Clown Prince in a new light, but it also exposes you to a new side of the Batman universe while injecting some much needed female and comedic energy into a very, very dark world.
- The Sin City series (Frank Miller, 1991-2000)
Notable for: being of of Frank Miller’s definitive works and inspiring the Sin City films.
One of my best friends loves this series, and we are both very excited for the new film coming out in August (in the US anyway, hopefully the same for down here!). This series to me is a beautiful noir, detective, pulp, comic mash up that tells of dames to kill for, big fat kills, hard goodbyes, family values, yellow bastards and so much more. The stories all intersect at really interesting points, and while this can get hard to keep track of at times, it pays off when you can view all the stories as one complete work. I love these books, and I think that they have many similar tones, themes and character overtures to the Batman series of movies. Which I think comes purely as a result of Miller’s previous work in the world of Gotham. I think if you have not seen the Sin City movies but have read Miller’s Batman work, you will find many thematic similarities in Basin City.
- Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins, 1986)
Notable for: being of of TIME Magazine’s 100 greatest novels of the past century.
Watchmen is not in the DC universe, however I truly believe that you are not a comic book fan if you have not read this book. Watchmen is a phenomenal story that showcases the worst of a world conflicted about the role of superheroes in solving every crisis. it spans 45 years (in the story) and explores six caped crusaders navigating a near apocalyptic world that is fraught with moral ambiguities, superhero apathy and yet a dependence on “someone else” to solve the problems the world creates. I cannot express enough how essential I think Watchmen is not only to the comic book world but in a literature sense; it explores the human condition through the eyes of those considered “above” it yet still plagued by the same identity crises, moral dilemmas and human frailties as everybody else.
Hope this inspires you to read a little more about your big screen super heroes! I personally am on the hunt for the “before” and “after” comics of the events in The Amazing SPiderman 2.