And as we wind on down the road…
In celebration of Detective Comics #1000 and Batman’s 80th anniversary this week, we counted down the 13 GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER — from all media — as selected by a panel of 16 experts, including such luminaries as former DC publisher Paul Levitz, legendary Batman artist Neal Adams and comics writers Ron Marz, Tom Peyer and Fred Van Lente. For a complete rundown of how the vote was conducted and the full list of panelists, click here.
PICK #2 was BATMAN: YEAR ONE (Click here.)
Next up on the countdown:
1. BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
Written and pencilled by Frank Miller. Inked by Klaus Janson. Colored by Lynn Varley.
Growing up in the New York area, a radio staple was WNEW-FM’s countdown of the Top 500 rock songs. Inevitably, the winner would be Stairway to Heaven.
That’s sort of how I felt going into this TOP 13 BATMAN COUNTDOWN project. I knew that in all likelihood, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns would take the day.
It’s a masterpiece that not just gave readers a new perspective on the Caped Crusader, it helped – along with Watchmen – radically alter the comic-book industry.
But you know that.
So rather than belabor the obvious, let’s bring in the insights of the panelists who put Miller’s magnum opus – inked by Klaus Janson and colored by Lynn Varley – at the top of their ballots:
— Paul Levitz, the former head of DC Comics: “The comic that smashed the glass ceiling — this was the one that made the general public aware that comics could be smart and challenging fare for adults, that Batman wasn’t simply the goofy guy Adam West had played, and established the format for the American graphic novel.”
— Comics writer Ron Marz: “Yes, The Dark Knight Returns is an obvious choice, but I don’t think there’s a comic that had a bigger effect on me. The story, the art, the format, everything about it blew my mind when it came out. Probably more than any other story, it made me want to write comics. I return to it often, and it still makes me want to write comics.”
— James Tucker, producer of Batman: The Brave and the Bold: “The ultimate Batman story, bar none.”
And then there are those who may not have put it at #1 but put it on their lists and commented, as well:
— Chris Franklin, co-host of Batman Knightcast: “What can be said about this groundbreaking series that hasn’t been written already? Not much. Despite its detractors, who cite what its cynical, adult viewpoint did to comics, it stands on its own merit as a comic worth putting on your bookshelf. Its portrayal of the character has superseded all others.”
— Mark Reinhart, writer of The Batman Filmography: “It might have seemed like no Batman comic work could have ever been as momentous as The Case of the Chemical Syndicate and Batman #1’s Joker debut were — but The Dark Knight Returns was every bit as influential as those stories.”
— John Morrow, head of TwoMorrows Publishing: “The anticipation waiting for each new issue was hard to bear, but it was worth it. I could take issue with a few things Miller did in the series, but they’d be minor quibbles. It was a tour de force for him (and Janson as inker and Lynn Varley as colorist) that I don’t think he’ll ever rival again. But I sure hope he keeps trying.”
Now, we’ve spent a lot of time on The Dark Knight Returns over the years. So click here for interesting commentary by comics pros like Greg Capullo, Mike Allred, Mark Waid and the late Darwyn Cooke.
Meanwhile, that wraps up THE TOP 13 BATMAN COUNTDOWN — but we’re not quite done.
Click here for THE ULTIMATE BATMAN READING AND VIEWING GUIDE, which features every single Batman story cited by our panel. There were a lot of great — and surprising — picks that didn’t crack the TOP 13 and I really think you’ll get a bang out of what’s in there.
— The Complete TOP 13 BATMAN COUNTDOWN. Click here.
— The Complete BATMAN WEEK Index of Features and Tributes. Click here.