My Top 20 Favorite Batman Comic Book Stories Of All Time

September 13, 2018
My Top 20 Favorite Batman  Comic Book Stories Of All Time


Just another pointless list 

by John Allen Small




So this is how this list came to be…


On Sept. 12, 2018, I posted a picture of the cover of Batman Comics No. 251 and explained how the story - “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge!” - was one of my two favorite Batman stories of all time and shared how I remember getting this issue when it originally came out. I was 10 years old and Mom bought it for me at the old newsstand on Court Street in Kankakee. 


It was my first encounter with the Joker in print, and the story was a revelation to me at the time because I was so accustomed to Cesar Romero's portrayal on the Batman TV show (still my favorite incarnation of the character, by the way... but that's a topic for another time). Several of the letters that were printed several issues later in response to this story pointed out how it was a return to the original conception of the Joker character, and that intrigued me further. It is therefore accurate to say that this is the issue that, more than any other, made me want to go back and start looking for some of those older Golden and Silver Age comics - not only those featuring Batman, but also Superman and so many others. 


Well, this post got some pretty positive feedback (especially among comics fans of my generation, it seemed), and one of them felt compelled to ask me to compile a list of my Top 10 favorite Batman stories. So I set out to comply… and quickly found that I was having trouble limiting my list to only 10, because I kept thinking of others I wanted to include. After some mental wrestling with the matter I finally decided to increase the list to 20 - and even then had to force myself from expanding it further, as still more favorites kept coming to mind. (I did finally give in and name five “Honorable Mentions.” Yeah, I’m weak.)


I think my list - personal as it is -  is actually a pretty good one in terms of representing the character who was my favorite comic book hero when I was growing up. Some will no doubt point to the fact that most of the titles are from the early 1970s, and will probably chastise me for not including more modern stories. (And it’s probably telling that all three of the post-1990s titles that do appear on this list are derived from the DC Comics series based on the 1960s Batman television series, which was my introduction to the character.)


To me it seems fairly obvious that most of my favorites would be from 1972-74, given that this was the period when I was a young reader and my comic book habit was just starting to seriously develop. And anyway, most people who compile such lists these days are considerably younger and are just as prone to focusing almost entirely on stories printed from around 1990 onward - most of which do absolutely nothing for me (sorry, Millennials) -  so I guess it could be argued that this a case of providing equal time.


The two oldest Batman stories on my list are the very first one from 1939, and the original telling of Batman’s origin from the following year - both of which have been re-printed more times than I have fingers and toes to count on. It seems only right that both of these stories be included on any such list of favorite Batman stories, simply because they are the tales from which the character’s mythology sprang.


In any event, here is my list - completely personal, and therefore not open to debate. I’m not saying these are the best stories ever, simply that they are my favorite stories ever. Yes, there is a difference. No, I shouldn’t have to explain that.


So without any further ado…


MY TOP 20:


1. How Many Ways Can A Robin Die? (Batman No. 246, December 1972)


2. The Joker's Five-Way Revenge! (Batman No. 251, September 1973)


3. To Kill A Legend (Detective Comics No. 500, March 1981)


4. Clue Of The False Faces (Detective Comics No. 430, December 1972)


5. Commune Of Defiance (The Brave And The Bold No. 102, July 1972)


6. Who Knows What Evil? (Batman No. 253, November 1973)


7. The Last Batman Story - ? (Batman No. 300, June 1978)


8. Dead… Till Proven Alive (Batman No. 222, June 1970)


9. Once Upon A Time (Detective Comics No. 500, March 1981)


10. Double Your Money - And Die! (The Brave And The Bold No. 106, April 1973)


11. The Doomsday Book (Detective Comics No. 572, March 1987)


12. Batman ’66 Meets Steed And Mrs. Peel (Ominbus edition of six-issue mini-series, 2017)


13. Batman: The Official Movie Adaptation (June 1989)


14. The Case Of The Criminal Syndicate (Detective Comics No. 27, May 1939)


15. The Batman And How He Came To Be (Detective Comics No. 33, November 1939)


16. The Batman Nobody Knows (Batman No. 250, July 1973)


17. Who Are They?/What A Sweet Racket! (Five-strip introductory strips and first complete story arc of the Batman And Robin daily newspaper strip, October 25 1943-January 8 1944; reprinted in Batman: The Dailies 1943-1944, 1990)


18. Batman-Tarzan: Claws Of The Catwoman (Omnibus edition of four-issue mini-series, 2000)


19. Saga Of The Super Sons (World’s Finest No. 215, January 1972)


20. Batman & Captain America (Elseworlds Graphic Novel, 1996)



FIVE HONORABLE MENTIONS:


1. The Blue, The Grey And The Bat (Elseworlds Graphic Novel, 1992)


2. Batman ’66 Meets The Man From UNCLE (Omnibus edition of six-issue mini-series, 2017)


3. Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk (DC Special Series No 27, January 1981)


4. There Is No Hope In Crime Alley (Detective Comics No. 457, March 1976)


5. The 3-Million Dollar Sky (The Brave And The Bold No. 107, June 1973)


 

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I began my previous entry with the following comment: “My father was, is, and forever shall be my hero.” In trying to prepare my remarks for the memorial service we held for Dad last Friday (August 17), I wanted to find that one particular story that might best illustrate why I have always and will always feel this way. 


It proved to be something of a struggle. The problem was, there are just so many such stories to choose from - and each one would, in its own way, have served the purpose...


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Another week, another mass shooting.


That’s America in the 21st century.


“The new normal,” some people are calling it. But there’s nothing normal about it. 


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I've been agonizing all week about what I was going to say when I got up here… It's hard to sum up in just a few short minutes a relationship that lasted over a quarter of a century. But let me sta...
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About Me


John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.
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