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Riddle Us This: What Should You Read Before Watching The Batman?

Here're three Batman tales to read before watching The Batman!

For the first time in a decade, The Batman will be taking to the big screen all by his lonesome, unaccompanied by his alien and Amazonian counterparts. Returning to his element as a lone vigilante looming over the shadows of Gotham, The Batman promises to be the actually gritty exploration of the character we’ve long been promised.

While the origin tale of Batman has been overtreaded more than even Spider-Man’s, we have lacked a proper franchise dedicated to the up-and-coming journey of the character beyond 2005’s Batman Begins, and the glimpses offered in Batman Forever from a decade before. And while it still remains to be seen if The Batman will continue in the vein of exploring Bruce Wayne’s evolving role as Gotham’s knight, or go the way of The Dark Knight Trilogy / Batman & Robin.

But, even now, days before the release of The Batman, there may be some inkling of hope that this one could be a different, maybe even truer, take on the caped crusader. Director Matt Reeves’ recent revelation of his tutelage under comic-writing legend Jeph Loeb, arguably one of the best Batman writers, was accompanied by confirmation of which Batman arcs and tales inspired him. And, of what we’re sure are very many sources the film will ultimately draw on, here’re some key stories to read before watching The Batman.

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And the best part? All of these recommended stories have been adapted as animated films for those of you looking for a quick digestion of the content. Be warned, though, the adaptations are never quite as detailed as the comics, but are often entertaining and interesting in their own right.

Year One

While, no, this is not a Jeph Loeb entry, Frank Miller’s seminal Batman: Year One pretty much sets up Batman for the following key tales.

Featuring art by David Mazzucchelli, Year One was published in 1987 across 4 issues of Batman from #404 to #407 (1987), exploring the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths origin of the character, introducing us to updated versions of iconic members of his supporting cast and rogues gallery.

Year One was also highly influential on the animated movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and Batman Forever, Batman Begins was a noted adaptation of Year One, having been the source inspiration along with Dennis O’Neil and Dick Giordano’s The Man Who Falls and The Long Halloween.Year One also was given a more true to source adaptation with an animated film in 2011, which featured Ben Mckenzie as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Mckenzie would go on to play James Gordon in the TV series Gotham, which also loosely adapted Year One during its final seasons.

While the themes and structure of Year One were continued in Year Two (and it’s own sequel, Full Circle) by Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, and Todd McFarlane, as well as Year Three by Marv Wolfman and Pat Broderick, neither were as preserved as Year One beyond the early ‘90s. Instead, the defining sequel to Miller’s work would prove to be…

The Long Halloween

Following the popularity of a series of one-shots from previous years’ Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials (now found in Batman: Haunted Knight), creative team Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale were granted the opportunity to work on The Long Halloween. A 13-issue limited series running from 1996 to 1997, the arc followed the detective as he pursues the mysterious Holiday, a serial killer with a penchant for commiting murder on, well, holidays.

As much as it is a Batman tale, The Long Halloween has also marked itself as a key arc for most of Gotham’s denizens, evolving the city’s criminals and low life’s into the iconic villains readers had come to know them as.

The Long Halloween’s status as an in-depth and complex study of both Batman and his cast of characters led to a two-part animated film adaptation of the story. While multiple live action features have been inspired by the events of the story, the animated film remains, for obvious reasons, the most loyal adaptation… so far.

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Having spoken of the upcoming film as not just the origin of Batman, but also some of his more significant foes (and allies), The Batman director Matt Reeves has highlighted The Long Halloween as a strong influence over the direction of his take on the character’s journey. Perhaps, if The Batman spawns as franchise series with the longevity of Marvel’s, we may eventually see a live-action adaptation of another the thematically similar Batman tale, with the fan favourite:

Hush

While Hush hasn’t necessarily influenced the realm of adapted media for Batman as much as the previous entries, the arc has certainly done so for the comic universe. From introducing the now-iconic Thomas Elliot (a.k.a. Hush), to having Batman go up against not only almost all of his rogues gallery but also a Poison Ivy-controlled Superman, Hush has become one of the most defining Batman tales in the comic medium.

Similar to Year One, Hush runs through the mainline Batman comic series, across twelve issues from #608 to #619 (2002-2003), seeing the already-veteran Batman writer Jeph Loeb pair with Marvel icon and Image co-founder Jim Lee, marking some of the latter’s earliest long-term work with DC Comics.

Hush has since been used to tool the Batman mythos over multiple incarnations of the character over different continuities, remaining largely intact even beyond reboots and retcons. Hush also lays the groundwork for characters such as Jason Todd to return (as the Red Hood), and even got a sequel in Heart of Hush by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen.

With the seeming significance of the Riddler in The Batman, Hush may be an interesting read for those who wish to learn more of the characters involved in the movie, and the inspirations behind it.