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Batman - The Most Important Key Issues

Updated on September 13, 2016
The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight


Created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman has been around since 1939. The longevity of the Dark Knight certainly owes much to the quality of the writing and art that have been bestowed on this legendary character. Over the years Batman has been pitted against some great villains, the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler to name just three and these as well as more recent adversaries such as Bane have helped keep the Batman stories fresh and modern.In this hub we shall look at the books and story lines that have helped keep Batman a favorite in the public eye for so many years and the artists and storytellers who have kept the legend of the Dark Knight alive.

Detective Comics # 27

With 881 issues published in the first volume Detective Comics is the longest published American comic book in history, DC comics take their name from the title and it is in issue number 27 that Batman and his alter egoBruce Wayne makes his debut. One of the most valuable comics in the world, copies have been sold for as much as $1,075,000.

The legend begins
The legend begins

Detective Comics # 33

This issue is the first to tell something of the origin of Batman, it tells how in front of young Bruce Wayne he watches as his parents are shot by a mugger, he swears from that day forward to have his revenge on crime and to attempt to make the world a better place. As Bruce quotes " Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black terrible...a...a.". Just then as a bat files in through an open window " A Bat! That's it! It's an Omen. I shall become a BAT!"

" A bat i must become a bat!"
" A bat i must become a bat!"

Detective Comics # 38

As the front cover says, the find of 38 the introduction of the sensational character Robin the boy wonder! Dick Grayson a former circus trapeze artist who's parents are killed is taken under Batmans wing as a sidekick and ward to millionaire Bruce Wayne.


Batman gets his own comic and issue number one would introduce the world to two of his arch enemies, the Joker and Catwoman. Issue # 16 of this title would also see the introduction of Bruce Waynes loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth.

Batman and the boy wonder swing into action.
Batman and the boy wonder swing into action.

Detective Comics # 40

First appearance of one of the most often recurring villains in the Batman stories Clayface. In this issue Clayface is the alter ego of ex Hollywood actor and makeup artist Basil Karlo, obviously a play on the name Boris Karloff.

Detective Comics # 58

Paradoxically sometimes named the worst and the best Batman villain, the Penguin appears in this book for the first time. Played on screen in the television series by "Rocky" actor Burgess Meredith and in the movie Batman Returns by Danny DeVito the Penguin is one of Batmans oldest enemies.

Detective Comics # 66

Harvey Dent ( Two Face ) the man who makes important decisions based on the toss of a coin makes his first appearance in this issue.

Detective Comics # 140 First Riddler

His name Edward Nigma sounds like a puzzle in itself and he is a villain obsessed with puzzles. Played brilliantly in the TV series by Frank Gorshin the Riddler is one of the most long lasting yet not often featured Batman villains.

Batman # 47

A much more complete origin story is told in this issue, we even learn the mugger that shot Bruce's parents name, Joe Chill.

Detective Comics # 359 First Batgirl

Although Batgirl is not an overly important character in Batman's history her alter ego Barbara Gordon would go on to play an important role in the DC universe as the computer and intelligence genius Oracle.

Batman # 232 First Ra's Al Ghul

His name in Arabic means the Demon Head and the near immortal eco terrorist Ra's Al Ghul has gone on to become one of the most feared and powerful bad guys in the DC universe. Originally created by writer Denny O'neil and artist Neal Adams because they felt Batman needed a worthy adversary who would have global terrorist ambitions, Ra's is hundreds of years old and preserves his immortality by bathing in the Lazarus Pit a pool that gives immortal life. To complicate Batman,s relationship with Ra's Al Ghul the villain has a daughter Talia, who has strong feelings for Batman which he reciprocates.

The Dark Knight Returns

Originally written by Frank Miller as a limited series this story is better known in its collected graphic novel form. The story tells of a 55 year old Bruce Wayne who comes out of retirement to fight crime only to find opposition from the American government and the Gotham City Police Force, the tale leads the way in showing a much darker and grittier Batman and is a big influence on the later Christopher Nolan movies.

Frank Millers classic graphic novel.
Frank Millers classic graphic novel.

Batman Year One

Originally appearing in comic book form in Batman # 404 to # 407 the story was collected and reprinted as a graphic novel written by Frank Miller with artwork by David Mazzucheli. Year One tells of the beginning of Bruce Waynes career as Batman and Jim Gordons early career with the Gotham City Police Department, although The Dark Knight seems to take all the plaudits as being the story that introduced a more grittier realistic Batman, in my humble opinion this book is just as important.

Batman : The Killing Joke

A graphic novel by Alan Moore with artwork by Brian Bolland, the Killing Joke is a mini masterpiece. The story relates what is now the accepted origin of the Joker and how he descends into madness. Jim Gordons daughter Barbara ( aka Batgirl ) is crippled by the Joker after being shot through the spine and Jim Gordon is taken hostage by the madman in an attempt to drive him insane. With an ending that is left open to interpretation and its adult themes this is definitely a comic book for grown ups and was a fantastic example of what could be done with the medium.

Vengeance Of Bane Special

The first appearance of a character who would go on to be a big player in the world of Batman. In the comic Batman # 497 as part of the Knightfall story line Bane breaks Batman's back causing Bruce Wayne to be put out of action for some time and having to be replaced by Jean Paul Valley ( Azrael ). Recently played in the movie The Dark Knight Rises by Tom Hardy, Bane is now a big part of the Batman mythos.

Some More Important Batman Books

  1. Batman # 3 1st Catwoman in costume.
  2. Batman # 5 1st Appearance of the classic Batmobile
  3. Batman # 181 1st Poison Ivy
  4. Detective Comics # 31 Classic sought after cover, first batarang and bat gyro.
  5. Detective Comics # 225 1st John Jones The Martian Manhunter
  6. Detective Comics # 400 1st Man Bat
  7. Batman # 121 1st Mr Zero ( Mr Freeze )
  8. Batman # 227 Sought after cover swipe of Detective Comics # 31
  9. Batman # 171 1st Silver Age Riddler Appearance
  10. Batman # 234 1st Modern Age Two Face Appearance


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    • Geekdom profile image


      5 years ago

      This must have been a difficult list to compile, with Batman's long and successful history. I would like to give a shout out to Batman 497 or the Knighfall series, where Batman had his back broken by Bane.


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