Batman has a long history of interesting and unique stories at DC that often don’t get the recognition or acclaim that they deserve from both readers and critics. In fact, some of these stories, despite great execution, don’t even manage to get a reprint from DC Comics, despite readers calling for more of these books to come back into print. A number of factors have left even some brilliant Batman stories to languish in obscurity.
Considering the sheer volume of stories he’s featured in, it’s natural that even otherwise good Batman comics haven’t maintained success in the modern era. While there’s a Batman comic for everyone, and most modern stories remain accessible, a time flooded with events and a history of key series has made it easy for stories to fall through the cracks. Batman’s back issues can always use a fresh look, and some forgotten tales prove it.
10 Shazam #12
Jeff Loveness & Brandon Peterson
Geoff Johns’ 2019 Shazam series was full of great stories, but the Jeff Loveness guest writing spot in Issue #12 proved to be one of the better ones. The unofficial World’s Finest story saw Shazam make his way into Gotham City, where he was exposed to Scarecrow’s fear toxin.
Batman and Shazam teamed up together to take on the villain together as they both dealt with the fear brought on by the toxin. The issue was a standout in the series, as well as a testament to Loveness’ writing quality, but it generally went overlooked despite Johns’ attachment to the series.
9 Detective Comics #235
Bill Finger & Sheldon Moldoff
Detective Comics #235 was a Golden Age story that is significant for two reasons. Not only did the story reveal the original inspiration for Bruce’s Batman persona, but it’s also the first time Thomas Wayne became Batman — before Flashpoint. Like many Golden Age adventures, the story became part of Earth-2 canon and became inconsequential to the main Prime Earth Bruce.
The story, known as “The First Batman,” was a great way of explaining Bruce’s choice of costume while keeping it both personal to him and related to his own origins. Seeing Thomas Wayne established as the original “Batman” made for a great story and makes his current stories all the more enjoyable.
RELATED: When Did Batman Comics Get So Dark?
8 The Batman’s Grave
Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch
Despite having a fantastic, detective-based story, The Batman’s Grave suffered from two different problems that occurred almost simultaneously. The series was struck, like the rest of the industry, in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it also suffered from its creator, Warren Ellis, falling into disrepute.
The Batman’s Grave, despite actually having its first issue release in 2019, didn’t conclude until 2021 due to the delays. What could have gone down as one of the hero’s definitive detective tales — and still somewhat is that — had the odds stacked against it, and it has gone down as a forgettable maxi series in a saturated market.
7 Batman Vs The Incredible Hulk
Len Wein, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, & Dick Giordano
Batman has had many crossovers and grudge matches with both DC heroes and the flagship characters of other companies. In fact, DC and Marvel themselves had some great crossovers. Perhaps because of the frankly bizarre match-up between Batman and Hulk, their shared comic is arguably the least-remembered of the big two’s crossovers.
Predictably, Batman vs the Incredible Hulk was a tale of two heroes beginning at odds, only to team up after settling their differences, in this case to fight Joker. However, the story remains incredibly hard to find on the back issue market due to how seldom those stories have been reprinted.
6 Kevin Smith’s Batman
Kevin Smith, Walt Flanagan, Art Thibert, & Sandra Hope
Kevin Smith has written several comics for DC, such as Green Arrow and Batman ’66 Meets Green Hornet, both of which are quite well-regarded. However, his Elseworlds Batman mini-series just haven’t endured with mainstream Batman fans and were always made more for Smith’s fans than the hero’s fans.
Stories like Cacophony and The Widening Gyre have fallen into obscurity for the company, although some do recall key moments from them like Joker blowing up a hospital. These stories were by no means bad reads, but they haven’t been able to stay relevant for the hero’s fans.
5 Stan Lee’s Just Imagine Batman
Stan Lee & Joe Kubert
While many readers are vaguely aware of the fact Stan Lee wrote a Batman comic in the early 2000s, the odds of finding a DC fan who’s actually read it are slim. Lee reimagined Batman as a Black man named Wayne Washington who was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and emerged in peak physical condition and a mind for revenge.
Just Imagine Batman applied Lee’s Marvel method of character creation to the Caped Crusader, with Wayne donning a unique Bat wrestler costume to exact justice. However, it hasn’t really lasted in the minds of readers, especially since DC hasn’t done anything with him since Lee’s original stories.
4 The Dark Knight (2010)
David Finch, Jason Fabok, & Scott Williams
The 2010 mini-series The Dark Knight had the unfortunate timing of being released right in between the demise of the post-Crisis DC era and the birth of the New 52. The story follows Batman in a supernatural mystery case, with Etrigan and Ragman presenting some unexpected threats for the Caped Crusader.
The relative obscurity of the mini-series is surprising, considering the fact it’s actually one of the better mini-series for the hero and had names like David Finch and Jason Fabok attached. Likely to fit in with the New 52, the series originally teased to be six issues was shortened to five, the continuity erased and the tale forgotten.
3 First Wave’s Batman / Doc Savage
Brian Azzarello, Phil Noto, & Rags Morales
First Wave was a great idea at DC that could have used better execution and timing for the company. It began with a crossover between Batman and Doc Savage, moving into a mini shared universe dedicated to pulp fiction, and included Batman, Savage, and Will Eisner’s Spirit.
The core First Wave mini-series had the trio of pulpy heroes team up on an adventure, but something about it just didn’t work. The story resurrected a mostly obscure pulp hero in Savage and had him team up with heroes who didn’t really fit one another’s styles. Both Savage and the Spirit actually had better stories in their solo books than they did with Batman.
RELATED: Batman’s Most Horrifying Deaths
As much as he may be known for fighting mob bosses and colorful supervillains, Batman has a rich history of fighting mythical creatures of the night. In Sam Keith’s Scratch, he encountered a werewolf who had been blamed for the disappearances of children in a classic creature feature showdown.
Many stories have done a better job of having Batman fight werewolves, like Batman vs Bigby and a BTAS episode. Perhaps due to Keith’s acquired taste of art style, the removal from any main universe events, or the absence of classic Batman villains, the mini-series just doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
1 Matt Wagner’s Batman
Matt Wagner has long been a staple of modern comics, thanks to the dark and gritty tone he brings to books like Grendel and Legends of the Dark Knight. In 2005 and 2006, Wagner wrote two brilliant mini-series that revived classic Batman tales through The Mad Monk and The Monster Men.
Matt Wagner’s writing and art delivered on two brilliant mini-series, but the creator has always had more of a niche style that doesn’t have the broad appeal of Scott Snyder or Frank Miller. Even when the two series originally sold, they had lackluster numbers and have become increasingly obscure since.
Batman has featured in countless comics since his debut in 1939. With all those stories, it’s not surprising even some great ones have been forgotten. Read More