This year marks Batman's 80th Anniversary, and there’s no better time to revisit some of our favorite tales from the man behind the cowl. However, it’s also Halloween, which is the perfect time to turn down the lights and turn up the fear factor. Bruce Wayne is a man of many faces, from heroic and proud to hilarious and camp, but one of the most strangely forgotten faces of Batman is the horrifying one that strikes fear into both villains and readers alike. To celebrate this milestone, we've collected seven of our favorite and most terrifying Bat-Stories guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
If you've ever wondered just how Bruce Wayne would survive in Victorian era Gotham City then this gorgeous one-shot written by Brian Augustyn with art by Mike Mignola and inks by P. Craig Russell is your dream comic. Not only is the issue a gothic dreamscape, but it also pits Batman against the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper, which is a true battle of the wits that sees Bruce pushed to his limits as he tries to protect the city he loves against one of the greatest evils of all time.
Doug Moench, Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Les Dorscheid and Todd Klein came together to create one of the most iconic and strange Batman stories of all time with this vibrant horror trilogy (available in the second Elseworlds: Batman collection) that imagines Bruce Wayne if his superhero alter-ego was just a little more literal. After finding Dracula and his minions enjoying a delectable meal of a poor homeless Gothamite, Bruce decides the only way to beat the most powerful of all vampires is to become him! It's a trippy and beautiful story which Jones, Jones and Dorscheid bring to life in way quite unlike any other comic.
Batman: Mask is the brainchild of Bryan Talbot who wrote and drew the two-issue story from Legends of the Dark Knight (it runs in issues #39 and #40), with immersive colors from Olyoptics. It's a psychological thriller that throws Bruce into his worst nightmare after he wakes up in the psychiatric unit of Gotham General Hospital. It's a traumatic experience as he's convinced that he's not Bruce Wayne at all but a homeless man, confused and delusional about both his lives. A terrifying journey into the heart of darkness as Bruce is forced to fight for himself and the life he once lived in the face of a mysterious foe trying to take it all away.
Okay, this classic graphic novel may be a bit on the nose for today, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not appropriate. If you're a fan of dark serial killer stories and you haven’t yet read The Long Halloween, you’re in for a treat! Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Gregory Wright and Richard Starkings' spooky chiller focuses on Batman's hunt for a nefarious murderer who only kills on holidays. This is noirish crime drama which leans into the horror of serial killer stories. It features some of Batman's most notorious rogues and is a great companion to the classic Batman: Year One as it also focuses on the early years of Batman's crimefighting career.
Another Doug Moench entry here, this time with Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin, John Costanza and Steve Oliff as the team once again delves into Batman's mind. Originally published in Legends of the Dark Knight and sharing similarities with its series mate Mask, this is another thriller focused on Bruce Wayne and his apparently unraveling sanity. It probably doesn't help that he's being targeted by the evil and brilliant Dr. Hugo Strange who is determined to discover the secrets at the heart of the Batman no matter the cost.
One of the best superhero/horror hybrids of recent years, Batman: Damned may be the most beautiful book ever drawn that also features a two-page closeup of a living bat being stapled to Bruce Wayne’s chest. Written and illustrated by longtime collaborators Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo respectively, with a breathtaking assist on letters by Jared K. Fletcher, Damned presents an alternate world version of the Dark Knight on the hunt for whoever killed the Joker…which just may happen to be him. Oh, and did we mention that Batman may also be dead? Surreal, strange and unforgettable, with a twisted final reveal that will change everything you know about Batman’s seemingly tragic origin.
The final entry in our list of Batman bloodbaths is this cult classic from two of comics’ biggest icons, Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson, with letterer John Costanza and colorist Bill Wray! It's another creepy catastrophe as Batman is kidnapped by a group of homeless fanatics under the control of Deacon Blackfire. The horror doesn't end there, though, as after Bruce frees himself, he has to deal with the ramifications of being brainwashed by the group, who are using his convalescence as a chance to make their mark on Gotham City.
Any one of these seven tales would make a perfect companion tonight. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself jumping a bit higher than usual when the neighborhood trick-or-treaters come knocking at your door. Happy Halloween!
Rosie Knight writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com. For more from her, check out her recent breakdown of Batman/Superman #1 and be sure to follow her on Twitter at @RosieMarx.