Batman: The World, now in stores and on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE, represents the greatest collection of international talent ever assembled for a Batman story. The ability of such a diverse collection of creators to translate Batman into their own distinct culture and comic book tradition speaks volumes for just how universal the idea of Batman is, inspiring far more than the Gothic American city setting which he was created for. After all, while Batman has sworn to protect Gotham with all his considerable skill, intellect, and willpower, his mission for justice far exceeds the city’s borders. Followers of Batman’s adventures have seen them extend across borders and oceans, battling evil wherever it may rise across the globe.
Still, you can take the Batman out of Gotham, but can you really take the Gotham out of Batman? If you’d like to see how Batman fares out of his element for yourself, we’ve assembled a collection here of stories which have put the “World” to the test in his title of “World’s Greatest Detective.”
Batmen of All Nations
Detective Comics #215 represents Batman’s first concentrated effort to extend his mission to the global stage. In 1954, when even the United Nations itself was still a concept the world was adjusting to, Batman was reaching out to previously unknown counterparts across the world to form a global network of vigilance and crimefighting. The United Kingdom’s Knight and Squire, Italy’s Legionary, Australia’s Ranger, France’s Musketeer, and Argentina’s El Gaucho all stood in attendance for the Batmen of All Nations’ inaugural meeting, acknowledging that heroism is by no means an exclusively American affair.
Batman in Barcelona: Dragon’s Knight
This 2009 special from Mark Waid and Diego Olmos takes Batman to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities in pursuit of a case plotted by some of his greatest enemies. To solve it, Batman must engross himself in Barcelona’s history, traditions, and culture to understand the nuances of a mystery unlike any he’d encounter in Gotham. Dragon’s Knight demonstrates that when you find yourself in a foreign land, you must learn to think on its people’s terms.
Batman: Scottish Connection
Batman may be an American icon, but like most Americans, his roots are elsewhere. This 1998 one-shot story from Alan Grant and Frank Quitely takes the Wayne family to its beginnings, as Bruce traces his heritage back to the Scottish Wayne clan. It’s in Scotland that the Wayne family’s last son must solve a case hundreds of years in the making, in pursuit of the Knights Templar and perhaps the Devil himself.
This two-part story, also written by Grant and originally printed in 1992’s Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #52-53, takes Batman to the streets of China. But unlike many of Batman’s Eastern adventures, what he gets in the bargain is more than your typical martial arts epic. Batman: Tao is a meditation on the philosophy of Batman itself, and its surprising compatibility with Taoist ideals in its purity. By traveling as far as he possibly can from the city he’s sworn his life to, it’s here that Batman learns to understand what drives him on a deeper level.
This four-issue series from the international team of Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee, Matteo Casali, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego Latorre and Gerald Parel is the most demented Euro Trip you’ll ever see—where a diseased and dying Batman is forced to take the Joker in tow with him throughout Europe in order to find a cure for them both before they perish. As Batman and his greatest enemy travel together from Prague to Paris to Rome, it’s hard to say what will get Batman first: the virus, or the clown having the time of his life.
The Dark Knight
Any list of the greatest Batman stories ever told in any medium would be incomplete without the 2008 film The Dark Knight. And while the movie is largely concerned with a battle for the soul of Gotham, Batman’s quest to save his city takes him all the way to Hong Kong right in the middle of the action. In its execution, the scene provides a meaningful insight into the character of Batman himself: there is no length he won’t go to, no distance he won’t travel, to accomplish his goals. It’s a message expressed in miles here in the middle of the film, and in morals by its end. No corner of the earth is safe for criminals from the long-looming shadow of the Bat.
The animated film Batman Ninja may be the most wholly unique Batman film in existence. Written and entirely produced by Japanese creators, unrestrained by all but the most fundamental tenets of the Batman mythos, what they produced is a work unlike any other entry in Batman’s world. In this gorgeously stylized adventure, a machine sabotaged by Gorilla Grodd takes Batman, his greatest allies, and his worst enemies back in time to Feudal Japan. With the nation now controlled by the likes of the Joker, Deathstroke, and Poison Ivy, Batman and his family must change from Dark Knight to Dark Samurai to restore balance and the timeline.
Batman: The Detective
If you need an up-to-the-minute international Batman adventure in your hands right now, you’re in luck—this limited series from DC superstars Tom Taylor and Andy Kubert is currently in progress, hurtling towards its climax as you read this. Batman: The Detective takes the Dark Knight across the Atlantic once more to solve a murder mystery that finds him traversing Europe and reckoning with the man who trained him at the very beginning, the enigmatic Henri Ducard. One of Batman’s greatest assets in his detective work is his familiarity with the city where his cases take place. How well will the World’s Greatest Detective acclimate to solving a European continental conspiracy? Batman: The Detective poses the question and is inching towards an answer.
Grant Morrison began their legendary run on Batman with the credo that every Batman story ever written counted and every story matters. One major way Morrison demonstrated that was by returning to the well of 1954’s Batman of All Nations and reintegrating them into the Dark Knight’s world as the ambitious Batman Incorporated—a far more robust network of heroes and operatives representing Batman’s mission across the world. And as you’ll see in the latest comic book solicitations for Batman’s post-Fear State status quo, the dormant Batman, Inc. is poised for a very big comeback, sooner than you might imagine. In 2022, we’ll see that Batman: The World is much more than a one-time dream—it’s a representation of just how big Batman’s world is about to get.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.