Like a lot of you, I’m proud to say that Batman is easily my favorite character in comics. After all, this is a character who has such classics to his name as THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, ARKHAM ASYLUM, THE KILLING JOKE and YEAR ONE. And while the general consensus is probably that TDKR or YEAR ONE is the quote-unquote “best” Batman story, I also make no apologies for saying that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s THE LONG HALLOWEEN is not only one of my most-loved comics, but also easily my favorite Batman story of all time.
THE LONG HALLOWEEN was a 13 issue series which was published in 1996-1997, and which documents Batman’s early days in Gotham following the events of YEAR ONE. Back when Harvey Dent was the District Attorney and even before Robin was introduced, Batman is dealing with a serial killer along with competing mob families. Batman also struggles here as he works with law enforcement to try and implement some real progress in his city.
One of the main reasons I picked up this book in the first place was that I was a huge fan of the Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale Halloween specials that had been published as a spin off from LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT. Their take on Batman was a much more sombre, introspective and noir-influenced than what was being published in the monthly books at the time, and that appealed to me instantly.
Indeed, Loeb’s Batman is the perfect fusion of the Denny O’Neil “thinking Detective” and the obsessive and driven Frank Miller version which was all the rage in the late 80s and 90s. Sale’s Batman is a stylised beast, sitting somewhere in-between Kelley Jones’ impressionistic nightmare and Chester Gould’s DICK TRACY. This is a deeply wounded but profoundly noble man who continually tries to stop what happened to him from ever happening to another human being. This Batman is not cruel, cowardly or vindictive. This is my Batman – a thinker, a protector and a detective.
Newcomers to THE LONG HALLOWEEN will recognise much of the material which was used as inspiration for the Nolan Batman trilogy, specifically the portrayal of Two-Face. Much like in the Batman Animated Series, Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent are allies, working to rid Gotham City of the mob and clear out the corruption once and for all. However, before long, Dent gets mixed up with the Joker, the mob, and everything else that festers in Gotham’s underbelly.
The main thrust of the series lies in Batman’s monthly contests with one of his Rogues Gallery, where he faces off against a new mask each issue and the mysteries pile up faster than a Raymond Chandler novel. THE LONG HALLOWEEN is one of the most compulsive stories in the character’s rich history, and certainly the most atmospheric. New readers familiar with the New 52 or Rebirth will enjoy seeing an inexperienced Bruce Wayne slowly getting consumed by the madness in Gotham.
If you have been put off by a brutal Batman who punches (or kills!) before he thinks, endless pale Miller imitations, or the brute that can be found in Warner Bros’ BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, this is the Batman story for you. This is a comic with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale at the top of their not inconsiderable game.
You never know, you may even reconsider what you consider to be the best Batman story. I know I did.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Gorman.
Craig Tweets from @Gorminator1979