10 Comic Books That Should Influence The Universe Going Forward

As long as no other scheduling conflicts interfere, fans are less than a year out from one of 2022’s biggest theatrical events with Matt Reeves’ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson in the titular role. Last year’s DC FanDome kept comic book/comic book movie fans well fed, including on the Dark Knight’s next solo outing from Reeves himself. Along with the widely-acclaimed trailer reveal, the director talked about some of the movie’s influences.

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The Long Halloween is probably something that will have some influence on the movie, but a deep cut that he confirmed to inspire was Darwyn Cooke’s Ego. With the GCPD HBO Max spinoff also planned, it looks like a Batman cinematic universe is in the pipeline, so here are other comics that should influence it going forward.

10 Dark Victory

Cover art for Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale featuring Batman and Robin

While the aforementioned The Long Halloween is the popular big brother that’s frequently cited as one of the best — if not the best — Batman comics ever written, it’s direct sequel Dark Victory is no slouch either. It’s also a solid detective-crime thriller story that works narratively as a great follow-up to the events its direct predecessor.

The sleuthing is obviously a pro, as TLH already executes well, but another reason for this to have bearing on this universe’s future is that it’s a detective thriller that also incorporates the origins of the first Robin: Dick Grayson. It’s a shame fans haven’t properly seen the Dynamic Duo in live-action yet, and Dark Victory is a good blueprint for a mystery plot that also works in the Boy Wonder.

9 The Black Mirror

Art for The Black Mirror featuring Batman

A comparatively more recent entry in the vast Batman mythos is Scott Snyder’s The Black Mirror. It was the last Batman arc to be written before The New 52 reboot, and it coincidentally starred Dick Grayson in the mantle in Bruce Wayne’s absence. Man under the mantle aside, The Black Mirror is another excellent underrated example of a grisly crime-noir plot that’s well put together.

Reeves is clearly going for a somehow even-more grounded and gritty Batman story, excitedly promising to finally and properly dive into the World’s Greatest Detective’s, well, detective prowess–also leaving fans wondering if this’ll actually be rated R. This comic is a good reference material for such a thriller that could also keep the genre fresh with future movies.

8 Gotham Central

Gotham Central art featuring GCPD officers by Michael Lark, written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka

Another comic that’s been understandably passed around in discussion a lot lately is Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central. Though, the reason for that isn’t because of Reeves’ The Batman, but because of the upcoming and also aforementioned spin-off TV series for HBO. While Gotham just did this, Reeves and newly-appointed showrunner, Joe Barton, are looking for a suitably more grounded take on the GCPD-focused police procedural drama on Max.

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Gotham Central is a clear point of influence, since its premise is having them as the main protagonists — not Batman. It’s unclear if it’ll be a single-season limited series or multi-season, but this should provide obvious groundwork for the show.

7 Year One

Year One art by David Mazzucchelli with Batman and Gordon

Thankfully, The Batman is not another origin story. With how popular the superhero genre as a whole has become in recent decades, audiences are mostly tired of seeing various takes on origin stories for widely beloved and known superheroes. For that reason, Year One wouldn’t necessarily be a go-to reference piece to use for Batman himself, but for the parallel story it tells.

The Batman takes place in the Caped Crusader’s second year, though, the GCPD spinoff takes place in his first, while focusing on the police themselves. Year One serves as an excellent Batman origin, but also as a Commissioner Gordon origin. It looks like the show will include Jeffrey Wright’s Gordon, so this would serve as good inspiration for GCPD-centric “Year One.”

6 The Cult

Bernie Wrightson and Wray's art of Batman for The Cult

Going back to Reeves taking Batman to seemingly darker heights, Jim Starlin’s The Cult might be another deep-cut comic in the same vein as Ego in serving as foundation for a story. Although, this would be for a different, more specific type of plot. The Cult uses a more obscure supervillain in Deacon Blackfire, a deranged religious fanatic who forms a mass-murdering cult by taking advantage of Gotham City’s disenfranchised and downtrodden.

Gotham’s systematic corruption is confirmed by Reeves to be a clear theme in both The Batman and the GCPD series, and tackling a story based on The Cult — and even using Blackfire as the villain — would be an enticing way to tackle another facet of this.

5 Arkham Asylum

Dave McKean's cover art of Batman entering Arkham Asylum in the Morrison-written comic

Venturing into some newer territory for another future project in this universe, Grant Morrison’s ’80s classic Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth could dive into the psychological-horror arena. It’s certainly riskier for a potential live-action Batman-related movie or show, and there’d definitely need to be some toning down, considering how grotesque it gets.

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Ego goes to heavy psychological places focusing on Bruce, but Arkham Asylum also puts the Dark Knight’s rogues on stage, putting on a horror show in the process. Given the psychological-horror nature, something like this exploring some villains could work as an experimental HBO Max original.

4 The Court Of Owls

Jason Fabok's variant art of Batman and the Court for the Court of Owls arc

If fan speculation pans out come release of next year’s movie, then this could be a realistic gold mine of source material for eventual sequels. Since Reeves says that corruption will be a heavy focus of Gotham in this universe, the Court of Owls arc from The New 52 — also written by Scott Snyder — and its titular supervillains would be primed for a live-action, big-screen debut.

Given the cryptic dialogue from the Riddler in the trailer, it’s possible that he could be hinting at Bruce that the Waynes have been part of Gotham’s corrosion due to the Court pulling the family’s strings for generations in the shadows without his knowledge. It was an excellent arc in the comics and the Court (and Talon) became fan-favorites in Batman’s newer rogues-gallery additions.

3 Earth One

Gary Frank's art of Batman for the cover of Earth One Vol. 2

As far as comics go, Geoff Johns’ Earth One series is one of the more grounded ones out there. While origin stories have been done more than enough, Earth-1 gave a compelling entryway into comics for newcomers to these characters and the medium. It also made for a refreshing, inventive new take on his lore away from mainline canon.

Earth One for Batman largely does away with the heavy supernatural and adopts an atmosphere similar to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. The series takes a more cinematic view through comics and is a great basis for a crime movie thriller, as well as potential for new takes on existing characters.

2 White Knight

Art by Sean Murphy for his Curse of the White Knight comic book, featuring Batman, Joker and Azrael

Another “Elseworlds” comic book series is Sean Murphy’s DC Black Label maxiseries, White Knight. Assuming the upcoming movie(s) steers clear of the supernatural like it appears and continues further into the universe, there could be some elements from the two main books so far that can still work in a realistic world.

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The White Knight universe also flips a lot of established canon on its head, taking even more mature tones. This series particularly focuses on an increasingly unhinged, cruel Bruce/Batman, who’s family desperately tries to bring him back down to earth — and shocking family revelations — which seems to have some similarities with at least the upcoming first movie.

1 Prey

Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin's art of Batman in Prey

Another pick that dives into the psychological is Doug Moench’s Prey, an arc out of the recently-revived classic comic book series Legends of the Dark Knight. A key to telling a great Batman story is to be able to balance martial arts, intelligence, detective prowess and exploration of his psyche.

Reeves seems on the right path if Ego is on the list, but Prey is another example that has a foe do the dissecting. It uses an excellent supervillain in Hugo Strange, with him developing a psychotic obsession with Batman’s secrets, his mind and what makes him tick in order to dismantle him from the inside. It sees Batman with a fragile relationship with Gordon and the former breaking down to the point of questioning his own sanity and plausibility of his mission.

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