The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters this Friday, which means AiPT is in the throes of Batman week! First up, we choose our favorite and least favorite Batman covers. It’s an impossible feat to pick just one Batman cover since there’s literally thousands of covers to choose from. To make it even harder, the character is so iconic nearly every artist worth a damn has drawn him. Fear not though, we do the heavy lifting and pick out some gems.
Detective Comics #864
Dave: My choice is relatively new and obscure in the “best Batman covers” lists of the Internet, but I think it captures everything you want in a Batman cover. The claws give him the scary demon-like quality so many covers imbue, while the scattering leaves give a sense of the chilly atmosphere. Gotham is always best with snow falling and the icy chill of death on the wind. His shadowed face makes me think of him as a hunter, while the skull moon brings on the dread. Sure, Bruce Wayne is human, but Batman needs to be viewed as a force. A force of fear. This cover does that.
Brendan: I enjoy this cover’s ability to establish setting. The leaves along with the yellow-to-grey gradient of the background give everything an autumn feel. Bat’s sulking position, along with some great use of shading, make the Caped Crusader look very fearsome.
Brendan: Also a very recent cover, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader really celebrates everything about Batman in a single image. The everlong line of people affected by Batman’s long career, filled with friends and foes alike, speaks volumes of the fantastic mythos that has been created over the years at DC. The grand and, for once, beautiful city of Gotham shines brightly as the shadow of Batman fades into memory. Just looking at this cover makes me want to dig into my long box and pull out Gaiman’s beautifully crafted eulogy to the Caped Crusader.
Dave: Arm up, cowl draped and scowl for good measure, can Batman look any more iconic than in this pose? I was a big fan of this two-parter as well, and it’s funny to think all his nemeses would wait in line just to make their peace. Aw, they all cared.
Dave’s Honorable Mentions
Batman Streets of Gotham #11
Dave: This is watercolor?! Good god it’s pretty. This is my only positive selection with Robin gracing the cover, mostly because it’s usually awkward or just lame when they share the same space. Here we got Robin lurking on a chimney, Batman ready to enact pain on someone with his rather heavy looking grappling hook and a sick waving cape. I guess I love Batman without a face since the eyes peeking out of shadow is the same here as my top pick.
Brendan: I am 100%, full-homo, gay for Dustin Nguyen. Streets of Gotham, written by Paul Dini and drawn by my could-be-boyfriend, was at the top of my read pile for the entirety of his sadly-brief run. This fantastic, although somewhat straightforward, cover is a perfect example of the quality art Dustin was putting out every single month. The colors and textures just blow me away everytime I look.
Detective Comics #367
Dave: Back in the day comics were really only for kids and what better way to get them involved than with a puzzle. Seeing as Batman isn’t always using simple brute force but actual detective skills, this cover makes sense on multiple levels and at the same time tickles the interest.
Brendan: I like the idea, although it does have a gimmicky “how do we get the kids involved” vibe. Batman’s assailant has a pretty sweet ‘stache.
Dave: This is an homage to Detective Comics #31 as seen here:
…and I love the moodiness of both. It’s straight out of Rebecca or any of those classic horror films. I like Batman #227 a bit more due to the more expressive Batman and the silly looking “extra Robin” box. Both covers prove that, if Batman isn’t badass he better damn well be scary.
Brendan: This is one of the first instances (that I’ve seen) where the comic cover starts to transcend into true art. While most earlier examples are very straightforward depictions of Batman beating on some dude or in some sort of peril, this cover is more subtle and allows the viewer to figure some things out on their own. Great use of color, scale and depth.
Dave: This is one of the earliest covers I can remember on the rack as a child and the covers became decidedly more twisted as the months went on. This one particularly whets my whistle due to the masked skulls getting kicked up at the bottom and the twisted cityscape. It gives you a sense that Gotham is alive.
Brendan: I love the use of color here. I also like use of the now-traditional angle depicting an ominous Batman swooping down upon his prey. There’s also a lot of great details that really help make the city come alive on this cover.
Legends of the Dark Knight #5
Dave: This is a cover to a comic currently being distributed exclusively on ComiXology in digital format. The series is generally short on pages, short on panels, but also very cheap because they tell moments in the Bat mythos. If you’re familiar with the detective book “Fell” written by Warren Ellis, you’ll know Templesmith brings on the creepy and I can’t help but love his rendition of Joker in the Batman costume.
Brendan: I love the sickly skinny arms and the ever-so-devious smile on Joker’s face. The grin on the spray painted Bat is also a nice touch.
Brendan’s Honorable Mentions
Brendan: Ah, the age-old “hero giving up the cape” cover. This is probably the go-to cover (contested only by Spidey throwing his suit in the trash) for the disenchanted hero thinking about relinquishing his path to save the city. Everything on this cover works, from gradient spotlight to our overshadowed hero to the crying butler in the background.
Dave: What a wuss Alfred is. Doesn’t he know when the cowl gets retired he can go to Cabo?! I also like the spotlight effect and the obvious hard choice Bruce is making based on his expression.
Brendan: How can you have a Batman article and not mention the Joker? I know this is Bane’s week but we all know who really stands as Batman’s perfect and one true enemy. This is another example of great use of scale. Our devilish Joker is impossibly large, perhaps as a metaphor for the Joker being a force that is just too large for Batman to handle. The text on this cover is also well done. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.
Dave: I want to see this card game Joker is bringing Batman to. Imagine being shuffled whilst being pinned to a giant card. Frightening.
Brendan: Another iconic image, this time portraying the defining moment in Bruce Wayne’s life. This is (from what I saw) the first usage of Bruce’s loss of innocence that graces the cover of a comic book. It deserves to be on this list simply because it has been replicated countless times. It may not be for everyone, but when I think of Batman, this is one of the first images to pop into my mind.
Dave: It’s the hopelessness that gets me with this cover. Very much why Batman is who he is. I also like the bat silhouette over the logo. The unevenness helps reinforce the disturbing image.
Brendan: How Meta! This is just a fun, interesting cover that doesn’t necessarily provide any insight or inspiration but makes you think “hey, that’s cute!”
Dave: Introducing the Batman infinity mirror! It is cute and it’s interesting to note Batman comics back then were funny, hence their laughing.
Brendan: This is probably my personal favorite when it comes to Joker covers. That right there is the classiest psychopath I have ever laid eyes on. Also, the lettering on the side speaks leagues on what has transpired in this story arc so far. This is another cover I would be proud to hang on my wall.
Dave: Make way for the Joker. He’s large, in charge and posh as hell. This is the face of the man who just killed Robin. What an evil bastard. Monocles make everyone 43% more evil.
Where we don’t understand, are insulted by or would rather stab our eyes with acid pops than look at these covers for various reasons.
Dave: Here he is, the man of the hour, BANE! The muscles on this cover are pretty silly and his gloves appear to be spray painted on, but I’ve picked this mainly because I’m very disappointed with the T-Rex. He’s a witness to this travesty and just stands there, mouth agape! Doesn’t he know in a recent issue, Batman actually remote controls him to smash some of the Court of Owls!? Where were you when Bane broke his back, you dingus!?
Brendan: I don’t think I have ever noticed that dinosaur during any time I’ve looked at this cover. Albeit iconic, I’ve never been a huge fan of this cover. Bane and Bats both have way too much muscle mass to take seriously. It comes off as ridiculous.
Brendan: Oh, you know. It’s just a group of dudes, merrily striding away from the white dot, arms intertwined with staunch camaraderie. What’s that, generic scroll of text? This may end up being a romantic adventure? Ooh la la!
Dave: Nothing beats those gams on Robin. Nothing. He could strangle a horse with those stumps.
Dave: And another Robin bites the dust. If you have the time to peruse the covers of all the Detective Comics and Batman comics, which I did for this article, you’ll note Robin is dying or being threatened with death on nearly 25% of the covers. I find this cover particularly hilarious since Batman yells, “Not again!” Batman doesn’t have a crime problem, he has a “Robin hanging himself” problem.
Brendan: I laughed out loud at “Not again!” I also noticed the “you never know when Robin is going to die” theme when scanning the covers. Batman’s “Oh s--t” face is also pretty priceless.
Dave: It’s a sad day when Batman is jealous of a dog. Sharpen your detective skills or hide your photographs better you dolt. The dead look in Ace’s eyes is also a bit unnerving. May I be the first to suggest Warner Brothers introduce Ace the Batdog in the next Batman reboot.
Brendan: I’m going to ignore all of the ridiculous nonsense going on this cover and just point out one single thing. Batman’s left leg is probably 50% smaller than the rest of his body. It looks absolutely emaciated. Side note: I dig the pink logo.
Dave: Batman comics in the old days were more focused on wacky ideas to keep Batman busy for 30 pages rather than do real detective work. Here is another gem that should be considered for the source material to the next Batman reboot. Who wouldn’t want to see Batman change into Bat-Baby?
Brendan: Bat-Baby’s weird pig nose is freaking me out. I don’t like Bat-Baby. I completely understand the criminals’ reaction to that freaky child monster. Also, Shouldn’t Robin be some sort of zygote?
Dave: Overlook how awesome outer space would be if it were red and made of stars straight out of a sticker book. Now turn on your brain. How the hell did Gotham get a spotlight bright enough to reach the moon? If it was that bright it’d probably kill anyone within a ten mile radius due to the heat blasting from the bulb. Now notice that Gotham appears to be somewhere in Canada. That’s just un-American. Also, WTF is Batman doing flying around in space? It’s as if he’s just going on some kind of joy ride with his underaged boy toy Robin. Coincidence that he’s behind Robin? I think not.
Brendan: It’s the future, Dave. Space is red from Sol turning into a red giant star. The US has fully conquered all of North America (and quickly sweeping through South America) and advances in technology have allowed Gotham P.D. to switch over to a high-efficiency, low-cost pseudo-plasma bulb that could reach Earth 1 if they wanted to.
Brendan: Batman is fighting a giant swamp monster. Why? Shut up. This cover is pretty cool, albeit ridiculous. There’s a lot of great action going on, and you know I love that pink Batman logo.
Dave: Reason #49 why wearing a cape is a bad idea: swamp monsters can reel you in! I love that flaming torch Batman is sporting and I’m also a big fan of the blue look he donned for a chunk of his history.
Want some good recommended Batman reading? Check out Mark’s Batman Trade Paperback Reading Chronology, which reviews every Batman trade paperback starting with his origin and follows his initial crime-fighting days in sequential order.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!