When it comes to Batman comics, DC has a tried and tested formula that they very rarely deviate from. But, occasionally, a writing team comes along that shakes things up a little and takes the nearly 80-year-old character way out of his (and our) comfort zone. Now, this isn’t always a good thing, but when done correctly it can be the catalyst for some of the best storytelling in the history of comics.
Perhaps the coolest example of Batman comics entering the unknown is when he is written into stories that would not look out of place in a horror anthology. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, BOOM! Mind blown! To celebrate this rare but beautiful moment, we thought we’d treat you all to our favorite 5 times the Batman comics crossed over into the horror genre.
5Batman: Death of the Family by Scott Snyder
Let’s begin with the 23 part series that ran from October 2012 until February of 2013, Death of the Family, by Scott Snyder. The story itself is not exactly what you’d describe as horror, in fact, its a well rounded comic book caper with the usual thrills and excitement you’d expect from a master storyteller such as Snyder. Playing off the classic A Death in the Family arc of 1988, the story follows the Joker’s attempts to destroy the Batman – and ultimately Wayne – family from the inside, with a devilish plot in which he plans to execute those close to him, if he doesn’t give his own life in their place.
The real horror of Death of the Family comes in the horrific visuals spawned from the idea that Joker has previously removed his own face, and in this arc has reattached it – albeit badly – like a fleshy mask. The site of Joker wearing his own rotting face as a disguise is like nothing we’ve ever seen in Batman comics before and would look right at home in a Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequel instead.
4The Batman & Dracula Trilogy by Doug Moench
Holy shit, Batman is a vampire. OK, not at first, but after a series of nasty murders lead old Bruce Wayne into a confrontation with Dracula himself, he ends up getting bitten and goes full bloodsucker. Let’s face it, the image of a man dressed as a bat is creepy enough, especially if you run into him in a dark alley! But when you couple that aesthetic with the whole undead creature of the night nonsense then you have true horror on your hands.
The Batman & Dracula Trilogy was released way back in 1991, so we hardly feel any spoiler warnings are required at this late stage. Set over 3 different graphic novels, we get to see Batman lose his humanity as he kills Dracula by impaling him on a branch, and then commit suicide by walking into a sunrise. It’s pretty heavy, gnarly stuff for a character that’s predominantly aimed at a younger audience. It’s just a shame DC doesn’t do more stories like this.
3Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth by Grant Morrison
You only need to flick through the pages of Grant Morrison’s masterwork to see what kind of strung out, fever dream Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth is. This is perhaps the greatest glimpse into the messed up mind of Gotham’s greatest hero, and it’s not pretty.
Every panel reads like a nightmare. As Batman investigates a riot at the infamous madhouse, he finds himself trapped within the walls, spiraling deeper and deeper into the pit of insanity that bubble away inside. Arkham Asylum acts as a reminder that sometimes even the good guys are hiding a dark side, and Batman’s spiraling sanity is evidence that perhaps he is as horrifying as the rogues he battles in the pages of the Batman comics every month.
2Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison
Another arc by Grant Morrison, though one that is not so often talked about. Batman: Gothic sets the famous crime fighter in a setting so perfect for his character that it’s a wonder it hadn’t been done before – a traditional Victorian-style gothic horror.
The horror of the story comes from the villain of the piece, a child murderer that casts no shadow, and refuses to die, by the name of Mr. Whisper. Imagine reading about him to your kids before tucking them in at night. Do you think they’ll sleep comfortably? Or do you think they’ll pull the covers up over their heads so they don’t have to face the horrors of the silent man who rips out hearts?
The story is not one of the prettiest to look at, in fact, it’s worlds apart from Arkham Asylum, but it does offer some truly horrifying moments and characters, and would make for a cool animated movie some day.
1Dark Nights: Metal by Scott Snyder
Reuniting Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo after their seminal New 52 run, Dark Nights: Metal is a recent crossover storyline in which Batman discovers a horrifying dark multiverse. In doing so Batman releases seven innately evil versions of himself into his reality, including a God by the name of Barbatos and the creepy as Hell ‘Batman Who Laughs’, who looks like a cross between Judge Death and the junkyard zombie from The Walking Dead.
Dark Nights: Metal also encompasses Hawkman, Teen Titans, Superman, Flash, Hal Jordan, and Suicide Squad as they go up against what can only be described as DC comics answer to the Cenobites from the Hellraiser franchise. This is some creepy shit, and enough to give grown men nightmares.
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