Last time, I looked at Elseworlds, Batman stories that don't take place in the regular comics continuity. This time, I thought I'd go in the opposite direction.
In the 1990s, comics changed drastically with the market driven by speculators who saw thousands paid for comics from the 30s and 40s, and bought 50 copies of every "significant" comic in the hopes that it'd someday be valuable. The publishers responded by trying to make every comic seem significant (like the The Death of Superman). Batman was no different, with a series of events that crossed over between the two main Batman titles (Batman and Detective Comics) and related titles like Nightwing, the Birds of Prey, Gotham Knights, Shadow of the Bat, Legends of the Dark Knight, and Robin. I should warn ahead of time that these stories aren't always great, but they're epic, so if you're into that sort of thing, give them a shot.
- Batman: Knightfall, Part One, Part Two, Part Three by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and others. (and the follow-up Prodigal that appears to be out of print)
The gist: A dangerous new villain comes to Gotham City to prove that he is better than Batman. A new vigilante comes to Gotham as well, fighting alongside Batman and learning from him. A lot more happens, but I don't want to give much away. Some fans absolutely love parts of this, I don't exactly love it, but it is an important event in the history of Batman.
Any relation to the movies?: Not that I can think of. Knightfall is heavily immersed in the history of Gotham as a city full of costumed freaks fighting on the rooftops at night.
Villains who appear: Just about all of them. But the major players are Bane and Azrael.
- No Man's Land: Cataclysm (Prelude), Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5. By Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, Greg Rucka, and many others.
The gist: A massive earthquake strikes Gotham. Almost every building has either collapsed or sustained so much damage that it's on the verge of collapse. The cost to rebuild is so massive, and the public perception of crime-filled Gotham is so negative, that Congress votes to abandon the city entirely, giving residents a few days to evacuate before it's walled off and the bridges out closed. Some Gothamites can't make it out, or won't leave their homes. The criminals stay to wreak havoc on a lawless city. And of course the heroes stay to try to stop the criminals. This was a hugely ambitious event, running for what seemed like forever, with about 100 issues in some way tied into No Man's Land or the buildup to it.
Any relation to the movies?: Again, I don't think so, but it's so much material that I could've missed something.
Villains who appear: Again, just about all of them. Black Mask, Huntress, Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Zsasz, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Scarface, and Two-Face all carve out a piece of Gotham to try to rule. And the Joker runs around doing Joker-ish stuff.
- Bruce Wayne - Murderer?, Bruce Wayne - Fugitive, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Chuck Dixon, and others.
The gist: Bruce Wayne's ex-girlfriend is found murdered in Wayne Manor. Bruce is innocent, but his only alibi is that he was punching villains in the face while wearing a cape. This obviously creates some problems.
Any relation to the movies?: Not that I recall.
Villains who appear: Some villains appear here and there (including the one who was actually the murderer, obviously), but the story is more about the importance of Batman's identity versus Bruce's exoneration and/or freedom.
- War Drums (Prelude), War Games, Act One, Act Two, Act Three, and War Crimes, which ties up some loose ends. By Bill Willingham, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Devin Grayson, and many others.
The gist: The new Robin accidentally starts a massive gang war.
Any relation to the movies?: The Dark Knight features the mob families in disarray, but I'm not sure I can make the leap that this idea was borrowed from War Games.
Villains who appear: Quite a few, though this features Black Mask's big moment, so he's the one that sticks out.