Holy pant-wetting, Batman!! (5 scary Bat-comics)

What with a forthcoming Arkham Asylum videogame review, what better time for a brief look at the scarier moments of the Dark Knight’s career?

5. The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland) – The Joker paralyses Barbara Gordon (previously Batgirl) and kidnaps her father, driving him near-insane in the process. Alan Moore’s (possible) Joker origins tale delivers horror, laughs and a bloody gripping storyline. A tad overrated, perhaps, but Bolland's art is superb, and the nastier bits are both disturbing and well-done. A genuine classic.

4. Faces (Matt Wagner) – A Two-Face tale with shades of the Todd Browning classic, Freak Show. Faces sees Two-Face attempting to build a “deformity” nation, made up of freaks he’s kidnapped from circus sideshows around Gotham. Truly nasty in places (and kicking off with a nicely grisly murder) Faces is the definitive Two-Face story.

3. Batman: Prey (Doug Moench) – Not a horror tale per-se, but Doug Moench’s tense, gripping story and dark, atmospheric visuals make it a lot more disturbing than it ought to be. Set during the Year One timeframe, Prey sees Bats face off against Dr. Hugo Strange, who sets out destroying him psychologically. Nasty dream sequences and strong violence make this scarier than your average Bat-comic.

2. Batman/Dracula: Red Rain (Doug Moench, Kelley Jones) – No, not the horrible animated series thing. Red Rain sees Batman go up against Dracula himself in a wonderfully Gothic, grisly tale. This spurred on a series of increasingly ridiculous sequels, but the original tale remains undiluted horror.

1. Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison, Dave McKean) – Thankfully the videogame isn’t a faithful adaptation, or 90% of the gameplay would have consisted of hiding in the dark, kicking wheelchair-bound patients down a flight of stairs…

But yes, Arkham Asylum: a Serious House on Serious Earth is the one Batman comic that this weak-kneed reviewer found genuinely hard to read as a child. Featuring bug-eating, a decapitated head in a dolls’ house and some truly terrifying artwork from Dave McKean, Arkham Asylum sees the inmates take over the asylum. Batman is terrified and, ultimately utterly useless; crying and whimpering his way throughout the story. So by no means the best Batman story, but definitely the scariest.

Dishonourable Mention:


  1. Groovy write-up. Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum is one of my favorite Batman stories of all time, and I'm glad to see somebody else willing to give it its due (as well as somebody else willing to proclaim that The Killing Joke, while quite good, is overall overrated).

  2. Yeah, Arkham Asylum is a great story. Creeped me out bigtime when I first read it; it's great as both a piece of scary horror fiction *and* as a Batman story.

    Thanks for the comment, dude.

  3. Batman has always been my favorite superhero, and the only one I collect regularly (although I'm not a comics "collector", per se, I just pick up the occasional trade paperback or memorabelia). I'm sure it's because much of Batman's world appeals to horror fans.

    Isn't ARKHAM ASYLUM nightmarish? No better way to describe the art. Very, very disturbing . . . .

    Thanks for the great recs! I don't think I've ever heard of "Faces" -- I'm definitely gonna have to check that one out, as Two-Face might be my favorite Batman villain . . . .