When you really think about it logically, Batman should be a Halloween mecca for scary content with the main character a bat fanatic and the villains being homicidal clowns, scarecrows and even zombies. But really over the years, aside from some campy October-themed issues writers of Batman rarely has embraced its untapped depth for haunting content.
Now this is not to say Batman is painted all bright and fun, writers like Grant Morrison have taken Arkham Asylum to the depths of hell, making any haunted house seem like Disneyland. But my point is, many people leave it rarely unexplored in relation to Halloween.
In my opinion Chuck Dixon will have written some of the greatest adventure tales across the entire landscape of Gotham in every imaginable title: Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Batgirl, and Birds of Prey but rarely did they involve chills and thrills. And you can put Greg Rucka on the list for writing mystery and noir as if Batman were in a Raymond Chandler novel. Every great Batman writer has their nitch and I am not taking from any of them: Rucka, Morrison, Dixon and Miller, I love them all, but when you are looking for something creepy you have only one place to go: Jeph Loeb or Elseworlds series.
Elseworld is a bit more broad spectrum, and in all honesty I am not the biggest fan of the series. Some of the books seem to have great concepts when given a quick one sentence synopsis, but then due to writing either rushed or with poor resources to develop what should seemed initially like a quality story is a stinker by page ten. But I am not writing this to hate on E.W. it’s just a simple truth I have felt disappointed over the years by them.
Haunted Gotham – Written over four volumes under the leadership of Doug Moench, Batman not only has to deal with his mortal foe in the Joker, but his royal craziness conjures up zombies, werewolves, mummies, ghosts and demons to try to take Gotham for his own once and for all. One-sentence wonder or not it is almost worth the time spent just to see the Joker run around wearing the head of Thomas Wayne. But scan over much of Moench’s work and you will see his preference for a ghost or demon in any story.
Gotham by Gaslight – Three words. Jack. the. Ripper.
Nevermore – Batman teams with Edgar Allan Poe, can you get anymore in the spirit?
To name a few more: Castle of the Bat, Vampire, Nosferatu, the Book of the Dead, Batman & Demon all which may interest the true gothic fan, but never finished by my eyes. Most follow a classic tale of horror with a Batman-themed twist.
The Elseworlds’ series is so vast and I could name most of the catalog and it may somehow relate to Halloween. While the stories may not be as solid as the cannon-line, if you are looking for a creepy book it is the best place to start.
But for a little more focused effort on writing a ghost story you should really focus on Jeph Loeb. While many consider Hush to be the magnum opus of Loeb I think they are wrong. Hush was clearly the best drawn work (by Jim Lee of course) related to a Loeb story, and maybe that is where the credit is attributed, but The Long Halloween is by far his masterpiece.
Predating The Long Halloween epic, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale first collaborated on three single issue Halloween specials for DC Comics, later collected as Haunted Knight, they were first released as Choices/Fears (1993), Madness (1994) and Ghosts (1995).
Choices features Scarecrow, Madness the Mad Hatter and Ghost… well that one you need to read to find out. Each tale, while not chronologically take Batman and Bruce Wayne on an October 31st adventure into his own terror. While not nearly as fine tuned as The Long Halloween, Haunted Gotham is a quality read and worth the shot, but surely a letdown when read following its successor because such a classic has no equal.
For the 3 people who have never read The Long Halloween I will keep this 100% spoiler free, for everyone else what do I really need to explain. Batman faces a killer that strikes on each of 13 holidays from one Halloween night to the next.
Holiday, the killer, keeps batman on the run for a year, the story originally written from one Halloween to the next, 13 issues, keeps Batman guessing and striking on major holidays. As a back story Loeb also tells of the demise of Harvey Dent and gives you a glimpse of his life and ethics prior to becoming Two-Face. The story continues the saga of the Falcone mafia family who we were introduced to by Frank Miller during Year One.
Loeb’s story far excels the art work of Time Sale who some people over the years have complained hurts the story. I myself like the basic art, it gives that Humphrey Bogart feeling from the Maltese Falcon. The simple palletes and sharplines scream mystery story from the 50’s.
As Batman tracks Holiday you are led to believe it could be any of his villain-fans or even his closest associates, never knowing until it is too late. If you haven’t read Jeph and Tim’s epic then get down to the comic shop and spend a sawbuck on the TPB. If you have, did it out and read it for the evening.
In my opinion, aside from Year One, you may not find a better collected Batman story.