Comics/Graphic Novels

The Best of the Bat: Ranking BATMAN Covers

Batman is one of DC’s most popular and iconic titles. It was originally published from 1940 to 2011 and spanned an impressive 713 issues. Then they reset the numbering back down to Issue 1, and that version ran for 52 issues before the numbering was reset to 1 again in 2016. As of this writing, the third volume is still ongoing and has reached over 120 issues.

Got all that? Good.

Batman covers — and comic book covers generally — have evolved since the early days. They started out very simple and to the point: a colorful image of Batman and Robin swinging into action, charging towards the reader or attacking a bad guy. The ’50s and ’60s saw a preference for zany, seemingly inexplicable imagery, while the 2000s tended toward dark imagery with little to no text. Now we are melding the two: the images are still often dark, but dialogue and text generally seem to be making a comeback.

As such, it was hard to judge all of these covers by the same standards and come up with a definitive “best of” list; while the goal of Batman covers has always been to attract readers, their ways of doing so have changed radically over Batman’s 80-plus years. Artistic styles, reader tastes, and certainly Batman are all fluid. And there’s a matter of personal taste as well: images that appeal to me may not appeal to you, and vice versa. So if I left your favorite off the list, just remember that I did it on purpose.

That said, it’s important to point out that DC in general and Batman in particular have historically been dominated by white male artists. That trend continues to this day. While I did find a decent number of fantastic Batman covers by women and people of color, the long history of white-only, male-only cover artists meant that they still got outnumbered. So before we get to the main list, I’d like to balance things out by going through some honorable mentions. These are Bat-related covers by female artists and artists of color that really show off how much diverse creators can bring to the Batman family when given the chance.

Honorable Mentions

Future State The Next Batman #2 cover. Jace Fox, in full Batman costume but with the mask off, stares out at the reader.

Future State: The Next Batman #2 (Variant)

Yes! Look at how strong this is! Not just the stance and the fact that Jace is about to punch us all in the face, but the mere fact of a Black man wearing such an iconic costume is a powerful statement.

This is, tragically, not the main cover for this issue but rather a variant, i.e. an alternate cover meant to entice readers to either buy more than one copy of the same issue or to attract a wider audience. The main cover for this issue is just okay, but this variant by Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez is stellar.

Batman: Li'l Gotham #10 cover. A circle of greenery on a white background with several red-haired women lying on the grass.

Batman: Li’l Gotham #10

All of Dustin Nguyen’s covers for this series are perfect in every way. No, I will not be taking criticism.

Batman: Black and White #4 cover. A black-and-white image of Batman standing over an woman's body. The only color is the tip of her red lipstick.

Batman: Black and White Vol. 2 #4 (Variant)

This gorgeous variant cover is by the incomparable Amanda Conner. I’m a really a sucker for covers that makes good use of negative space and striking color palettes. Needless to say, the covers of both Batman: Black and White series really appeal to me, but I think this one is my favorite.

Batman: Urban Legends #10 cover. Batman and Robin swing over Gotham City on a moonlit, snowy night.

Batman: Urban Legends #10

Belén Ortega and Adriano Lucas get major props for this one. For me, it’s a perfect fusion old-school and modern sensibilities: you’ve got an uncomplicated image of the Dynamic Duo in modern style, but the colors are relatively bright, and if you look close, you can see Batman is smiling just a little. I also love the snow — that’s a nice touch that changes the atmosphere somehow.

Best Batman Covers

Batman #608 cover. Batman stands on a gargoyle looking out over Gotham City.

Best Cover of Batman Standing Around Looking Cool: Batman #608

There are a lot of neat covers with Batman standing on rooftops looking cool, but there’s only so many times I can go, “Hey, look at this neat cover with Batman looking cool on a roof.” So I picked this one to represent them all.

I included this Jim Lee cover on my list of best comic book covers of all time, and I still think it holds up. My only complaint is that I wish there was less dramatic cape and more Gotham skyline. He’s supposed to be looking out over the city he protects, isn’t he? So let us see the city! Other than that, it’s clean, it’s simple, it’s powerful, and it works.

Batman #11 cover. Batman stands with his cape spread, fire at his feet rising in the shape of bats before him.

Best Use of Fire: Batman Vol. 2 #11

I love this one. I love how the darkness of Batman’s costume contrasts with the light of the fire. I love the way the flame turns into bats as it rises. Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia should be goshdarn proud of themselves.

Honorable mention goes to Batman #666, which absolutely understood the assignment by featuring Batman surrounded by flames.

Batman #117 cover. Batman and Robin race down a hill on roller skates as a green-skinned alien shoots at them.

Best Batty Silver Age Cover: Batman Vol. 1 #117

The ’50s and ’60s are a goldmine of stupid, stupid covers. This one by Curt Swan, Ray Burnley, and Ira Schnapp encapsulates a lot of the things that made the era so bonkers. You’ve got a gangster teaming up with an alien, who is aiming a ray gun at Batman and Robin, who are whooshing down the slope of an alien planet on roller skates. And this is why I read comics.

Batman #47 cover. Batman holds Booster Gold by a foot from a rooftop and declares that he must kill Booster.

Best Batty Throwback to the Silver Age: Batman Vol. 3 #47

Every once in a while, a cover artist will put their tongue in their cheek and try to revive the spirit of the wacky, inexplicable Silver Age covers. This one by Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki, and Tomeu Morey is my favorite. The art style is contemporary, but Batman dangling Booster Gold over a rooftop while screaming about how Booster must die is all ’50s, baby.

(Also, I’m sure Booster had it coming. I love you, buddy, but really.)

Batman #239 cover. On the left side, a poor family celebrate Christmas in a barren room. On the right, Batman, wearing a Santa beard, knocks on their door.

Best Christmas Cover: Batman #239

This bit of glory was a team effort from industry legends Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. There were a few holiday covers before this one, but I love the sheer hilarity that is Batman’s half-assed Santa suit. Who is he trying to kid with this? You’d think Mr. Overachiever would be able to create a more convincing Santa costume, but I guess some things are beyond even Batman’s capabilities.

Batman #215 cover. Batman storms away from the Batcave, declaring he is closing it forever.

Best Depiction of a Midlife Crisis: Batman #217

Neal Adams is one of the all-time greatest Bat-artists, so clearly I can’t let the goofy holiday cover be his only appearance on this list. Have something a little more representative of his tenure on the book.

Adams and Gaspar Saladino created this cover in the late ’60s, when Batman was finally ready to turn away from the camp and become a solitary Figure Of The Night once again. After sidekick Robin went to college, Batman had his own version of a midlife crisis, shut down the cave (though not “forever” as he claims here), and moved into Gotham City proper. This cover is a dramatic way of ushering in the new era.

Batman #68 cover. Catwoman enjoys a bachelorette party. An insert in the corner has Batman on the phone, wondering where Catwoman is.

Best Loser Batman: Batman Vol. 3 #68

Batman is often depicted as the epitome of brooding coolness, but he can be just as big a dope as anyone else. This fun cover by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts ably demonstrates that. Here is his fiancée Catwoman enjoying a rowdy bachelorette party while clueless Batman tries to contact her on the phone. You just know it never even once occurred to him to have a bachelor party or that Catwoman might want to celebrate. Bruce, you nerd.

Batman Vol 1. #15 cover

Best Bad Cover: Batman Vol. 1 #15

Aside from a few discrepancies here and there, the overarching ethos Batman lives by is that he doesn’t kill anyone, and even if he did, he certainly wouldn’t do it with a gun. That’s what makes this cover by Jack Burnley (Ray’s brother) so spectacularly, hilariously awful. If ever there was a character uniquely suited to war propaganda, it is definitely not Batman. His giant smile makes it worse. Buy war stamps!

Batman #35 cover. A clawed figure in a Batman-like costume stands before a green stained glass window. Three women crouch in front of him.

Best Horror-Inspired Cover: Batman Vol. 2 #35 (Variant)

Unlike war propaganda, Batman is the perfect character to fuse with the horror genre. Brian Stelfreeze captured that potential in this striking cover. You’ve got this clawed, vampiric-looking Batman standing in front of a bright stained-glass window that makes him look even darker. Not sure what’s up with the women in the foreground, but the gothic vibe is more than enough to earn this cover a spot on my list.

Batman #39 cover. Harley Quinn sits on her bed hugging a Batman pillow as Joker's shadow looms over her.

Best Cover to Actually Live In: Batman Vol. 2 #39 (Variant)

Look at Harley’s room here! She’s got Batman pillows, including a giant huggable one, and cute li’l plushies. Why am I not there right now, typing this article from this exact room? Artist Jill Thompson is allowed to be my interior decorator from now on. The Joker looming in the shadows is a bit of a downer, granted, but not enough of one to deter me from moving into this room immediately.

Batman #404 cover. Young Bruce Wayne kneels between his parents bodies.

Best Use of Bruce Wayne: Batman #404

Dave Mazzuchelli’s depiction of this pivotal moment in Bruce Wayne’s history has become iconic for a reason. It manages to convey a whole lot of emotion with very little. And a little is all we need for this scene: everyone knows Batman’s origin story backward and forward, so there’s really nothing else you need to do but let the moment speak for itself. Mazzuchelli clearly knew that, and the rest is history.

Batman #67 cover. An aerial shot looking straight down on Batman and the man he is chasing. The cover is entirely black except for the title, the running figures, and spreading circles on the ground like their footsteps are hitting puddles.

Best Use of Perspective: Batman Vol. 3 #67

Lee Weeks and Elizabeth Breitweiser are behind this simple yet memorable cover. I love the top-down perspective, and I love how it does so much with so little: it’s literally just Batman chasing some guy, but they manage to turn it into a work of art.

Batman #51 cover. An image of Batman with his cape spilling open to reveal a bright image of Gotham City within it.

Best Best Cover: Batman Vol. 2 #51

My goodness, the amount of time I’ve spent staring at this one. The contrast between Batman’s cape and the brightly lit Gotham. The symbolism of Batman as Gotham’s protector, wrapping his cape around his city. The way the bat symbol on his chest almost seems to become a Bat-signal. The minimalist design of the cape and cowl, with the cape becoming little triangles as it puddles around his feet. Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia killed it with this one.


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