Over the past few years it has been almost impossible to avoid superheroes. Whether you are looking at record breaking films (Avengers Endgame) or critically acclaimed television series (Watchmen) it can feel like superheroes are totally dominating the cultural landscape.
Both DC and Marvel, the most famous publishers of superhero comics, have struggled to encourage fans of the film and television characters to immerse themselves in the comics that these characters have emerged from.
It is in this context that I decided to read Jeph Loeb’s 1997 classic The Long Halloween, a graphic novel that is often compared to Alan Moore for its ability to bringing heroic characters to a more mature audience.
Excellently illustrated by Tim Sale, the narrative follows the caped crusader as he works alongside Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to track down the mysterious serial killer Holiday. Meanwhile, the Falcone crime family continue to terrorise Gotham.
Christopher Nolan, the director of The Dark Knight Trilogy, has cited The Long Halloween as one of the major inspirations behind his film series and this is apparent after reading a few pages. Violence and mature themes permeate almost every page but the comparisons between to Nolan’s films do not stop there as both stories de-emphasise the fantasy elements of the character and feature excellent visual storytelling.
Where The Long Halloween pales in comparison to the cinematic experience is the pacing. The graphic novel is 400 pages which is relatively long for the medium. However, in addition to focusing on Batman, Catwoman and the hunt for Holiday there are several subplots featuring the wider cast of Batman villains including The Riddler, The Joker, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy. The inclusion of these characters feels rushed and designed to appeal to long-term Batman fans rather than to serve the narrative as a whole.
The gritty atmosphere of the novel is created through Loeb’s dialogue and Sale’s excellent artwork. It occasionally shifts into black and white to lend the story a noirish tone. The Long Halloween is a rare graphic novel that can go beyond the usual fan base and appeal to all lovers of crime fiction and thrillers.
Published by DC Comics, available on Amazon