As the furor over The Avengers begins to die down, comic fans are beginning to look forward to other blockbusters due to hit this summer. Not to slight Sony’s The Amazing Spider Man, but as it is a reboot of an insanely popular franchise, it has a lot to prove in order to be considered in the same weight class as Nolan’s Batman films.

Nolan saved the Batman films from the enduring mockery that followed them for almost a decade after the disaster that was Batman and Robin. He showed that the character could be done in a serious and realistic way by setting an incredibly dark tone, surrounding his Batman with an Oscar-calibre supporting cast, and choosing just the right blend of ingredients from the best Batman tales of the last thirty years to form his epic masterpiece.

For those who are more familiar with the films than with the comics, here are the five stories that are key to what Nolan has done thus far… and may yet accomplish.

1. Batman: Year 1

Written by legendary comics scribe Frank Miller, Batman Year One is where the modern Batman mythology began. The story chronicles a young Bruce Wayne’s return to Gotham after a long absence, his first failed attempts at crime-fighting, his conflicts with the corrupt Gotham City Police Department, and an idealistic Jim Gordon’s struggle to accept that a madman may be the best hope for a city that has lost it’s mind.

It is the primary source material for Batman Begins, the first film in Nolan’s trilogy. A great many of the thematic elements from this book, as well as a several nearly-complete scenes, made their way into the Nolan film. If you want to understand where the film’s writers got their ideas and where Nolan took his stylistic cues from, this is the place to start.

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This article was first posted on June 1, 2012