Although the stories took on a more serious tone, this did very little to help the failing Batman books. Batman was in very real danger of failure by the time writer Frank Miller came along and wrote The Dark Knight Returns. The story, which features a future Batman coming out of retirement to take on Superman, the government and anyone else that dares to get in his way, featured a much darker Batman than before and the financial success of the comic inspired DC to use the Frank Miller style of Batman in the ensuing years.
The darkness of the Frank Miller influence extended to Batman's supporting cast, as well. In 1988, the one-time campy Batman villain the Joker, shot Batgirl Barbara Gordon, crippling her. Also in 1988, DC hosted their infamous 1-900 telephone poll where readers were able to call in and vote on whether or not Jason Todd survived an encounter with the Joker. While the validity and appropriateness of the phone poll is in dispute, Jason lost the poll and was killed on panel after a brutal beast with a crowbar and having a building blown up around him.
DC has since corrected the decision to kill Jason Todd by bringing him back to life. The Jason Todd that came back to life was a darker, angrier version of the character because he blames Batman for his death and is angry that Batman never bothered to "avenge" his death. Killing primarily villains, Jason Todd post-resurrection is best categorized as an anti-hero, and sometimes an outright villain, depending on the writer's whim.
The darker direction of Batman also made Batman a more insular hero. Batman was recast as an "urban legend," despite the decades of public service with the Justice League. Thanks to the characterization by Miller, the long-running friendship with Superman was shown to be a suspicious tolerance at best. The new Batman forbade any other heroes from operating in his city, even in times of great need.
The height of Batman's paranoia and darkness was reached when his superhero monitoring project Brother Eye project was stolen and used to kill and harm innocent people. After this incident, Batman took Dick Grayson and the current Robin, Tim Drake, on a cruise to bond and rethink things through.
As a result, the current direction of Batman looks to be a lighter one than in recent years. Batman recently adopted Tim and can be seen being chummy with Superman and Wonder Woman in the Justice League of America and Superman / Batman. At the same time, however, DC is publishing All-Star Batman and Robin, an out of continuity tale written by Frank Miller where Batman is verbally and physically abusive to a young Dick Grayson. Thus, the two main archetypes of Batman comics are readily available in the books currently being published.
~ The Killing Joke
~ A Death in the Family
~ Year One
~ The Dark Knight Returns
~ Identity Crisis
~ Under the Hood
~ The Long Halloween
~ JLA: Tower of Babel and JLA: Divided We Fall