We wanna begin this series, which is designed to give newcomers a roadmap of sorts into the world of comics or to a certain character’s comics they may not be as familiar with as they would like to be, by starting with arguably the biggest superhero of them all (at least the most popular): the Batman. We will start with a quick look at where he came from and then follow up with lists of current and classic stories every Batfan should check out!
Batman started his life in May 1939 in “Detective Comics #27″ and was created by Bob Kane and (maybe more importantly) Bill Finger.
The Dark Knight was a dark character from the start who even used a gun in his early years, but was softened up in the 40s (“Detective Comics #38″) with the introduction of Robin the Boy Wonder as his sidekick, to attract more readers and give Batman a “Watson” he could talk to, to get exposition across easier. The character went through a very campy and trippy phase, which was highlighted by the 1966 Batman TV show, which was produced by Bill Dozier (you know… BIFF! BAM! POW! Anti-shark-repellant, having a hard time getting rid of bombs etc.) and was brought back to his initial seriousness and darkness by Danny O’Neal and Neal Adams in the 1970s (The Secret of the Waiting Graves” “Detective Comics #395″).
That grim and gritty vibe was deepened in the 80s when Frank Miller wrote the first real masterpieces of Batman (some would argue maybe two of the best comics of all time).
“The Dark Knight Returns“ which dealt with an old Batman coming back after 10 years of retirement to once again fight against crime and injustice in Gotham City (1986). He faces off with a lot of his old foes and even fights a very close friend during this all time classic.
“Batman: Year One“ which showed Batmans origin for the first time in real detail and deals with a young Bruce returning to Gotham after having travelled the world to train for his war on crime. Its a real crime noir book (much more than a superhero book to be honest) and focuses on a very real worldly Gotham and featured Jim Gordon as the other main character who is fed up with the corrupt police force. A huge inspiration for Chris Nolans’s movie “Batman Begins”.
Today, Batman is still very much a dark character, but what actually makes him so compelling is that he works in almost every form, color and medium.
For every taste or mood, there is a Batman story.
You want it artsy? “Arkham Asylum“.
You want it horrorfying? “Death of the Family“.
You want it for your kids? “Batman: Lil’ Gotham“.
A modern detective story? “The Black Mirror”.
Batman as a pirate, cowboy and caveman? “Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne“.
Sci-Fi Batman? Anything “Batman Beyond“.
The list goes on and on.
To make your entrance easier, here is a list you could follow. Just click on the links to be redirected to the book or series in our store:
DC comics just rebooted their whole publishing line a few years back, so the easiest way to get up to speed would be to start here. The New 52 Batman series are seperated into different titles, with different volumes. All you have to do is pick a Batman book and start at vol. 1.
Its that easy.
“Batman“ is the flagship book. If you can/want only to follow one Batman book, you should choose that one, because it features the most important stories that you often have to read to understand plots of the side titles. Here we go:
- Batman vol. 1 “The Court of Owls”
- Batman vol. 2 “The City of Owls”
- Batman vol. 3 “Death of the Family”
- Batman vol. 4 “Zero Year: Secret City”
- Batman vol.5 “Zero Year Dark City”
- Batman vol.6 “Graveyard Shift”
- Batman vol.7 “Endgame”
and so on…
Another great title is “Batman and Robin“ which has the relationship of Batman and his son Damian at its core. You can read it on its own, but as I said before, some of those stories depend on you knowing what happens in the main “Batman” title.
- Batman and Robin vol. 1 “Born to Kill”
- Batman and Robin vol. 2 “Pearl”
- Batman and Robin vol. 3 “Death of the Family”
- Batman and Robin vol. 4 “Requiem for Damian”
- Batman & Robin vol.5 “The Big Burn”
and so on…
Apart from those two, which I would classify as the two main titles you have “Detective Comics“, “Batman: Dark Knight“, and “Batman Eternal“, that bring you even more adventures of the Dark Knight Detective. Next to those you also can choose to follow some of Batmans extended family of heroes in “Nightwing“ (which is the grown up first Robin on his own, who now goes by “Grayson“), “Batgirl“, “Red Hood and the Outlaws“ (which follows the second, former dead Robin and his team) “Catwoman“, “Batwoman“ and “Batman/Superman“, which is a really cool team up book between DC’s two biggest heroes.
New series have started recently which give a look at aspects of Gotham City without focusing on Batman directly: “Arkham Manor“ shows a deeper look at Arkham, which found a new home inside Wayne Manor, “Gotham Academy“ which is about a mysterious prep school inside Gotham and lastly “Gotham by Midnight“ is about the dark and supernatural aspects of the city and detectives Jim Corrigan’s fight against it. All very worthy additions to Batman’s Gotham, if you wanna delve deeper into this corner of the DC universe.
That should cover you New 52 wise. This is all you need to be current, or at least as current as you want to be.
Its a lot of stuff, but trust me… its also a LOT of fun.
Back to business. What Batman also has are a LOT of **classic stories ** of particular quality and influence on the comic book landscape as a whole (I would argue even more than any other comicbook character). Almost all of those play out before the modern continuity of the New 52. Some of those stories have still “happened”, while some don’t, but all of them are things every Batfan should have read at least once, as they influenced the modern Batman in every medium. Here we go:
- Batman Year One
- Batman Dark Knight Returns
- Arkham Aslyum: A serious house on a serious earth
- Batman The Long Halloween
- Batman Dark Victory
- Batman The Killing Joke
- Batman Hush
- Batman Broken City
- Batman Mad Love
- Batman The Man Who Laughs
- Batman The Black Mirror
and many more to list here.
The Morrison Run
The Grant Morrison run of Batman is a special run of comics. Very smart, very meta, very dense, very wacky and very different. Its also just before the reboot of the New 52, so they are the newest Batman stories before the reboot happened. Since its a really meaty and different run I list it seperatly, to make following it easier. This is the order of the stories you need to follow if you wanna go down that rabbit hole (you really do!).
- Batman and Son
- Batman R.I.P.
- Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn
- Batman & Robin: Batman vs. Robin
- Batman Time and the Batman
- Batman Return of Bruce Wayne
- Batman & Robin must die
- Batman Incorporated vol1
- Batman Incorporated New 52 vol.1 “Demon Star”
- Batman Incorporated New 52 vol. 2 “Gothams Most wanted”
Joker Bonus Round
With a franchise as big as Batman you kinda have to mention one other aspect that makes it as beloved as it is today… the Joker! So in this special bonus round I will rattle off a selection of stand alone Batman/Joker stories for those especially interested in their ongoing conflict. These are the best Batman/Joker stories that can be read on their own (Joker features prominently into the Morrison Batman run, or other stories as well, but those cannot be read on their own and make only sense as part of the greater story):
- The Man Who Laughs
- The Killing Joke
- The Dark Knight Returns
- Death of the Family
- Mad Love
- Arkham Asylum
We hope this little Start to read: Batman helps you make your way into the character easier! If you have some suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments.