One of the reasons I started this blog was to help new readers get into comic books. I admit, sometimes I get so caught up in what I’m reading and what I’m excited about that I probably don’t do the best job of that. So, in an attempt to do better I’ll be doing a series of posts called “A Great Place to Start”. The title comes from these cheesy commercials a college from my hometown runs, where people just walk around whispering “it’s a great place to start, pass it on” in each others ears. It’s a silly commercial, but I like the idea here. If you see something here that you think sounds interesting, go check it out. I’ll try to only post things that I’ve read or know a lot about, so that I know the book or series is new reader friendly. I’ll also include links to Amazon so you can find the book quickly and easily. If you do find something you like, pass it on to your friends.
This week, I’m going to be focusing on a character everyone knows about, Batman. Batman is probably one of the most accessible comic characters out there due to the media saturation the character has received. Almost everyone knows at least the basic origin and idea behind Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. Here are some great Batman stories that can be easily enjoyed with little knowledge about Batman.
Batman: Year One-Written by Frank Miller of Sin City and 300 fame back in 1986, this is the definitive Batman origin story. A lot of Batman stories reference back to or play on this book and much of the imagery and iconography from the book is still used today. This story also deals a lot with James Gordon when he first gets to Gotham, before he was Commissioner. Probably the best first Batman book.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns-Also written by Frank Miller, this is a “what-if” kind of story, where Bruce Wayne comes back to being Batman late in his life after retiring years ago. This is a really grim and gritty interpretation of Batman suited for the Watchmen crowd. This was also the first graphic novel I ever read. This features probably the greatest Superman/Batman fight of all time.
Batman: The Long Halloween-Kind of a pseudo-sequel to Batman: Year One, this story by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tells a year-long story where each issue focuses on a certain holiday. Long Halloween features the origin of classic villain Two-Face. There is also a sequel called Batman: Dark Victory that deals with the origin of Robin, but I’ve never read it.
Batman: Arkham Asylum-This is a relatively short graphic novel that tells the story of Batman trapped in Arkham Asylum tonight. This is a pretty disturbing story with some really intense and unusual art, but is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a dark, cerebral Batman story.
Batman Hush-Possibly the biggest Batman story of the last decade, this a twelve issue story that introduces a new villain to the Batman mythos, Hush. This story is also written by Jeph Loeb and features art by superstar artist Jim Lee, who is the current artist of DC’s Justice League series. This story features pretty much every Batman related character and villain ever, so it can be a little daunting as you are likely to not recognize at least one person. That said, this is one of the earliest stories I ever read and I really enjoyed it.
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?-This is another kind of what-if story, where Batman has died and all his friends and enemies have come to pay their respects. Different characters take turns telling their story of their relationship with Batman and each story ends with Batman dying a different way. As a whole, this book is a distillation of what makes Batman such a great character. The book is written by Neil Gaiman, a novelist and the writer of the acclaimed Sandman comic. This one isn’t what you would expect from a Batman story, but it’s extremely compelling, emotional, and thought-provoking.
Those are a few of the best Batman stories to read for a comics newcomer. There a lot of other stories that I’ve left out and their are even more stories that are great follow ups to the ones listed here.
Now, I can’t talk about Batman stories without mentioning Grant Morrison’s recent run on Batman. Morrison’s Batman stories aren’t for everyone, they’re kind of like the Inception of comics. If that sounds like something you would be interested in, here is my recommended reading order for Morrison’s run on Batman.
Batman and Son
Batman: The Black Glove
Batman and Robin Vol. 1
Batman and Robin Vol. 2
Batman and Robin Vol. 3
Batman: Time and the Batman**Can be read after Batman R.I.P. instead of Final Crisis
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne
*Not solely a Batman story, but it’s one of my favorite books and it is very important to Morrison’s overarching Batman story
**Issues #701 and #702 collected of this book can be read after Batman R.I.P. in place of Final Crisis