How to get into Batman, with both older and newer modern-era takes on the Caped Crusader. It's probably best to start with Year One instead of The Dark Knight Returns. This is "Volume 1" in a series of Bat-shows to come.
A version of this episode originally ran as episode #27 of The Comic Shack on 5by5 in March of 2013.
Go back in time to witness the origin of our terrific twosome team as perfect podcasting pals...right before your very ears!
IDW Publishing: What if a legendary spy had a bunch of illegitimate kids that had to team up to save their moms...? New this week is a hardcover collecting The Illegitimates, written by SNL's Taran Killam and comics vet Mark Andreyko. Also out this week: the third issue of Super Secret Crisis War, a Cartoon Network Universe mega-crossover written by Louise Simonson!
- Batman: Year One (Frank Miller & David Mazzuchelli) is the best to start with, bar none. It is as much a Jim Gordon story as a Batman story. After Miller wrote Dark Knight Returns he went back to when Bruce was still learning the ropes. (TPB, ComiXology, and animated feature co-starring Bryan Cranston as Gordon)
- A Death in the Family (Jim Starlin & Marv Wolfman), shows a dead Robin 2 (Jason Todd) on the cover of most reprinted editions, so saying that "this is the one where they kill Robin" can't be considered a spoiler. It's no stretch to consider this the lead-in story for Dark Knight Returns. This defined a now-common Bat-trope of Batman facing the consequences of putting his loved ones on the battlefield in his crusade for justice. (TPB, ComiXology)
- The Killing Joke (Alan Moore & Brian Bolland) is commonly held as "the greatest Joker story ever told". It is probably only left out of the now-OOP Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told because allowing it in would have resulted in Moore receiving less-generous royalty checks. This story sets up the next 25 years of Barbara Gordon stories, even including the New 52 reboot, where the events of this are not so much undone as...resolved differently. (Hardcover)
- The first and second volumes of Superman/Batman written by Jeph Loeb (vol.1 drawn by Ed McQuinness, vol.2 by Michael Turner) are both great as comics and as DC Animation feature films.
- In Superman/Batman vol.1, Lex Luthor is President of the United States. He's gotten Superman accused of a horrible crime. It's up to Batman to clear the Man of Steel's name. In vol.2, they re-re-re-tell the origin of Supergirl, for continuity-resetting reasons that fry our brains. (Vol.1 and Vol.2 TPBs run a hair over $10 each, ComiXology is comparable, and Blu-rays of Public Enemies and Apocalypse have a nice set of extras each)
- The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is essential only after you've read some other Batman. It is very much a contextual read. Batman is around 60 now, and some new (and old) evil leads him to put the cowl back on. A new, female Robin comes on the scene, and Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow (among other Bat-friends) pop up. (TPB)
- The Dark Knight Returns DC Animation movie(s) are very, very well done. They sell it as two separate features and cut together as one big, long epic. (Part 1 and Part 2 on their own are fine, but the Deluxe Edition is a better value that includes both edited together as one exclusive extras like a feature-length documentary on Frank Miller)
- New 52 Batman, (or "Court of Owls" Batman) has been written and drawn by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo from the start, and these are good if you want to get into the current Batman of the "New 52" DC Universe. Snyder had a very hard job set in front of him, and if a dark and gritty Batman is what you like, he really knocked it out of the park. (TPB vol.1/vol.2, ComiXology)
- Peter Tomasi's Batman and Robin is one of the most shamefully underrated New 52 "reboots". In the shadow of Snyder's Batman book, this one got passed up by too many of us. (TPB, ComiXology)
- Out Of Print, but still findable is The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, which John recommends as a really great mixtape of different stories that don't require loads and loads of continuity knowledge. (TPB)
Out Of Print, but still findable (too) is The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, which is darker and weirder than the above, and altogether more "Nolan-y". A similarly good mixtape-style compilation of Joker-specific stuff. (TPB)
The Long Halloween (Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale) makes John so angry that Moisés made him promise to do a spoiler-ridden, Loeb-focused followup episode, which will specifically address both twists in this story. The "Calendar Killer", later called Holiday, is on a killing spree. The mystery is wrapped in a conundrum. (TPB)
Dark Victory (Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale) is the followup to Long Halloween, which we'll also talk about in the Loeb-a-palooza episode. Another serial killer, The Hangman, comes to Gotham. This one takes place in the third of fourth year since Batman...began. It re-tells the origin of Robin, and is kind of the written-by-another-author ending to the arc of Batman: Year One, Year Two, and Year Three. (TPB, ComiXology)
- Hush (Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee) is the most recent critically-acclaimed run from Loeb's pen, which finds Batman, his allies, and his rogues gallery played as pawns by a shadowy figure that doesn't show up until a number of chapters in to the story. (TPB, ComiXology)
In Cataclysm: Prelude to No Man's Land (Chuck Dixon, Greg Rucka, & more), a huge earthquake hits Gotham, cracks open Arkham Asylum, and all manner of chaos breaks loose. This is out of print, but relevant as the prelude to the five-volume late-90's mega-event... (TPB)
If you felt it odd that Gotham being cut off from civilization could have had more to it in The Dark Knight Rises, then No Man's Land Vol. 1-5 (Greg Rucka, Chuck Dixon, & more) is for you. Moisés loved this late-90's run by a brilliant array of writers and illustrators. The novelization by Greg Rucka is great, too. Rucka is one of the best writers on the character for this run alone. (Vol.1/Vol.2/Vol.3/Vol.4/Vol.5)
Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison & Dave McKean) is the source/inspiration for the mega-hit game, and considered one of Morrison's signature works across his entire career thus far. We'll be doing a Morrison-focused followup episode at some point. (TPB)
The Untold Legend of the Batman is a small-dimension, black-and-white printed book is one that John remembers from his earlier days of getting hooked on The Bat. (TPB)
The Brave and The Bold: Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 is not generally what John recommends for new readers, but is great once you've had other experiences reading Batman. These stories are part of the source material for the outstanding (though short-lived) Batman: Brave and the Bold animated series. (TPB)
The Dark Knight Strikes Again (Frank Miller) is the written-many-years-later followup to the The Dark Knight Returns that is nowhere near the achievement its namesake/predecessor is, but that doesn't mean it's 100% bad. It looks ugly, and is about ugliness in society. It retains its 1980's setting from DKR, but was itself written post-9/11. It is exponentially more socoipolitical than its predecessor, too. Drastically lower your expectations for "DKR2", and it'll be a lot easier to get into it. (TPB, ComiXology)
Night of the Owls (...aka just a crossover and not Court of Owls...by Scott Snyder and others) is not the ideal way to get into New 52 Batman, but it's good. As negative about it as Moisés was on the air, this is a good, cost-effective, and well-organized way to read the 14 issues of the Bat-family-titles-spanning Night of the Owls mini-event. Moisés' anger originated due to the fact that they held back the Court of Owls TPB in favor of this. (TPB)
The New 52 run of Batman Incorporated (Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham) answers "What would happen if Batman franchised 'Batman' to various individuals across the world fighting crime?" This run is quite compelling, culminating in a big loss for the Bat-family late in the run. (TPB, ComiXology)