Batman for Beginners: How to get started with the Dark Knight
One of our most anticipated films is Batman v Superman, coming in 2016. For the first time in cinematic history, the most iconic comic book characters of all time will not only share the screen, but will face off mano a Kryptonian.
Batman fans are really lucky, having just come off of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, arguably the best films in the genre. And now we get even more of our favourite detective.
So what about those of you that love these films and would like to delve into their source material? Batman is 75 years old — where do you start? Here’s my Top 10 books for Batman beginners.
1. The Dark Knight Returns (Writer: Frank Miller, Artist: Frank Miller, Klaus Jansen)
In 1986, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns changed the course of DC comics and Batman forever. This stand-alone novel takes place well into Batman’s career. Bruce is old and cranky and doesn’t like what he’s seeing from Gotham. Batman hasn’t been seen in almost a decade. This novel brought DC into a darker world and led a surge in Batman’s popularity, culminating in Tim Burton’s Batman film in 1989. This novel is the reason we have everything else on this list. If you only decide to read one book on this list, this is the one.
2. Batman: Year One (Writer: Frank Miller, Artists: David Mazzucchelli)
Another Frank Miller staple in the Batman mythos. A year after TDKR’s release, Miller penned this 4-issue origin story detailing the Caped Crusader’s first year on the job along side Jim Gordon’s first year on the corrupt Police force in Gotham. So successful it is now looked at as canon for Batman’s origins in the DC Universe. This is a must read for anyone looking to delve into grit and darkness that is Gotham.
3. The Killing Joke (Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Brian Bolland)
This novel revolves around the Joker and is the quintessential Joker story. Alan Moore, the man behind the unrivaled “Watchmen” brings us to the depths of Joker’s fractured and insane mind, showing us just how dark and twisted he really is. I’ll omit all plot details because it’s truly worth reading it all and finding out for yourself. But if you ever wondered how far down the hole Joker’s wonderland goes, you’ll find out in this novel.
4. Knightfall (Writers: Various, Artists: Various)
In Knightfall, we meet one of Batman’s most worthy adversaries. Able to match his wits and strengths, Bane pushes Batman to his absolute limits. Knightfall follows Bane and his meticulous efforts at destroying the Dark Knight. Knightfall is part of a 3-volume saga that includes Knightquest and Knightend. We recommend reading the whole Knightsaga but Knightfall is the notable must-read of the bunch.
5. The Long Halloween (Writer: Jeph Loeb, Artist: Tim Sale)
This book is Jeph Loeb’s masterpiece. Taking place early in Batman’s career, we follow Batman as he works with Gordon and DA Harvey Dent to hunt down a new bad guy in town, the Holiday killer. With cameos from several Rogue Gallery alumni, you get to follow the world’s greatest detective as he pieces together clues to this mystery. Who is the Holiday killer?
6. Batman: A Death in the Family (Writer: Jim Starlin, Artists: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo)
Once again Batman is chasing down the Joker in this classic run from 1988-89. And once again we get a glimpse into the delouded and psychotic mind of the Joker. Dick Grayson has moved on from the Robin mantle and become Nightwing. The new Robin, Jason Todd, has been captured by Joker and his fate was left in the hands of Batman’s readers. They had to vote on whether Todd lived or died by calling a 1-800 number. Well, the title alone foreshadows Todd’s fate but what you need to see for yourself is how the Joker pulls it off.
7. Hush (Writer: Jeph Loeb, Pencil: Jim Lee, Ink: Scott Williams)
If there is one thing about Batman that reigns over all other super heroes its his villains. Batman’s infamous Rogues Gallery is full of dozens of the most sinister and vile villains you’ll ever come across. No other character boasts the sheer volume of insanity and evil genius found in this cast of chaos. And they are all in this novel. If that isn’t reason enough to read it, I have 2 words for you: Jim. Lee. Jim Lee is the greatest comic artist of this generation and arguably of all time. Close your eyes and picture Batman, Superman, or any hero for that matter. What you see in your mind, the epitome of that hero or villain is what Lee puts to paper. When you read this, read it twice. The first time, follow its incredible and original story. The second time just admire what Lee is able to do with a pencil. In the art world, he is a god among men.
8. Court of Owls and Death of the Family (Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Greg Capullo)
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo teamed up to write and draw both these arcs that kicked off Batman’s launch into DC’s New 52. These two arcs are not linked except for their writers and the fact that I couldn’t choose between the two. Beginning with Court of Owls, we go back and learn more about the Waynes and their place in Gotham’s history. Their actions have direct links to what Batman is going through today. In Death of the Family, Joker returns and he is scarier than ever, both in the way he looks and acts. There are even some pages not for those with a weak stomach. These arcs were by far the greatest put out by DC in their New 52 lauch and brought back the aura that was lacking in the Batman’s more recent storylines.
9. JLA: The Tower of Babel (Writer: Mark Waid, Artists: Howard Porter, Steve Scott, Drew Geraci, Mark Propst)
This is a Justice League tale where Batman plays the antagonist. If you ever asked the question, “How does Batman, a mere human, go up against demi-gods and come out on top?” this novel has all the answers. You get some insight into the mind of the Dark Knight and how he really has thought of everything.
10. Batman: Earth One Volume 1 (Writer: Geoff Johns, Artist: Gary Frank)
Batman: Earth One is a new and different take on Batman’s origin story. In this novel, Bruce Wayne childhood and the murder of his parents are reimagined along with the roles and backstories of Alfred Pennyworth, Jim Gordon, Oswald Cobblepot, Martha Wayne and Harvey Dent. Many of these reimagined origins are said to be the source material for the upcoming Batman v Superman film.