Batman's everywhere these days -- in movies, TV, video games, toys, and countless other media. And the Dark Knight gains new comic book readers with his every appearance. If you're just starting to read the Batman's adventures and wondering where to begin, we've got a few ideas that may help. Just click on the links below to start your reading adventure...
THE STORY: Batman: Year One is a modern retelling of the Dark Knight’s origin, which has gone on to become one of the most celebrated comics in the medium. The story is about two men, Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon, and how their arrival in the corrupt city of Gotham shakes the underworld. Bruce seeks to eradicate crime by becoming a masked vigilante; Jim wants to clean up the crooked police department. The two men eventually realize their missions won’t succeed unless they put aside their differences and work together. This masterpiece was written by Frank Miller and brilliantly penciled by David Mazzucchelli.
FOR FANS OF: The 2005 Batman Begins film and Fox’s Gotham both took many of the best elements from Batman: Year One and brought them to live-action life.
WHAT'S NEXT: In addition to "Year Two" (described below), check out the Legends of the Dark Knight comic-book series. It picks up where "Year One" left off and tells a series of self-contained tales about Batman’s earliest adventures, each of them crafted by some of the top creators in comics. And Frank Miller's groundbreaking masterpiece (which be both wrote and illustrated) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is required reading for ALL pop culture fans. (It arrives on DC Universe on Tuesday, April 16th.)
WHERE TO FIND IT: Batman #404-407
BONUS: Did you know that Warner Brothers produced an animated adaptation of Batman: Year One in 2011? Fans of Fox’s Gotham will recognize Ben McKenzie as the voice of Bruce Wayne. Bryan Cranston did an inspired job voicing Jim Gordon, and, thanks to the animation evoking Mazzucchelli’s pencils, this is one of DC's very best animated films.
THE STORY: A costumed serial killer named the Reaper is slaying Gotham’s citizens and evading the Dark Knight at every turn. Batman wonders if it’s time to rethink his “no guns, no killing” policy and starts carrying a firearm. As if the Reaper wasn’t enough to deal with, Bruce Wayne finds his heart torn apart when he falls in love with a girl named Rachel and comes face to face with the man who killed his parents. Writer Mike W. Barr tells a Batman story that breaks all the rules, and leaves you guessing what will happen next right up until the final chapter.
FOR FANS OF: If you enjoyed the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, you’ll be thrilled to discover some of the movie’s best beats were inspired by this comic.
WHAT'S NEXT: Batman: Year Three is the next chapter in the chronicles of the Dark Knight’s early career. And if you love the team of writer Mike W. Barr and penciler Alan Davis, check out Detective Comics #574, another classic take on Batman's origin that the two teamed up on, as well as the duo's run on Batman and the Outsiders, starting with issue #21.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Detective Comics #575-578
BONUS: Some of this story's chapters were illustrated by a young Todd McFarlane, the creator of Spawn.
THE STORY: A mysterious bandaged villain begins manipulating the people in Batman’s life, setting the Dark Knight up for one of his biggest mysteries. Along the way, Batman finds himself falling for Catwoman, who is all too eager to reciprocate those feelings. But can Batman truly trust his emotions when Hush is pulling the strings? Batman: Hush is a great primer on the Dark Knight’s world, with new-reader friendly introductions to most of Gotham’s key heroes and villains. Writer Jeph Loeb crafts a mystery with enough twists and turns to keep even the greatest of detectives guessing, while artist Jim Lee illustrates some of the most iconic images of Batman and his allies in recent history.
FOR FANS OF: Do the Batman and Catwoman scenes from Batman Returns warm your heart? Are you shipping Bruce and Selina in Fox’s Gotham? If you’re a fan of Batman and Catwoman’s romance, then you’ll love this story!
WHAT'S NEXT: This story sets the stage for the return of the second Robin, Jason Todd, who had died in the classic "A Death in the Family" storyline. If you’d like to see how that goes down, check out the classic “Under the Hood.”
WHERE TO FIND IT: Batman #608-619
BONUS: Warner Brothers will release an animated film adaptation of Batman: Hush this summer, making this the perfect time to read the fan-favorite story.
THE STORY: When Robin is kidnapped, Batman is approached by a man named Ra’s al Ghul, whose daughter Talia has also been kidnapped. (Batman had met Talia in Detective Comics #411's "Into the Den of the Death-Dealers!") The two men agree to work together to find their missing loved ones in a journey that takes the Dark Knight across the globe. This issue introduces the rivalry between Ra's and the Caped Crusader. In the Bronze Age of comics, writer Denny O’ Neil and atist Neal Adams redefined the Batman from the campy figure in the 1966 Batman TV series into a dread avenger of the night. This story is one of the high points of their legendary run.
FOR FANS OF: Batman: The Animated Series patterned its tone after this issue's era, drawing heavy inspiration from the stories of O’Neil and Adams, which featured a grimly determined Batman, but one who still possessed a sly sense of humor. When you read their classic stories, you’ll feel like you’re watching an episode of the show.
WHAT'S NEXT: If you love the team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, check out their collaboration on Batman #234, which features one of the best Two-Face stories. If you want to see Batman and Ra’s second encounter, then be sure to read the O'Neil-scripted Batman #235. O'Neil and Adams both returned to Ra's for an epic two-parter in issue #243 and issue #244.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Batman #232
BONUS: Check out the Batman: The Animated Series episode “The Demon’s Quest” which brilliantly adapts this issue.
Batman: The Long Halloween
(Arriving on DC Universe on Tuesday, April 16th)
THE STORY: Set in the early days of Batman’s career, the Dark Knight teams up with Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to stop the mysterious Holiday Killer. Nobody knows who this murderer is, but on each holiday they leave behind a new victim. The case becomes more complicated when Harvey Dent falls from grace and begins to transform into the villainous Two-Face. Writer Jeph Loeb tells an eerie whodunit, one perfectly complimented by the moody art of Tim Sale. Together, Loeb and Sale wound up telling one of the most unforgettable Batman sagas of the Modern Age.
FOR FANS OF: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy borrowed some elements from this story, including Harvey Dent’s fall from grace and the intrigue from Carmine Falcone and Gotham’s crime families.
WHAT'S NEXT: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale reunited to craft a sequel to this story called Batman: Dark Victory. The sequel picked up where The Long Halloween's crime saga left off, adding a mysterious new killer and introducing the first Robin, Dick Grayson.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Batman: The Long Halloween #1-13
BONUS: Are you a gamer? The video game Batman: Arkham City features an unlockable skin for Catwoman based on Tim Sale's design for the character in this story. Meow!
Batman: Strange Apparitions
THE STORY: This classic run of Bronze Age Batman stories features the Dark Knight going up against mob boss Rupert Thorne, mad professor Hugo Strange, and the Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker. It also introduces Silver St. Cloud, setting up Bruce Wayne’s first truly adult romance. The team of writer Steve Englehart and artist Marshall Rogers didn’t have a very long run on Detective Comics, but in their short time together they wound up producing some of Batman’s most memorable Bronze Age stories. This thrilling run of stories also features the work of famed writer Len Wein and celebrated artist Walt Simonson.
FOR FANS OF: This is another run of comics that Batman: The Animated Series fans will love. Many elements from this era, including mob boss Rupert Thorne, helped build the status quo for the TV favorite. And devotees won’t regret checking out the tales that inspired their favorite cartoon.
WHAT'S NEXT: If you’re curious about what happens next in the Rupert Thorne/Hugo Strange feud, check out Detective Comics #513. The saga gets even more (pardon the pun) strange!
WHERE TO FIND IT: Writer Steve Englehart comes on board with Detective Comics #469-479, but things really get cooking when artist Marshall Rogers joins him for issue #471 through the team's final issue, #476.
THE STORY: Batman knows Gotham like the back of his hand, and there aren't many secrets the city can keep from him. So how can a secret society be operating for ages right under his nose? Who are the Court of Owls, and can they have more control over Gotham than Batman does? See the Dark Knight solve the mystery he didn’t even know existed in this blockbuster tale from writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo.
FOR FANS OF: Did you enjoy the "Court of Owls" saga in season 3 of Fox’s Gotham? Were you intrigued by their cameo in the Young Justice: Outsiders episode “True Heroes?” Are you a fan of conspiracy stories and secret societies? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then this is the story for you!
WHAT'S NEXT: To see what happens next, check out “Night of The Owls” (Batman #8-12), the next chapter in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s epic Batman run!
WHERE TO FIND IT: Batman (2011) #1-7
BONUS: If you enjoyed this story, be sure to watch the 2015 animated film Batman vs. Robin, which brought the Court of Owls into the DC animated universe.
THE STORY: The Phantom Stranger sends Batman and Robin to a parallel world where a young version of Bruce Wayne hasn’t lost his parents yet. Robin isn’t sure if they should interfere. After all, doesn’t this world need a Batman? But Bruce Wayne isn’t about to sit back and let his parents die again…or is he? “To Kill A Legend” celebrated Detective Comics 500th issue with a story that questioned what it means to be a hero. Writer Alan Brennert’s single-issue story is a favorite of many Batfans, who still ponder its implications to this very day.
FOR FANS OF: If you enjoy tales of alternate realities and/or philosophical questions then this story is for you. If this comic feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone, don’t be too surprised…Alan Brennert was a frequent writer for the show in its 1980s incarnation.
WHAT'S NEXT: If you love Alan Brennert’s take on alternate realities, check out the writer's Brave and the Bold #197, a Batman tale set on Earth-Two, where the Dark Knight marries Catwoman!
WHERE TO FIND IT: Detective Comics #500
BONUS: Did you know that Alan Brennert also wrote for the 1970’s Wonder Woman TV series? Check out “Disco Devil,” one of his most memorable episodes.
HONORABLE MENTION -- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The defining work of writer-artist Frank Miller's career, and in the eyes of many the finest Batman story every crafted, is the 1986 four-issue limited series Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It's certainly excellent enough to be the first Batman comic a new fan reads, but its story -- concerning a much older Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to don the mantle of the Bat one last time -- probably resonates even more powerfully if one has read a few of the above titles first.