We all know the big characters out there, but do we know how to start them? How does a new reader learn about characters that have been around for 75 years? There are the collection books that both DC and Marvel have created, collecting the golden age books, but is that enough? Is that really the “Essential” book to read? I don’t believe it is. I think there are stronger stories, ones that will really show the true character that we are used to. That isn’t to say that the collected classics aren’t listed, but they aren’t always the first book you would hand over to a new reader. Sometimes the style or the art just doesn’t translate in modern age, which is fine. We all respect the classics, but what would you suggest?
I went to Twitter and Facebook for help on this weeks topic: Batman. There are just so many stories that he is in, along with him being in television and movies, its hard to not know who he is. But where do you begin reading?
The most popular vote was for Batman: Year One (written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis and lettered by Todd Klein.) It was published in 1987 in issue numbers 404-407 of the main Batman comic. This is available in trade paperback, as well as animated film. This story follows Bruce Wayne upon returning to Gotham from his martial arts training and Jim Gordon who has just transferred to Gotham from Chicago with his wife. Almost immediately you are introduced to Holly Robinson and Selina Kyle. From there Bruce and Jim also face encounters with Harvey Dent, Gillian Loeb, Carmine Falcone, and Sarah Essen. The most widely known villain, The Joker, also has a mention in this story. Not only does Year One give you a sense of history with Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon, it gives you a sense of understanding with other characters you didn’t realize you knew.
The second most popular vote was for The Long Halloween (written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale, colored by Gregory Wright and lettered by Richard Starkings.) It was published in 13 issues in the same title from 1996-1997, originally inspired by Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials. This story also sparked two sequels, Batman: Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome. I would not consider the Halloween Specials “essential” reading, but I would strongly encourage Long Halloween. The origin story of Two-Face is a selling point to me, but it is also a very well written story that shows both Bruce and Batman, how one person can be two people being so different yet the same. I feel like this shows more of the detective side as well.
There was a lot of recommendations, including Hush and The Killing Joke, while both are remarkable books that I would consider to be essential reading, I would have a hard time giving them to someone who has no history of Batman. To prerequiste Hush I feel like I need to give them Death In The Family (not to be confused with the more recent title of Death Of The Family, another Joker story.) Dark Knight Rises was also mentioned a few times, with the debate of is it actually an origin story or is it just a good story. It does set the stage for what the more recent Batman has become, but it would be hard for someone who hasn’t read before to pick up right away. A Court of Owls from the New 52 is also mentioned, but again without the good foundation to start on it might be a little harder to pick up one. I solidly agree with the two popular votes of Year One and The Long Halloween for first time readers, but I would definitely push any of the recommendations listed as second reads.
What books would you consider essential to your Batman collection? Which book would you hand a new reader first?