Everyone has heard about the caped crusader, whether it’s through the movies, TV shows, or that super catchy theme song. But how is anyone supposed to jump into over 80 years worth of Batman’s comic book adventures? Well, this handy guide will help new readers dive into the five essential Batman stories that will make you Batman experts in no time.
For new readers, the best place to start is the origin story. When you’re dealing with a character who’s been around as long as Batman with multiple variations of his origin, it can be tricky to find the best version. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s recent New 52 run is a great starting point. The Zero Year arc is their updated origin story that has Batman taking on the Riddler, wrestling with lions, and riding a dirt bike through a desolate Gotham City. It’s wild and zany in the best possible ways.
What makes this particular origin story great is it brings something new to the table while combining many of the classic elements and moments from previous stories. New readers will still get critical details found across all versions of the character’s origin. The Zero Year arc wasn’t at the beginning of this run, but it can easily be the starting point that can lead to the rest of the New 52 series. Once new readers complete that series, they can jump right into the current Batman run by Tom King.
The Long Halloween
The longer a character is around, the more their stories and history become increasingly complicated and comic books have a tendency to become just plain weird sometimes. This can make it intimidating for new readers to get into these stories. The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale strips that away and follows Batman at the start of his crime-fighting career as he hunts down a serial killer who has just a bit too much holiday spirit.
A story like this is perfect for new readers because it keeps the focus on a more grounded, realistic Batman. It highlights his incredible skills as a detective making this story more like a noir tale than a traditional superhero tale. In fact, this story was one that inspired Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman universe for his trilogy of films. For any fans looking for a more down to earth comic book version of the Dark Knight, this story will be right up their crime alley.
The Dark Knight Returns
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is considered not only to be the greatest Batman story but also one of the best comic book stories ever written. It helped raise the comic genre from something seen as childish to something more mature, proving comics can tell adult stories. This classic story features a retired Bruce Wayne taking up the mantle of Batman once again when the cries from Gotham City become too great.
New readers are introduced to the character as he reflects on his lifelong crusade, he dwells on his decisions that led to his retirement, and questions the legacy he’s leaving behind. He wonders whether he’s ready to give up the cowl or if he’s even capable of that.
To understand Batman, you have to understand his motivations and the devotion he has to his mission. The Dark Knight Returns dives deep into what drives Bruce Wayne to be Batman. It also heavily influenced the Batman v Superman film. If you’re a fan of that movie, this story will enhance it, if not then it will wash away the bad taste.
The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore with art by Brian Bolland is a dark tale where new readers will see the strict moral code that defines Batman. When the Joker escapes Arkham Asylum once again and commits an unspeakable act, it forces Batman to question how long their deadly tango can last and how many people will suffer from their endless dance.
To truly understand Batman, you have to know his greatest enemy. The Joker is the yin to Batman’s yang; they are opposite sides of the same coin. Something the Joker tries to prove in this story is that Batman is one bad day away from becoming just like him.
New readers will see the eternal struggle these two characters are locked in and how the Joker will stop at nothing to push Batman into breaking his one rule: no killing. The events of this story are pivotal to the history of the Dark Knight and ripple out into later stories as it reshaped his relationship with the Joker.
One of the biggest challenges a new reader will come up against is trying to figure out the 80-plus years of comic history Batman has with his allies and villains. That’s where a story like Hush comes into play. Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee, this tale sees the caped crusader caught in the crosshairs of a mysterious new villain. As the mystery unfolds, it quickly begins to involve all members of the bat world.
So many Robins, a Batgirl, the list of allies and villains goes on. So much complicated history can be overwhelming to a new reader. That’s why a story like Hush is excellent because it has a core mystery that readers follow while being introduced to the larger Batman world. Through the use of Batman’s internal monologue, he sums up all the key and critical details about the origins and relationships he has with every character he meets. It’s so useful that any new reader checking out this story will be getting a highly entertaining Batman history lesson.