Getting Started with Batman Comics
Batman has been in print for over 75 years now. For new readers trying to start with the comics, this can be very intimidating. This guide is meant to be the Batman comic books essential reading list.
This is a pretty thorough list that includes some fan favorites. This list will get you caught up on the best storylines and major plot points in the last 75 years.
Singles, Trades, Graphic Novels
If you are truly new to comics, you might not know what all the terminology means. Here is a breakdown to get you started.
The Singles or monthlies are what you would traditionally think of as a comic book. A 24 page single issue comic that could be a complete episode or part of a larger story line, example Batman 43. These are the monthly editions of comic books and tie in to the larger Batman universe and continue it.
Trades are a variety of thicker formats, that could include a several part series or larger, example Batman: The Court of Owls, a collection of singles #1 - 5 of Batman bound together as a book. Many of the titles listed below are trades from story arcs in the Batman saga. They can range from 4 to 5 singles bound into a book and cover from a few months up to a year. These are released at the end of a run and can be purchased for less than buying each single issue. Trades are perfect for catching up on past story lines, classic canon (meaning a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works) moments in Batman, and for getting caught up with current events. These are generally confused with graphic novels but are different.
Graphic novels are stand alone original stories that were never released as monthly singles, for example The Killing Joke. These are longer stories that can deviate from the main Batman story line and are printed as books.
Print vs. Digital
The links below are for the print versions. These are still widely available. For digital versions you can go to Comixology. This is the home of DC online and you can download and read the comics instantly. This is ideal for reading on a larger tablet or iPad or even online. The price is the same for print and digital, generally $2.99 or $3.99, even $4.99 for just released Batman comics.
Batman Comics Essential Reading
You do not need to read these titles in order. They take place in different stages of Batman’s timeline and they can each stand on their own.
This is not an exhaustive list but a list for new readers of the Batman comics to get caught up on the major story lines and understand where Batman is currently in his long career.
One of the most important and critically acclaimed Batman adventures ever. In 1986, Miller and Mazzucchelli produced this groundbreaking reinterpretation of the Batman origin story. How Bruce Wayne became Batman and his early life as a vigilante. This four part story changed Batman back to the dark and brooding hero we now know and love. A must read for every Batman fan.
Writer and Artist: Frank Miller (1986)
This collection is considered a masterpiece and was responsible for the launch of the Batman movies starting in 1989. The story takes place ten years after an older Batman has retired. Gotham has fallen into lawlessness and now needs him the most. The Dark Knight returns, aided by a new Robin. A great Batman story and a must read for any fan.
Also turned into a two part animated movie. The main inspiration for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Writer: Alan Moore - Artist: Brian Bolland (1988)
This graphic novel is the reimagined Joker origin story. Alan Moore’s unforgettable meditation on the thin line between heroism and villainy, sanity and insanity. This story is infamous for the brutality Joker uses on Commissioner Gordon and his daughter. This is the ultimate Joker story and artwork which established the standard and now familiar depiction of the Joker. Soon to be made into an animated movie.
Writer: Jeph Loeb - Artist: Jim Lee (2003)
A modern popular and critically acclaimed story that is a great introduction to the classic Batman universe. This volume includes BATMAN 609-619 singles and has many of the great Batman characters. The story has Batman trying to discover the identity of a new Arch Villain using Batman’s enemies as pawns to cause chaos in Gotham. The story and artwork are some of the best, a can’t miss for any fan.
Writer: Grant Morrison - Artist: Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams III (2006)
A new addition to the Batman family. This story introduces Bruce Wayne to a son he didn’t know he had, Damien. After a violent conflict between Robin and Damian, Batman must train his son to be the new Robin. The story continues as a new secret organization is out to get Batman. This book includes about 15 issues in total, a great value.
Read Next: Batman R.I.P. which concludes this story.
Writer: Scott Snyder - Artist: Greg Capullo (2011)
A new era for the Dark Knight begins with the relaunch of Batman, The New 52. This trade collects the first 5 issues of the new series and finds Batman investigating a series of brutal murders which unravels a conspiracy leading to the urban legend of crime and corruption, the Court of Owls. Their next target is Bruce Wayne, but they are in for a surprise. This is the beginning of the modern Batman series which was started by DC in 2011. A great story with a new writer and artist. Dark and edgy, hard to put down. A must read for Batman fans.
Read Next: Batman Vol. 2: The City of Owls , Batman: Night of the Owls
Writer: Scott Snyder - Artist: Greg Capullo (2012)
Continuing the Batman saga after the Court of Owls, this series has Joker returning one year after cutting off his face and disappearing. The new more sinister Joker is more dangerous than before, attacking Batman’s family and allies in hopes of reinvigorating the rivalry. This is a new darker Joker, one you have not seen before. A must read.
Writer: Scott Snyder - Artist: Greg Capullo (2014)
Before Bruce Wayne became Batman he was missing for many years. But this is exactly the cover her needed to patrol Gotham’s streets as a faceless vigilante. This is Scott Snyder’s reinterpretation of the Dark Knight’s origin and includes Batman's first encounters with the Riddler, the Red Hood, and more. A masterful retelling and reinterpretation, should be on everyone’s reading list.
Read Next: Batman Vol. 5: Dark City
Writer: Scott Snyder - Artist: Greg Capullo (2015)
The latest main plot twist in the Batman franchise. The Joker is back and not joking anymore. He is serious and wants to destroy Batman and everything he holds dear. The Joker manages to turn The Justice League against Batman and that is only the beginning! This is the biggest, boldest story that Snyder and Capullo have told in the New 52 series. Collected stories #35-40.
Read Next: Batman #41
Latest Batman Comics
If you read the books mentioned above, you will be caught up with all the essential Dark Knight stories from the last thirty plus years. Batman Year One to Endgame will include all the best stories and comics from some of the best writers and artist that have ever worked on Batman.
This is not your grandfather’s Batman, but a darker, grittier Batman that we have come to know and love.
After reading this list you will be all caught up and ready to start reading the monthly issues. Endgame ends with Batman #40 and an incredible twist, no spoilers here.
As of the writing of this guide, Batman #41 - 44 have been released. They are very good. Get them online or at your nearest comic book store. You can find out what it feels like to have to wait every month for the newest issue!
Other Batman Comics
Batman is also featured in many other comics each month. The Snyder/Capullo Batman is the main DC Batman comic that is currently running.
You can also catch Batman making appearances in the greater DC universe comics:
- Detective Comics
- Gotham By Midnight
- Red Hood/Arsenal
- We Are Robin
- Robin: Son of Batman
- Batman and Robin Eternal
- Justice League
- and more...
There is really more than anyone can possibly read! A never ending supply of Batman for every type of reader, young and old alike. Batman truly is the biggest Superhero of the last century and continues to be reinvented.
What did you think of the list? Is there anything that would you add to it?