where do I start with both Batman and Superman?

I know this is a pretty monumental question, but I’ve done the same for other people re: Marvel Titles, so I imagine that this is doable.

I’m a longtime comic reader, bu I’ve never read DC-titles. I’m not sure why; they always seemed to just be of such poorer quality than Marvel books, with cheaper materials, far weaker art, and so on.

That aside, I love the characters of Superman and Batman, and I’d like to check out some of their books.

The only thing I’ve read from either is:

Batman: The “Venom” trade paperback, which I really liked, and some of this issues around the time that Batman got his back broken and Azrael took over for him. Also, “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Gothan by Gaslight.”

Superman: The “death of superman” arc and the “reign of the supermen” thing that happened after that. Also, that Alan Moore two-issue Eulogy - “Whatever happened to the Man of Steel?”
I liked both a lot, and really want to check out some stuff like that - that sort of Batman or Superman stuff that feels very classic-minded, that’s not all wrapped up in being modern and edgy and involved with 30 different subplots and multiple Robins and Superboys and Supergirls and Kryptos.

Where should I start with both? What essential trade paperbacks should I check out? What monthly books should I investigate? (each of them have 5+ books, right?) Is Batman’s “Hush” a good jumping-on point? I heard many good things about it.

I’d start with Batman: No Man’s Land. That’s where I started with Batman, and it was enough to hook me. There’s a lot of basic storytelling that doesn’t require Batman backhistory to understand, and there’s a solid introduction to minor characters you may find intriguing.

Sadly, it might fall under the classification “30 different subplots with multiple Robins and Superboys.” I hated Gotham by Gaslight, so take that into consideration with my opinion. I’ve heard good things about “Hush,” also, but I haven’t started it yet.

I may be in the minority, but I loved the first TPB of Batman/Superman (I’m also enjoying the current time travel run, the Supergirl story, not so much).

For Superman, it doesn’t get any better than “Whatever Happened…” although Moore’s “For the Man who has Everything” is also worth it if you can find it.

If you can wait a bit, the “All-Star” line looks to be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s not beholden to current continuity, so not too heavy with the self-referencing, and they aspire to be about the iconic versions of Batman, Robin, and Superman. Great creators too, Morrison and Quitely on Superman, Miller and Lee on Batman and Robin.


Really, everything in comics starts there, in one sense or another. :cool:

For Batman I recommend “Year One” and “The Long Halloween.” The latter takes place a short period after the former, both do a great job of establishing the characters. “The Long Halloween” concerns a number of the traditional villains and a major crime family in Gotham.

You’re in luck. Over the next few months, DC will be coming out with two new series by A-list creative teams, All-Star Superman (by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely) and All-Star Batman (by Frank Miller and Jim Lee). Both of these are going to be stand-alone titles, largely free of confusing continuity, and will serve as good introductions for new readers like you. If you like them, you’ll feel more confident in branching out to the multiple other monthly titles, but the All-Star series should be the perfect “jumping-on points” for new readers.

As for Superman, even though he’s an icon, there is a distinct lack of classic, timeless Superman stories collected and available as trade paperbacks. You’ve already read the one I would recommend, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" by the great Alan Moore. If you have access to back issues, everyone agrees that Action Comics #775, a stand-alone story by writer Joe Kelly, is probably the best Superman story of recent years.

With Batman, there are many more choices out there, but I’d recommend Batman: Year One, a great retelling of his origin by Dark Knight Returns (and All-Star) writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzuchelli. The upcoming Batman Begins movie will surely be influenced in part by Year One, and I for one prefer it to even Dark Knight Returns. I’d also recommend Batman: The Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, that focuses on Batman as a detective, and pits him against many of his most familiar foes on a bizarre case set early in his career. The art is very stylized, and most people love it even though I don’t care for it. Most people said Hush was an exercise in “style over substance,” just a lame mystery with an excuse for Jim Lee to draw all the villains and major characters in one story arc. Flip through it and see what you think, but I haven’t been in any hurry to read it.

Don’t forget, Superman and Batman also appear together in JLA, and the trade paperbacks by Grant Morrison (and later Mark Waid) are fan favorites. It was Morrison, even moreso than Miller, who is responsible for the fanboy mantra that Batman can beat anyone or anything if he’s prepared.

I have to respectfully disagree. Freejooky already said he’s new to DC Comics, and said

I think the key to getting a new reader like him hooked is to find him the pinnacles of the genre, the characters at their coolest and most polished and most iconic, rather than an expensive reprint of “cruder” comics from the '30s and '40s. Those Archives are terrific for fans who want to seek out the roots and history behind the characters they love, but I think it would be a sure-fire way to turn off someone who has already read Dark Knight Returns and always assumed DC to be “poor quality” with “weak art.” Once he has an appreciation for Superman and Batman, those Golden Age Archives will still be around, but I would never use them to introduce a new reader to the characters, almost 70 years later when more refined storytelling and more modern-looking art techniques are now common.

Superman is hard. Batman is easy. Year One, Dark Knight Returns, and so on.

But Superman… everyone knows who he is. But no-one can remember the epics, because you remember all the stories. It’s like gravity, or light.

Superman Adventures, the comic book of the TV show. Or the TV show itself. Also good for Batman, by the way.

Alan Moore’s Supreme, both volumes, are love notes to the Superman who everyone knows, but who went away in 1984.

Kingdom Come is, in many ways, the Last Superman Story. It features the entire DC Universe, but to be the Last Superman Story, it has to. Compare and contrast it to the Dark Knight Returns to see the two characters reflected against each other.

Superman: Secret Identity is a meditation of Superman being used to tell the story of a man’s life and maturity.

The titles you see on the newstand? Start with Superman/Batman, it’s recent, it’s collected, it’ll jump you into the storyline as it is. But, you can go away for a decade, and come back, and Superman will be there. You’ll have to hunt back and forth a bit, like wandering a lost trail, but you’ll remember the way. Remember, it all starts with five simple words. “Look! Up in the sky!”

Five simple words… and hope.

No doubt. Whenever I see someone reading “The Essential X-Men Vol. 1”, I think "there’s a person that’s never going to make it to “The Dark Phoenix Saga” or “Days of Future Past.” I’ll certainly investigate those Golden Age compilations at some point, but I want something to really get me into the books.

Agreed on both of these. I have the two Superman Adventures collections, little manga/digest-sized books reprinting Mark Millar’s run from the comic based on the animated series. These are great Superman stories for all ages, and as much as Millar has become synonymous with “shock value,” it is clear he has a real fondness for Superman, and really understands what makes him work.

I also love Alan Moore’s Supreme, and I strongly recommend at least the first TPB, “The Story of the Year,” for anyone who loves Superman. Moore really went a long way to capturing the magic of the Silver Age, having some fun pointing out the inherent silliness of the era, but also paying homage to everything that made the stories so great. Supreme is a perfect blend of old-school and modern storytelling, and Moore has a rare talent for deconstructing the bygone era without shitting all over it.

Don’t mistake the art in the Adventures comics for bad, because it is simple, either. It’s iconic, purposefully so. I even know how it started. Found it in a Comicology.
Paul Dini and Jack Kirby. Good way to start any story, right? Back in the days when they were both drawing mini-comics for He-Man, Dini was involved somehow, with what he describes as an animated Sgt. Rock project. Might even be what became GI Joe. And he saw how the beautifully detailed drawings wound up looking like mud animated. So, he revised his style, and invented an entire look based on the strength of lines and outlines.

But if you want to see pure beauty in art in a comic, go for Kingdom Come. Words can’t describe it. Look into the faces. Read it now. Then read comics for five years. Then read it again. Then ten years, and read it again. You’ll learn more and more about it and about what it has to say. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the references. You’ll know who the major players are. And the rest, you’ll know in time. You’ll want your Wagner, your Revelation of St. John, and your Superfriends, all at once, in your head. And they’ll live there in some postmodern fixation, that all of a sudden makes a glorious sense.

Also, Morrison’s JLA, starting from the first trade paperback does well, as well.