Electric Shadow

Giant Size #36 (aka Comic Shack #27): Joker at the Front Door

On this week's Comic Shack (reprinted as Giant Size #36, teasing episode #37's interview with Dennis O'Neil), my pal John Gholson (of Gutters and Panels and Movies.com) did our first pass on diving into the canon of Batman, and how new and lapsed readers can make sure they don't start with The Dark Knight Returns.

Prices listed by edition are as of this writing.

batman - court of owls.jpg

Batman and Robin: Born to Kill Vol.1 (Peter Tomasi)

Paperback || $15

Comixology || individual issues

The first few issues of the excellent and, in our opinion, terribly underrated New 52 restart of the Batman and Robin book. In the shadow of Snyder's Batman book, this one got passed up by too many of us.

Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told

Paperback || $15

John recommends this as a really great mixtape of different stories that don't require loads and loads of continuity knowledge.

Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told

Paperback || $15-30 (used, OOP)

Darker and weirder than the above, and altogether more "Nolan-y", this is a good mixtape-style compilation of Joker-specific stuff.

A Death in the Family (Jim Starlin) - ESSENTIAL

Paperback || $15

Comixology || individual issues

They show a dead Robin #2 (Jason Todd, savior of the Bat-Hubcaps) on the cover, so saying "this is the one where they kill Robin" can't be considered a spoiler. This is absolutely essential modern Batman reading, especially if you want the stakes of Dark Knight Returns to make sense. This is the setup story for DKR, period. The consequences of Batman involving others in his crusade for justice has been an ever-present theme throughout the modern era.

The Killing Joke (Alan Moore) - ESSENTIAL

Paperback || $10

Not included in Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, oddly, is what many consider to be...the greatest Joker story ever told. This story sets up the next two and a half decades of stories related to Barbara Gordon, even the New 52 reboot, where the events of this are not so much undone as...resolved differently. I hear rumblings that an animated adaptation of this one may finally be in the works.

The Long Halloween (Jeph Loeb)

Paperback || $14

Comixology || individual issues

The "Calendar Killer", later called Holiday, is on a killing spree. The mystery is wrapped in a conundrum. This one makes John so angry that I made him promise to do a spoiler-ridden followup episode that specifically addresses both twists in it. I enjoy it, but agree with John that it is not, as it is often called, one of the greatest Bat-stories ever.

Dark Victory (Jeph Loeb)

Paperback || $12

Comixology || individual issues

This is the followup to Long Halloween, which we'll also talk about in the Loeb-a-palooza episode. Another serial killer, The Hangman, comes to Gotham. This one takes place in the third of fourth year since Batman...began. It re-tells the origin of Robin, and I've just realized is kind of the written-by-another-author ending to the arc of Batman: Year One/Two/Three. Huh. Read up in advance of the next Bat-Shack.

Hush (Jeph Loeb)

Paperback || $14

Comixology || individual issues

The most recent critically-acclaimed run from Jeph Loeb's pen finds Batman's rogues gallery and his allies played as pawns by a shadowy figure who doesn't show up until a number of chapters in.

Batman: Year One (Frank Miller) - ESSENTIAL

Paperback || $9

Comixology || individual issues

Batman: Year One Blu-ray || $12

As much a Jim Gordon story as a Batman story, Frank Miller digs into the hero's early days a few years after writing Dark Knight Returns, going back to when Bruce is still learning the ropes. The animated movie adaptation, as usual, is excellent.

Cataclysm (Prelude to No Man's Land, by Chuck Dixon, Greg Rucka, and others)

Paperback || $30-60 (used, OOP)

Comixology || a few issues, but not all of them

A huge earthquake hits Gotham, cracking open Arkham, and causing all manner of chaos. This is out of print, but relevant as the prelude to the five-volume late-90's mega-event below...

No Man's Land Vol. 1-5 (Greg Rucka, Chuck Dixon, and others)

Paperback 1/2/3/4/5 || $18/$18/$21/$20/$5-18 (used, OOP)

Comixology || one single issue...weird

If you (like me) wish they had done more with Gotham getting cut off from the rest of the country by the government, this is your thing.

No Man's Land novelization (Greg Rucka)

Paperback || $7

The novelization of a comic book doesn't generally sound like a winning proposition, but this one is really good, and a different way to digest the events of No Man's Land from the comics. Rucka is one of the best writers on the character from the turn of the millenium era.

Arkham Asylum (Grant Morrison)

Paperback || $10

The source/inspiration for the mega-hit game, this is considered one of Morrison's signature runs on the character. We're also doing a Morrison-focused followup episode at some point on top of the Loeb one.

The Untold Legend of the Batman

Paperback || $.01-$10 (used, OOP)

This small-dimension, black-and-white printed book is one that John remembers from his earlier days of getting hooked on The Bat, like the Hulk book he talked about finding at the library in the Taste the Hulk Rainbow episode.

The Brave and The Bold: Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1

Paperback || $7-10 (used, OOP)

John generally does not recommend this for new readers, but says it's worth looking at once you've had other experiences reading Batman. These stories are part of the source material for the outstanding (though short-lived) Batman: Brave and the Bold animated series.

Superman/Batman Vol. 1: Public Enemies (Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuinness) - ESSENTIAL

Superman/Batman Vol. 2: Supergirl (Jeph Loeb & Michael Turner) - ESSENTIAL

Paperback 1/2 || $11/$11

Comixology || individual issues only

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Blu-ray || $22

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse Blu-ray || $23

In the first volume, Lex Luthor is President of the United States. He's gotten Superman accused of a horrible crime. It's up to Batman to clear the Man of Steel's name. In the second, they re-re-re-tell the origin of Supergirl, for continuity-resetting reasons that fry our brains. Both volumes have been adapted as animated films, and both are really faithful to the books. Check your local Best Buy in the US and they might be cheaper. If you just want to watch the movie and don't care about extras, they're on iTunes/Amazon.

The Dark Knight Returns - ESSENTIAL (after you've read the others)

Paperback || $12

Dark Knight Returns Part 1 Blu-ray || $18

Dark Knight Returns Part 2 Blu-ray || $20

This is one of the greatest of the great Batman stories, but like we said in the show, it absolutely requires context, or it's a waste of your time. Following the death of Jason Todd, Batman stops Batman-ing. They stole this for the end of Nolan's Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises, and simply changed who died. Batman is around 60 now, and some new (and old) evil leads him to put the cowl back on. A new, female Robin comes on the scene, and Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Arrow (among other Bat-friends

The recent animated movies (two parts...it's a pretty big story) eschew the "voiceover" thoughts of Batman, which enraged some, but didn't bother me at all. I think it would have been way too heavy-handed.

The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Paperback || $12

Comixology || $6 total for the individual issues

The written-many-years-later followup to the The Dark Knight Returns is nowhere near the achievement its predecessor is, but that doesn't mean it's bad. John said on the show that it looks ugly, and it is about ugliness in society. It retains its 1980's setting from DKR, but was itself written post-9/11. It is exponentially more socoipolitical than its predecessor, too. Drastically lower your expectations for "DKR2" and it'll be a lot easier to get into this one. 

Night of the Owls (...this is not Court of Owls...by Scott Snyder and others)

Hardcover || $18

Comixology || $34 for all the individual issues

This is not the ideal way to get into New 52 Batman, but it is by no means bad or a bad investment of your reading funds.

As negative about it as I was on the air, this is a good, cost-effective, and well-organized way to read the 14 issues of the Bat-family-titles-spanning Night of the Owls mini-event. The Amazon price works out to a hair over a dollar each for each issue worth of content. My anger was that they held back the Court of Owls TPB in favor of putting this out.

Batman New 52 Vol. 1: Court of Owls (Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo) - ESSENTIAL

Batman New 52 Vol. 2: City of Owls (Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo) - ESSENTIAL

Paperback 1/2 (both out 2013-03-26) || $10/$14

Comixology || individual issues, some at less than original cover price

This is the beginning of New 52 Batman, and these are good if you want to get into the current Batman in the DC Universe. There are more Robins than just Dick Grayson, which may be a little confusing (Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin), but that diaspora doesn't get so much play in this book that it gets hard to follow. Snyder had a very hard job set in front of him, and he really knocked it out of the park, if you ask me.

Batman Incorporated Vol. 1: Demon Star (New 52 issues #1-12 and #0) - Will probably be considered ESSENTIAL down the line

Hardcover (out 2013-05-14) || $15

Comixology || individual issues only for now

Ok, Bat-egg on my face. I proudly, erroneously claimed that they had already collected issues 1-6 of this in a TPB. They totally haven't. DC is doing the right thing and waiting for Morrison's 12-issue (technically 13-issue) run to end before collecting them. I'm a fool, and a charlatan of the lowest order. Morrison's run has been very compelling, but issue #8 feels extremely light on substance aside from..."the thing" that happens (and which DC spoiled themselves before the spoiler-covered issue arrived on Wednesday.

Comic Shack Reading List is a new feature that lists and summarizes recommendations made on 5by5's The Comic Shack all in one place.

Prices and availability are current at time of posting, and will vary over time.