I have seen a lot of threads asking for starting points for reading DC comics. While there are many reading orders available out there on the internet, they are often not catered to the individual’s taste (although ComicBookHerald.com does a pretty great job IMO, and most people could probably figure out what they want to do by just going to that site). Also, these reading orders rarely address the availability of stories in different platforms.
So, despite the length of this post, my guide is pretty simple. Most of what follows after the guide itself is my rationale, which actually would be more interesting to people already familiar with the comics, if it’s even interesting to them.
My guide is a two step process:
- Read Batman: Year One (currently available on DC Universe as issues 404 through 407 of the Batman series that started in 1940)
- Post your answers to the following two questions, and await further instruction:
Question One: Choose one of the following:
A. I read Year One and now I want to read origin stories of other DC heroes
B. I read Year One and I want to follow along with Batman’s other early adventures
C. A and B
D. I read Year One and it was fine, but I just want to get up to speed with newer DC comics
E. I read Year One and now I want to read other recommended or “good” stories, but I would like to read them “in order” if at all possible
F. I read Year One and now I just want to read other good stories; I don’t care about reading in chronological order or what characters are featured; I’ll figure it out as I go
Question Two: What platforms are available to you for reading comics (choose as many as apply):
A. DC Universe
B. ComiXology Unlimited
D. I’ll buy it from whatever source is available; just recommend to me the best stuff, regardless of cost or where it’s located
Just keep in mind some answer combinations to these questions would be harder to reconcile than others (like wanting to read “everything” but only having access to Comixology Unlimited, for example). And, some responses could come with caveats. For example, if you want to follow along with Batman only through what’s available in DC Universe, you’re going to miss a lot which will be “spoiled” for you by other stories. The more platforms you have available to you, the easier it is to make recommendations.
That’s it! All of what follows is more of my rationale for choosing Batman: Year One as the best starting point.
So, while I would say there is no definitive right answer to what one should read first, I do think one strong consideration should always be to start with Batman: Year One. Longtime DC comics readers might reply with, “duh,” but Batman: Year One ticks the boxes for me in terms of accessibility, enjoyability, and availability, all of which I’ll address in detail below.
By accessibility, I mean how easy is the story to read without knowing a lot of DC history. It’s hard to think of a DC comic more accessible than Batman: Year One, which is the origin of Batman, one of DC’s three most iconic characters. You need absolutely zero knowledge of comics or Batman to follow the story. This claim is made of many comic books which are “great jumping on points,” but if you are anything like me, you’ll often see characters pop up or events mentioned and wonder, “Am I supposed to know what that is?” For me, it can be very difficult to enjoy the story when you have that nagging feeling that you’re not getting the full picture, and Batman: Year One shouldn’t give you that sensation.
By enjoyability, I mean how entertaining of a read is the story. To be honest, I like Year One a lot, but it’s by no means my favorite story that DC has ever published. Also, as most people know Batman’s origin from other media, they’re not going in completely cold, and, again, for many, it’s not exactly a surprise how the story plays out. However, there are story elements which are not always captured in Batman’s origin in other media (such as Gordon taking on the corrupt Gotham police department) that hold some intrigue, and the way in which the story is told is great. The story is iconic for a reason, and even if it’s not the absolute best of all time (although some might argue it is), it’s still very entertaining.
The final area is availability, and again, Batman: Year One is also a great choice for this. It’s currently “free” (after subscription cost of course) on DC Universe and on Comixology Unlimited, plus it’s available on Hoopla. If you’re subscribed to any of those three, you can read it at no additional cost. This is one reason Batman: Year One beats out something like John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini series (Superman’s origin). The Man of Steel mini-series is only available for free on Hoopla.
The primary reasons I can think of to not start with Batman: Year One are:
- You want something that’s more all ages friendly
- You refuse to read comics older than the last decade
- You REALLY want to start at the beginning, (aka the Golden Age of Comics)
- You hate Batman (and are therefore insane)
Hopefully this helps, and I’ll keep my eye out for those who respond to the thread wondering where to go next.
Good luck all, happy reading, and apologies if someone already did or tried to do something similar to this!