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A Beginner’s Guide to Batman

photo by flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

I spend a lot of time thinking about Batman in my daily life – his comics, his movies, could we be friends, does he like sandwiches, etc.  And it’s only become more intense lately due to the new Superman vs. Batman movie that will be coming out in 2015 starring Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman (reserving judgment on performance = I am an adult).  What story will they be telling?  Will it be original or based on a comic already in existence?  Will the movie be any good?  Now, we all know that with new movies and television shows based on literary properties becoming more and more popular, there will be more and more readers interested in reading whatever comes close to what they are watching on the screen.

So, I thought I might put together my all-time, top-five list of Batman titles in celebration of this event that isn’t even going to happen for another two years.  Oh, well– there’s no time like the present to get ready.  These are books that appeal not only to those who are excited for the new movie, but any readers who like any televised form of Batman and his crew.  And, yes, I know Superman’s in the movie, too, but come on – we all know that Batman’s the real star, right?

batman_dark_knight_returnsThe Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson:  This is the Batman that many have speculated that Ben Affleck’s Batman will be based on.  He’s weary, tired, and older in this future nightmare Gotham where crime has gotten worse since Bruce Wayne hung up his cape and cowl.  This is a story of gloom and sadness, but ultimately hope and faith.  It’s dark and gritty and brings in all the favorites from Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery – Two-Face, Joker, Selina Kyle.  Oh, yeah – Batman and Superman really seem to hate each other’s guts in this one.

Batman:  Year One by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli:  Yup – here’s another one by Frank Miller.  He covered the gauntlet of Batman’s life – DKR is Batman at the, seemingly, end of his career, and this one – Year One – is the seminal origin story for Batman that’s been the starting point for Batman enthusiasts since it was published in 1987.  It’s the story of Bruce’s first year on the job as Batman.  This is when he gets to know Jim Gordon and the city that he’s come back to protect.  No real villains in this one, just a story of beginnings.

Batman:  The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo:  In 2011, DC Comics relaunched their universe back to zero – they called it a reboot, and it was meant to allow new and lapsed readers to get back into comics at the ground floor without having to know all the past storylines they might have missed.  Lucky for us, the powerhouse team of Snyder & Capullo landed on the Batman book, and they keep telling better and better stories as the years go by.  This collection of the first issues of Batman to come out of the reboot tells the story of The Court of Owls – a Gotham nursery rhyme that warns of a secret society that watches everything and everyone in Gotham.  Just superstition, right?  Nope – the Court of Owls is real, and they are attempting to take over Gotham as their own.  Batman must stop them, but can he? (a 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection)

gotham_centralGotham Central by Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Michael Lark:  You know how Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a pretty cool show that reveals what all the non-superhero agents are working on?  Well, Batman’s got one of those, too, albeit in comic form.  Gotham Central follows the hard working and sometimes corrupt police officers of the GCPD fighting all the crime and solving all the cases Batman doesn’t get to.  I mean, we can’t expect Batman to solve everything, can we?  And, yeah, there’s no Batman in these books, but it’s a super awesome series, and he’s alluded to a lot, so that counts, right?  And, now that Fox has announced its new series, Gotham, will focus on Jim Gordon with no Batman, let’s hope they take a page from Gotham Central.

Batman:  The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale:  For readers that want every possible Bat-villain crammed into one book, this is the one for them.  The origin story of Two-Face, appearances by Riddler, Joker, Scarecrow – all of them and more grace the pages of this epic story of a murderer who strikes on holidays, and who the Batman must stop before another holiday arrives.  It reminds me of a film noir with its murder mystery and heavy use of greys to color the story.  And, for readers that like ambiguous endings, this one is the best – can anyone be truly happy in Gotham?

Well, there’s my list of recommended reads for the Bat-fiends in your life.  Whether they like the movies, the animated series, the original show from ’66 or none of the above, these titles will get them ready for Bat-mania in 2015 and beyond.

-Traci Glass, currently reading Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book One by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben

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Traci Glass

Traci Glass is the Teen Librarian for the Eugene Public Library system in Eugene, Oregon. She loves realistic fiction, comics and horror movies. and comics. and Batman. Find her on Twitter: @grablit

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