A fair few of my friends have expressed an interest in the world of comic books, but to a new reader it can be a very daunting place when comics are up to about 700 issues.
This is why DC are doing their reboot in September, to give the opportunity for new readers to be able to come in at issue 1 and not have missed out on decades of back story that can sometimes be referenced in such a vague manner, the casual reader has no chance of understanding. A risky move, but it does makes sense, after all a friend recently stated that she wanted to start reading X-Men comics, and wasn't sure where to begin.
Different creative teams can take completely different slants on characters, plot lines can span years, and what can appear on the surface to be the same character can be entirely different when both the big companies of Marvel and DC have alternate universes by the bucket load.
I would say that these days I am primarily a DC reader/purchaser, yet I have more Marvel characters I'm attached to. Weird, right? It's all about that "where to start?" question.
So, without further ado here are some comics I have enjoyed, and would like to recommend to people in general, as well as perhaps referencing specific people.
DC Comics Edition
Batman: The Long Halloween
Containing a good amount of the tradition Rogue's Gallery that we all know and love: Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Joker, Two-Face, Riddler and Penguin amongst lesser known foes such as Solomon Grundy or Calendar Man, this story spans more than a year and the troubles Batman has to face with a holiday themed killer. You'd naturally think Calendar Man, right? Well think again, as he's behind bars at Arkham. You can see parallels to Silence of the Lambs, with Calendar Man providing the role of Hannibal Lecter, with less cannibalism. Murder, mystery and the mob all feature in what will be one of my favourite Batman stories, and with twists, turns, a hint of romance and some gorgeous art, I think anyone can find something to enjoy in this.
|I adore stylish covers like this one.|
This book is often hit with mixed reviews, but personally I found the story to be an interesting one.
In a way, I don't entirely want to say too much about the plot as I don't want to inadvertently give away any hints- but the story has left significant impact on the Batclan. This story is equally full of twists and turns, and Jim Lee's art is always a pleasure.
|It's certainly a must read, even if it is hotly debated.|
Batman: Under the Hood
It seems there is a trend here that I like things that are loved and hated in equal measure. To fully understand this one you have to have read Hush, as it links to it a little. A figure from Batman's past returns to antagonise him yet again, but why? The Red Hood was an identity originally taken by the Joker before he was chemically altered... so who is the Red Hood?
|It looks like the chemicals also affected Joker's fashion sense.|
This was a good look for him.
Without giving anything away to anyone who has not read this story- people do agree it is a well crafted story, but that they don't necessarily agree with the story being told. It has an even bigger impact on the batclan than Hush did, and deals with one of my favourite underdog characters. There has been a recent animated adaptation which was very successful, and showcased John DiMaggio as the Joker (known for Bender, Wakka and Marcus Fenix) but gave the plot twists away too quickly for my taste. It did however, make it more accessible to people relatively unaware of DC back history, which may be a better avenue for some.
I am a huge fan of the DC Elseworlds imprints, this is to do with that multiple universe thing I have spoken about. What if tales, imaginary stories and so much more. I would say this is one of my favourite Batman Elseworld tales, even though it largely focuses on Batgirl and Robin.
|It is worth it for the art alone.|
The story is set in the 1960's dealing with the changing ideals of the time, corrupt politics and sexual revolution. In this universe the Joker is female, and decidedly more devious than comic. This story gets very dark, but oh so very engrossing. It's unfortunate that it's hard to find these days, but it's worth trying to track down a copy from somewhere.
One of the more recent additions to the batclan, making her first appearance in the big event 52 and following it up with some brief appearances in the other two events Countdown and Final Crisis (for the new reader, these are one to avoid- very complex) but this book is where she truly comes into her own.
|No picture can encompass how excited I got about owning this book.|
Greg Rucka is a fantastic writer, and did a great job with this title- probably in part to having been one of the primary writers for the character of Renee Montoya, Batwoman's ex-girlfriend. Batwoman may have not had an official origin title, this book deals with it sufficient in flashbacks and exposition. The art is truly fantastic, and J.H. Williams III has a grasp of composition like no other artist I've seen. This story will naturally appeal to those with an interest in the LGBT community, as Batwoman is considered the most high profile gay super hero and it's an issue certainly not buried in the closet. If you like stories with strong women, you will like this book.
|It's always nice to see a female super hero who is not in heels.|
The Joker: Devil's Advocate
Most people who know me, know that I am not a huge fan of the Joker. He has the potential to be very interesting, but too often feels like a one trick pony. However, this is probably the best Joker story I have ever read. I cannot tell you why without giving the game away, but it is brilliantly written. It's unfortunate it is also very hard to find (I myself do not have a copy) but I was happy to see that there was a copy in my university library, albeit one page was falling out. If you are a fan of the Joker you should be reading this book.
Kate, go find it in the library, it really is worth it.
|You will not find a better story that involves stamps.|
Batman: Going Sane
The only Joker story that I own is this one, the moment I heard about the concept I had to get my hands on it. The concept is simple, what if the only reason the Joker is insane, is due to Batman? The Joker and Batman fight as always, and it seems this time Joker has killed his nemesis. Of course, Batman isn't dead- just incapacitated away from Gotham- but the Joker, believing him dead, only has one place to go... sanity. People often debate whether the presence of Batman and other capes is what spurs on the super villains, and if they weren't there to oppose them, would they still exist? This story deals with the concept, but may have been better as an Elseworld tale to fully deal with the consequences.
|Does this like the face of a sane man to you?|
Harley & Ivy
As I said in the last post I do like a bit of the Harley/Ivy, as an awesome villainous friendship and as a romantic pairing. This trade collects a few stories involving the two of them in different artistic styles. The main pull of this collection is the titular mini-series which was drawn by Bruce Timm himself, it's the quintessential animated Batman look to most people.
|I'm sure anyone who has a passing interest in the pairing has seen this.|
It's just such a fun little book, and if you like subtext it is a good read. Angie- this one is definitely for you.
Villains United/Secret Six
This is my favourite DC series, and shares some links to the batclan, but is intended to stand on its own- and interact with various DC groups. The Secret Six are a team of super villains, although they're more anti-heroes than anything else, who manage to be likeable even though they always are very close to skirting ethical lines. Featuring a team that constantly changes- these four shine as more interesting characters:
Scandal Savage- She holds a lot of secrets, and is very hard to kill.
Deadshot- A man who never misses a shot, and antagonises just about everyone.
Catman- Formerly a pathetic Z list villain who's made something of himself in Batman's shadow.
Ragdoll- You don't get much stranger than a man who cut his own penis off as it got in the way of his flexibility.
|I bet you can guess which one Ragdoll is...|
The series features some appearances from Batfamily villains, some who temporarily join the team, and some very interesting stories. I am a huge fan of the writer Gail Simone, and would recommend literally anything she has written, she is fantastic and certainly very good with female characters and being LGBT/People of Colour friendly. The art various from book to book, but certainly Nicola Scott's shines the most, she is well known for fan service for men and women. There is a running joke that Nightwing's ass is the most fabulous ass in all of DC Comics, and it appears in Nicola Scott's run, when I tweeted at Gail about how even I could appreciate the fabulousness of "DAT ASS" she replied saying that Nicola Scott's art made her feel that way about the character Jeanette, when she appeared naked. Nicola Scott is powerful in the way of cheesecake.
Nomi, you will appreciate the Mad Hatter's appearance and an Alice in Wonderland inspired hallucination.
If I were to recommend one comic to anyone, and only one, this would be it.
This is a story I will reread whenever I really need to get my brain going. It will make you think.
I suppose you could call the concept "What is a world without Superman?"- the story is set about ten years of the normal DC continuity, the world is a very different place after the Joker went too far and massacred everyone in the Daily Planet, including Lois Lane. During his trial, the Joker is killed by a new hero, Magog, and they decide not to punish him, as it was a righteous act.
This is against the rule for most super heroes. Heroes do not kill, but is that the problem? Distraught, Superman goes into solitude for a decade, and many other heroes follow suit and leave the public eye.
The next generation of heroes do not have the same ethics, and there are constant fights in the streets, and the lines between hero and villain have gone when bystanders lie dead in the streets.
That however, is not the end of the story, the old heroes return, and a clash between the old and new begins. Yet another book with fantastic art, Alex Ross does the full interior- gorgeous realistically painted scenes that give an almost religious tone to the story. An excellent read.
|All of the art is like this. Om nom nom nom nom.|
Superman: Red Son
This is my favourite Superman centric Elseworlds tale, a simple concept, but powerful. "What if Superman landed in the Ukraine, and not America?" A dark twist on the normal Superman original tale, and gives us some very interesting character designs. There is a similar parody tale that takes the tack of "What if Superman landed in Britain" but I was not a fan. A simple question has lead to a very successful story.
|Just look at that Batman. LOOK AT HIM.|
That's all for now folks, I'll dip in to some Marvel and other DC imprints in another post, as this is long enough as is!