Welcome to Opening Panel, a series where we tell you the best place to start with franchise comics. Gotham just came back with season four. And if you’re like young Bruce Wayne, not quite sure how to fully commit to Batman, we’ve got you covered.
There are lots of great Batman comics to read. You can pretty much throw a stone in a comic book shop and happen to land on one, but here’s a few that you might like if you dig the Baby Bat’s show.
Gotham Central is series that most directly influenced the show. GC tells the story of the cop on the street. What’s it like when your partner dies because of Mr. Freeze or when you find your neighbor has been turned into a plant monster. Split into “day shifts” written by Greg Rucka (Batwoman, Cyclops) and “night shifts” with Ed Brubaker (Captain America, The Fade Out) on writing. Michael Lark (Daredevil, Lazarus) handles art duty on both for most of the series.
The series deals with the day-to-day life of the GCPD dealing with supervillains. There are a few “man on the street” tie-ins to big DC events like War Games and Infinite Crisis. Its most well-known story, Half A Life, involves the forcible outing of Renee Montoya as a lesbian woman on the force.
The series won an Eisner, Harvey, and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards for this story. It ended in 2006 and set up Montoya and Crispus Allen as a new incarnation of the Question and the Specter. Available digitally in five paperbacks and hardcover omnibus
Batman: Year One
If you’re looking for grounded Batman origins, this is THE story. Focusing on James Gordon just as much as Bruce Wayne, it tells his first year in Gotham City. Gordon deals with corruption within the system as Bruce Wayne works to dismantle the mob.
Written by Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, 300) with art by David Mazzucchelli (Asterios Polyp, Daredevil), it’s regarded as one of the best stories in Batman’s history. Several Batman movies, Batman Forever and Begins take influence from the story. The animated adaptation stars Gotham’s Ben McKenzie as Batman. Gotham takes influence as well, with Jim Gordon’s character in season one and season four is supposed to take more influence than ever, with Bruce Wayne donning a cowl.
Batman: Earth One
A marginally more grounded take on the Batman Mythos, Earth One has a Dark Knight who hasn’t learned from ninjas and world-famous detectives. He has only his wits and ex-RAF Alfred’s training. Volume One sees the Caped Crusader’s first nights out and his mission to expose Mayor Oswald Cobblepot as the man behind his parent’s murders. The second volume pits Batman against the Riddler as he reconnects with his childhood sweetheart Jessica Dent.
These original graphic novels were written by DC CCO and DC Film co-chairman Geoff Johns (Aquaman, Green Lantern) and drawn by frequent collaborator Gary Frank (Superman, SHAZAM!). Earth One is a fun reimagining of Batman. Johns and Frank play with what you know, but never goes so far as to make the character lose touch with his roots. The “complete story” graphic novel, as opposed to a collection of single issues, makes this great for the casual reader or those not looking to invest time into an ongoing superhero series.
Batman: Arkham Series
If you watch Gotham, you probably love the villains. Gotham City has some of the best rogues in all of the fiction. If that’s your poison, a great place to start is the Batman: Arkham series.
The Batman: Arkham collection series spotlight Batman’s most notorious foes. Featuring notable and lesser-known stories from throughout the character histories, there are ten books in the series. It’s a great way to see the evolution of a character through their publishing lifetime.
With villains ranging from Hugo Strange to Man-Bat, most of Batman’s major villains have a volume. With the exception of The Joker and Harley Quinn, you should be able to find one you like. The volumes I recommend are Two-Face, Riddler, and Poison Ivy.
Available digitally and in paperback.