My Batman Pilgrimage

Batman fighting the inmate of Arkham on the cover of Batman #1 - Wonderful.
Getting into comic books can be hard work. You need to be willing to ask questions and do some research. To dive-in blind is to invite destruction and confusion. I stayed away from comics for a long time because I thought I would be too lost to enjoy myself. However, that is, after all, the reason DC launched their New 52 initiative last September: to give newcomers a new place to start with fresh stories and new creative teams.

But what if you're interested in the older issues that you hear everyone rave about?

I wanted to learn about the Batman. As a kid, I watched everything from Adam West to Kevin Conroy and Val Kilmer. I thought it was time I gave the New 52 a try. Scott Snyder's new Batman series sucked me in and I knew I had to go deeper.

With the advent of ComiXology and digital comics, I decided to jump into the deep end and explore the world of The Goddamn Bat-Man for myself.

Guess what? There is a lot of Batman. Even just between Detective Comics and Batman, there is enough Batman to break your brain. Lets not even begin discussing the annuals, the cross-overs, the other Batman series, the Justice League, or the rest of the DC Universe.

To begin, I looked to the internet. I was surprised to find that you can find some consistent recommendations. Oh, there is plenty of debate (Snyder did not ruin Mr. Freeze, but he did fix Mr. Freeze, guys), but you'll find a lot of love for certain works and writers.

I found a terrific list of the top 100 Batman story arcs on Comic Vine. They collected nominations from 21 individuals (5 story arcs each) and then 36 people submitted 5 votes each to create the rankings. It's a good start. I cross-referenced it with other websites, reviews, and various forum topics to make sure I had everything that was frequently recommended.

It became clear that if I read only one thing then it had to be Grant Morrison's grand Bat-Epic, Batman R.I.P. There were also several graphic novels that were highly recommended. But where to start? I wanted the best experience possible.

That's when I lost my mind.

Morrison loves to reference other great Batman works and I agree with everyone who says you can't miss Frank Miller's Year One and The Dark Night Returns and The Dark Night Strikes Again. In fact, if you skip them you might be confused by some of Damian Wayne's stories later on. Jason Todd plays a big role in the epic, so you should really read A Death in the Family to understand a pivotal event in Batman's career and the man at the center of it all, Jason Todd.

While you're at it, The Killing Joke, Alan Moore's now infamous graphic novel, is essential reading material, if you want to understand more of Morrison's references. The list can go on. You can see how this can become overwhelming.

The mistake I made was biting off all of this at once. I nearly went mad. Digital comics made it so easy. I craved the next issue and I could have it, instantly. I did not re-read an issue. I did not ruminate on the events. I devoured it all. Many days and $1.99 payments later, I was nearly comatose.

I didn't stop to enjoy it because I felt driven to "catch-up" all so I could read the new issues from New 52. i.e. I spent a lot of time and money doing my very best to defeat DC's entire New 52 initiative. I'm a monster.

So, I'm here to tell you what I think of this (mis)adventure of mine. I loved it all. I have developed a real affection for Grant Morrison's crazy stories and wonderful writing style. I am convinced Scott Snyder is maybe the best man to ever pen a Batman script. I have seen the art of penciling and color work change. I have learned to appreciate different techniques, the placement of panels, and everything that goes into these stories.

I have finished Morrison's R.I.P. arc and I'm ready to move onto Batman, Incorporated (old issues and New 52). But first, I plan to make another trek into Batman's past (some more recent than others) and read Flashpoint: Batman Knight of VengeanceThe Long Halloween and Hush. I have so much more I want to read, though. Gotham By Gaslight, Red Rain, No Man's Land, and Kingdom Come to name only a few. However, I want to savor these.

My appetite is too great at the moment. I can't squander these classics. I can't allow them to be caught-up in my frenzy. I already really need to re-read the others. For now, I'll turn my attention to the New 52 Batman & Robin, Detective Comics, Nightwing, and maybe some of the others. When there's a long break with some free time, I'll be back for the big epics, like Knightfall. Until then, I'll post my complete reading list in Part II of this post. I created a spreadsheet of the recommendations with a checklist and a full reading list for Batman R.I.P., which I will discuss.

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