The Great Batman Reading Project! / by Eric Emma

I have always thought of myself as an omni-geek. I keep a toe in many different parts of geekdom, but never get too involved with any one aspect. In this regard, I haven’t followed comics regularly since high-school. Marv Wolfman, the writer of “Crisis of Infinite Earths”, thoughts on continuity ties into why I stopped following comics:

It's always been my belief that every generation needs the comics recreated for them. This happened by accident in the past: Comics were created in 1938 with Superman. About 25 years later, between 1956-1961, the Silver age was created with no direct regard for what happened before. About 25 years after that, I did Crisis with George Perez and that once again updated the DCU. And now, 25 years after Crisis the New 52 has been launched.

Comics need to be changed, they need to evolve, and they need to keep fresh in order to stay relevant. As for things like Watchmen, those are not part of the DCU. They exist in their own world. Those kind of stories are one-shot "novels" that are allowed to tell a great story and then it's over. I hope there will always be room for those so that not everything has to be part of one ever-sprawling continuity. Comics, which are simply a combination of story and art, should be able to tell any kind of story and not be hampered by constraints.

                I completely agree with Wolfman that comics need to constantly be over-turned and retold to be relevant. However, most of the time, the retellings never feel particularly fresh and you begin to cherry pick the stories that are truly worth reading. So having read a lot of the classic superhero tales, I moved on to other things. Then I heard about Grant Morrison and his epic six year Batman run.

                Grant Morrison is a legend in the comic book world for the uninitiated so he came to Batman with serious cred. When he came to Batman, he decided to do something pretty unprecedented, which was to take 75 years’ worth of Batman History and to make it all make sense. This to me, as a writer, sounds awesome. So I started doing research into his run. It quickly became clear that if I was going to appreciate this crazy run of Batman stories that I’d need to go back to the beginning of Batman and study up on Batman long history/many iterations. This to me became a great opportunity to study the evolution of one of the most popular and prevalent fictional characters of the 20th century.

Ironically, after Morrison finished his run on Batman and made sense of Batman’s long history, DC Comics completely restarted the entire universe and all their characters were rebooted. So Morrison run also serves as a nice send-off and wrap-up to Batman before DC went into a new direction.

I set to work creating a reading list of Batman essentials that would be needed to appreciate Morrison’s run as well as to study Batman and his evolution. While I was researching, I discovered that Paul Dini, acclaimed writer of Batman: The Animated Series, was writing "Detective Comics" at the same time as Morrison’s run on “Batman.” Dini's aim was to write self-contained Batman stories that had no real connection to Batman’s long history; this aim represent the antithesis of Morrison's run. So my project grew. I decided I would read the Dini run as well as the Morrison run. So discovering I had $500 worth of points on Amazon thru my credit card, I went to work ordering the multitude of books that would be needed to undertake this project.

As I read through all this material, I will continually post my thoughts/observations.

Below is the epic reading list:

Batman Background


52 #30, #47 

Batman #1-25, #159, #251, #291-294, 324, 408-413, #416

Trade Paper Backs:
DC Archives: Detective Comics Vol 1
Batman in the 50s
Batman in the 60s
Fourth World Volume 1 - 4
Batman Black Casebook
Batman: Tales of the Demon (70s Ra Ah Ghul Stories)
Batman Birth of the Demon (80s-90s One Shots)
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Death in the Family 
Batman Under The Cowl TPB
Batman: Dark Night, Dark City
Batman Year One
Batman Killing Joke
Batman: Arkham Asylum

Grant Morrison Run
Batman Black Glove Deluxe Edition
Batman RIP
Absolute Final Crisis
Time and the Batman
Absolute Batman and Robin
Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne (Deluxe Edition)

Absolute Batman Incorporated

Spoiler alert: During Morrison’s run he kills Batman off, which triggered a DC cross-over event called Battle for the Cowl so I ordered several books tying into this event:

Battle for the Cowl
Batman: Battle for the Cowl
Batman: Battle for the Cowl Companion
Azrael: Death's Dark Knight 
Batwoman: Elegy
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Deluxe Edition)

Paul Dini Run

Batman: Detective
Batman: Death and the City 
Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
Batman: Private Casebook
Batman: Heart of Hush
Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol 1
Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol 2
Batman: Streets of Gotham Vol 3: The House of Hush