This is what I usually recommend to new readers (but I wouldn't go in with the mentality that only "current canon" is worth reading):
These books, probably in this order, make for a really good intro to Batman comics and also fit with the general feel of the show, either setting up origins or focusing on the city as a character:
Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One - Classic. Big influence on both Gotham and Nolanverse.
Jeph Loeb’s Long Halloween and Dark Victory which are kind of a Year Two and Year Three (don’t read the books called Y2 and Y3 though)
Chuck Dixon’s Robin: Year One - What it sounds like—Robin’s first cases, not his origin. Robin faces off against Mad Hatter, Two Face, and more. The copy I linked also has Batgirl: Year One which is pretty fun.
Jeph Loeb’s Batman: Hush - A great intro to all of the villains as Batman faces off against each one, ultimately revealing a new villain rooted in his past.
Paul Dini’s Heart of Hush and Streets of Gotham (it has 3 volumes—good to know that midway through, Bruce “dies” and is replaced by Dick Grayson as Batman, but it’s still accessible without reading all of that) - HOH is a sequel to Hush and has a lot of Bat/Cat. Streets focuses on the life of the Gotham underbelly, with characters like “the Carpenter” who builds all the booby traps for the villains and the realtor who finds their hideouts. Also acts as a sequel to Heart of Hush.
Scott Snyder’s Gates of Gotham - also has Dick as Batman but delves into cool Gotham history
Scott Snyder’s Black Mirror - again, Dick is Batman. Takes place before Gates but Streets goes into Gates more fluidly. This book is creepy AF and gets into some of the Gordon family history.
Scott Snyder’s Court of Owls - Though this can be read without any of the others as it was designed as an entry point for new readers. It’s also probably the best book on the list. REALLY good.
Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin - The issues collected here are a great storyline that are about Bruce and his 12-year-old biological son Damian, whose mother is Talia al Ghul (daughter of Ra’s and sister of Nyssa).
If there’s a particular character or aspect of the show you like, there may be others as well but these are a good core starting set.
(You can also check your library for these—many have graphic novels on the shelves but some also have a subscription to something called Hoopla which lets you “check out” digital versions of comics/graphic novels.)
Is this the right graphic novel ?
When they came out with Absolute Batman: Year One a couple years back, the coloring was back to Richmond Lewis’ original recoloring (the good coloring) for the trades. Hopefully, DC got the memo that the coloring for the 2012 deluxe edition, that went against Mazzucchelli’s wishes -and was ugly as hell — needed to be changed, and the Black Label edition is back to the pre-2012 editions. If you don’t want to wait, your best bet is to find the edition from 2005. It’s still available.
What Mazzucchelli had to say about the 2012 edition:
DC just sent me this book last week, and I really hope people don’t buy it. I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary — several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition ofBatman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage. First, they redesigned the cover, and recolored my artwork — probably to look more like their little DVD that came out last year; second, they printed the book on shiny paper, which was never a part of the original design, all the way back to the first hardcover in 1988; third — and worst — they printed the color from corrupted, out-of-focus digital files, completely obscuring all of Richmond’s hand-painted work. Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.
To get the 2005 edition, if you want it, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Batman-Year-One-Frank-Miller/dp/1401207529
> How far back do. I have to.
There are recommended starting points, but, no matter where you start, there will be things you won't understand. It's easier to just acknowledge that superhero comics are very different from the TV/movie/book stories you're used to. Ignore the stuff you don't understand and just read, read, read.
> Should I competly give up on New 52?
No. In general, there are many older stories that are still considered much better than anything new. New 52 isn't all great, but there are some runs worth reading e.g. Snyder's Batman, Lemire's Animal Man, etc.
> Is rebirth doable without having read new 52?
Yes. It's a re-launch (not a complete reboot), so it's a company-wide initiative to make an effort to appeal to new readers. However, that varies among each series—some have no references to older comics, some have many references.
> Do I need to have read anything before new 52?
You can, but again, you don't need to. It really depends on how strict you are about storytelling style/structure. Every comic has varying amounts of references and dependence on other comics. Some are completely standalone (e.g. Superman American Alien); some greatly benefit from a bunch of prior reading (e.g. Crisis of Infinite Earths).
> Batman is my favorite.
This is how comics are usually recommended to new readers. Pick a favorite character or two. This narrows the entire catalog of thousands of characters down significantly. Research their relatively self-contained, modern, popular, acclaimed, etc. runs (narrows down to just the past few decades). Stick to reading those for a while until you get the hang of it. Here's a Batman modern essentials list:
How to Get Into Comic Books (13:40) | Patrick Willems
Consider your intent/commitment. Think about your favorite shows, movies, books, etc. Do you seek quality storytelling or encyclopedic superhero knowledge? Plan to collect? Do you have the time/money to read 50 or 500 comics per character?
Don’t try to read everything at once. There’s too much. Forget about catching up, continuity, universes, etc. for now. Think of it like solving a jigsaw puzzle one small piece at a time until you finally start to see the big picture. Older comics can be an acquired taste for modern audiences, so they aren’t always ideal starting points. Creative teams change often, characters get re-worked, and origins are re-told.
Pick an interesting character/team and seek their most popular/acclaimed stories. Focus on self-contained/complete stories. You will encounter unexplained references/characters/events—just keep reading or Wiki. Don
> Theres like pre crisis, post crisis, rebirth, new 52 , someone help me please?
You're thinking big when you should be thinking small. Those are just "eras" of comics, like "1970s movies" or "pre-CGI movies". You don't need to know how continuity or the entire multiverse works when you first start, just like you don't need to understand how film-making or video editing works to enjoy a movie. And even though Terminator 2 is a sequel, it can still be enjoyed on its own—same works for comics.
> I wanna just read them all in the correct order, thanks.
Don't try to "read them all". There's too much; it's not worth it. (You can argue against that AFTER you've actually read a few hundred comics). Just look at release dates for ordering.
Here's my usual new reader DC guide:
Pick an interesting character/team and seek their most popular/acclaimed stories. Focus on self-contained/complete stories. You will encounter unexplained references/characters/events—just keep reading or Wiki. Don’t let the tangled interconnectedness of shared-universe comics overwhelm you.
Discover your preferences and let them guide you. Avoid over-analyzing—just start reading. Do you prefer old/new comics? Specific writers/genres? Cartoony/realistic art? Character/plot -driven story? Explicit content? Follow these instincts. Didn’t get a reference? Make that your next read.
You can skip to the 2016 Rebirth re-launch with the DC Universe: Rebirth event and then any Rebirth series #1.
Consider your intent/commitment. Think about your favorite shows, movies, books, etc. Reading primarily for enjoyment or encyclopedic knowledge? Collecting? Have the time/resources to read 50 or 500 comics per character?
Don’t try to read everything at once. There’s too much. Forget about catching up, continuity, universes, etc. for now. Older comics can be an acquired taste for modern audiences, so they aren’t necessarily ideal starting points. Writers change often, characters get re-worked, and origins are re-told. Remember, there are many great characters, creators, publishers, etc. to explore.
Pick an interesting character/team and seek their most popular/acclaimed stories. Focus on self-contained, complete stories in one corner of the universe. There will be unexplained references/characters, just persevere or Wiki. Don’t let the tangled web of shared-universe comics overwhelm you. Think of it like solving a jigsaw puzzle one small piece at a time until you finally see the big picture.
Discover your preferences and let them guide you. Don’t get stuck preparing/over-analyzing, just start reading. Do you like/dislike old/new comics? Specific writers/genres? Cartoony/realistic art? Familiar/weird concepts? References/self-contained? All-ages/mature content? Follow these instincts. Didn’t understand a reference? Maybe read that next.
Or skip to the 2016 re-launch DC Universe: Rebirth event and then any Rebirth series #1.
There isn't really a "main story" that every comic is constantly connected to. Think of it more like a web of smaller stories. Every comic is self-contained in its own little bubble UNTIL it's mentioned somewhere else. Occasionally, there are major crossovers/events where a selection of series will be connected briefly (e.g. Civil War). That said, there have been a few attempts at planned, long-form plotting with an overarching story e.g. most of Hickman's Marvel works builds up to Secret Wars.
Here is my usual new reader guide:
You can skip to the 2016 re-launch with DC Universe: Rebirth and then any Rebirth series #1.
DC Vertigo/Wildstorm (mature readers):
What are your top 5-10 movies, TV shows, books, games, etc.?
Here's a general guide: