readers who have taken an interest in the DC Universe. This is a list of definitive
stories for many of DC’s superheroes. However, this is just an introduction to
these characters. You can find these comic books either on Amazon, some other book website, or your local bookstore.
Lenil Francis Yu
This retelling of Superman’s origin story was released in 2003 and 2004. This
series gave Superman and his supporting characters a new modern update while
still retaining elements from classic Superman stories.
This series was published from 2005 through 2008 and takes place in an
alternate timeline. This series pays tribute to the over the top Superman
comics from the Golden and Silver Age of comic books. The plot involves a dying
Superman performing twelve final heroic feats. This is one of the greatest
Superman stories ever told as it captures the essence of the Superman mythos.
This series was released in 1998 and tells the story of Superman’s fist years through
the eyes of the various people in his life. There are four stories which take
place in each of the four seasons. The coloring done by Bjarne Hansen is truly
a delight as the scenes in Smallville look like a Norman Rockwell painting and
the scenes that take place in Metropolis look like the Superman cartoons made by
Max Fleischer in the 1940s. The many of the themes like fatherhood, alienation,
and love that this series are truly touching.
Woman: Gods and Mortals
and Artist: George Perez
When DC rebooted all of their comics in the 1980s, George Perez was chosen to
reinvent Wonder Woman. Gods and Mortals
collects the first seven issues of his run. It is considered the definitive
Wonder Woman origin story, as it shows Diana’s first foray into man’s world.
Perez does a fantastic job of using Greek Mythology to expand Wonder Woman as a
At 64 pages long, there isn’t a quantity, but there is a lot of quality in this
story. This story doesn’t focus on Wonder Woman fighting supervillains.
Instead, it focuses on her trying to solve problems that can’t easily be
fought. The artwork done by Alex Ross is stunning. His paintings of Wonder
Woman are what I imagine what she would look like in real life.
Dr. William Moulton Marston
This book collects the first issues of Wonder Woman. His blending of Greek
Mythology, bondage and submission (yes you read that right), and feminism is
something subsequent creators have struggled to replicate.
Originally published in 1987, Batman:
Year One is considered the definitive Batman origin story. This story covers
Batman’s first year fighting crime in Gotham City. He not only takes on
Gotham’s criminals, but also winds up fighting the city’s corrupt police force.
This story also shows the beginning of the partnership between Batman and Sgt.
Jim Gordon. Many of the story elements in Batman:
Year One were later used by Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight Trilogy.
Originally published in 1996 and 1997, this noir inspired comic picks up
shortly after Batman: Year One. The Long Halloween is about a serial
killer named ‘Holiday’ who kills members of Gotham City’s organized crime
families on holidays. Batman, Captain Jim Gordon, and Gotham City District
Attorney Harvey Dent not only attempt to catch the Holiday, but also work to
bring down the Maroni and Falcone crime families. Batman villains like the
Joker, the Scarecrow, and Poison Ivy also play a substantial role in this
story. The Long Halloween also serves
as an origin story for Harvey Dent’s transformation into Two-Face. The great
character development, sub-plots, and film noir artwork make this a must read.
Originally published in 1999 and 2000, Dark
Victory is a sequel to The Long
Halloween. ‘The Hangman’ serial killer is on the loose and this time he
targets current and former members of Gotham’s police department who were on
the job during Batman’s first year as a superhero. This story also shows the
downfall of Gotham’s crime families and the rise of the supervillains in
Batman’s rogues gallery. Dark Victory also
serves the origin story for Dick Grayson, who was the first Robin. One of the
main themes of Dark Victory is how
Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent/Two-Face are now alone due to the events The Long Halloween. Batman needs Robin
to keep his crusade against crime from consuming him and Jim Gordon needs his
family to keep his crusade against crime from consuming him. Meanwhile, Harvey
Dent has nobody in his life to prevent Two-Face from consuming him. Jeph Loeb
and Tim Sale were at their best when they worked-on Batman because they knew
exactly what motivated him and his supporting cast.
This controversial graphic novel was published in 1988, and takes place in two
timelines. One serves as an origin story for The Joke and the other which takes
place in the present day, shows The Joker attempting to drive Commissioner
Gordon insane. Writer Alan Moore draws parallels between The Joker and Batman’s
psyches and makes the argument that both characters have more similarities than
differences. The Killing Joke is not
only one of the greatest Batman stories ever written, but it is the definitive
This graphic novel was first published in 1989 and tells the story of Batman
being called in to stop a prison riot at Arkham Asylum which houses his
greatest enemies. What first appears to be a simple story quickly turns into a
psychological exploration of characters like The Joker, Two-Face, Killer
Croc, and eventually Batman himself. The artwork by Dave McKean is absolutely
phenomenal and adds to the creepy atmosphere of Grant Morrison’s writing. This
graphic novel would later serve as the inspiration for the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum.
and Pencils: Frank Miller
Originally published in 1986, The Dark
Knight Returns is set in an alternate timeline where a fifty-five-year-old
retired Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to fight crime in Gotham City. However,
he quickly comes into conflict with the Gotham Police Department and the U.S.
Government. The Dark Knight Returns is
an absolute masterpiece that redefined not only Batman, but superhero comics as
a whole. Writers and artists that are working today are still working under the
parameters that Frank Miller set for Batman in this comic. Everything from
Batman’s gritty persona and his tenuous relationship with Superman in the
current comics can be traced back to The
Dark Knight Returns.
Lantern: Secret Origin
Origin, tells the story of how Hal Jordan became a member of the Green
Lantern Corps. This story introduces many of Hal Jordan’s supporting cast like
Sinestro and lays the groundwork for future storylines like Sinestro Corps. War and Blackest Night.
Ethan Van Sciver
This story involves the resurrection of Hal Jordan and the ultimately the
rebirth of the Green Lantern Corps. Green Lanterns John Stewart, Kyle Rayner,
Guy Gardner, and Kilowog also star in this series and help Hal Jordan save the
day from Sinestro.
Lantern: Sinestro Corps War
Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Patrick Gleason
The story features Hal Jordan and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps fighting
an intergalactic war against the yellow power ring wielding Sinestro Corps led
by former Green Lantern Sinestro.
This story arc is the final part of the Rebirth Trilogy and involves Nekron
raising an undead army called the Black Lanterns and usisng them to take over
the universe. However, Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern Corps, and the rest of
DC’s heroes join together to prevent it from happening.
Flash: The Silver Age Vol. 1
John Broome & Robert Kanigher
Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella
This book collects comics from the late 1950s and early 1960s that tell the
earliest adventures of Barry Allen. It covers Barry Allen’s origin story and
introduces many of his greatest villains like Capatain Cold, Mirror Master, and
Gorilla Grodd. This is a must have for any fans who want to know about The
Flash’s earliest years.
Flash by Mark Waid: Book 1 and on
(Vol. 2 #0, 62-129, 142-159, 162)
When Barry Allen was killed off in Crisis
on Infinite Earths, his protégé Wally West took over The Flash mantle.
However, for several years writers and artists struggled to make Wally West as
iconic and as memorable as Barry Allen. That all changed in 1990 when writer
Mark Waid took over writing The Flash. He was able to take Wally West and make
him into a star by writing excellent storylines that gave the character more
flaws than his predecessor. By the time, Mark Waid stopped writing The Flash
comic book, Wally West was a fan favorite.
Geoff Johns redefined the Wally West version of The Flash for the 2000s. John’s
five year run on The Flash focused on the Silver Age story elements of the
character that had not been used in many years. Johns also explored the
psychological depth of many of The Flash’s villains, making them more
Shazam!: Power of Hope
Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Alex Ross
Summary: Captain Marvel visits a children’s hospital and uses his powers to help inspire the sick children.
The Power of Shazam!
Written & Painted by: Jerry Ordway
Summary: This graphic novel is an updated origin story for Captain Marvel. The Power of Shazam’s success led to an ongoing series of the same name which was published from 1995-1999.
New Teen Titans (1980s Series)
(Vol 1.- collections ongoing)
The Teen Titans were essentially DC’s answer to Marvel’s X-Men in the 1980s. It
features teenage superheroes like Robin (who later becomes Nightwing),
Starfire, Cyborg, Kid Flash, Raven, Kid Flash, and the Changeling (who is now
known as Beast Boy) as they navigate adolescence and fight supervillains.
The Teen Titans comic was rebooted to coincide with the cartoon that was airing
at the same time. This series introduces new characters to the Teen Titans to
team alongside older members of the team as they once again grapple with adolescence
and the fact that many of them are sidekicks that have to live in the shadows
of their more famous mentors.
League of America (JLA) Vol. 1-4
Grant Morrison & Mark Waid (Vol. 4 only)
Grant Morrison and Howard Porter took the Justice League to new heights in the
1990s. The two men created stories that reveled in how over the top these
characters are (one story has Superman fighting an angel). Grant Morrison and
Howard Porter’s version of the Justice League the characters are not just
superheroes, they are living gods.
DC UNIVERSE COMICS
In 1985, DC Comics decided to reboot all of their comics in order to simplify
the 50 plus years of continuity. Crisis
on Infinite Earths was the end result and it is now considered one of the
most important and influential story arcs in comic book history. The basic plot
involves, an unknown alien force called the Anti-Monitor who begins destroying
the multiple alternate Earths in the DC Universe in order to bring an end to
all of existence. The Anti-Monitor’s heroic counterpart, The Monitor recruits all
of the heroes from the remaining Earth to bring an end to his destruction. The
illustrations by George Perez are stunning because he is able to fit so many
characters into a single page without it feeling cluttered.
Phil Jimenez, Jerry Ordway, Ivan Reis, & George Perez
In 2005, DC Comics decided to reboot all of their comics yet again, so this
sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths
was published. The plot of this story involves the leaders of the Justice
League, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman feuding with each other in the
aftermath of Watchtower’s destruction. While this is going on the rest of the
DC Universe’s heroes all face various world ending threats.
Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka
Keith Giffen, various other artists
In the aftermath of Infinite Crisis,
all of DC’s titles sprung forward one year. DC published one comic book a week,
to explain what happened during that missing year. Superman, Batman, and Wonder
Woman have gone into exile, but that doesn’t mean that threats to the world
have stopped all of a sudden. Minor characters from the DC Universe like
Booster Gold, The Question, Rene Montoya, Elongated Man, Steel, and many others
step up to the plate to save the day. All of these characters start out in separate
storylines, but these stories begin to converge by the end of the series. This
series is particularly good because it explores every nook and cranny of the DC
books that took place in alternate universes outside of the DC Universe canon.
Mark Waid & Alex Ross
This comic takes place in an alternate timeline where most of DC’s heroes have
either retired or died. In the meantime, a new group of heroes have taken their
place and they are more interested in fighting and causing destruction than
they are in saving lives. As a result, Superman comes out of retirement to
restore order, but he quickly comes into conflict with Batman and his team of
heroes. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor has a nefarious plan to defeat Superman once and
for all. Alex Ross’s paintings in this comic book are absolutely breathtaking.
In fact, his paintings of Superman are a close as we’ll ever get to seeing a real-life
and Artist: Darwyn Cooke
This mini-series was published in 2004 and takes place during the early days of
the Cold War and the Space Race. Green Lantern Hal Jordan, the Martian
Manhunter, and Barry Allen/The Flash are the three major characters, but
Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all play a part in the story. The plot
involves a mysterious alien force invading Earth and a new generation of heroes
teaming up in order to stop it. Many complex and mature themes are explored in
this book. Darwyn Cooke does not hesitate to show how bad racism and the Red
Scare were in the 1950s, but he also shows that the Space Race presented a
sense of optimism every American. DC:
The New Frontier, is one of the greatest comics ever written and shows the
genre at its best.
The Sandman is considered one of the
greatest comic book series of all time and is credited with making critics
finally view comics as literature. The story follows Dream also known as
Morpheus as he tries to rebuild his kingdom called Dreaming after he is
captured by evil forces. The Sandman can
be an urban fantasy story, a superhero story, an historical fantasy, and
sometimes all of those genres at once. When it was first released in the 1990s,
The Sandman had an audience that mainstream comics hardly ever attracted: Most of the readership were women in
their twenties. This series is a must have for anybody that considers themselves
a comic book reader.
solve the murder of one of their own. Howerver, the Watchmen is so much more than that. It’s about the very nature of
superheroes themselves. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons deconstructed the superhero
genre and pushed comic books into more serious material, a trend that continues
to this very day.