One of the easiest questions I get asked about Batman is, "Where do I start?"
Since most of us have a finite amount of time to devote to comics, and a possibly more finite budget, the ability to track down a copy of Detective Comics #27 and start reading from there is a crack pipe dream. Sure, DC has collected the beginning of the Detective and Batman comics in their DC Archive hardcovers, and DC Chronicles, and, yes, if you don't care about the art being colored, you can save yourself a chunk of change and start buying the Showcase collections DC has been putting out. But, for those of us who didn't grow up with, or grow to love Golden Age and Silver Age comics, these options represent an unrealistic level of dedication.
So when a customer walks into the store, and says "I love Batman. Can you recommend a good place to start reading from?" I always recommend Frank Miller's "Year One" I'll get to why I start there in the next entry. The problem is when a customer buys Year One, loves it, and returns, asking "What's next?"
There is almost too much next to contemplate. Unlike your favorite indie comic, or your favorite television show, Batman doesn't have a straightforward chronology. Hundreds of writers have written official DC Batman stories in the pages of Detective Comics, Batman, Gotham Knights, Shadow Of The Bat, Batman & Robin, World's Finest, Streets Of Gotham, and Batman/Superman to name a few. Plus, he is often a member of the Justice League Of America, and shows up in just about all of the big DC Crossovers.
It is nigh improbable to come up with a chronology for Batman, even if you start at Year One (which came out in 1986). But that's what I'm going to attempt to do here. I'm not going to go issue by issue through the Bat-verse. I'm going to go by the trade paperback collections that DC comics has released, including all the titles I mentioned above, plus the spin-off series such as Robin, Nightwing, Birds Of Prey, Batgirl, and others.
Apart from skipping the Elseworlds tales (stories that take place completely outside of DC's main universe), I'm going to be as thorough as I can. I've been buying most of the trades at local comic book stores, and even finding some out of print books in used bookstores, and online.
The order that I recommend reading Batman in is not necessarily by issue number. It is by what I think is currently in continuity, and how it would be presented if the book was by one author (other than Grant Morrison, who has a more complex understanding of how time works than I). I am absolutely open to people presenting alternate chronologies. So if you read an entry, and think "Hey, that event took place before" for example: "No Man's Land. There's no way it can happen after Bruce adopts Tim Drake as his son." You don't need to send me hate mail, or call me a clueless moron, just tell me why you think I'm wrong, and I'll either explain my reasoning, or else defer to yours and make a correction.
The only real limit I have is that because DC makes interesting decisions when compiling and releasing trades, there will be hiccups in the reading order. For complaints about DC's trade paperback policy, please e-mail Dan Didio, not me.
I'm forward dating this entry, so it will always be up top. It may be edited as the series progresses. Hope you enjoy reading this, and that it's helpful. Feel free to comment. I tend to only bite when provoked.