With DC and Warner Bros. set to launch their own cinematic assault against Marvel in 2016 with the double-whammy of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and the Suicide Squad film, now is a great time for those who are new to the world of superheroes to start reading the stories that inspired the films. With that in mind, here are 10 graphic novels that should be considered essential reading for any wannabe DC fan.
The Dark Knight Returns
The Dark Knight Returns is the perennial Batman story and one that’s still stands up, twenty-eight years after its initial release. The story centres around an aged Bruce Wayne returning to fight crime at the age of 55, despite facing arrest from the Gotham Police and the US government. It also seems that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be taking a lot of it cues from TDKR with an older Batman, the look of the new suit, rumours of a female Robin being cast and a showdown between the caped crusader and the Man of Steel all leading to the conclusion that this may be the closest we get to a film adaptation of the classic graphic novel.
Trinity is the story of how DC’s big three, ie Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all met for the first time. When Ra’s Al Ghul aims to reshape the world in his own image by taking down all satellite communications and destroying the planet’s oil reserves, he does so by enlisting the help of a rogue Amazon warrior named Artemis, and Bizarro. In order to stop him the Trinity must overcome their differences with one another in order to save the planet. As Dawn of Justice will feature Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman together for the first time, it may take some inspiration from this classic tale by Matt Wagner, and portray the obstacles each hero has to overcome in order to work as a team.
Surely a Justice League film in the making, Final Crisis is the day evil finally wins. The Justice League gets pulled apart, the Martian Manhunter is killed and Darkseid and his forces actually win, sort of. The book would make a great film, and is ideally placed to be the inspiration for Justice League Part One and Part Two.
A twelve issue mini-series that looks at Superman being more powerful than ever, after a mission that takes him into the heart of the sun, and facing his eventual death. Brilliantly drawn and expertly written by Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison, All-Star Superman is a timeless tale that paints the Man of Steel as a Christ like figure who would sacrifice himself in order to save everyone else.
Justice League, Origin
The New 52 brought DC’s characters into the modern era, and whether people like it or not, it also did away with most, if not all, of the back story and characters that had last been redefined in the 80’s. The New 52 provides a great starting point for new readers, and tells the story of how the Justice League first formed, and how the general public react to seeing superheroes and metahumans for the first time. Which is something DC and Warner Bros. are clearly aiming for with every film from Man of Steel and onwards.
Aquaman, The Trench
Aquaman has previously been considered somewhat of a laughing-stock, mostly due to The Big Bang Theory and their constant jokes regarding the water bound superhero. With The Trench, DC relaunched Aquaman as part of their New 52 line and not only made the character relevant, but also kind of badass. Volume 3 of this line, Throne of Atlantis, is also a great read and would serve well as a future Justice League film.
Suicide Squad, Kicked in the Teeth
The most recent Suicide Squad line comes again from the New 52, and see’s the Squad being interrogated about their last mission. The lineup is slightly different from what we will see in the David Ayer directed film, but this is nonetheless a good starting point for anyone who wants to catch up on the latest happenings with Task Force X.
Wonder Woman, Blood
Some writers have found Wonder Woman a tough nut to crack, and her time on-screen has been less than stellar. However, Blood see’s Brian Azzarello take the Amazonian Princess and spins the character 360. Hardcore fans may not like some of Azzarello’s decisions here, like changing her origin story and deciding that she wasn’t made from clay after all. Instead he makes her a significant part of the DC universe again, and her relationship with Superman, the Justice League and the human race is all the more relatable and pivotal too.
Green Lantern, Rebirth
With Green Lantern due back on our screens for a solo outing in 2020, and with a rumoured Justice League appearance on the way, it is obvious DC feel they need to make the character important again. With Rebirth we see DC revamping the story of Hal Jordan and how he became the Green Lantern, as well as giving us a back story and a history of not just Hal but the characters around him and the role they all have to play in the wider DC universe.
When Barry Allen wakes one day, he finds that everything is different, only no one else seems to have realised. After the Reverse-Flash ruptures time and creates an alternate universe where Bruce Wayne is dead, Superman is a military pawn and Aquaman and Wonder Woman are lovers with a complete disregard for the human race. It’s an epic tale, and one that DC could use in a Days of Future Past style if they ever wanted, or needed to reboot their cinematic timeline.