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  1. #1
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    Default DC pre-Crisis graphic novel reading list

    A few years ago I decided I wanted to learn more about comics, knowing next to nothing and never having read a comic prior. I started with DC because those were characters I knew and loved from my childhood (thanks to cartoon series like Superfriends and the original Superman movies). I did some online reading and talked to some comic-knowledgable friends and learned that DC has had a series of "Crisis" events that are seminal to what's going on in the universe, with Crisis on Infinite Earths being the first of those. So I picked up CoIE #1 (a free download on Comixology), and what happened next is the story I’d like to share here. Perhaps you’ll feel that my story is similar to an experience of your own, but whether or not you identify with my experience I hope you find what follows interesting.

    THE GOAL

    Just in the first few pages of CoIE #1 I had so many questions: Who is Ultraman (or Power Ring) and why does he look just like Superman (or Green Lantern)? Why is Luthor a good guy and why is he married to Lois Lane? What is Earth-3 and is it a big deal that it is disappearing? When was the Justice League satellite abandoned? At that I stopped just a few pages in, realizing I had some serious back-reading to do.

    Why not just finish reading CoIE? I enjoyed the artwork and the epic feel of the story and I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading the rest of the book. But, I have to admit I'm a completist. I tend to be disappointed unless I can feel the shock, awe, sadness, excitement, and other emotions that the author likely intended the reader to feel. This seemed particularly poignant with CoIE since it is a book about beloved characters departing as the universe is restructured. But for me, those characters weren’t beloved — yet — and so the impact was lost. In short, I want to read it not just for the in-universe information it contained but for the experience of the journey as well. And in order to do so, I needed to have some connection to characters and knowledge of past events in the universe. Therefore, I set out on a new mission, which is to experience Crisis on Infinite Earths in a more satisfying way.

    The goal: While reading Crisis on Infinite Earths I want to follow and, more importantly, appreciate what is going on.

    (more coming in next post)
    Last edited by skrilmps; 06-09-2015 at 11:18 AM.

  2. #2
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    THE APPROACH

    I already knew the Justice League was central to the DC universe so I started with questions like: when did the JLA form, who was in it, when did characters come and go, when did they start/stop using a satellite as their base of operations, etc? So naturally right away lots of Silver Age (“SA”) stuff came to the forefront as required reading.

    Before long I came across an annual JLA/JSA crossover, but I was confused… why were there two Green Lanterns with different names and different costumes? And same with the Flash? And why two Supermans, one older and one younger? How did the DC continuity become such a tangled mess? This of course lead me to the “Flash of Two Worlds” story as required reading, but in order to be at all acquainted with the JSA characters I realized that the Golden Age comics would be important reading as well. Let’s face it, the JLA/JSA crossover is really just a Silver Age/Golden Age crossover, so now the Golden Age (“GA”) is something I wanted to read up on.

    In short, in order to understand and appreciate CoIE, my required reading list went all the way back to the Golden Age, starting in 1938. And with CoIE published in 1985-6, that meant I had nearly 50 years of catching up to do! How could I possibly do that in a reasonable amount of time? Obviously I would have to keep it streamlined and focus on major events. I could pick some favorite characters (a list of characters that became quite long actually — more on that in a minute) and focus on those. And to keep the monetary cost of such a thing at a reasonable level I would seek out trade paperbacks (and hardcover collections) rather than individual comics, and moreover only trade paperbacks that contained multiple issues of interest. So here are the details on how I went about it…

    (more in next post)
    Last edited by skrilmps; 06-09-2015 at 11:19 AM.

  3. #3
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    THE DETAILS

    Characters to focus on:

    Of course the big ones: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, as well as anyone that’s ever been a member of the Justice League (at least up through 1985). Super-teams seemed like an efficient way to acquaint myself with many characters at once so initially I focused on those: in addition to Justice League I included Justice Society of America, Legion of Super-heroes, Teen Titans, Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Squadron, and Outsiders. And I included the “family” of the big characters, like Batgirl, Supergirl, etc. I also threw in a few that have more recently become personal favorites of mine (like Adam Strange, Warlord, and anyone from New Genesis & Apokolips) whether or not they have much to do with CoIE later. So in alphabetical order, here’s my list of heroes :

    Adam Strange, Aquaman, Atom (GA & SA), Batman, Batman Family (Batgirl, Catwoman, etc), Black Canary (GA & SA), Blackhawk, Blue Beetle (GA & SA), Captain Atom, Cyborg, Doctor Fate, Doctor Mid-nite, Elongated Man, Etrigan the Demon, Firestorm, Flash (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West), Green Arrow, Green Lantern (Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner), Hawk & Dove, Hawkgirl, Hawkman (GA & SA), Hourman, Huntress, Johnny Thunder, Martian Manhunter, Mister Terrific, New Gods / Fourth World, Phantom Stranger, Plastic Man, Power Girl, Question, Red Tornado (GA & SA), Robin (Dick Grayson and Jason Todd), Sandman, Shining Knight, Spectre, Starman, Steel, Superman, Superman Family (Supergirl, etc), Swamp Thing, Vigilante, Vixen, Warlord, Wildcat, Wonder Woman, Zatanna

    I don’t have a list of villains, but I included many, including most of Batman’s rogue gallery and Flash’s rogue gallery, as well as many of Superman’s greatest villains (Ultra-Humanite, Luthor, Brainiac, Metallo, Bizarro, General Zod, Mongul, etc), Atom’s biggest villains, Hawkman’s biggest villains, etc.

    This is a large list, and the coverage of some of these characters is minimal (especially once you factor in that I resorted to TPB’s only — more on that later) but again, I’m trying to just “survey the landscape”.

    So I’m focusing only on “special events” during that 50-year history, but how do I define “special”? Of course everyone has their favorite stories and there’s no shortage of opinions about what’s “essential” reading, but I wanted to keep it as objective as possible (understanding that my own biases have crept in already because I’ve picked some “favorite” characters and that my approach will never be truly objective). So here’s my list of “mostly-objective” criteria for including a story in an “essential” reading list (roughly in order of importance):

    • First, second, and third appearances of heroes and villains.
    • Deaths (apparent or otherwise) of characters or other instances when they leave the continuity (Guy Gardner being trapped in the Phantom Zone, for example).
    • Formation and dissolution of superhero and super-villain teams, as well as instances where characters join/leave existing teams
    • If the hero or villain is a major recurring character (i.e., with over 100 appearances overall in the continuity) then I also sought out fourth, fifth, and sixth appearances, and sometimes beyond.
    • Team-ups (other than big super-teams) between key characters (for ex, the first Batman-Superman team-up, the first Martian Manhunter-Green Arrow team-up, the seminal run of Green Arrow-Green Lantern team-ups, etc)
    • Introduction and destruction of key places or things (for ex, Justice League satellite, Fortress of Solitude, Brainiac’s skull ship, the mementos in the Batcave, etc)
    • Other major changes in-universe, from wars (like the Earth-Mars war) all the way down to costume changes (like when Green Arrow started sporting his now-recognizable goatee)
    • Major events that have historical importance for the comics medium (for ex, stories that treated taboo and/or topical issues, such as the 1971 story by O’Neil & Adams where Speedy is discovered to have a drug problem)
    • Fan-beloved story arcs (for ex, Batman’s “Strange Apparitions” run) This comes at the end of the list because it’s the most subjective, and in general this list goes from least subjective to most subjective.

    Having done that I came up with a list of about 450 issues and multi-part stories that seemed important. The DC wiki (dc.wikia.com) and various wikipedia articles were an immense help in achieving this list.

    [ I’m a numbers nerd, so here’s an aside for anyone that’s interested: Over the course of 50 years, 450 issues&stories means only 9 per year on average, or a little less than 1 a month (3 per every 4 months), which sounds reasonable for a “highlight reel” of DC comics history. However, that’s on average, and it certainly wasn’t uniform, with some years having amazing output (Grand winner: 1941, with 28 issues&stories) and some years being quite barren (Grand loser: 1953, with 0, and also 1952 and 1954 each with 1). Moreover, plotting the number of issues&stories versus year gives an interesting graph that makes it clear how and when the interest in comics has ebbed and flowed over the years, and the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Bronze age each stand out. Kinda neat, I think. ]

    If anyone wants to see the entire list, along with rationales for including each issue, let me know and if there’s enough interest maybe I’ll make a SQL-based website out of it some day. For now, I’m going to try to keep this more concise.

    Given those 450 issues & stories, I sought out the TPB’s (and hardcovers) that provided the most coverage of those issues. However, I ignored any B&W collections and tried to avoid re-colored collections, and I also chose matte-finish collections (like Chronicles) over glossy-finish collections (like Archives) whenever I could. The reason for all this is that I wanted to experience the stories in as close as possible to their original form. This does leave out all of the Showcase Presents collections, which admittedly would give a better bang for the buck then what I’m going to end up with. In a few cases I included Millennium Editions or digest comics (like DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest and Best of DC) or other Specials that give good essential-reading coverage for a modest price, but I will omit those from this list for now and just stick with TPBs.

    When it’s said and done, I came up with a list of about 100 TPB’s and hardcover collections that encompass about 2/3 of the issues mentioned (so yes, there are some major events that will be left out -- roughly a third of them -- but for those I’ll just have to seek out the individual comics themselves). The list could be shorter and with better coverage if I included B&W collections like Showcase Presents. However, to cover 50 years of history of a long list of characters, I was pretty happy with “only” 100 books.
    Last edited by skrilmps; 06-08-2015 at 06:40 PM.

  4. #4
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    THE RESULTS

    How to use this list:

    Maybe there are some characters in the list that you don’t care about, in which case you can skip those books when you get to them.

    The list is in chronological order, roughly. However, some books span a few months to a few years while others span a few decades, so it’s not possible to put them in precise chronological order without listing each individual story. So what I’ve done is ordered them by the first issue/story the book contains that is relevant to my list of essential stories.

    To read it in the proper order, you’ll have to “look ahead”: that is, when you finish a story in a collection, look at the date on the next story in that collection and compare it to the date of the first story in the next collection, and read whichever one comes first chronologically. I know this sounds like a pain, but the alternative is to write out this list story by story and I wanted to keep this list more compact than that for forum usage (the master document on my computer does contain all 450 stories in chronological order).

    Also in a few places I included only the first volume or two in a multi-set collection. So if it’s a character you love (like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing or Jack Kirby’s Fourth World), then by all means read the rest of the books in those collections… I probably will!

    On the other hand, for some multi-volume sets I intentionally left out some volumes. This was due to my goal to be economical and include only collections that contain stories that were “special” (as defined by the criteria I listed above). For instance, I included Wonder Woman Archives Vol 1 and 3, but skipped #2. But if you don’t want to skip any, then by all means, read them all! It’s just that my hope was to be able to catch up on 50 years of comics without reading nearly every comic (since that would probably take me 50 years to accomplish, anyway) and so occasionally some volumes are skipped.

    Another reason some volumes might be omitted (like some volumes of Crisis on Multiple Earths) is that their content is already represented by other volumes in the list. I avoided overlap as much as possible in order to, again, make this the shortest and most affordable list I could.

    More recently DC has released several Omnibus collections. Perhaps most relevant to this list is the Justice League of America Omnibus. I plan on getting this instead of Justice League of America Archives #1-4 (the content is the same but the overall cost is less and it takes up less space on your shelf). However, I left the Archives in this list because it helps break the list up into chronological order a little better.

    Once I’ve read this list and CoIE, I plan to work my way from CoIE to Infinite Crisis with this nice list here: crisis2crisis.com

    In fact, I always thought of my list as a supplement to that one. Between the two, I’m hoping to get a highlight reel of the major events of the DC Universe, from 1939 all the way to 2006. It’s a long road, but a journey I’m already enjoying!

    CONCLUSION

    I hope you enjoy the list. It has been a long-term effort on my part, albeit a very fun and diverting hobby. And, as a comics newcomer, I’m sure there are things I left out. So please let me know if you see any glaring omissions.

    In general, I’d love your constructive feedback.

    And now (finally) for the list...
    Last edited by skrilmps; 06-08-2015 at 01:18 PM.

  5. #5
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    THE LIST IN “ROUGH” CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
    (what I mean by "rough" is described in my previous post)

    Golden Age

    1 Superman Chronicles Vol 1
    2 Golden Age Sandman Archives Vol 1
    3 Batman Chronicles Vol 1
    4 Superman Chronicles Vol 2
    5 Golden Age Flash Archives Vol 1
    6 Golden Age Hawkman Archives Vol 1
    7 JSA All Stars Archives Vol 1
    8 The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told
    9 Superman Chronicles Vol 3
    10 Shazam! Archives Vol 1
    11 Golden Age Spectre Archives Vol 1
    12 Batman Chronicles Vol 2
    13 Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives Vol 1
    14 Golden Age Green Lantern Archives Vol 1
    15 Batman Chronicles Vol 3
    16 All Star Comics Archives Vol 1
    17 Batman Chronicles Vol 4
    18 America at War: The Best of DC War Comics
    19 Plastic Man Archives Vol 1
    20 Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years
    21 All Star Comics Archives Vol 2
    22 Batman Archives Vol 2 (picking up where Batman Chronicles 4 left off)
    23 Wonder Woman Archives Vol 1
    24 Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives Vol 1
    25 All Star Comics Archives Vol 3
    26 Batman Archives Vol 3
    27 Wonder Woman Archives Vol 3
    28 Superman in the Forties
    29 Batman: Secrets of the Batcave
    30 All Star Comics Archives Vol 8
    31 Black Canary Archives Vol 1
    32 The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told
    33 Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years
    34 Batman: Featuring Two-Face and the Riddler
    35 Batman in the Fifties
    36 World's Finest Comics Archives Vol 1

    Silver Age

    37 Flash Chronicles Vol 1
    38 Legion of Superheroes Archives Vol 1
    39 Superman vs Brainiac
    40 The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol 1
    41 The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told
    42 Adam Strange Archives Vol 1
    43 Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives Vol 2
    44 Supergirl Archives Vol 1
    45 Aquaman Archives Vol 1
    46 Flash Chronicles Vol 2
    47 Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 1
    48 Justice League of America Archives Vol 1
    49 Action Heroes Archives Vol 1
    50 Flash Chronicles Vol 3
    51 Supergirl Archives Vol 2
    52 Flash Chronicles Vol 4
    53 Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 2
    54 Adam Strange Archives Vol 2
    55 Hawkman Archives Vol 1
    56 Superman: Tales from the Phantom Zone
    57 Superman: Tales of the Bizarro World
    58 Atom Archives Vol 1
    59 Justice League of America Archives Vol 2
    60 Batman in the Sixties
    61 Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 3
    62 Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups Vol 1
    63 Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 4
    64 Justice League of America Archives Vol 3
    65 Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor
    66 Adam Strange Archives Vol 3
    67 Superman vs Lex Luthor
    68 Justice League of America Archives Vol 4
    69 Brave and the Bold Team-Up Archives Vol 1
    70 Silver Age Teen Titans Archives Vol 1
    71 Justice League of America Archives Vol 5
    72 JLA: Zatanna's Search
    73 Justice League of America Archives Vol 6
    74 Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups Vol 2
    75 Action Heroes Archives Vol 2
    76 Superman vs The Flash
    77 Justice League of America Archives Vol 8
    78 Justice League of America Archives Vol 9
    79 Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years

    Bronze Age

    80 Green Lantern / Green Arrow
    81 Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 1
    82 Batman in the Seventies
    83 Batman: Tales of the Demon
    84 Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis
    85 Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol 3
    86 Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 2
    87 Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 3
    88 Jack Kirby's The Demon Omnibus
    89 Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 4
    90 Manhunter: The Special Edition
    91 Aquaman Death of a Prince
    92 Warlord: The Savage Empire
    93 Justice Society Vol 1
    94 The Secret Society of Super-Villains Vol 1
    95 Batman: Strange Apparitions
    96 Justice Society Vol 2
    97 The Huntress: Darknight Daughter
    98 Firestorm: The Nuclear Man
    99 Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol 5
    100 New Teen Titans Archives Vol 1
    101 Superman vs Mongul
    102 Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol 6
    103 The Great Darkness Saga
    104 Saga of the Swamp Thing vol 1
    105 New Teen Titans: Judas Contract
    106 Saga of the Swamp Thing vol 2

    107 Crisis on Infinite Earths
    Last edited by skrilmps; 12-06-2015 at 08:41 PM.

  6. #6
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    THE LIST IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

    Action Heroes Archives Vol 1
    Action Heroes Archives Vol 2
    Adam Strange Archives Vol 1
    Adam Strange Archives Vol 2
    Adam Strange Archives Vol 3
    All Star Comics Archives Vol 1
    All Star Comics Archives Vol 2
    All Star Comics Archives Vol 3
    All Star Comics Archives Vol 8
    America at War: The Best of DC War Comics
    Aquaman Archives Vol 1
    Aquaman Death of a Prince
    Atom Archives Vol 1
    Batman Archives Vol 2
    Batman Archives Vol 3
    Batman Chronicles Vol 1
    Batman Chronicles Vol 2
    Batman Chronicles Vol 3
    Batman Chronicles Vol 4
    Batman in the Fifties
    Batman in the Seventies
    Batman in the Sixties
    Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years
    Batman: Featuring Two-Face and the Riddler
    Batman: Secrets of the Batcave
    Batman: Strange Apparitions
    Batman: Tales of the Demon
    Black Canary Archives Vol 1
    Brave and the Bold Team-Up Archives Vol 1
    Crisis on Infinite Earths
    Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol 3
    Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol 5
    Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol 6
    Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups Vol 1
    Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups Vol 2
    Firestorm: The Nuclear Man
    Flash Chronicles Vol 1
    Flash Chronicles Vol 2
    Flash Chronicles Vol 3
    Flash Chronicles Vol 4
    Golden Age Doctor Fate Archives Vol 1
    Golden Age Flash Archives Vol 1
    Golden Age Green Lantern Archives Vol 1
    Golden Age Hawkman Archives Vol 1
    Golden Age Sandman Archives Vol 1
    Golden Age Spectre Archives Vol 1
    Green Lantern / Green Arrow
    Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 1
    Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 2
    Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 3
    Green Lantern Chronicles Vol 4
    Hawkman Archives Vol 1
    Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 1
    Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 2
    Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 3
    Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol 4
    Jack Kirby's The Demon Omnibus
    JLA: Zatanna's Search
    JSA All Stars Archives Vol 1
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 1
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 2
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 3
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 4
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 5
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 6
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 8
    Justice League of America Archives Vol 9
    Justice Society Vol 1
    Justice Society Vol 2
    Legion of Superheroes Archives Vol 1
    Manhunter: The Special Edition
    New Teen Titans Archives Vol 1
    New Teen Titans: Judas Contract
    Plastic Man Archives Vol 1
    Saga of the Swamp Thing vol 1
    Saga of the Swamp Thing vol 2
    Seven Soldiers of Victory Archives Vol 1
    Shazam! Archives Vol 1
    Shazam!: A Celebration of 75 Years
    Silver Age Teen Titans Archives Vol 1
    Supergirl Archives Vol 1
    Supergirl Archives Vol 2
    Superman Chronicles Vol 1
    Superman Chronicles Vol 2
    Superman Chronicles Vol 3
    Superman in the Forties
    Superman vs Brainiac
    Superman vs Lex Luthor
    Superman vs Mongul
    Superman vs The Flash
    Superman: Tales from the Phantom Zone
    Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor
    Superman: The Man of Tomorrow Archives Vol 2
    Swamp Thing: Dark Genesis
    Tales of the Bizarro World
    Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years
    The Great Darkness Saga
    The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told
    The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told
    The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told
    The Huntress: Darknight Daughter
    The Jack Kirby Omnibus Vol 1
    The Secret Society of Super-Villains Vol 1
    Warlord: The Savage Empire
    Wonder Woman Archives Vol 1
    Wonder Woman Archives Vol 3
    World's Finest Comics Archives Vol 1
    Last edited by skrilmps; 12-06-2015 at 08:41 PM.

  7. #7
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    I'd say the biggest one missing is Goodwin and Simonson's Manhunter, which has been reprinted in a variety of formats. It fits into your criteria for being the first appearance of a new character, the death of the character, an appearance of a major character (Batman), a fan favorite storyline, and perhaps most significantly, a critically important series in the evolution of comics throughout the Bronze Age.

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    Thanks FanboyStranger, I'll definitely check that one out!

    Update: Manhunter does fit my stated criteria so I've now included it in the list!
    Last edited by skrilmps; 06-08-2015 at 05:37 PM.

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    Hi. I'm in the same position as you are a few years back. I want to start reading comics and pick up DC as I was fond of its animated cartoons and planned to start with crisis on infinite Earths and before that want to familiarise myself with Dc universe and slowly it took me to the very beginning of Golden age of comics. As it is overwhelming and searched for essential comics of pre-crisis Dc and stumbled upon your thread. Now I know I'm not alone. Your work is marvelous. I want the complete list of 450 comics with rationales. How to get it? Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viki View Post
    Hi. I'm in the same position as you are a few years back. I want to start reading comics and pick up DC as I was fond of its animated cartoons and planned to start with crisis on infinite Earths and before that want to familiarise myself with Dc universe and slowly it took me to the very beginning of Golden age of comics. As it is overwhelming and searched for essential comics of pre-crisis Dc and stumbled upon your thread. Now I know I'm not alone. Your work is marvelous. I want the complete list of 450 comics with rationales. How to get it? Thank you.
    As someone who also loves the DC Animated universe (I assume we are talking about BTAS, Superman, JL and JLU, Teen Titans and Young Justice and not the various adaptations like Flashpoint, TDKR and others) I don't know if this approach is the best.
    These old comics can be a chore to read and often very different to what we know now. I would recommend maybe getting into more modern (or well regarded post crisis) runs and then getting into the pre crisis stories because I really don't think those will give you the same experience the animated shows did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Balakin View Post
    As someone who also loves the DC Animated universe (I assume we are talking about BTAS, Superman, JL and JLU, Teen Titans and Young Justice and not the various adaptations like Flashpoint, TDKR and others) I don't know if this approach is the best.
    These old comics can be a chore to read and often very different to what we know now. I would recommend maybe getting into more modern (or well regarded post crisis) runs and then getting into the pre crisis stories because I really don't think those will give you the same experience the animated shows did.
    Ya is a chore. You are right. It's daunting. Especially comics upto 60s. Those lengthy cheesy dialogues. Silly gimmicks. But there is some charm to it. Like that Justice League episode 'Legends'. I want to experience how they evolved into current age. But I can't help myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Viki View Post
    Ya is a chore. You are right. It's daunting. Especially comics upto 60s. Those lengthy cheesy dialogues. Silly gimmicks. But there is some charm to it. Like that Justice League episode 'Legends'. I want to experience how they evolved into current age. But I can't help myself.
    for the Legends type stories you could go for the Geoff Johns JSA, which is much more modern but tells old school type stories. Also Johns is very good with introducing new readers to old concepts and characters. His JSA is the perfect example of that.
    That said there are some good older comics, I'm a big fan of bronze age Iron man, Roger Stern's Spidey, even the Lee-Ditko Doctor strange.
    I just had an idea though, do you know about the "celebration" books from DC? Some of them are in the op's list. Like Batman: A celebration of 75 years, Justice Society: A celebration of 75 years etc etc hardcovers? You might want to check those out as they tend to feature stories from the very start to current days, showcasing the different significant eras the characters went through. (I don't own any of them though).

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