I was asked the other day where you should start reading Batman and Spider-Man comics. Is the beginning a good place to start?
Well… not really.
You want to start off with reading Batman and Spider-Man, and you want to start right from the beginning? I respect your dedication, but I want you to know that will prove incredibly expensive, and time consuming to track down those issues in the floppy form. While that can be rewarding in its own right, actually owning a full run of a every appearance in every issue a comic character as old and rich as these two can be is largely impossible, even if we just look at their main books (in this case Amazing Spider-Man, Detective Comics, and Batman).
Both characters have had numerous spin off books in the past fifteen years alone, for example Spidey has appeared in (and this is just from memory, and just the main books that carried his name, and doesn’t include the multitude of mini-series, one shots and appearances in in other Marvel events):
Web of Spider-Man
Peter Parker: Spider-Man
Marvel Knights: Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man is currently around issue #750 (or more, it’s tough to tell when they re-number them). The other ones have stopped running for one reason or another, between issues 27-150 odd.
Whilst some of them are, undoubtedly, worth picking up and reading it’ll be very tough to locate them all (though you would become a comic store owner’s dream if you did choose to do that), and it’d cost you a (not so) small fortune for them, with Amazing Fantasy #15 being up to a six digit comic book, depending on condition, and Amazing Spider-Man #1 likely being up in the tens of thousands of dollars.
And that’s just Spider-Man.
Detective Comics #27 recently sold for $2 MILLION dollars at auction for a near mint condition copy, and whilst that’s the most expensive Batman book, you’re ever going to see, some of the rest aren’t exactly cheap either, and there is a lot of them. Ultimately, your best bet to read every book there is, with Spider-Man at least, would be collected editions or digital copies. Marvel Comics Marvel Unlimited should get you access to a very large selection of Spider-Man back issues, for subscription price of about $10 a month.
If, like me, you’d rather have a physical book in your hand then I’d encourage you to start in one of two places depending on what you’re looking for.
Firstly – check out the Essential Spider-Man TPBs. They’re black and white reprints and are ideal to get a lot of comics for a good price (for print comics) of around $15, but if you shop around and look in the used sections of comic shops, then you may find them cheaper. These books will get you the original Stan “the man’ Lee and “Stunning” Steve Ditko stories at a fraction of the current cost of the original floppies, and they’re worth reading if you want to spend the time with them.
Secondly – in the early 2000’s, Marvel launched the Ultimate Marvel Universe, kicking things off with a fresh take on Spider-Man, before branching out to the X-Men and Fantastic Four. The Ultimate universe is still running currently, but there are rumours about that once June or July are here, Marvel will be combining both the Regular and Ultimate universes (probably an ideal jumping on point). Ultimate Spider-Man is where I started really reading and collecting with Spidey – before I had read the odd re-print from Marvel UK, so I may be a little biased here, but I honesty feel that for somebody who wants to read as much as they can, this is probably the best point to jump on. The combination of artwork and writing is top notch, and these comics are the basis of the recent Amazing Spider-Man movies take on Peter Parker.
Ultimate Spider-Man is also available through Marvel Unlimited. Now, if you’re looking for print books to read, go with Volume One – Power and Responsibility. Stick with the trades.
At the end of the day, Marvel Unlimited is flat out your best bet for the older comics, both from the Regular and Ultimate universes. For the physical books, go with the Ultimate Spider-Man, and look in the same spots as you would for the Essential books mentioned earlier.
Batman, and DC in general are an entirely different kettle of fish, and will be covered in Part Two that will be published in a day or two.