Good DC comic runs

So, I’ve recently purchased DCUniverse and while I’m trying it out I figured I’d binge some comics! DC is a pretty big blind spot for me, watched batman and superman cartoons growing up but that’s this majority of my exposure.

Looking for some recommendations of series and particular runs to check out. Generally prefer slightly more grounded (Green Arrow: year one, batman: the long halloween), though I just binged through the Dark Nights: Metal crossover which was absolutely ridiculous, and I enjoyed immensely. Also enjoyed the Vertigo Hellblazer run (any of the DC versions worth checking out?)

Appreciate any input! Thanks!

Here are a few names to look for:
Ed Brubaker (Gotham Central, I think some Batman etc)
Greg Rucka (Batman, Gotham Central, Wonder Woman, the original 52 maxiseries, etc - I think he’s one of the main editors these days)
Grant Morrison (All Star Superman, one of the weirdest Batman runs probably of all time, and a surprising number of other flagship titles, also Vertigo titles The Invisibles and The Filth, and a very meta take on Animal Man)
China Mieville (to my knowledge, just a ridiculously imaginative run of Dial H for Hero)
Alan Moore (Swamp Thing, Watchmen, probably some other stuff)
Brian Azzarello (Wonder Woman, Joker, Batman, Superman, Vertigo series 100 Bullets, etc)

Stuff I’ve read and would recommend.

Gail Simone’s Secret Six run. 2005 Villains United miniseries, 2006 miniseries, 2008 ongoing.

Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run (really long). Start with Green Lantern Rebirth (2004), then the 2005 GL series that starts in 2005, go forward through the Darkest Night and Brightest Day events in 2010. Continue through the New 52 books if you want, but it’s not as good as what came before.

James Robinson’s Superman: New Krypton (2008). Starts with issue 677, also includes Action Comics and Supergirl.

Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman.
Loeb & Sale Batman: The Long Halloween.

Palmiotti & Gray’s All Star Western (2011). One of the odder New 52 books, Jonah Hex and Dr. Arkham in old timey Gotham.

Also I just learned that DC has been doing Hanna Barbera reimaginings complete with DC/Hanna Barbera crossover comics.

One of them is post-apocalyptic Scooby Doo.

Wehy can’t the people making those be in charge of the DC movie universe!?!?

I have been on a DC Universe deep dive lately - I’ve had Marvel Unlimited for years, but I always read more DC stuff as a kid, so this is a bit like a homecoming.

You’ll have no trouble finding recommendations for the Really Major Events, so let me try to pick some things I’ve read recently that are maybe a tiny bit more obscure, but which I liked.

As a general rule, my prejudice is that DC (and i’d argue comic books in general) have gotten better over the years. So in the absence of specifics, New 52 stuff is going to be better in terms of art (maybe this is in part just scanning quality?) and story than stuff that came before, the Rebirth stuff is going to be better than New 52, etc etc. YES THERE ARE PLENTY OF EXCEPTIONS, I’m not saying “everything old sucks”, but if you’re totally out of specific options, keeping that in mind helps.

Specific recs:
• The Kamandi Challenge - a bunch of great writers and artists remix Jack Kirby’s old character.
• There’s an embarassment of Kirby New Gods stuff on DCU. Also tributes - i liked the Seven Soldiers - Mr. Miracle miniseries.
• The Wonder Woman and Conan miniseries (Gail Simone) is better than it has any right to be.
• The recent-ish run of Grayson and the 2016 Nightwing are both solid.
• The Young Animal imprint is generally good but I’ll call out Mother Panic (both runs) as being worth your time.
• Current-ish comic recommendation: Super Sons might be my favorite modern DC title. It is 100% pure. I think they just started (in the DCU 1-year-delayed timeframe) the second title, Tales of the Super Sons IIRC?
• Much of the New 52 didn’t land for me (despite what I said up above) but I’ll call out specifically the mainline Justice League comic as a place where the New 52 runs were interesting and the Rebirth run is incoherent and wandering.
• Search for “Year One” and find the non-Batman titles with that title that you haven’t read yet. For example I had no idea they made an “Oracle: Year One” that snaps back against Alan Moore for using her as a motivating tragedy for Batman.

Dis-recommendations: Metal and everything associated with it was 135% incoherent.

ALSO don’t forget to search by artist. Steve Rude’s pages are some of my favorites things DC has ever printed.

HA, true. Would never recommend that to someone who is toe-dipping. Also, they need to stop trying to make Hawkman a major character, he’s fundamentally dull.

Marvel no longer has the rights to Conan?

They were with Dark Horse from 2003 to 2018 (and Wonder Woman/Conan is apparently a Dark Horse coproduction). They’re back with Marvel now. But also, DC and Marvel have done crossovers before, so it would still have been plausible under Marvel.

Ha ha what? That sounds awesome, like the Archie zombie stories! I’m gonna go look for that right now.

Oh man, I’ve still got the complete run of Nexus comics from the 80s. I loved Rude’s artwork.

I still go back and read the last issue of his run every few years.

I have it tooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Justice League circa 1987 drawn by Kevin Maguire, can’t remember the writer. Loved that run.

@Gordon_Cameron, I think it was Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis who were the writers.

Great stuff. The post-series Nexus minis have been pretty decent, too.

Also great stuff. Bwahaha.

I find that I like the titles that rest on the company’s laurels while also breaking new ground.

Sandman (the Neil Gaiman run and version of the character), like, all of it. Mythology and horror and fantasy and urban fantasy and family squabbles bump elbows where the guy who makes dreams work gets in over his head. And sometimes there might be a cameo from other DC heroes, but they’re probably pretty obscure.

Gaiman also took a tour of the mystic side of the DC universe with Books of Magic. It covers the big bang to the heat death of the universe, and wizards and sorcerers and folks with a knack for weird stuff, from Zatanna to Annataz. The putative pubescent protagonist is a Harry Potter rip-off, but don’t hold that against him; this came out before the Harry Potter books.

Starman (the James Robinson run and version of the character) took longer to grow on me. His jaded hipster hero (back when hipster meant a guy that spent a lot of time in vintage stores) learning about the two-fisted exploits of his dad, an earlier version of Starman, meant that as he warmed up to his old man, he also warmed up to the idea and presence of other Golden Age heroes. That affection rubbed off on me, too. I don’t know if I’d have a good time picking through stilted stories about corny heroes. Imagine a guy that took a pill and had powers for an hour (Hourman!) or another guy who was just good at everything, and his costume, instead of a big S or a bat icon, had the words “Fair Play”. For the record, his super hero name wasn’t Fair Play Man. But in Starman, all those old fogies seem pretty charming. And Starman eventually goes on some pretty incredible voyages through the cosmos on his own, too.

What Robinson did for the Golden Age, Darwyn Cooke did for the dawn of the Silver Age with his The New Frontier. Amazing jet-age heroes (and a few I’d never heard of) step into a postwar world where maybe they have to clobber a giant starfish.

Darwyn Cooke also started a run on Catwoman that was eventually taken over by Ed Brubaker. Catwoman takes over a patch of Gotham City and tries to make things better, much in the way that a hero would. Except she’s got a noir streak in her and nothing ends well in noir. (A highlight character is another DC relic of the '40s named Slam Bradley, a cross between Robert Mitchum in Out Of The Past and some dumb palooka.) I stopped reading that series when Brubaker left and everything got a little too wrapped up in sprawling crossovers.

That crossover event, War Games, had a reach that exceeded its grasp, but I admired what it was reaching for. The gist is that Gotham City crossed itself with City Of God. For some reason, all the organized crime and talented amateur crime in Gotham starts angrily shooting each other. Batman, for all his grim poses, tries bossing the GCPD around like a general to stop the violence. But a guy that doesn’t carry a gun, doesn’t work in a hierarchy, and swore to never kill doesn’t make a terrific general. Everyone who’s anyone in Gotham City (that is, is a hero in their own comic book), pitches in to help. And the inciting event for this city-wide slaughter is especially delicious, but I don’t know if I can do a Spoiler warning on mobile. A heroine named Spoiler (warning! Ha!), an on-again, off-again protege of The Bat, is briefly a Robin before flunking out. To get in her ex-boss’ good graces, she decides to End All Crime in the city. Batman, the guy who has contingency plans for everything, planned such an event but never pulled the trigger. Spoiler secretly finds it and decides to try it. She sets all the pieces in place except for some minor gangster, some guy named Matches Malone. She didn’t know one of Batman’s alter egoes was Matches! Therefore everything gets awful, and it’s dramatically ironic and tragic. The art varies in quality between issues and titles, and it’s hard to pull off such an extended narrative without some spots feeling flaccid. It was a pretty cool idea though.

Brubaker and others (especially Azzarello) also worked on one of my favorite series, the very gritty Gotham Central, which started in the fallout of these War Games. Hard-working but all-too-human cops go up against supervillains and a city drowning in corruption. Imagine NYPD Blue but the arsonist and child-killer also got his kicks dressing up in a costume, and he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for the cops and detectives working in the Major Crimes Unit.

Superman: Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow is a good wrap-up of the character before, I guess, they killed him off and no one heard of Superman again.

But All-Star Superman and A Superman For All Seasons are also terrific. And I liked Joe Straczynski’s “Superman: Earth One” comics, which started Superman starting out closer to now than in the '30s.

Wonder Woman: I liked the first few Sensational Comics anthologies. They’re quick stories that don’t care about continuity, just Wonder Woman being wonderful.

Of these, the ones I liked the best were Sandman and Gotham Central. There’s libraries full of comics I haven’t read yet, so this is a great thread.

You probably already know this, but it was meant to wrap up the character before the post-Crisis John Byrne reboot.

I absolutely love Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. In some ways I even prefer it to Watchmen among Moore’s work. Having Curt Swan do the art was perfection itself.

The best DC comic E.V.E.R. is Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.