No matter what your expectations are, it’s a huge movie and likely a game-changer as it could be the one movie that could topple Marvel’s box-office dominance in the genre!
I’d like to think everyone is pretty aware of these characters and their comic book histories, but in case you ARE a total noob or just want to brush up on their pasts, here’s some trades and collections you could pick up! I know, I’m so helpful!
First off, you need this to even be part of the conversation...
The Dark Knight Returns
Written & Pencilled by Frank Miller
This one’s sort of important. Most of BvS looks like it’s taken DIRECTLY from Dark Knight Returns, right down to the dialogue and Batman’s armor that will be used in the big fight scene.
Of course, a lot will be different as well. In DKR Frank Miller paints a very dark and bleak future for the heroes of the DC Universe. Batman is past his prime and has gone into exile, as many of the heroes have. Except Superman, who has not seemed to age whatsoever. When crime begins to rear its ugly head in Gotham once more, the Dark Knight must once again emerge and bring justice back to his home. Meanwhile, Superman (now basically a government stooge) is called in to reign in Batman.
The story was all Miller’s commentary on the social political situation of the 1980’s, right down to using the likeness of Ronald Reagan (the then commander-in-chief) as the president. It is widely known as one of, if not THE, greatest graphic novel of all time. Of course, that is always arguable, but it should always be considered for that title and a must-read not only for people clamoring for this movie, but all fans of Batman.
Of course you can tag on the sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again and DKR III: The Master Race (which is currently being released), but the original is the most important of the three.
The Man of Steel (1986)
Written & Pencilled by John Byrne
If this series doesn’t make you fall in love with Superman, then nothing will. I need to say that John Byrne’s post-Crisis re-telling of Superman’s first adventures were just mesmerizing, full of hope, and details the soul and heart of this hero like no other re-telling of his origin. And it layed the groundwork for basically two decades of great Superman comics that saw him save the world thousands of times, battle fearsome and powerful enemies, meet his demise, return to greatness (with a kick-ass mullet), fall in love, get married and bring us so many memorable moments. This was my all during my childhood, most of my teen years and my early adult life. I never realized it at the time, but these Superman comics were a big part of that period.
In issue 3 of this 6-part Man of Steel miniseries we are treated to the epic first meeting of Superman and Batman. It’s not as shaky and hostile as this film seems to describe, but it’s clear that these guys are not friends at first. Superman is a powerful and unknown alien threat to Batman, and Batman looks like nothing more than a vigilante taking the law into his own hands to Superman.
The “world’s finest” eventually realize in later stories they are on the same side, and yes, even become trusted friends, but you can see the BvS film takes a lot from this classic story that should NEVER be forgotten in the annals of comicdom.
Superman/Batman Vol. 1-12
Written by Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Len Wein, Cullen Bunn & more, Illustrated by Ed McGuiness, Michael Turner, Ethan Van Sciver & more
Here we finally got a phenomenal Superman and Batman team-up series with a decent, lengthy run and so many memorable storylines!
It may sort of contradict this new film’s seemingly torrent rivalry between the heroes, but I think it truly shows the relationship Clark and Bruce ACTUALLY need to have, and where the DC Cinematic Universe can go with their teamwork.
And it’s not to say that they don’t end up at odds sometimes. Of course they do. They will forever be the opposite sides of the same coin.
From Public Enemies to the discovery of Clark’s cousin Supergirl to the return of “Composite Superman”, this entire series was a rollercoaster of a read with a virtual who’s who of all-star comic talent on every story arc! If you missed it the first time around, pick up these collected trades ASAP!
Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman: Trinity
Written and Illustrated by Matt Wagner
This story establishes the first meeting and team-up between the three main heroes involved with BvS. Bruce and Clark already know each other and one another’s secret identity when this story opens and it deals with their first encounter with the Amazon Princess.
It even suggests a subtle love triangle brewing between the three, something that the pre-52 universe has always flirted with but never fully acted on. In a weird way, I miss those more innocent times!
Encountering Lex Luthor, Bizarro and Ra’s Al Ghul, the heroes must learn to work together and combine forces to stop these great threats! It was a hugely well received story as it reintroduced Wonder Woman’s world tremendously and established the contrasts with the characters’ three vastly different definitions of heroism. Hopefully the BvS scriptwriters took a few pointers from it!
Superman (Vol.1) Annual #11: “For The Man Who Has Everything” (1985)
Written by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Dave Gibbons
I normally wouldn’t prescribe a single issue from the 1980s’ in one of my required reading columns, since they are so hard to get a hold of, but this is an exceptional case. This is one of the greatest Superman stories ever told, and furthermore, one of the greatest stories involving the trinity.
Do you need to read this to enjoy Batman v. Superman? Probably not. Do you need to read this story as a human being that enjoys superhero comic books? You definitely do. Why? It’s just a kick-ass story and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside by the end! And also it’s by the exact same team that brought you the original Watchmen story.
It’s Superman’s birthday, and Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin visit Clark at the Fortress of Solitude to give him his gifts only to find him collapsed with a weird flower type creature bonded to his chest! They discover Superman’s enemy Mongul is the culprit and the creature is called the Black Mercy. It’s a symbiote that puts its host in a dream like state that makes him or her live in their greatest dream come true. For Superman? It’s being able to return to Krypton and meet his parents and experience his home planet.
The story is a phenomenal lesson of “be careful what you wish for”, and everyone should have the chance to read it at least once! It has been collected in various Alan Moore DC collections as well as Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told (which is where I first read the story) collections over the years. This story is so important to the DC mythos that it’s been adapted not only in animated form on Justice League Unlimited, but also in live action on the Supergirl TV series (with Supergirl falling victim to the Black Mercy instead of Superman)!
No other story shows a heartfelt look at the friendships between these heroes. No "V's" here!
Justice League Vol. 2: Origin (2011)
Written by Geoff Johns, Pencilled by Jim Lee
Since we are dealing with the “Dawn Of Justice” here, it only makes sense to add this one. I could have directed you to the original Justice League reprints from The Brave And The Bold in 1960, but let’s be honest here, these new films will be based heavily on the New 52 reboots, so this is the best way to be introduced or re-introduced to the team.
I actually enjoyed these first story arc with the team meeting for the first time and teaming up to battle Darkseid’s first invasion of Earth. Set 5 years prior to the other New 52 stories, the encounters of the young heroes start off rocky...and you can’t even imagine how any of them will get along. But they manage, and become the greatest team of all time...somehow. The only character whose origin takes place during the JL’s first adventure is Cyborg, who is a star high school quarterback who ends up in an explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs (where his father works), and merging with a Mother Box, an interdimensional supercomputer. Vic Stone is the everyman plunged into this world of Gods and monsters.
This was all meant to be a fresh start for DC’s heroes and mythologies, and was one of the best New 52 reboots. It’s definitely worth adding to your collection, especially if you want to keep close track of the DC Cinematic Universe.
Written by Mark Waid, Illustrated by Leinil Yu
An amazing retelling of Superman’s origin, this story takes a more “Smallville” approach to things, as it focuses on Clark Kent’s metamorphosis and creation of his public identity as Superman. The first Man of Steel film took a bit of inspiration from this story (and should have took a whole lot more, it seems).
What makes this story so in tune with BvS though is its version of Lex Luthor. The young Lex in the story is almost identical to Jesse Eisenberg’s version of the character and Waid’s story paints the animosity Lex has for Clark in a great way, with it stemming back to when they were teens. It also shows how Luthor lost his hair, which is confirmed that we will see in BvS as well.
The story contradicts the Byrne continuity (my preferred era of Superman) a great deal, but it’s still a great read and relevant to not only those looking forward to Batman v. Superman, but fans of the Smallville TV series.
Lex Luthor: Man of Steel (or sometimes just "Luthor")
Written by Brian Azzarello, Illustrated by Lee Bermejo
Yeah, I’ll plug this beast any chance I get. This is a HELL of a Lex Luthor story. It takes a whole new spin on the character, right to the degree of you actually relating to his side of things! Superman’s an alien to Lex. He is perfect in every way...and Lex is a man that has everything BUT perfection. Of course he hates him. Of course he detests him. Maybe an alien who flies around like he’s better than everyone is indeed a threat. If not literally, then a symbolic threat. A big blue reminder of humanity's weaknesses.
It’s yet to be seen how much of this story is injected into Eisenberg’s portrayal, but you may enjoy the character more once reading this. I’ve always been amused by Lex and this story only amplified what I liked about him as a villain whose ego, wealth and power actually convinces him that he’s on the right side. Is it any surprise Lex ran for president that one time? (Sorry, I HAD to).
Azzarello beautifully constructs and analyzes Luthor’s psychological profile better than any writer before him and Bermejo’s art is just so beautiful that every panel is a work of art. You are doing yourself a great disservice by not owning and reading this graphic novel, Superman fan or not.
Death of Superman
Written by Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Jerry Ordway & more, Illustrated by Dan Jurgens, Jon Bogdanove,Tom Grummett, Curt Swan, Walt Simonson & more
What? Does this mean Superman’s gonna die in the movie? No, I doubt that. But the villain that "killed" him, Doomsday, is definitely in the movie. And it’s only fitting that everyone knows who that is, if you don’t already.
Most people that own comics already own this story, or at least the single issue of Superman #75, where Superman and Doomsday apparently meet their demise. Hopefully you’ve opened the black polybag and read it by now...the comic isn’t worth that much anyway (things everyone owns aren’t usually valuable, right?!). Go on...do it...it will feel amazing.
It seems the film has its own take on how Doomsday is created, as it seems Luthor somehow utilizes the DNA from General Zod’s corpse or actually reanimates Zod into the monster. I’m guessing here, of course. Theories aren’t spoilers. However Doomsday is born he definitely will keep the trinity’s hands full and likely will unite them together! We need to see it to know for sure!
So, there’s your huge must-reads for Batman v. Superman! Hopefully all my Bleeder Budz rediscover some awesome stories with this list! And as always you can find these and more awesome Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman comics, graphic novels and trade paperbacks right here on expertcomics.com! Enjoy and Bleed out!