First things first: the link to the ever-evolving Excel spreadsheet.
That’s right. A spreadsheet. Because it’s the only device powerful enough to organize the convoluted mess of the DC Multiverse into a (more or less) intelligible narrative.
Note the several sheets along the bottom of the page; read as normal left to right, top to bottom. The columns tell you which trade paperback/graphic novel to read, while the rows detail in what order to read individual issues.
For example: On the first sheet, aptly named “The Dark Knight Rises,” read Batman:Year One, The Man Who Laughs, read issue #1 of The Long Halloween, then STOP. Pick up Haunted Knight, read THAT first issue (Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #1), then STOP, and consider the empty cell immediately to the right.
Keep calm. Drop down two rows (i.e., the next row down with black, NON-italicized text). Find the left-most entry in this row — in this case, it should read “#2-13” under “The Long Halloween“. Continue left-to-right, top-to-bottom as normal. Do the same next time you hit an empty cell.
Trade paperbacks/graphic novels are listed in bold. When you see regular typeface in the top row inside quotes (i.e., “Shadow Box” or “Knightquest: The Search”), it means the story in question has never been collected in a TPB. You’ll have to get your hands on the single issues. Happy hunting.
Grayed-out, italicized rows denote a rough timeline of events. They become less common later in the reading order due to greater compression of time; for example, “The Dark Knight Rises” takes place over six years, while the comics listed on the “R.I.P.” sheet take place over a few months at most. I’ve omitted them completely in later sheets because shit starts going down fast.
Green and red italicized rows are some of my notes for and against each story’s inclusion/placement in the timeline. Read them or ignore them at your pleasure.
Fully black italicized cells at the bottom of the sheet(s) include some fairly important details about characters or the DC Uni-/Multiverse in general. I have usually referenced them within the main body of the sheet; ignore these at the peril of your own confusion.
Finally — FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS. If a cell tells you to “complete” the trade paperback, complete it. If, on the other hand, it lists specific issue numbers (and omits others!) then FOR THE LOVE OF BRUCE WAYNE’S GIANT ROBOTIC T-REX, read those issues and ONLY those issues.
If you can’t be bothered to follow directions, then kindly fuck off. I’ve spent WAAAAY too much time reading and thinking and typing and re-thinking and re-reading and lying awake at night and then re-typing to answer foolish questions like “Why do you want me to read Batgirl Year One twice? WTF DUDE I ALREADY READ THAT” or “Umm, why is Bats dead and then alive and then dead again??? I don’t get it man”
We get angsty about our labors of love. Mightn’t be as true of anyone more than comic book nerds.
On the other hand, I welcome and relish the chance to answer legit questions of inclusion, placement, thematic importance, and so on. Feel free to comment below and I’ll probably drop everything and type up a lengthy reply.
Okay, truly “finally” this time — ENJOY. If you find yourself bored or actively disliking something in the list, SKIP IT. Reading comics shouldn’t be a chore.