While it hasn’t yet had quite the same boom as Marvel on the cinema front, DC has some of the best comics known to man. The best DC comics are immensely enjoyable, exciting, thought provoking reads that have been massively influential to the superhero genre and the comic book medium as a whole. We’re keen to share with you a wide range of the best DC comics, both old and new, from the dark and brooding Batman, to the larger than life Superman, to the scores of lesser known comic book heroes that are well worth your time.
If you want more reading material, we’ve also got advice to share on the best Star Wars comics. Or if you’d rather stick with spandex-sporting superheroes, try out these Marvel board games. Now get ready to dive in and get a full sense of the richness of the DC comics universe.
- Batman: The Long Halloween – The best young Batman DC comic
- All-Star Superman – The best Superman comic
- Watchmen – An influential classic
- The Sandman – The best fantasy DC comic
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – The best old Batman DC comic
- Kingdom Come – An epic Elseworlds DC comic
- Saga of The Swamp Thing – An underrated character done right
- Mister Miracle – The best modern DC comic
- DC: The New Frontier – The best DC comic for history buffs
Batman: The Long Halloween
The best young Batman DC comic
Continuing from Batman: Year One, Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb tells a compelling mystery story in the early years of Batman’s caped crime-fighting career. It features an inexperienced Batman, a noir detective style, and a strong serial killer story, with a mystery to explore. It also does a good job of introducing the main Batman rogue’s gallery throughout its run, as well as the origins of classic villain Two-Face.
Batman: The Long Halloween focuses on Batman’s attempts to tackle corruption and the mob in Gotham, and features a good balance between supervillain baddies and a more mundane sort of nastiness. It was a major source of inspiration for the 2022 film The Batman, starring Robert Pattison.
The best Superman comic
All-Star Superman is rightly lauded as one of the best Superman stories of all time, and it’s a solid recommendation for anyone who wants to find out what Superman is all about or read a pure and simple superhero story, without the now-popular helping of edge or angst.
This DC comic tells the story of a Superman who’s found out he has just a year to live, after a radioactive incident. It explores a more vulnerable side of the invincible Man of Steel, digging deep into his personality, motivations, and connections with other characters, as he sets out to put his affairs in order. Featuring charming characters, and strong emotional beats, plus stunning artwork – this work by a legendary duo of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely deserves a spot on any best DC comic book list.
An influential classic
Watchmen by Alan Moore is a massively influential DC comic, one of a number of comic books from the 1980s that reimagined superheroes as, not the larger than life paragons of virtue they were generally presented as up to that point, but something more human, and much, much less infallible. Arguably spawning the ‘dark and gritty’ superhero subgenre, Watchmen has been massively influential, shaping plenty of media today, from The Boys to Invincible.
Full of new, interestingly flawed characters, an exciting and thematically rich story of Cold War politics and the corrupting nature of power, and stylish artwork, there are few DC Comics as fine as Watchmen. The Times even put it on its list of the top 100 best novels since 1923.
The best fantasy DC comic
Not a superhero story, but technically taking place in the DC Universe, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is a tour de force that anyone with a love of comic books should pick up. Following the path of the personification of Dream, the Sandman is full of amazing storytelling and worldbuilding – it’s also really, really hard to sum up.
A meandering saga full of gods, talking animals, historical figures, and the occult, in Sandman it’s not so much the plotting that’s great, but the boundless imagination of the author, and his ability to craft a believable, interesting Mythos.
Sandman features constantly changing art styles as well as numerous storytelling methods – at times breaking away from the narrative for short stories (Gaiman’s other area of expertise) that always have some connection to or bearing on the main throughline. Sandman keeps an unbelievable number of plates spinning at once and, from the devil’s retirement to the dreams of cats, it has a little something for everyone.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The best old Batman DC comic
Whereas our previous Batman recommendation explores a young Batman still finding his way in the crime-fighting business, Batman The Dark Knight Returns is the opposite, an aged, experienced, jaded Batman who comes out of retirement for one last ride.
A tale of a darker Batman dealing with a dystopian Gotham and trying to put right old wrongs, The Dark Knight Returns features interesting takes on Two-Face and the Joker, as well a Superman that’s a tool for the government. It also introduces a new female Robin who gets to do cool stuff like fly helicopters!
An epic Elseworlds DC comic
Kingdom Come is one of the most popular Elseworlds DC comics, one of many stories that explores an alternate ‘non-canon’ version of the DC Universe. It presents a conflict between the classic, uncompromising heroism of old superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman, and a more brutal new breed, who don’t see the use in codes like ‘no killing’, and question the point of locking villains up only for them to inevitably break out time and time again.
Saga of the Swamp Thing
An underrated character done right
Alan Moore’s revitalization of plant-monster hybrid Swamp Thing is probably an unexpected recommendation for anyone who’s not a diehard DC comics fan, but trust us, it’s good. Watchman author Moore takes an underloved character (Swamp Thing is no Batman) and explores him in a compelling, thoughtful way.
A nice touch, Alan Moore pays respect to the previous version of the character before this revival, through the new Swamp Thing’s philosophical musings of the nature of his existence. (This comic gets pretty deep at times!)
Saga of the Swamp Thing is a horror comic, overall, and naturally stars some pretty creepy villains as a result, but it also takes the time to explore character through truly excellent writing. It’s worth noting that the horror within is more the subtle psychological horror than the grotesque gross-out kind.
The best modern DC comic
Mister Miracle starts out strong and thought-provoking with escape artist main character Scott Free’s apparent suicide attempt and then continues in that vein. Sometimes sweet, sometimes funny, often sad or poignant, Mister Miracle mixes the superhero genre in with relatable drama and existentialism.. Ambitious, bombastic, complex, and largely open to interpretation, Mister Miracle is one of the best modern DC comics of all time.
DC: The New Frontier
The best DC comic for history buffs
Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier is a modern comic set in the 50s and 60s. It tells a nostalgic story but builds in the political complexities of the period that contemporary comic book authors could not. As well as great character writing and an instantly recognizable art style, The New Frontier does a great job of weaving in historical events from the period, from the Space Race to the Korean War.
A self-contained story, Cooke’s tale reimagines the origin stories of all the big name DC heroes. It’s a bit of a complex, wandering tale, and often draws comparison to Watchmen thanks to the politics and themes behind it, but any DC fans searching for strong characterization and a well-realized setting are sure to have a good time.
For more comic book goodness, try these Marvel Villainous expansions. And if you’ve ever wanted to dip your toe into an over-the-top grimdark sci-fi world, these are the best Warhammer 40k books to try.