Take DC Universe's ABC Reading Challenge!

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

Jan. 15, 2020


Of all DC Universe’s many features- from its unique original programming, to its vast archival video library, to its comprehensive up-to-date encyclopedia, to its crack news team featuring some of the best (and most humble) writers in the industry- our service’s crown jewel may just be its staggeringly large digital comic book collection, with over 23,000 titles to its name for subscribers to read wherever they go. Knowing just where to begin tackling this gargantuan amount of quality content can be an overwhelming task: one that it’s been our mission to help you tackle since we first launched. But it’s also a task that our illustrious Community has taken up as well, between its many weekly book clubs and specially designed reading challenges… such as the ABC Reading Challenge launched earlier this month by our own @PrincessAmethyst.


The challenge is deceptively simple: read at least five issues from a series beginning with each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. You can chart your progress through the challenge from A-Z right here, and also see which books other users are choosing for their challenges for some pointers.


Still can’t decide how to tackle it? Maybe you have trouble trusting the tastes of those complete strangers to match your unique palette? Then maybe you can trust THIS complete stranger: here are 26 books a little off the beaten path which you might consider taking on for the ABC Reading Challenge to expand your horizons, presented in alphabetical order… no prior reading required.




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With the very specific cultures, tropes and traditions of Eastern comics, have you ever wondered how American comic book writers and artists might tackle Japanese manga? “Ame-Comi” is an abbreviation used in the East for “American Comics” — much the same way we use “manga” to refer to comics from Japan. Inspired by a line of Super Hero statues aesthetically influenced by Japanese comics, Ame-Comi Girls presents a fusion of Eastern and Western comic sensibilities where heroes like Wonder Woman, Power Girl, and Raven are reimagined for a universe inspired by a blend of cultural sensibilities.






On perhaps an even more interesting flip side, the long-lost “Batmanga” of the 1960s represented a very early attempt by Japanese comic creators to capture the Western Super Hero phenomenon, especially as exemplified in the Adam West Batman TV series. Almost 50 years after its original run in Japan, Jiro Kuwata’s Batman was translated in 2014 for English speaking audiences — and all of it is available for you to read right here.




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Very few DC titles can claim to be a complete sentence. This is one of them. Based on an obscure Silver Age hero forgotten by all but the most historical obsessives, Cave Carson is a meditation on redefining yourself once your cultural moment has passed on.




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Before resetting continuity with 2011’s FLASHPOINT, DC released a collection called DC Retroactive: where legendary creators of eras past were invited back to tell a story or two about their favorite characters set in the status quo of years gone by. Some well placed shots of nostalgia await for those who long for the days of yore.




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A modern reinterpretation of the Golden Age “Kid Eternity,” Eternity Girl depicts a profound existential struggle with the ultimate philosophical quandary of whether existence is preferable to non-existence. The answer may surprise you!




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If you grew up on classic Hanna Barbera cartoons and ever wondered what it would be like if they coexisted in a grand cinematic universe, then wow, you’re a REALLY specific demographic. Also, this is the comic series you need to be reading.


GEN13 (2006)


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This take on WildStorm’s premiere team of adolescent wannabe heroes written by Gail Simone has all the fun, flirty action which has become synonymous with her ouvre. Come for the hormonal angst, stay for the hormonal hijinks!






This collection of Harley Quinn team-up stories represents some of the best work of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s redefinitive run on the character, with each chapter more audacious than the last. The only logical place to go from here would be an Adults Only TV series, or maybe a Black Label comic… wonder if that’ll ever happen.






Scott Snyder apprentice James Tynion IV has come a long way since the early days of the New 52, now heading up the flagship Batman series all by himself. But before that, he wrote a little book for the 2018 “New Age of Heroes” line called Immortal Men, all about the dynamics of the impossibly long-lived people who’ve been playing the long game to control the fate of humanity. Also, The Batman Who Laughs is in it! You love that guy!






DC’s definitive Western comic book series of the past 20 years. An absolute classic. In a fair and just world, this would be a live action TV series right now. But as Jonah Hex knows, fairness is a fantasy, and justice is something we make ourselves.






Jack Kirby is celebrated by DC fans for his work on the New Gods, but with the irreversible effects of climate change upon us, now may be a good time to familiarize yourself with his treatise on a post-apocalyptic society where man suffers the ultimate punishment for their indifference to nature.






This relatively recent digital series of very short chapters features a new creative team for every tale, telling a continuity-free Batman story you won’t find anywhere else. A perfect read for when you’re commuting to school or work, or stuck in a long lunch line.






Manhunter is the story of Kate Spencer, a criminal lawyer who takes justice into her own hands when Super-Villains go free. It also explores the dynamics of life in a world rife with heroes and villains in a way that is rarely explored in other, more high drama series. Read for yourself and find out why despite numerous cancelation threats, Manhunters zealous fanbase managed to keep the book alive for nearly 40 issues.




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Some have called New Super-Man the best comic of DC’s 2016’s “Rebirth” launches, despite- or perhaps because of- the fact that it stars a character we had never heard of before. Kenan Kong is a vain, egotistical bully in Shanghai who gets a once in a lifetime chance to become a hero for his country. And with the help of his new friends on the Justice League of China -- plus a little inspiration from Superman himself -- Kenan learns to become something more.






A transitional period for Batman’s Outsiders team, Five of a Kind is a series of oneshots where each of the Outsiders has a one-on-one adventure with a more prominent Super Hero from the A-List — giving each member a chance to shine outside their usual squad.






Not just one of the best comics ever written or drawn, but one which countless modern creators cite as their own inspiration for creating comic themselves. There’s no explaining Planetary: it must be witnessed to be understood. It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.






The Question’s my favorite character for a whole lot of reasons, and this is one of them. This run on the character by the great Denny O’Neil, the master of his time over DC’s street level heroes, represents the man at the absolute height of his powers. Learn what it’s like to be the butterfly.






An irreverent 90s series with a jet black sense of humor about a guy who kills himself over and over to generate new superpowers each time. What’s not to like?






The beauty of Secret Origins is that it doesn’t have to be read in any order. Just pick one with a character you like on the cover and go. Each one presents origin stories for the “Moden Age” of comics (1986-2011) which will shed new light on some of your favorites heroes and villains, and ones you’re just curious to get to know. Don’t go hunting through vast archives for the kernel at the center of your character’s story: start right over here.




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If Watchmen represents the superhero genre at Alan Moore’s most cynical, then Tom Strong represents it at his most optimistic. This far too seldom read thematic follow-up should be necessary for Watchmen fans to seek out: where one deconstructs the genre, the other takes those pieces and rebuilds them into a wholly unique picture of what they could be. Rediscover your faith in heroes here.






Another book from the “New Age of Heroes,” this bunch of weirdos literally features a character who needs to get in a fight every day, or she’ll die. Sold in the room.






A thematic predecessor to Manhunter, Vigilante is New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths mastermind Marv Wolfman’s story of a District Attorney who gets fed up with criminals slipping through the cracks and takes justice into his own hands. Unlike many contemporary series, Vigilante is one with a narrative arc with a clear beginning, middle and end. A perfect read for comic readers who lament that a hero’s journey never seems to finish.




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Another Gail Simone WildStorm joint, Welcome to Tranquility explores the fate of Super Heroes who age out of the crime fighting game and seek out a well-earned retirement. An exploration of the Super Hero lifestyle and its social ramifications rarely seen in other titles.






Okay, you got us. We don’t have a lot of books that start with “X.” It’s not a very common letter to start words with. So everybody who sees this challenge through is gonna end up reading Xombi, a nihilistic 6 issue series from 2011 about the undead. But hey, you’ll all have something to talk about together!




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Need more Young Justice in your life as we wait for more information on the highly anticipated Season 4? This series from 2011 is completely canonical to the animated series, featuring stories which take place all through Season 1: and a final arc which fills in some important world building details between Seasons 1 and 2. Who knows? If enough of us keep reading it, we may eventually get some more.




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Well, honestly, the obvious choice here is Zatanna. And no judgment if you read Zatanna instead. Zatanna is great. And, to boot, entirely comprehensible on its own. Zero Hour is the exact opposite: a series laden with accumulated continuity baggage from 1986 to 1994, and one which only exists to help clear the decks and right the ship a little bit for the 17 years of storytelling to come. But if you’re unfamiliar with that era of comics or you’ve just never tried Zero Hour before, why not try jumping right in and seeing how you feel? Confusion is part of being a comic fan: learn to embrace it. Just remember the issue numbers go backward.