DC Event Collection Reading Order
This is a strategy guide for developing one type of comic reading plan: reading through DC's events using collected editions. Following these suggestions will help you put together a reading list that will cover the overarching story of DC's main continuity. This plan is an example of my overall comic reading strategy. In terms of that guide, the plan uses ranked selecting and an event-oriented route.
Here are our guidelines:
- Focus on the major crossover events. This is a flexible plan, so what counts as major is up to you. DC's events range from short ones involving a few characters to publisher-wide, universe-shaping cataclysms. Wikipedia lists a little over 100 events in total.
- Include important background and follow-up stories, if possible. Again, how much of this you include is up to you.
- Read only collections as much as possible, rather than individual issues. A collection is a volume that includes reprints of multiple related issues. Using collections lets you read more comics with less work.
Where will we find our reading order for this plan? Here are some possibilities.
- It offers a convenient list of events with descriptions that give an idea of where they fit into the overall chronology. You can get a sense of how important each event is by its formatting:
- The most important events have section headings named after them.
- Other publisher-wide events are in bold.
- The other events involve smaller sets of characters. It's possible that the events with their own Wikipedia articles are the more important of these.
- Note that some publisher-wide events are tied to more localized events. For example, the publisher-wide Forever Evil contains the conclusion of Justice League: Trinity War.
- Not all the events have collections listed, so you'll have to find them yourself. See the Comic Book Reading Orders procedure below for information on finding collections in Grand Comics Database.
- There might be better opinions on which events are most important, so you might want to compare this list to other sites.
- You might miss helpful background and follow-up stories. For example, you won't necessarily get characters' origin stories before they show up in an event.
- It has "fast track guides" to the major periods of DC's publishing history.
- Each entry has a long description that will tell you why they recommend the story.
- The guides list the curators' picks for the best stories, but that doesn't necessarily cover all the stories that interest us in this example--the important events and the important surrounding stories related to them. For example, if you care about Crisis on Earth-One and Crisis on Earth-Two, you'll be disappointed to find that they aren't in the Classic DC fast track.
- It focuses on collections.
- It has many lists that each focus on a different goal, such as reading through the entire main continuity, only the events (and other quality stories), or comics related to the DC Cinematic Universe.
- It has a helpful introduction to the DC multiverse that will give you some basic starting points for reading the comics.
- The lists include a description of each item so you generally know what it's about. You can view the description by either clicking the plus next to the title to show the description underneath it or clicking the title itself to go to the item's page.
- The item descriptions don't necessarily tell you enough to decide whether they fit into your reading plan.
- It appears to be comprehensive.
- It contains several reading plans, including a nicely organized set of events.
- The overview page (linked above) summarizes various starting points for reading.
- The reading orders include some comments about issue contents that can help you decide whether an issue fits into your reading plan.
- It lists individual issues rather than collections. The trade paperback (TPB) reading orders that would fill this need are planned. See the section "Procedure for using Comic Book Reading Orders" below for an idea of how you could create collection reading order out of an issue reading order.
- The issues aren't linked to anything, so to connect them with any outside information, you'd have to search for them yourself in the relevant websites.
- A lot of the issues don't have comments, so you'd have to research them you're not sure they fit into your plan.
The easy plan
If you're not worried about utter completeness and you just want to jump in without too much extra work, I'd say follow the events reading order from All Timelines. If you find you need more information, you can always fill in the gaps from other sources.
The hard plan
If you want more control over your reading and you don't mind a lot more work, try one of the reading orders from Comic Book Reading Orders (CBRO). Since in this example we want to read collections, the next section will suggest a procedure for finding collections based on CBRO's lists.
Even if you don't create your own list from CBRO, skimming through the procedure might give you some helpful tips for whatever reading method you choose.
Procedure for using Comic Book Reading Orders
- Go to the main DC page on Comic Book Reading Orders. Decide if you want an event reading order or the comprehensive (master) one. Let's be intense and try the master reading order. Here's part 1.
- Choose some issues to read. CBRO comments on some of the issues in its reading orders, which can help you decide whether you want to read or skip them.
- Begin searching for the issues on Grand Comics Database (GCD). Here's an example of a search.
- Look for a result labeled "[ISSUE]" that matches the title, issue number, and title year (if included), and follow the issue's link. For example: Action Comics (DC, 1938 series) #1.
- There will be a section toward the top of the page with information that applies to the whole issue. The sections below that apply to each story in the issue. In the issue overview section, look for the list of reprints, if there is one. These are mostly collections (represented by a series title and number) that include that issue. The title should have the word "in" before it. If it has the word "from," then the issue you're looking at is the reprint of that story or issue. For example, at the time I'm writing this, the first reprint in the list for our example issue is Superman from the Thirties to the Seventies (Crown Publishers, 1971 series).
- For efficient reading, we're especially looking for volumes that also include other issues from the reading order. They should probably also be published in your country, indicated by the flag icon. If you don't want to put in a lot of effort coordinating volumes, you can just pick one and move on to the next step. If you don't mind the work, there are a couple of ways to do it:
- The hard way: View some promising collections for an issue and compare their contents to the issues in the reading order. You're looking for stories in the collection that say they're reprints "from" an issue in your reading order. For example, Superman: The Action Comics Archives #1 has a section called "[Action Comics #1]." In that section the reprints list has one item, "from Action Comics (DC, 1938 series) #1 (June 1938)." Down the page in the section called "[Action Comics #6]" there's another reprinted issue from our reading order, Action Comics (DC, 1938 series) #6.
- The less hard way: Search for each issue and compare their lists of reprints. This method seems simpler, so I recommend this over the first one. You won't have to hunt through so many GCD pages looking for reprinted issues. For example, Action Comics (DC, 1938 series) #1 and Action Comics #60 both list the collection Superman: The War Years 1938-1945. Unfortunately, that collection only includes the cover from Action Comics #60 and not any of its stories, so you'd have to look somewhere else for the whole issue, or at least the relevant parts. Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus #3 contains the 12-page Superman-related story from that issue.
- Once you've chosen one or more collections and you're ready to read, then buy or borrow them.
- Repeat this procedure till you've finished your reading plan.
As you can see, compiling a complete list of DC event collections takes a lot of time. We can be grateful that others have done most of the work for us. If there's more work to be done, it might be the kind that can be largely automated. If you have programming skills, that could be a worthwhile project.