Reading recommendations for fall superheroes
This fall’s TV shows are full of superheroes. But while everyone knows that characters like Black Lightning, Supergirl, and the rest all started out as comic book characters, the comics themselves sometimes get obscured by the bright lights of Hollywood. Here, EW provides reading recommendations for this fall’s best comic-based shows, for any viewers out there who want to take their obsession with these characters beyond the screen.
If you watch The Gifted...then read New X-Men by Grant Morrison
The Gifted did not feel very much like an X-Men show when it started out, focusing as it did on the tribulations of the extremely normal-seeming Strucker family. But as the show has progressed, it has brought in more and more ideas from X-Men comics. Many of these — from the mutant-empowering drug Kick to the telepathic triplet Frost sisters — originate from writer Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men from the early 2000s, alongside a bevy of different artists.
While writer Chris Claremont had spent decades writing the X-Men as pop culture’s most engaging soap opera, Morrison infused the franchise with radical new ideas. He reimagined the X-Men as more of a cultural movement than a standard superhero team locked in eternal battle with their villainous counterparts in the Brotherhood. Morrison’s take on the X-Men makes the best possible reading for anyone who enjoys how The Gifted has moved beyond standard superhero tropes to craft a powerful story about struggling to survive in the modern world. —Christian Holub
Buy New X-Men here.
The Gifted airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
If you watch The Flash...then read The Flash By Geoff Johns, Book One
For anyone looking to get into comics after watching The CW’s The Flash, Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash comic from the early aughts is one of the best places to start, especially since the show has drawn from it multiple times. During his five years on the book — which focuses on Wally West as the Scarlet Speedster — Johns made the rogues an integral part of the story and created several new ones, too. Season 5’s big bad Cicada, who will be played by Chris Klein, is actualy one of his creations. Debuting in The Flash #170, Cicada is a mad cult leader who starts killing people the Flash has saved in order to prolong his own life. Although the TV series’ interpretation of the character will deviate from the source material, you should still check out Cicada’s first arc — which is collected in The Flash By Geoff Johns, Book One — because it will give you a good sense of what makes him such a formidable foe. — Chancellor Agard
Buy The Flash by Geoff Johns, Book One here.
The Flash returns Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. on The CW.
If you watch Black Lightning...then read Detective Comics (2016) #983-987 and Black Lightning (1995-1996) #5
This list mainly consists of multi-issue arcs or complete runs, but if you’re in the market for just one issue ahead of the CW super-family drama’s return, then you should read “Requiem” from Black Lightning (1993) #5, which also comes recommended by the TV series’ showrunner Salim Akil. Written by Black Lightning creator Tony Isabella, with art from Eddy Newell, this pensive and poignant story finds an injured Jefferson Pierce wondering if he’s actually done any good for his city and his students. As Jefferson reflects on his life (and failures), Isabella digs into what distinguishes Black Lightning from DC’s other heroes. As Jefferson’s ex-wife Lynn puts it, “Superman and those others — God bless ‘em — they can save the world every week. You can make it a better world.” I can’t think of a better way to sum up Black Lightning.
And if you’re curious about Black Lightning’s place in the current DC universe, read writer Bryan Hill’s arc “On the Outside” from Detective Comics #983-987. In this story, Batman recruits Black Lightning to lead and mentor a new version of the Outsiders that would consist of some of the Dark Knight’s sidekicks and Gotham-based allies. — Chancellor Agard
Black Lightning returns Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. on the CW.
If you watch Titans...read The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
The dark, violent tone of DC’s new live-action Titans show stands in stark contrast to colorful kids cartoons like Teen Titans Go! But these teenage superheroes — Robin, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy — have actually been angsty ever since they first united in the ‘80s New Teen Titans comic series by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez. The most iconic single storyline from that era, The Judas Contract, is full of violence, betrayal, and interpersonal drama, and makes great reading for anyone trying to contextualize the new Titans. — Christian Holub
Order New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract here.
Titans premieres Friday, Oct. 12 on DC Universe, DC’s new streaming service.
If you like Supergirl...check out Superman: Red Son and Supergirl: Being Super
The last season of Supergirl ended climatically with the revelation that a clone of Kara had crash-landed in Russia. That’s very similar to the premise of Mark Millar’s classic alternate-history graphic novel Superman: Red Son, which explored how the DC universe (and the 20th century itself) might have been different if baby Kal-El’s rocket had crashed in the Soviet Union rather than Depression-era Kansas. Despite its out-there premise, Red Son is actually one of the most satisfying Superman comics ever written, and makes great reading for any fan of the House of El.
Kara herself got a fresh new look in this year’s graphic novel Being Super. Written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Joëlle Jones (one of the few times Supergirl has enjoyed an all-female creative team like that), Being Super explores the challenges of growing up and coming to terms with changing friendships…as well as those pesky superpowers. — Christian Holub
Supergirl returns Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. on The CW.
If you watch Arrow...then read Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino's run on Green Arrow (2011-2016)
Given that Arrow will introduce the Longbow Hunters in season 7, you may be tempted to read Mike Grell’s very ‘90s miniseries Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters in order to prepare for the new season. But we’re here to warn you that said miniseries actually has nothing to do with Ricardo Diaz’s (Kirk Acevedo) deadly group of assassins.
If you want to learn more about the Longbow Hunters, your best bet is to read Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s critically acclaimed run on Green Arrow, which ran from issues 17 to 34. Start with Green Arrow, Vol. 4: The Kill Machine and then move onto Vol. 5: The Outsiders War, and finally Vol. 6: Broken, which sees Oliver Queen go head to head with Dragon and the hunters. Not only will this run expose you to two of the Longbow Hunters (Kodiak and Red Dart), but it’s also a fun read thanks to Lemire’s sprawling story, which brings a new sense of mythology to the New 52 version of the Emerald Archer, and Sorrentino’s dynamic and striking artwork that’s well-suited for the story many’s tonal twists and turns. Furthemore, Arrow has borrowed from Lemire/Sorrentino’s run a few times already, so this series is worth a read anyway. — Chancellor Agard
Buy Green Arrow, Volume 4: The Kill Machine here.
Arrow returns Monday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. on the CW.
If you watch Marvel's Daredevil... then read Daredevil: Born Again
Marvel’s The Defenders ended with a pretty big tease for the third season of Marvel’s Daredevil: an injured Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) is shown recovering in a convent, which was direct nod to Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again, one of the most acclaimed Daredevil stories ever. In the story, the Kingpin discovers Daredevil’s secret identity. But rather than simply out the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen to the public, he decides to slowly destroy Matt’s life until there’s nothing left. Completed engrossing and a thrill to read, it’s the sort of engrossing story you read in a trade and wonder how readers survived having to read this a month to month basis. Given where The Defenders concluded, there’s every reason to believe season 3 will no doubt pull from this fantastic story. — Chancellor Agard
Buy Daredevil: Born Again here.
The complete third season of Marvel‘s Daredevil launches Friday, Oct. 19 on Netflix.
If you watch DC's Legends of Tomorrow... then read Constantine: The Hellblazer, Vol. 1: Going Down and Vol. 2: The Art of the Dea
With occult detective John Constantine (Matt Ryan) joining the Legends in a bigger capacity in season 4, executive producer Phil Klemmer recommends checking out the first two volumes Constantine: The Hellblazer, written by Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV, with art from Riley Rossomo and more. Grotesque and fun in equal measure, the comic series marks Constantine’s reintroduction into the main DC Universe and begins with him dealing with the repercussions of his selfishness as he tries to stop a monster that’s killing ghosts. These first two books will put in the right frame of mind for Legends of Tomorrow’s upcoming season, which Klemmer promises will be “more mysterious, spookier, and more terrifying.” — Chancellor Agard
Legends of Tomorrow returns Monday, Oct. 22 on The CW.
If you're excited about the Arrowverse 'Elseworlds' crossover...read 52 and Batwoman: The Many Arms of Death
At long last, the Arrowverse comes to Gotham City. This year’s big crossover between Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl will introduce Batwoman (Ruby Rose), a cape-and-cowled crimefighter who also happens to be a lesbian. Although characters have been calling themselves Batwoman since the ‘50s, the Kate Kane version of the character was more recently introduced in the pages of DC’s 2006 weekly comic 52, which told the story of a “lost year” in the DC universe. With Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman out of commission for 12 months, other heroes had to step up. Batwoman was one of them, but the sheer breadth of characters in 52 will probably entertain any fan of the Arrowverse’s jam-packed crossovers.
Years after 52, Batwoman finally got her own self-titled solo series in the wake of DC Rebirth, written by Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV with art by Steve Epting. Much like how 52 told the story of a “lost year” for DC’s Big Three, the first arc of this new Batwoman series found Kate returning to the pirate island of Coryana, where she once spent her own “lost year” with a mysterious woman named Safiyah… — Christian Holub
“Elseworlds” begins Sunday, Dec. 9, with The Flash at 8 p.m.; continues Monday, Dec. 10, at 8 p.m. with Arrow; and concludes the following night at 8 p.m. with Supergirl.
If you watch Marvel’s Runaways...read Runaways: Find Your Way Home
So far, Hulu’s Runaways adaptation has mostly riffed on the original comics by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona. The show has had to do a bit of conceptual reworking, though, because like most things written for young people, the original Runaways comics now feel a little out of date. Thankfully, the franchise was recently revived for our modern moment by writer Rainbow Rowell and artist Kris Anka. Anka’s gorgeous, career-best artwork updates Nico, Gert, and Chase with stylish modern designs, while Rowell puts her YA writing skills to work constructing a rich narrative about star-crossed friends finding their way back to each other after some years apart. — Christian Holub
Marvel’s Runaways returns Friday, Dec. 21 on Hulu.