Ed Note: Today’s article takes us away from video games and into the world of comics. ‘Mama Jane‘ writes comic reviews and interesting editorials. You should check out some of her work here.
I’m New To Reading Comics, Where Do I Start?
Where do I Begin?
People ask me all the time “what kind of comics do you think I’d like?” (one, exactly one person has ever asked me this) and I thought I’d write a guide on trying comics to help people find somewhere to start in the wonderful world that is comic books.
After 20 minutes of me talking this is the face most people pull
What do you like?
Starting out you need to think about what you like, do you like mysteries, horror, super heroes, or comedy? If your interest has been sparked by the new trend of superhero movies then maybe try some of the superheroes that you like the most. Comics are a lot like movies in the way that there is almost always something that will suit your tastes,
Ummm….. Yeah I guess, we could find something like that
Single issues, trades & omnibuses, oh my!
A story arc is usually between 4-6 single issue long and can be compared to seasons on a TV show. A trade paperbacks or “trades” usually contain between 4-6 issues which is often one entire story arc so basically it will tell a story from start to finish. An Omnibus contains an entire series or large amount of issues usually up to 50 or so.
When starting with a new series that has only just come out you have no options other than to collect the single issues or wait for the trades to come out but remember low single issues sales (especially with creator owned comics) means that a trade is not guaranteed to come out. So the general rule is established series start with a trade or omnibus new series grab the single issues.
Why so many choices?!?!
Start at the beginning but not always at #1
When you start reading comics you want to try and start at the beginning of a story arc but not always at issue #1. Buying issues in trade is a good idea because each trade usually contains an entire story arc. You want to try and start at #1 in trade if you can but depending on the kind of story this isn’t always necessary but I do NOT recommend doing this with a mystery comic (such as Morning Glories) because you will be completely lost.
Some comics will advertise a great “jumping on point” this usually means there is already an established story but it is about to begin a new story arc and can be a good place to start with long running series.
Yeah, probably don’t go this far back.
Digital – They have the Internet on computers now.
Digital comics are a wonderful thing with apps like ComiXology making almost all comics available to you without even needing you to get out of your pyjamas. An Ipad or similar sized tablet work very well for reading comics but I do not recommend trying it on your smart phone unless you plan on using a magnifying glass to read the text.
Digital comics are usually a little cheaper than buying hard copies in the store but you do miss out on some of the extras in the back of single issues such as words from the writers and artist, announcements and fan letters. I will often buy the first single issue of a new series on ComixXology to see if I want to add it to my regular reading list.
I’m sorry but if I left the house to buy comics I’d have to put a bra on
New school or old school?
When starting with superheros and characters that have been around since the 30’s or 40’s trying to catch up on 80+ years of story is not a great idea. you can usually find arcs/reboots that have been within the last couple of years that you can grab in trades.
Another major thing to remember is that comics do age with the times so anything you read from the 70’s will be heavily influenced by the “peace , love and music” attitude of the times and so on. Personally I don’t like a lot of what came out in the 90’s I find that the art was weird and the stories were weirder (so so many clones). I find it best to start with something modern and then work your way backwards if you enjoy a certain character.
Old doesn’t mean bad maybe just less good
Don’t be afraid of whats popular – Look a bandwagon lets jump on it!
Never be afraid of jumping on with what is currently popular, such as the Avengers or Guardians Of The Galaxy, because remember theses things are popular for a reason.
The most important thing to remember is that everybody needs to start somewhere and you don’t need to justify your fandom to anyone and if anybody tries to make you just ask to see their certificate declaring them supreme ruler of comic book fandom.
Don’t listen to this guy, he was a beginner once too
Marvel or DC? There are so few choices!
Marvel and DC are “the big two” and of course the two most well known companies and have a large range of mostly superheroes to choose from. There are also many many other brands including Image (The Walking Dead, Saga & Spawn), Dark Horse (Hellboy, Buffy, Angel & Firefly), Boom! (Big Trouble In Little China, 28 Days Later & Planet of the Apes) and an uncountable number of independent companies.
With so many different companies around both well known and relatively unknown there is something out there to suit almost any taste. Personally I prefer Image as a most of their comics are creator owned which gives the creators the freedom to do anything they like with the comic with plenty of room to move which I find Marvel and DC lacking in as with the already established characters as they do need to follow a rough outline for the characters (Batman isn’t going to suddenly start killing people, Jean Grey from the X-men isn’t ever going to stop dying).
Way more than just these guys
Try new things all the time
I have new comic book day every 2nd Saturday and make an effort to always try something new whether its a brand new series that’s just starting up or picking up an already established series in trade. This is a good way to explore different types and genres.
I have found things I love and found things that I want to destroy with fire but its always interesting to try new series. Another little tip is don’t ignore your local talent some local creators put out some pretty interesting and entertaining things.
New comic book daaaaaaaaaaaaaay!!
Get out there and get reading comic lovers!!