Shock statement time: I haven’t been reading comics for very long. Let me refine that; I haven’t been following comics for a long time. I have read comics since I was a young whipper-snapper but I didn’t keep up the hobby as it were. With the rise of the comic book blockbusters and various TV shows, I thought I’d give it a bash.
When I decided to give comics a go, I had no idea where I should dive in. Do I pick something brand new? Is it too late to pick up Spider-man considering he’s been around for years? Who am I even talking to, when asking these questions? It’s tough. And I was talking to myself.
A quick search online revealed that I’m not the only one asking these questions (talking to yourself is normal, OK). While it was nice to find that people were questioning how to get into comics, there was no clear answer. Don’t get me wrong, there are forums, websites & Facebook pages of people recommending “the best comics ever”. There are 1000s of counter-arguments saying why they are the worst books created. You’ve got to love the internet and the extremism that goes on there.
Cutting through this mess isn’t easy. Marvel alone has a population of characters to fill a small village, DC is the same. I’ll be honest; finding a comic you love can be down to chance. There are a few tips and tricks that I’ve noticed that may help you.
1. Why comics?
It’s a simple question. Why do you want to start reading comics? I struggled for longer than I care to admit about this and procrastinating is my Kryptonite. But there is an easy way…
If you like the Iron Man films and you want to know more, simply put, that is your answer. If you like the Dark Knight, then Bruce Wayne is your starting point. Don’t faff about trying to justify your reasoning. The first book is always the hardest to choose and this focuses you in.
I’d also recommend buying either a Graphic Novel or a Trade Paperback over the single issues to start with. These are designed to give you one story arc in one go. Graphic Novels (such as Batman’s Killing Joke) are complete stories that tend to stand alone.
Trade paperbacks collect about 5 monthly issues into one story. They are specifically designed to help people get into stories. They are your guiding hand and you should trust them. It’s also a lot easier to find volume one of a series than the first issue on its own.
2. Go to your local comic book shop
Once you’ve found your first character head to your local comic shop (shout out to Dave’s Comics!). On the internet, people have strong opinions for no reason. “Batman sucks, Superman is better” is often banded about. It may be a valid point to that person but useless to you. If you’re face to face with someone, they are going to tell you why Batman sucks.
I settled on The Walking Dead as my first proper book. I liked the show, loved zombies and wanted something that wasn’t “mainstream superhero” (oh, how things have changed). As I was mulling it over (I procrastinate a lot), a guy was telling his friend the benefits of the comic vs the TV show, “it’s faster paced, more brutal and is a great story.” There was no, “it’s so much better than the programme” or “Urgh, the TV show changed so much the franchise is spoilt” It was just the facts. The comic book shop sold two books off the back of this guy.
If you can’t get to a comic book shop, ask your friends. You’ve got similar interests, so if they read comics, ask them what their favourite book and give it a bash.
3. Take a punt
Once you’ve read what you specifically want, it’s time to broaden your horizons. If you’ve chosen a character like Spider-man that’s part of a wider team, look for his friends and work out what you like. From Spider-man you can go to another Avenger. They’ll then have a different interaction with the X-men and so on.
I know everyone in the world tells you not to do this, but judge a book by its cover occasionally. I found I Hate Fairyland this way. It’s a brilliant series and I’d recommend it over most things.
The final word on this point – don’t be afraid to get something out of continuity. The beauty of comic books is that you can read an event and work either backwards or forwards. It’s up to you.
DC recently promoted the hell out of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight III and I caved. I loved Batman Vs Superman which was based on Dark Knight Returns, but I hadn’t read the book. As well as losing a few readers for those comments, I decided to take the risk and give the third instalment a read.
I rather enjoyed it. The heroes looked like every day was upper body day, Bruce Wayne was still a stubborn, old fool, and you didn’t need any experience in what had happened prior to this story. It was a really good read. I’ve since gone back to the previous two books and yes, there are some references that make more sense, they don’t impact on the overall story.
4. Reboots are your friend
Some people get annoyed when DC or Marvel get bored and start again with their comics. In 2015, Marvel created Secret Wars, an event series that reset the Marvel Universe. In 2016 DC started a clean slate with Rebirth after 2011’s New 52! attempt failed and in 2017, Marvel have now decided to reinstate all of their stories under their legacy reboot.
A lot can change with comics but you should embrace it. With reboots, it puts people on a level playing field. If you wanted to start collecting monthly comics, there isn’t a better time to do it. Just remember, you can always go backwards to play catch up when you feel confident in doing so!
Well, that’s it. I hope these tips gave you something to go off as you embark on your comic book journey. If you’ve got any tips to getting into comics, or any recommendations of your own let me know below!
I realise the irony in telling you to go local and then link to a bunch of Amazon links. These are affiliated links that help run the site. Read more here.