How to Start Reading Comics
In this increasingly superhero-dominated Hollywood world we have today, more and more people are becoming fans of fantastic characters and super-powered beings that used to merely reside in the panels of old comic book shops in the remote corners of the city. I remember that I used to scour the metro just to find a good comic book shop or hobby shop that would sell the merch I wanted, but now, these pop culture shops are popping up everywhere faster than you can say “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. What used to be a small community has now grown into a huge fan base that’s threatening to rule the world—yes, because geeks will definitely rule the world someday, and it’s just fabulous. So if you’re a newbie to the wonderful world of comic books, where do you even begin? Here’s how!
Where to buy comics
Thankfully, the metro is littered with comic book shops and events that can make any fanboy and fangirl squeal with nerd-gasmic delight. You can score good finds—both current and back issues—over at Comic Odyssey branches, Planet X Comics, and Filbar’s. These specialty shops usually sell single issues, but if you’re more into the trade paperbacks (which are collected versions of the comics that compile multiple issues to tell a single story arc), you can head on over to Fully Booked or National Bookstore. You can also buy digital copies at Comixology and Amazon if you prefer electronic media.
Where to start
It can be pretty overwhelming to read a series that’s been around for decades, but you can always start with the basic ones and the major events just so you can get an idea of what you’re really into. After all, you might think you like Green Lantern, but maybe the space-adventure thing is not really for you. Normally, you can read up on Year One stories to find out more about the origin of a character, and go more in-depth from there.
For the purpose of simplicity, we’ll focus on the Big Two (DC and Marvel) and name a few from the other publications toward the end of the article. For DC, you should know that in 2011, there was a big event called Flashpoint that affected the whole DC universe, and it kind of separated the comics into what’s called the New 52 and the Pre-New 52 eras. The New 52 served as a reboot for the whole universe, but if you’re only just beginning, you should move on and start with the Rebirth storylines, as DC has once again decided to make a sorta-reboot of their reboot (because they just want to complicate things).
For Rebirth, you can choose the character you want to find out more about the most. The primary comics may be all about the Bat family (Batman, Detective Comics, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Nightwing, etc.), Superman (Superman, Action Comics, etc.), the Justice League, the Teen Titans, Titans, Green Lantern (Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, etc.), Wonder Woman, and so on. If you want a little background of the classics, you can check out Identity Crisis to learn about the League and the drama surrounding them (this is one of my personal faves!), The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller at his best), and Superman For All Seasons (witness the quiet humanity of Earth’s favorite Kryptonian). There’s just so, so, so many good ones that I can’t list them all here in one go!
Most beginners use Civil War as a starting point for reading, and also because casual fans are more familiar with the storyline of the current Avengers films. There are tie-ins that usually go with an event as major as this one, and you can check out a more in-depth guide here: http://www.comicbookherald.com/how-to-start-reading-comics/
Also, one thing you should probably get your hands on is the Secret Invasion arc. The major event involves a bunch of troublesome shapeshifting aliens called Skrulls, and believe it or not, these Skrulls replace key characters in the Marvel Universe, making readers everywhere gasp in horror as they realize that the heroes they thought they’ve known all their lives turn out to be frauds. This actually turned off some fans at the time, but if that kind of thing intrigues you, go ahead and give it a go. Here are some of the other commonly recommended titles:
- Dark Reign/Siege
- Fear Itself
- Avengers Vs. X-Men
- Age of Ultron
- Original Sin
- Avengers & X-Men: Axis
- Time Runs Out
- Secret Wars
One of my favorite comics of all time is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic Watchmen, which shows a very different take on superheroes and the tragedy that surrounds the superhero life. It has been voted one of Time’s 100 best novels, and if you want a darker, grittier, and more adult look at the caped life, this standalone read is for you.
Neil Gaiman is the celebrated author of many critically-acclaimed works, and his comic book masterpiece The Sandman is no exception. Surreal, fantastic, heartbreaking, disturbing, and highly philosophical, this deeply cerebral tale will make you stare up at the ceiling in an existential crisis long after you’ve turned the last page. Lucifer Morningstar, one of the characters from the series, even moved on to have a spin-off series of his own titled Lucifer (by Mike Carey), and this too is a mind-blowing story about good and evil, and—at the heart of it all—human free will. You absolutely have to pick this up.
If you’re more into the space action adventure kind of thing, Saga is currently driving the whole comic book world crazy with its part comedy, part drama, part space opera sarcasm that’s both modern and classic at the same time. This fresh take on a classic genre is definitely not for kids, but throw in some star-crossed lovers, a half-spider half-woman bounty hunter, and a cat that calls you out every time you lie, and you’ll definitely get hooked from page one. I guarantee you won’t regret it!
What are you waiting for, then? Head on out to your nearest hobby shop and get your hands on these goodies right now. And when you’re done, drop me a message, won’t you? I’d love to know what you think!