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How to Start Reading Comics (And Why You Should)

Written August 31, 2014 by Pete Foltz

We’re really living in a golden age of comic book movies.

Not only do we have spectacular variety of excellent actors, directors, and stories to choose from, the movies themselves are getting better and better. This summer saw the release of perhaps two of the best comic book movies yet. The 70:s-esque spy thriller Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the quirky, hilarious, and surprisingly heartfelt Guardians of the Galaxy were both great - and there’s only more to come!

Even so; waiting six months between movies can be excruciating. However, worry not, true believers, because there are mountains of stories out there, starring many of your favorite movie characters! It’s time to enter the exciting world of source material otherwise known as comic books!

Let’s start with the obvious concern. There are fifty to seventy-five years of history, depending on which characters you’re interested in. How the hell do I crack that barrier!?

I’m going to tell you how.

You don’t.

Seriously, just jump in.

The first comic I read was Robin III. Did I know that Tim Drake was almost forcibly taking over for Jason Todd who had been killed by the Joker and who himself had taken over for Dick Grayson who was now Nightwing? No. Were there a lot of references that I didn’t get? Yes. Did I have fun? Of course! Did I eventually figure it out? Yes. With the rise of digital comics it’s super easy to go back and read previous stories to figure out what you are interested in – or not! Comic books are a business and they do not - despite what you might think – want to alienate new readers. In fact, they almost tend to alienate longtime fans more; but only those of us too stubborn to realize no change is permanent. Like these guys.

OK, so why should you read comics?

  1. The storytelling is bigger than even the movies. Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Everyone does. Remember the budget? It was good, at least for for TV. What if all those Slayers from the end were fighting an army of monsters, alongside a flying, spell-casting Willow, and a magically giant Dawn? Sounds awesome, right? It’s the first arch of the Buffy Season 8 comics.
  2. There’s a much bigger universe. The Avengers are cool. The X-Men and Spider-Man are cool. It’s just too bad that they’re owned by different companies and can never interact. In the comics Spider-man and Wolverine will be having a beer when Iron Man crashes through the window and all of a sudden they’re all fighting shape shifting aliens who look like Captain America and Thor. That kind of thing happens all the time!
  3. Do you like serialized storytelling? Think Breaking Bad, Lost, Vampire Diaries, Arrow, Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, The Wire. Shows where the plot continues week to week and you really get to know characters. Doesn’t it suck when those shows end? Guess what, when you read comics, those shows almost never end!
  4. You can find pretty much any kind of story you want in comics. Obviously superheroes. Also:
    1. Sci-fi (Manhattan Projects, Black Science, Saga)
    2. Horror (Hack/Slash, Locke & Key, Revival)
    3. Cop/Detective (Gotham Central, Powers)
    4. Mystery (Morning Glories, Trees)
    5. Irreverent or Weird (Chew, Sex Criminals)
    6. Comedy (Deadpool, Adventure Time)
    7. Teen Angst (Avengers Academy, Runaways)
    8. Young Thor, Modern Thor, Cranky old one-armed Thor fighting space sharks and drinking? Yep, that too (Thor: God of Thunder)!
  5. You can see more of the minor guys you like from the movies. Did you like The Winter Soldier? There’s a whole awesome spy thriller series with him. How about Rocket Racoon? He just started his own, hilarious series! How about Joseph Gordon Levitt’s “going to be Batman”-character from the end of The Dark Knight Rises? Why don’t you read Red Robin or Nightwing (depending on who you talk to)?
  6. The community. Sure, every fandom has its online communities, but comics, hell comic fans were first in the water for this! CBR, Comic Vine, IGN, & Reddit have great forum and reviews. Ifanboy (Pick of the Week) and Comic Book Resources (The Weekly Planet) have excellent podcasts.
  7. The cons. Sure;we all know Comic-Con in San Diego, but there’s also Emerald Con, DragonCon, New York Comic Con, Wizard World Chicago, and a host of others!

The genius of comic books is they’re essentially eternal. Meaning that the story will always go on and therefore you can never know it all and don’t really need to. It’s about having fun, reading great stories, and living in worlds that just don’t exist anywhere else.

So; how do I get started?

Ultimately? Pick a character you like, buy a comic they’re in. Start reading. That’s it. If you don’t like it; try something else. If you do, it’s really easy to use Comixology to find more of what you like, the back story on what you’re reading, and what else to read that’s similar. Also, just ask someone and you’ll get a flood of answers.

Comixology has a free section. Marvel has an unlimited access option. So just go online or use this to find a local shop and get you reading!

p.s. Read Saga. Seriously, just read it.