Wake your inner comic fan – how to get started with comics

There's a lot more out there than superheroes

There’s never been a better time to get into comics. We see the implications everywhere nowadays – in the movies, merchandise, and advertising invading popular culture. But the process of getting started can be rather intimidating. Marvel and DC, the best known of the comic publishing companies, have a long history. This involves a huge roster of characters and villains, a long continuity, and multiple concurrent storylines and cross-over events. Sometimes, the simple act of just picking up a comic can lead to disappointment when the story seems unknown and there are too many disparate bits to piece together.

Sequential art is a beautiful thing, though, and it is well worth the effort to get your feet wet and get started. There’s far more out there than the well-advertised superhero comics. There’s science fiction, fantasy, action/adventure, horror, humour, romance, western, historical… all the genres you might recognise from prose, but presented in a unique and gripping format. There is literally something for everyone.

So where do you dive into this magical world? Well, comics are almost anywhere you would normally find prose books. For the hermit, like myself, there are a myriad of sources for digital comics, including Amazon Kindle, Kobo, and Comixology. DC, Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW, Image, Marvel, and many small publishers offer digital sales as well. There are also subscription services for a veritable buffet of all-you-can-read goodness, including Comixology Unlimited, Marvel Unlimited, and Scribd. You can also visit local comic shops or bookstores, many of which can provide hard copies of books on order.

When you’re deciding on a starting point, it’s important to differentiate between single issues and trade paperbacks. The latter provides a full arc of a few issues, and can be helpful when you’re just learning where your interests lie. Single issues can be added to a pull list at most comic shops, and usually get released on that most magical of days, New Comic Book Day, every Wednesday. This way, you don’t miss an issue and end up with significant gaps in the storyline. Most books get a new issue once a month, although some are more frequent.

Dipping your feet in the tasty waters of comics does involve some testing on your part. A good place to start might be an independent publisher, such as Image or Alterna, since these books are more self-contained and can give a fuller sense of the entire storyline, without having to purchase a lot of other books to get the whole picture. Trying out books from the library, or the free books on Comixology might be another good place to start. Humble Bundle and Groupees are an excellent resource for obtaining large bundles of comics for an incredibly reasonable price, all while supporting excellent causes. Your local store can offer recommendations more tailored to your personal interests. And once you start making nerd connections in comic fandom, well, the sky’s the limit and your reading list will be perpetually full.

Image: Pexels

When getting into the Big Two, Marvel and DC, I would recommend following arcs. This can be done by purchasing trade paperbacks, or by diving into back issues and referring back to the beginning of a current storyline. They offer some excellent reading lists on their respective websites, but I personally find that just reading single issues from different points in time is too scattered to allow you to fully immerse in the story. Start with Marvel/DC movies or TV shows you love, and find their related books. Once you start involving yourself in their monthly adventures, I guarantee you’ll be looking for other characters in their universe on the comic shelves.

I recommend Saga and Bitch Planet to any woman dipping into comics, particularly for the first time. Saga is a fantastic space opera and Bitch Planet is a punch to the face of gripping storyline and related thoughtpieces. More light-hearted favourites include Lumberjanes and Squirrel Girl. The humour in these combine with cute cartooning that is a childish delight.

When digging a bit deeper, I re-read the Watchmen, which delves into the dark side of superheroes, or Sandman, which is a must-read transcendental epic. For superheroes, I enjoy the Dark Knight books for my Batman fix, or Captain Marvel for my super-lady pilot fix. And finally, a couple of new books I am addicted to include Deadly Class and Unfollow. Both of these have a rather dark side, but combine with a sense of dramatic tension that will leave you spellbound. This is only the tip of the iceberg, but I think they provide a nice overview of very different styles in comics.

One of the best parts of getting into comics is the dual joy of having art that is a beauty to behold, while the narrative of the story drills its way into your brain. The fanbase is such a treat to be a part of, including the experience of attending cons and seeing characters come to life in cosplay, or meeting the talented people that make all this work come to life. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try new books whenever you can, take the plunge and discover a new character, and be confident that you’re now a part of something truly awesome.

Main image: Jareed via Flickr Creative Commons