The comic book world can be incredibly overwhelming. Comic book stores are geared toward longtime readers, putting the most recent issue in front, and then everything else in bins. Sometimes the bins are separated into DC, Marvel, and indie. Sometimes they’re straight up alphabetical. If you decide you’re going to go for trade, meaning several issues bound into a book that hopefully conveys a full storyline, you then have to hope that your comic series does not interact with any other comics, because then you’ve got to buy the crossovers to get the full story. THEN, pray your story doesn’t jump into a parallel universe that already existed and has rules that have been explained in another series.
I want to tell you about some of the issues I faced when starting to get into comics. Luckily, I worked at Borders at the time, and had some really awesome co-workers who helped me get on the right track. Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up over my years of getting into comics:
- Start at the library — Before you spend any money on comics, go to the library and see what is available. The library provides a chance to check out anything for free. Look for trade volumes that are #1 in a series. If you leave with a stack of “volume 1” comic books, you’ve got a stack of worlds to try out. You may find that you love a character or a writer or an artist, but not all three.
- Talk to the comic book store staff — As a woman, this is not always easy. I have been hit on and belittled by comic book staff on several occasions, sometimes at the same comic book store visit. There are kind and decent people who work in comic book stores, who want nothing more than to help you, though. Don’t give up. If you’ve gone to the library, you’ve got some idea of what you like. Say you read Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. Your library may not have her more obscure series, Pretty Deadly. A comic book store will have it, and an employee will hopefully hand it to you and tell you how wonderful it is.
- Check Goodreads — This website is primarily for rating books, but it also has a subsection for graphic novels (another name for trade comic books). Two aspects of Goodreads that are really helpful are the recommendations page and the lists. The recommendation page will take books that you’ve read and recommend new ones. If you tag all the graphic novels that you read at the library and bought from the comic book store, the recommendations page will match your liked books to similar books. The lists section is where people can create lists, and every user can add new options and vote on options. There are lists titled “Best Graphic Novels,” “Best Graphic Novels and Comic Books,” and “Best of Batman.”
- Try indie — Everyone knows Marvel and DC. Thanks to series like The Walking Dead, people are getting to know lesser known comic book companies such as Image Comics. While some of these are owned by bigger companies, such as Vertigo which is owned by DC, all of them are more open to unique ideas. All of them are newer than DC and Marvel, and so series have not had time to be rebooted.
The world of comics is always changing. In 2011, DC rebooted every series, calling it The New 52. Now, following in the wake of Marvel’s All New, All Different, DC has again rebooted all their comics and are calling it DC Rebirth. As I mentioned earlier, it’s easiest to start at #1. Whether that be issue or graphic novel, the big companies know this and are rebooting generously as every blockbuster movie brings in new fans.
I have a few books in particular that I think are pretty great places to start, and are the books I readily recommend to friends.
- Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham — This series is the one my friends started me on. It is what would happen if fairy tale characters were all exiled to our world and lived in a brownstone in NYC. Think Once Upon a Time but better.
- Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and various illustrators — This series is what Clint Barton gets up to when he’s not being an Avenger. It also introduces the world to Kate Bishop, another hero who uses the Hawkeye persona.
- DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke — This story was originally split into two volumes, although more recently it was released as one. It is a story of transition, chronicling the end of the Golden Age, and beginning of the Silver Age. This book reminded me of Watchmen with DC characters, and the art was brilliant. This was the book that started my love of The Flash.
- The Wicked + Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie — Every ninety years, gods are revived to inspire people. The first volume is told from the perspective of a fan who gets close to the gods, and becomes immersed in their drama. This series is the only one in this list of recommendations that is ongoing.
This is a very basic guide. There are so many comics out and available, and more coming out every month. If you’re interested in checking out more immersive recommendations and suggestions, click here to see our more comic specific articles.