Today, Marvel Studios made a massive announcement about their upcoming slate of films in 2016 – 2018. This may or may not have been a reaction to Warner Bros/DC’s recent announcement about their plans for the new DC cinematic universe coming out of last year’s Man of Steel. A lot can be said about which announcement was bigger, but really in the end, it’s the fans who win.
What really amazed me is the deep pulls from both companies. We will be getting major Hollywood blockbusters based on characters like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Shazam, Cyborg and more. Many of these characters are not as high profile as characters like Batman or Iron Man. Already I have seen comments from people online who love the current movies and want to know more about these upcoming characters.
This has had many asking about where to start with reading comics. Among my friends I have become the comics pusher, always recommending titles for people to read, trying my hardest to put books into people’s hands.
Comics can be a difficult world to enter. Questions like: “Do I have to start at #1?” “Will I be confused about what is going on?” “Do I have to read every book to follow the story?” are common. There can also be confusion between similarly titled books like The Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man, two completely different characters and universes, or all those Batman books from DC and Marvel’s slew of X-men books.
In short the best answer I can give anyone is to just dive in head first. If you have watched the movies you will have a basic understanding of who the character is where they come from. While there are problems and changes to the origins and characterizations, most of the recent comic book movies have been pretty close to the basic essence of the character.
Taking Marvel for example, if your favorite character is Iron Man, then checking out what Iron Man books are on the shelf is a pretty good place to start, or maybe when you go to the store you will see a book that has Tony Stark on the cover with some other group of heroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Take a chance, try different things, don’t be afraid to try out a book. Some of my favorite books now are ones that I just picked up because of interesting cover art or because I heard some word of mouth about it. If you go to your local comic book shop or the Comixology app, single issues range from $1 to $5. If it looks interesting try it out, at the very worst you’re only out a couple of bucks. Comixology even has some free books to try out.
Along those same lines if you are at a con, look for the comic book vendors. The advantage of having 75 years worth of comic history to go through is that there are A LOT of comics out there. My new favorite thing to do at cons is find the comic vendors and grab some $1 or $.50 books. I’ll pick a character that seems interesting and see if I can find 3-5 books in a row. It’s an easy cheap way to get to know a character and find some fun stories.
Also, do not stress over the fact that the book is not a #1. Yes, there can be books that are good jumping on points, but that is not to say that you can’t jump in at any point. Both Marvel and DC have become obsessed with getting as many #1 books out there as possible (Marvel is especially bad at this.) Ultimately the numbers are meaningless except to tell you what order to read the books in.
So, you’ve grabbed some single issues from your local comic book store or you found a trade paperback from Barnes & Noble. You’ve read it but you’re confused about what Wolverine was talking about on page 3. The internet is has two things in abundance: porn and obsessive compulsive geeks. The first wont help us much here, but the other will be very helpful. Wikipedia and other fandom specific wikis are a great source for information. Not sure who the heck Alpha Flight are? What really happened to Jean Grey? Magneto is a good guy now? A few minutes on Wikipedia or Google and you can be up to speed. You might even find some recommendations for issues to go hunt down.
I highly recommend supporting your local comic book shops even if you are a digital reader, many stores have a digital store through apps like Comixology that allows them to still get paid. Good stores can give recommendations or let you know what is coming out.
That’s the best advice I can give to anyone wanting to start out, just dive in and try new things. There is a wealth of incredible stories out there, and the world of comics is so much more than just superheroes, but that’s a column for another day.