Comics are an iconic nerdy activity. Reading the stories of Superman and Spider-Man and waiting for the next issue to come out is quite the image that we can place in our mind. But now that superheroes are becoming more mainstream, we have movies coming out seemingly every few months featuring Marvel or DC heroes, and people are meeting rarer characters like Peter Quill, Rocket, and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Strange, who’s getting his own stand alone movie. Those movies and movies like The Avengers, The Dark Knight, and Captain America: Civil War are leading people to comic books. But where to begin?
Getting into comics can be intimidating. It seems like once a year there is a news story of Action Comics #1 selling for some absurd amount, and there are hundreds, or more likely thousands, of different issues for different characters. Where do you start with someone like Spider-Man?
Fortunately, there are some good ways to keep your wallet from being completely destroyed while you dive in to comics. The first option is, instead of getting single issues, to get trade paperbacks. Trade paperbacks (TPB from here on out) are collections of different comics that often comprise a story arc or part of a longer story arc. You can use these story arcs to decide what to buy without buying TPBs, as well. You just need to spend a little time to figure out when a new arc is starting in a comic. You might have to wait a few weeks, but about every six months a new story arc will start in a lot of comics. Finally, both Marvel and DC do world events. These events generally have tie-ins to different characters and different stories, but it is something that is world-shaking (or possibly world-destroying) for all of the characters, and no one is left unaffected. I will caution that these, too, are often underwhelming. There will be good character development and build-up, and then they just fall flat in the end as this completely impossible challenge is tripped up by something that is odd or overpowered and never seen again in the comic book world because it would break it. I personally would recommend TPBs over this type of comic. You can research online to find out some of the popular ones, or go into your local comic book store, and they will be able to give you suggestions, and if they don’t have it, they will gladly order it for you.
What if you don’t even know what type of book to start with?
That’s another good question, because at least for Marvel and DC, there tend to be two different types of comic books. The first is a solo book. That would be something like Spider-Man, where he is generally off doing his own thing. He might run across Wolverine once in a while, but generally it is Spider-Man dealing with Spider-Man’s problems. There are other times, though, where you will want to read about Spider-Man in a group; these group books will often have a leader to the team, which the story might focus on a bit more, but will have a strong cast of supporting characters. For this type, DC has Justice League, and while Superman and Batman will probably be most often in the spotlight, they do spend time telling stories about the other characters. These ensemble casts are a good way to get introduced to lesser characters as well. Would you pick up a book about Martian Manhunter off the shelves? Probably not. But you’d read about him in Justice League and might find out that you like him. That is how I figured out in Marvel’s universe that I really like Doctor Strange. Doctor Strange isn’t a character I’d pick out otherwise, but seeing him in The Avengers and seeing his powers made me want to pick up more books about him.
What would you recommend?
That’s a great question that I can’t really go into that much detail on, as I haven’t been picking up books at all recently. So much of picking out a good comic book series to read is trial and error at the beginning. Different writers write characters in unexpected ways; sometimes that is good, and sometimes it doesn’t work. It’s the same for artists — certain artists have certain styles. Now, that might work for you, or it might not. If the art isn’t the style you are expecting, it might distract you and take you out of the story. So instead of recommending series or characters, I’m going to recommend a few different writers.
Scott Snyder – Snyder has been writing Detective Comics, which is the main Batman line. His style of writing leads to more in-depth stories, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s on a title that a lot of people are going to enjoy. Along with that, he wrote a fair amount of American Vampire, which isn’t a superhero comic, but is very good. American Vampire also had Stephen King as a writer for a little bit.
Jim Lee – He wrote Aquaman for a while, and might still be writing it; I’m not sure. However, I really liked his Aquaman story, and the fact that he took the time to take a character who is a punchline way too often and make him into a better developed character.
Brian Michael Bendis – He’s probably my favorite writer out of all of these. He’s one who is working for Marvel and is high up in Marvel so directs many of the storylines that run throughout the whole universe. One of the things that I really like about him is that he is very wordy for a comic book writer. That isn’t to say that he writes description when pictures could do, but he writes dialogue better than most writers of comic books, and his storylines are fantastic. I’d recommend his non-superhero comic, Powers, greatly (but be warned, it is for a mature audience).
So there you have a starting point with comics, all without getting into the Marvel v DC debate. What comic books are you reading? Or, who is a superhero you want to read about?
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