So You Want to Read Comics…
If you’ve been listening to the 10 Minute Marvel podcast found on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play Music, you’ll know that one of the things I cover, but not heavily, there is comics. I tend to talk about the MCU more often as well as some Marvel board games or characters. But recently I did an episode where I talked about Marvel Unlimited. Now, this isn’t just going to be a big ad for them or anything like that, but I wanted to talk about getting into comics.
I think that for a lot of people, they watch something like Iron Man or The Dark Knight, and they get curious about comics. However, even now with superheroes being part of the zeitgeist of our times, comics for a lot of people are a daunting step further into the superhero genre that people are less willing to take. Some of that is because the amount of content for comics is daunting. That’s what I’m hear for, to give you a jumping off point into comics, not just superheroes but any type.
I would say that there are two types of comics. The first being the shared universe comics, by that, I’m talking about your Marvel, DC, or Valiant Comics to name a few. The shared universe is going to have characters crossing over from one book to another and shared world events at times. Think about how there’s an Iron Man comic, and he’s part of the Avengers, plus, he might show up in another characters book as well. Or there will be events like Age of Ultron in Marvel or Flashpoint for DC to name a couple.
The other type is going to be your comics that are stand alone. Something like Saga, Umbrella Academy, Powers, or Locke & Key. They aren’t part of something larger and while their publisher might do a crossover event at some point in time, they are really meant for stand alone stories. Because of that, you don’t end up with sometimes as generic stories because they don’t have to play nice with what’s going on in the other comics. Or, I should say, it allows them to be more consistent, because you can have a mapped out story from the start and not need to worry about how you might affect another story if you have a world altering event or even world destroying event.
So that’s a little bit about how comic book companies work, but when getting into comics, that’s generally not the issue. And even stand alone style comics can be hard to get into if they’ve been going for a long time, like The Walking Dead. There’s just so many issues or trade paperbacks (TPB) or compendiums to pick up and for those you need to pick them all up, so how do you decide where to start?
For the stand alone, you almost need to start at the beginning, some of them, American Vampire, for example, do have arcs so you’re able to jump into them in the middle because the cast of characters will primarily be different and they’ll explain what you need to know for that arc of the story. But for some of them, Saga being a prime example of this, you need to start at the beginning because otherwise you won’t understand what is going on as issues and TPB’s build upon each other.
For the shared universe, you generally have more jumping off points. Firstly because they do resets on the universes every 5-10 years. Because you’re in a single massive universe, things grow and get crazier and crazier and eventually you’re dealing with Dark Phoenix almost destroying the universe, of Flash running through time. These massive events allow the comic book companies to create a launching off point for new characters getting comics, and now stories in the universe and undoing some of the old stories in the universe. The reason that they do this because both Marvel and DC have been doing this for over 80 years. That’s way to long to sustain characters having a single story arc throughout the whole thing. So instead, they restart with Peter Parker being a highschooler again, and while Uncle Ben won’t die yet again to do an origin story, they’ll tell stories in the comics that make more sense for a younger Peter Parker. And finding those things, the New 52 or Rebirth for DC as two examples, it gives you a spot to start from the stories in a fresh easy to jump in place.
Now, with some idea of where you want to start, you can head into a comic book store and pick up the stories that you’re interested in. However, right now, that’s not a possibility in a lot of places, or maybe you don’t have one around. There are some options for you still.
Firstly, if there is one around that you can get to, I recommend using a comic book store. It’s a small local operation, and supporting them is great, plus you get face to face interaction and they can set-up what’s known as a pull list for you. That’s going to be books that when they order, they get extras and set them aside for you so that you know you’ll get a copy of the stories that you’ve been following. Plus, they are also able to give you recommendations for other series that you won’t as easily be able to get form other sources.
You can also subscribe to services or sites that will pull and send comics directly to your place. Places like Things From Another World (TFAW) will allow you to pre-order comics that are coming out in the upcoming weeks. I’m not sure that they do the pull list, didn’t spot it easily on their site, but there are places out there that will allow you to set-up what comics you need. This is great if you want the physical copies, don’t mind getting them a couple of days later than their release, and don’t live near a comic book store.
The final option I want to talk about is digital comics. Again, you can set-up a pull list and get what you want or order a-la-carte from somewhere like Comixology. That’s going to allow you to get digital versions of new comics as they come out. Or, if you don’t mind not having the newest comic in your hand right away from Marvel, you can get them on Marvel Unlimited. That’s what I’m using now, mainly because I’m fine reading through older stories, like Age of Apocalypse from the 90’s and because it gives you all the books at a flat fee versus having to purchase each issue individually.
There’s a lot to digest in here, as I go from the different comic book story types down to where you can pick them up and where you might want to jump in. I wish that I’d had some of this information when I started as I accidentally doubled up on things between TPB and comic book issues themselves.
What was your introduction to comic books? Are you more of a superhero fan or more interested in some of the stand alone stories?
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