How to Get Into Comics
One question that I find about comics is “where do I start reading” and my answer is anywhere. Pick up any comic you’re interested in and start reading, they’re pretty entry level friendly if you have an open mind. Anything you don’t understand or want to know more about you can find out about online through wikis. While it may seem like a daunting task it is really that easy. Think of it like jumping into a TV show mid-season, if people can do that all the time going into the current Spider-Man shouldn’t be that hard.
For anyone still a bit unsure I’ve complied a small list of comics from Marvel, DC, and anything that isn’t done by them, that are good places to start reading from. Before anyone complains that I missed out their favourite comic realise that these are more about getting people’s feet wet and starting to read comics. All of the comics listed are collected in trades (Trade paperback or TPB) and should be easy to find in shops and online.
Marvel is probably the easiest of the big companies to get into. Thanks to the movies everyone knows the basics of their big characters and they have a really good trade system so it’s easy to grab older stories. One of the reasons people gravitate to Marvel is that their characters have an “everyman” quality to them and they seem like regular people with regular problems.
I’d recommend being a bit careful if you’re picking up books because of the movies as Marvel’s made it too easy. That is for every movie they’re flooded the market with series related to that character, some good and some not so good. It’s not that much of a problem, but you’ll probably need to be more selective on what you get.
Ultimate Spider-Man: An excellent modern day retelling of Spider-Man and his mythology. A great way to get into Spider-Man and discover the classic characters and villains without needing to read decades worth of continuity. Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Mark Bagley
Astonishing X-Men: Modern day X-men as a new team forms to lead the X-academy and mutant kind into a new age and with a cure for mutants has just been discovered they’re just in time. The series has a lot of trappings of a classic with great writing, witty dialog and fantastic art. It’s very easy to get into and even though there’s a bit of past continuity involved with the characters that crops up it’s not hard to understand. Writer: Joss Whedon Artist: John Cassaday. (That team is enough reason to pick this up)
Iron Man Extremis: Tony Stark postulates over the nature of the Iron Man suit and why he keeps working on it as a terrorist emerges with next gen technology. A really good starting point for Iron Man with fantastic writing and art that inspired the armour look of the movies. It also has some really good Hard-Sci-Fi. Writer: Warren Elis Artist: Adi Granov
Runaways: Many kids think their parents are evil at one time or another but what if that was actually true. Five teenagers discover their parents are actually a supervillain cabal known as “The Pride” and go on the run. They vow to take their parents down and through that discover their parents’ legacy for them. A coming of age story with many twists and turns as the children discover themselves. Writer: Brian. K. Vaughn Artist: Various.
Avengers Academy: The Avengers set up a training facility for young superheroes in order to make them better heroes and Avengers material. The twist on this is all the students were experimented on/tortured by Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) and were chosen because the Avengers think they might become supervillains without guidance. Most of the students are brand new characters that are excellently fleshed out throughout the series. The teachers feature classic Avengers and rotating guest teachers from the Marvel Universe. Writer: Christos Gage Artist: Mike McKone
DC I think is different from Marvel in that they can do wacky, goofy, sci-fi “superhero” stories without blinking. Marvel has some of that too, but not to the extent DC does. There’s a race of intelligent apes with incredibly advanced technology living in a hidden city known as “Gorilla City” for example. DC is, at its best, the home for what people think of the traditional superhero world and that puts a few people off. If you’ve got an open mind about that you’ll enjoy most DC books, or at least the good ones.
I suppose I should mention the “continuity issues” as there’s this preconceived notion that their comics are too continuity heavy to get into. I think that’s bull, though. Sure there are references to continuity in the books, but only a little bit more than Marvel books. Everything you should need to know will be mentioned in the book and if you want to know more then you can look it up with Wiki. There’s no overload of continuity that will stop you enjoying these stories.
For trades there’s a slight problem in that they sometimes don’t put volume numbers on them. You should be able to find out trade order online, but it makes it difficult to impulse buy them. It also takes awhile for some stories to get traded so following any ongoing series is an exercise in patience. Because of that I will be giving trade names for the first books in the series and if you like them you can look up the others online.
Also DC recently rebooted its entire comic line, called the NuDCU or Nu52, and I’d have to recommend not buying most of those books. None of it was executed well and it isn’t as new reader friendly as they want you to believe. That’s why all these DC comics are pre-reboot.
Superman: Man of Steel: This series retells Superman’s early days and reimagines his world and characters for a new age. This is where our modern interpretation of the characters comes from. Businessman Lex Luthor was created here. Even 25 year old these stories still hold up and a great place to start reading Superman. Writer John Byrne + various Artist: John Byrne + various TPB: Man of Steel Vols 1-6. May be hard to find in some places, sadly.
Batman Detective: This run was a series of one-shot stories that were excellently done. Made by the creator of Harley Quinn and he is often credited as being one of the main forces behind the excellent 90s DC animation. The series also made the Riddler less of a joke villain and into a private detective. Writer: Paul Dini Artist: Various. TPB: Detective, Death and the City, Private Casebook, Heart of Hush. Or Detective Comics issues #821-850
Blue Beetle: Jaime, a teen from El Paso, stumbles upon the Scarab which grants him a powerful living suit that he must control and figure out its origin. The series has one of the best supporting casts in comics starting with Jaime’s family, who he tells almost immediately after he becomes the Blue Beetle. It balances humour and drama extremely well and is very smartly written. There’s some continuity stuff at the beginning that’s tied into a DC event but you don’t need to read that to enjoy this series. Everything that happened in that event is explained in the second TPB. Writers: Keith Giffen & John Rogers + various later Artists: Cully Hamner + various TPB: Shellshocked, Road Trip, Reach For The Stars, End Game. Note: Don’t get the NuDCU Blue Beetle comics as they retell the same story but with the heart and humour cut out.
Gotham Central: In this award winning series we see the lives of the police officers in Gotham as they deal with the worst of the worst. From Two-Face kidnapping officers to the Joker going on a killing spree with a sniper rifle, and they try to cope with it all. This is one of the best written series I’ve read and recommended if you like crime fiction. Writer: Greg Rucka & Ed Brubaker Artist: Michael Lark TPB: These should be numbered but if not go for In the Line of Duty, then Half a Life. Or if you can find them get the Deluxe hardcovers since they collect all the issues and are better quality, but they’re not in print anymore, sadly.
JLA: The Justice League has been formed again to save the world. In Morrison’s run they battle White Martian’s, Darkseid, and prevent WIII. This is one of the best incarnations of the team and also is the comic that defined Batman as a man with a plan. Writer Grant Morrison Artist: Howard Porter TPB: New World Order, American Dreams, Rock of Ages, Strength in Numbers, Justice for All, World War III. Or JLA Deluxe Edition Vol 1-4.
There are many other comics companies out there that do superhero comics, have their own universes, and have their own movies. However I’d like to spend this section recommending non-cape comics. Some of these are ongoing titles others are completed stories, but all are available in trade form and easy to get a hold of.
Generally if you’re looking for indie titles it’s best to stick to creators you already know about and like or books that are recommended. There’s a lot of Indies out there and some you won’t know about unless you recognise the creator.
Y: The Last Man: Every male on Earth, everything with a Y chromosome, has been wiped out except for one man and his pet monkey. He has to navigate the world trying not to be discovered as the last man on Earth while dangerous people are hunting him. A smart Sci-Fi series that has a great take on the post-apocalypse genre. Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Artists: Pia Guerra, Goran Sudžuka, Paul Chadwick
Dungeons & Dragons: If you’ve ever played a D&D game you need to read this book. It’s a fun ensemble adventure that feels a lot like a D&D campaign. If you like fantasy and classic adventure tales then give this a look. Also the Hardcover is styled like a D&D rule book and has detailed notes in the back that turns the story you just read into D&D game you can play. There are a few other D&D comics out there so make sure you pick up one by this writer and volume 1 is titled Shadowplague. Writer: John Rogers Artist: Andrea Di Vito
Sandman: Death, Destiny, Destruction, Despair, Desire, Delirium and Dream are the Endless, beings and powerful forces beyond Gods. We follow Dream throughout the ages and his own journey. We see simple personal tales to him being given the key to Hell by Lucifer and told to do whatever he wants to with the place. This is a multiple award winning series and has 26 Eisner Awards, it’s one of the best comics of all time. Writer: Neil Gaiman Artist: Various
Fables: All the fairytales and folklore is real and they have been driven out of their homeland and formed their own community in New York City called Fabletown. We follow a lot of different Fables including the Fabletown Sheriff Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf. Excellent urban fantasy series and if you enjoy your fairytales this one is magnificent. Writer: Bill Willingham Artist: Various
Queen and Country: The British Special Operations Section of SIS, MI6, operative Tara Chace takes on the espionage genre with a realistic style. The series is for all those spy fans and those who’d like to see less James Bond and more like real spies. This is a tense political thriller that does not back down or shy away from anything. Writer: Greg Rucka Artist: Various
There are about a bagillion other recommendations I could make but that would defeat the purpose here. If you want any other recommendations on what to read next or a specific character you want to read more about them just ask, or talk to the staff at your local comic shop.
Edit: Added Comixology links to for all digital comics available at this time.