How do you get into reading comic books?

Guest post by Erin
Editor Megan with her very first comic book.
Editor Megan with her very first comic book.
I’ve been thinking about reading comic books (or graphic novels? Are they different?) for a while, but I just don’t know where to start. I’d consider myself a pretty nerdy girl, but all my nerdy interests are TV/movie related.

Most comics have been going for years, so obviously I can’t start at the very beginning of a series. Should I should just grab the most current issue of something and start reading? Or will I be lost because it’s in the middle of a story line? Also, there are like a million different ones out there, and I want to get something good.

Can the Homies suggest some comics and a good issue to start with? Thanks! -Erin

Hey Erin! I’m in the same boat. I’m a comics virgin, but I hang out with a LOT of comic book geeks. Doctor Strange what now? Infinity Gauntlet who? I’m slowly starting to sort it all out and absorb a lot of knowledge by proxy. But here are MY tips, and then I’ll open it up to the Homies:

Find a hero

Grab your favorite comic-loving friend and ask them to guide you through the process. Ask them about their favorite comics and then ask them all the questions you asked us.

Find a home base

Have that friend take you to their local comic book shop and introduce you to the guardians of the geek knowledge. Once you get to know them, and they get to know you, they’ll be able to tailor their comic book recommendations based on your own tastes.

Find a new series

I just bought my very first comic recently… Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal. My comic book geek friend recommended it to me since it was the first of a series, and the hero is, awesomely and intriguingly, a 16-year old Pakistani-American Muslim geek girl from New Jersey. That’s a hero, and a graphic novel series I can get behind.

Homies who are comic book geeks! What are your recommendations for newbs looking to become full-fledged comic book geeks themselves?

Comments on How do you get into reading comic books?

    • I was going to mention it but I felt that even if it’s a great way to acquire a dozen of free comic books, the selection isn’t usually for newbies. But hey, it’s a fun way to actually go to your local comic book store and meet fellow comic book enthusiasts (maybe too many of them… go there early).

  1. I got into comics when I dated someone who was into them. I just kind of started by researching big story arcs and characters (I read basically exclusively DC, mostly Batfamily and Gotham stuff – which is already a lot of reading material even though it seems very specific!). Then I picked an arc and downloaded it.

    Then I went on from there, reading connecting stories and figuring out which characters I liked.

    That was before the New 52, which I hate in a lot of ways, but it is a great starting point for people, even though we’re already a few years into it. Comics can definitely be intimidating because of all of the very long, convoluted stories, however I also think that’s part of the appeal.

  2. I was actually introduced to comics through a lit class in college that was AWESOME. From that, I definitely fell in love with Maus and Maus II. Different than some of the others, but full of feelings. Also, obviously, Sandman.
    I skimmed most of the other comments to see if they mentioned it, but there are also a ton of awesome webcomics all over, many of which have been going on for years. Those, you can bring up on your smartphone and read wherever you are, for free! A few off the top of my head:
    Questionable Content
    Oglaf (definitely NSFW, but hilarious and sexy!)
    Girls with Slingshots
    Chester 5000 (also NSFW, but steampunk robot p*rn with a tender storyline? What!?)
    Cleopatra in Space
    I tried to specifically list webcomics with storylines, though there are many good ones without (think XKCD, Bunny, the Oatmeal.)

    • Since we’re going down this dark path (HA!), may I also suggest: Buttsmithy (gorgeous art, but definitely NSFW. Ok let’s say it, it’s porn. But gorgeous porn).
      ReaperSun, for fandom-oriented people, with BBC Sherlock and Star Trek N/SFW comics which are hilarious, touching, fun, sexyyyy. I love her work.

  3. Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) got me into reading straight up comics (I’ve read a few graphic novels in the past). She took up the mantel of Captain Marvel after her predecessor Mar-Vell (who also was the person she got her powers from in the first place) had passed. Did I also mention she’s a pilot!? This transition also opened the door to allow for a new Ms. Marvel to appear and we got Kamala Khan, the first Pakistani-American to have her own title!!
    Since both of these stories are fairly new, I’d recommend starting with these, they are inclusive and adventure packed!

  4. If we want to stray from the big names (Marvel/DC), there are a ton! Flight was probably the first graphic novel I ever picked up, there are 8 books full of beautiful stories by different authors/artists. Then currently, I’ve loved reading Lumberjanes, Max Ride and Saga. All very different, but each one will leave you wanting more.

  5. It’s kind of old now, but PopCandy wrote an article a while back about getting into comics and it has some great suggestions:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/popcandy/2012/10/05/beginners-guide-to-comics/1615617/

    Also I highly recommend going to a comic book store and let them know what you like: Horror, Humor, Action. Or even if there is a show you really like: Firefly, Doctor Who, Walking Dead. And they can point you in the right direction.

    And on Geek and Sundry, there is a great comic series calling Talkin’ Comics that is hosted by Amy Dallen (who is just adorable) and she talks about all kinds of comics. She’s inspired me to read a lot of comics that I probably would’ve never looked at before. And the way she describes them makes them really interesting, so even if they aren’t my thing, I like being able to be aware of them when my geek friends talk about them.

  6. Take the Rise of Superheroes (free) class on edx.org! Starts in Aug. Great intro to world/history/pop culture of comics. You can even get creative and make your own comic!

  7. I am three days late to this conversation because I was at the ALA conference where all I did was go to comics panels. Everything I recommend has mostly been recommended (Captain & Ms. Marvel, WicDiv, Hawkeye, Saga, Rat Queens, Bitch Planet), but I have more.

    I am surprised no one mentioned Pretty Deadly. By the writer of Captain Marvel and Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and the illustrator is Emma Rios. It’s a western, but it’s also straight up mythology, but it’s also a story about how complicated love and families are, but it’s also a story about Death’s daughter, the spirit of vengeance. Her name is Ginny. She is my favorite.

    Also if people like Lumberjanes, one of the main writers (Noelle Stevenson) had her first graphic novel come out. It’s called Nimona, and the protagonist is a shapeshifter who kind of cons her way into becoming the sidekick of the villain of a fantasy kingdom. I’m not nearly doing it justice. It’s amazing. The first three chapters are up here http://gingerhaze.com/NIMONA

    OTHER THINGS

    Everything Gail Simone has ever written. I am particularly fond of her run on Birds of Prey, but The Movement (incredibly diverse cast, young characters, teaming up to fight injustice in their neighborhood and bring down capitalist bad guys), and both versions of Secret Six (one from several years ago, one that started recently–DC bad guys on a team, being…not actually that bad…I mean bad, but also loveable) are great. And her Red Sonja, which is pulp comics at it’s absolute finest.

    I also really like Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, but that might be hard to get into for a new reader, because Angela’s backstory is confusing as heck. She’s part of the Marvel continuity now, but originally Neil Gaiman wrote her for the Spawn series. It’s confusing. I like the new stuff.

    If you like wacky wacky but actually really intelligent things, the new Howard the Duck. It’s weird. It’s so weird. But so good. Howard is the only sane person in the Marvel universe, but he’s also a humanoid duck. And a reporter. Because…y’know…comics.

    Also, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant http://www.delilahdirk.com/ SO. MUCH. FUN. My favorite character types of the madcap, reckless, insane but incredibly fun woman and her roped-along-for-the-ride, slightly overcautious companion.

    • i have Delilah dirk it is awesome sauce. art is fun to. and it’s a smaller size in a book format so easy travel comic.

  8. This is so awesome! I had no idea that you could get volumes of multiple comics all in one book. I’m going to go buy a couple on Amazon right now! Thank you Homies!!! xo

  9. Here’s my two cents about getting started with comics:

    1) Start with a staple. i.e something that has been widely read and has stood the test of time. There are a lot of great new comics, but there is also a LOT of mediocre or bad stuff out there to sort through (and some stuff that is purely acquired taste). I would hate for your interest to be killed by starting with some obscure niche comic that is unappealing. I started with Watchmen – it was on TIME magazine’s list of Best 100 Novels.

    2) Artwork! Choose comics with illustrations or graphics that you find beautiful or engaging. The story is important, but the artwork is what separates comics from novels. I LOVE anything illustrated by Dave McKean. There is a fantastic Jim Henson graphic novel called Tale of Sand that is entirely visual without any text. http://www.amazon.com/A-Tale-Sand-Jim-Henson/dp/1936393093.

    4) Avoid flipping ahead – you’ll see things that could possibly ruin the story! (Trust me on this one!)

    5) Someone already suggested this, but try the Comixology app. It’s amazing!

  10. omg omg let me chime in! I am a pretty avid comic reader, but I had trouble getting into it at first, and I have recommendations! I know I’m a little late to the party, but still…

    First, I wholeheartedly recommend trying things based on WHO is writing it, not necessarily specific heroes/stories. Authors can change even in the middle of a run, and it can be a let-down sometimes. But knowing an author you like can lead to other books he/she has written, that you wouldn’t have checked out otherwise.

    General rule #1: Comic books can be pretty dark. Especially DC. I personally don’t love the grim-dark everything-you-love-dies that a lot of them get into, so most of my recommendations will end up being more super-hero saves-the-day kind of thing, although even Marvel can get pretty dark, so just be warned.

    General rule #2: Comic book store owners might be creepy or assume you’re looking for something girly or light, but if you come in with an author’s name already, they might respect that and realize you mean it. Also, some comic book store owners are AMAZING (we have personally become close friends with a couple who owns their shop), so if you don’t like one place, try another!

    General rule #3: All Marvel comics typically take place in two (kinda parallel) universes: the Ultimate universe and 616. And there are basically the Ultimate Avengers and the normal (616) Avengers, and they can be quite different. So basically, if you’re starting out, I would stick to one universe (I prefer 616, except in the case of spider-man).

    General rule #4: DC comics can be more difficult to get into, even with the new 52 thing, because they don’t have introductory summary pages like most Marvel comics do. In Marvel comics, they usually introduce the characters very quickly and say what has been going on in the past few issues or elsewhere in the universe in case you haven’t been reading. And while this is slowly becoming untrue, Marvel comics still generally tell a more self-contained story, so you don’t need to be reading three different comics in order to get the whole story.

    General rule #5: Trades can help you get into a character or author pretty quickly, and they ensure you’re getting one full story-arc. I believe others have mentioned it, but basically a trade is a collection of one full set of comics that make up one full arc of that title. This means even if you don’t get the FIRST story arc, you at least know you’re starting at the beginning of a story, which is nice. Plus, you get the full story, all at once, so you can pretty quickly make up your mind whether you like the author/art/characters, instead of getting a few individual comics.

    Ok, on to recommendations. You’ve obviously already been told about Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel (both of whom rank in my favorites). And you’ve gotten some great recommendations for non-DC/Marvel books, so I’m going to stick to more mainstream, which can still be a lot of fun, AND it can make you feel awesome when you go to see a Marvel movie and you know who’s who before everyone else because you know their alter-ego. 🙂

    Anyway, I will only recommend easy-to-approach and not too grimdark comics, even in DC.

    DC: Gotham Academy, the most recent Batgirl, Arkham Manor, Wonder Woman (really only while Azarello was writing her, though)

    Marvel: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Thor (when written by Jason Aaron), Rocket Raccoon, Hawkeye (trust me)… the others all kind of depend on who is writing them. Avengers, recently, has been far too overwrought for my taste, but I used to love it. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy… They can all be fun, but right now I’d start with the first recommendations and eventually stray to the rest as you feel like it.

    Now for the MORE IMPORTANT recommendations, authors!

    Matt Fraction – The only reason I started reading Hawkeye was because he wrote it, and it’s now basically my favorite book. He is amazing. Read everything by him.

    Kelly Sue Deconnick – currently writing Captain Marvel, she makes characters super awesome.

    Ed Brubaker – Amazing author, all around. I think I have liked everything I’ve read by him, easily. When he and Matt Fraction team up, they’re unbeatable, IMO. He made me love Captain America, who can come off as a boring character compared to Iron Man and Thor when you haven’t actually read about him. 🙂

    Kieron Gillen – Again, pretty much loved everything I’ve read by him.

    Nick Spencer – Always entertaining.

    Brian Michael Bendis – I love everything this man has written as well, but he has a very definite style that some people don’t love. I would at least give him a shot, though. If you don’t like one thing he writes, you might not like the rest.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post, but hopefully I gave given good advice to get into some current comic runs. If you want advice for trades of older runs, let me know… Immortal Iron Fist, Ultimate Spider-Man… there are a lot of good ones. 🙂 Welcome to the world of comics!

  11. Everyone has already suggested some really amazing comics so I won’t repeat them but if you’re into non-superhero or diverse comics, Rosarium Publishing has a ton, particularly African-American featured comics like Kid Code or DayBlack. Their website is here. http://rosariumpublishing.com/ I’d recommend Kid Code for basically a Hip Hop Doctor Who vibe – 1 issue so far, but amazing art and very good. DayBlack is darker, non-superhero, vampire tattoo-artist in Atlanta, Georgia, and 4 issues out right now.

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