5 Easy Ways to Get into Comics
I generally consider myself a comic book newbie. While I have bought comics sporadically for about a decade, I only started reading them in earnest in mid-2017, and my to-be-read list still outpaces my rate of consumption by miles. Despite my newness to the medium, I love talking about it, and one of the things that I hear regularly when discussing with people who don’t read comics is, “I’d like to get into them, but I don’t know where to start.”
It’s a sentiment I felt keenly whenever I’d walk into a comic book store, hypnotized by shelves brimming with colorful art and what I was sure were fascinating, but long-running stories. It’s why more often than not, I’d walk back out overwhelmed and empty-handed. It’s part of why The Mockingbird Project exists - to help eliminate barriers like these.
If you ask a comic reader where to begin, the most common bit of advice you’ll probably receive is to “dive in.” With so many crossovers, storylines, and iterations, however, that can feel far from a simple decision to make. Here are five tips on how to do just that.
Start with your friends’ favorites
This may feel like an obvious suggestion, but I admit that it wasn’t until I joined the women’s comic book club at my local store - the 2017 event that kicked off my comic fervor - that I actually started picking up the books my friends suggested. I am constantly asking them for prose recommendations, so I’m not sure why it took me so long, but through them I discovered many wonderful stories I would not have selected on my own. If you have friends who read comics, ask what their favorites are or what they’re currently reading. The bonus is that you already have someone with whom you can discuss what you’ve read! If your friends aren’t comic nerds or your tastes differ, then check out our recommendations and reviews to see if something we love strikes your fancy.
Start with self-contained books
I only started reading Marvel and DC within the last year because I found their catalog intimidating and confusing. I stuck with smaller publishers such as IDW and Boom! Studios because it was easy to identify where stories began. Even now as The Big 2 are slowly creeping their way into my pull box, the majority of my collection is still creator-owned books put out by Image. Choosing self-contained storylines is a great way to sample what comics has to offer and figure out what you like to read, both in regards to writing and art style, as well as genre. Whether you want a limited run, modern horror story like Infidel, or an ongoing, sci-fi adventure series like Paper Girls, there’s probably a book out there for you that doesn’t connect to other titles.
Start with a writer you enjoy
You may already know authors such as Greg Rucka, G. Willow Wilson, Neil Gaiman, and Marjorie Liu have multiple comic book titles to their names, but did you also know the list of people who’ve written both prose and comics includes Harlan Ellison, Nnedi Okorafor, Joe Hill, and Roxane Gay? It’s an ever-growing list, so if you’re stumped for what to read, check out your favorite author’s bibliography and see if it includes a graphic novel. Chelsea Cain’s comics may be a totally different genre than her thrillers, but odds are if you already enjoy her writing, her work in a more visual medium will still entertain you.
Start with a character that piques your interest
You heard that at some point Thor was a woman or that Superman crash-landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States. You’re intrigued but not sure if there’s something you should read first to provide context, so you pass on Thor: The Goddess of Thunder or Superman: Red Son until you can figure it out. Sound familiar? Read it anyway! Many of the stories I’ve read that exist within a larger comics universe are perfectly understandable without further context, and Google typically filled in any gaps. A lot of times you’ll either discover a jumping-off point for further comics to explore, or you’ll find that the writers simply make stuff up and that’s the first time everyone heard about a particular detail, not just you.
Start with stories you already know
It’s hard to ignore the plethora of comic-to-screen adaptations these days. The first trade paperback I purchased was Volume 1 of The Walking Dead; I had watched two seasons of the TV show and was itching for more during its hiatus. While I have since dropped both the show and the comic, it was an easy point of entry. If you enjoy any of the television or film adaptations on the market, check out their source material! If you’re not a screen junkie, there are plenty of books that have been turned into graphic novels as well - Octavia Butler’s Kindred has received a visual treatment, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Stand series both have comic book versions. Or pick your favorite fandom! Star Wars, Doctor Who, Transformers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even WWE all have their own comic book series.