Comic books have become increasingly popular over recent years, with the success of cinematic adaptations from Marvel and DC, as well as popular TV shows such as Arrow and The Flash, having a large impact on this. It is therefore unsurprising that comic book sales have increased respective to this.
A lot of these sales can be attributed to new customers, to people who have never bought a comic before and are looking to start a collection. Or maybe they are just testing the industry out, and buying a one of comic book here or there is their way of seeing if a collection is something that they want to invest ever increasingly valuable time and money.
But with the absolutely immense array of stories, characters, and categories to choose from it can be an incredibly daunting task to decide where to begin, and this is something that many of us have experience first-hand. I myself have encountered this issue over the last two years, where after a long hiatus of collecting comics I decided that it was time to get back into the action. Imagine my dismay to then discover that the landscape of the comic book world had greatly changed. My all-time favourite character Spider-Man was no longer relatable Peter Parker but his formidable opponent Doc Ock, Captain America was dead, and don’t even get me started on what was going on with Old Man Logan.
I was behind, and there were gaps in my knowledge of my favourite characters, and so I faced the terrible decision of where to start, how would I even begin to get back involved with these stories, #SophiesChoice.
I know I am not alone in this, and that there is a large demographic of people young and old who would love to start collecting comics but do not know where to start, so in an attempt to help these people I have decided to write my guide to joining the comic book multiverse.
Step 1: Do not be afraid
Yes, there is a lot of choice, yes there are often multiple stories for the same character, and yes, there is now over 50 years of comic book history behind them. Despite that, try not to be afraid. A lot of the story lines written in popular comic books today are not complex, and they are easy to pick up along the way.
Stan Lee often says that it is important for the people writing comics to remember that every comic is someone’s first comic, and for this reason Marvel is incredibly helpful in giving readers tips and hints on what has happened in the past. So when it comes to deciding which characters to read, do not be afraid of their extensive past.
Step 2: Just pick your favourite
If you already have a favourite character then great, start there. And if you don’t, just pick one you think you’ll like. What TV shows do you like? Or what film characters do you love? I guarantee that there is a comic book character to match it and then some. As well as that, there is also a vast amount of popular TV shows that have been transferred into comic books. The best examples of these in my opinion would be the Orphan Black series, which sold out extremely quickly when it was released. Not only would I highly recommend this TV series, but I would also suggest giving the comics a go if you can. So the best place to start when choosing what comic book to read, would be to go for your favourite, or try a story that matches your interests elsewhere.
Step 3: Find the first volume
Comics are usually released one issue at a time over a varying time frame, usually every two weeks. But it is also possible to buy Trade Paperbacks (TPB), which group several issues together in the logical way for the story. As well as this, companies like Marvel often spread stories across multiple characters’ comics, and the TPB usually includes the crossover issues. You may not get the first issue of the character’s story ever, and in fact this will either be impossible or highly expensive if you do this with the likes of Spider-Man etc.
However, the best way to find the start of a particular story is to Google your character’s name with the phrase volume one, i.e. Spider-man 2099 Volume One. Usually, this will pull up results for EBay or Amazon, and will show you the first TPB for a particular story. This won’t always be easy, especially if your
character choice is not someone at the forefront of the industry. I was lucky with my favourites, and finding the first part of a story arc has been pretty easy.
Step 4: Be adventurous
If you are still not sure what you want to go for, and don’t want to risk spending the higher some for a TPB, then just be adventurous. Most good comic book stores will have a collection of back issues from all manner of stories, and your best bet would be to just randomly select a few single issues from here and try them out. These are usually pretty inexpensive, costing no more than £3, and it can be a great idea to get a feel for what you like. Try a few of these out, and once you get a feel for the types of characters of stories that you are into you can then invest more time and money into it.
Step 5: Become a Google connoisseur
Google is your friend, and it will become an essential tool in improving your understanding of what’s going on in a story. Writers are well aware that not every customer they have is an expert on all the history, and they will help readers to keep up with what’s going on. Despite this they still assume we know some things that we don’t, and this is where Google comes in. Whether it’s an unfamiliar name that’s been mentioned, or a back story that’s being referred to, or maybe even a reality shifting event that’s caused a certain discussion, Google it. Fortunately, there is a large database of people with a vast historical knowledge, and these wise old sages have become our teachers, and lent us their knowledge. Google is the key to unlocking their secrets.
Step 6: Don’t worry if you get lost
At the end of the day we all love comic books for different reasons, whether it’s the artwork, the story, the characters, or even the culture that surrounds it, and these factors should not be forgotten if you get lost in a plot. Not all story arcs are straightforward, and many of them are too complex for some readers who have little background knowledge to fall back on. Just remember that we are in our own little club as comic book readers, and we are having fun in our own worlds even if the outside world doesn’t know it.
So that concludes my 6 step guide to starting what will undoubtedly become a lifelong lesson, and it won’t be long before you have to explain to your friend or loved one why it’s completely justified to spend more money on comic books than on food. I hope this has been helpful for you, and that it in some way encourages all of you to get out there and start your own collection.
Author – Travis ‘T-Bone’ Eyles