So, you’ve finally decided to check out this crazy comic book business. Not everyone grew up on comic books. I am one of many that have come to these treasures later in life. It’s hard to know where to start in the vast genre of the illustrated page. I stumbled along on my own and spent a lot of time staring at covers blankly in a bookstore. V for Vendetta was one of the first graphic novels I read. Then I read a random assortment of X-men comics from someone’s collection.
Eventually I got recommendations from serious comic book readers, and I also found what I liked by attending conventions and trying out new stories. I tend to read non-cape titles. I only recently added a superhero to my pull list at my local store. It’s not because I’m snobby, just intimidated. I want people to know that if you feel the same way, don’t think that there aren’t any comics for you to read.
Imagine it. You walk into your local comic book store and see an entire shelf of Spider-Man comics. It’s the same for Batman and The Avengers and all of the other huge mainstream heroes. I think having so many stories and spin-offs is a good thing. If you do start reading any of the big capes, you have an almost endless amount of comics to keep you busy. From the other side, the library of hundreds and hundreds of issues can be overwhelming. What if you start in the wrong place and spoil a pivotal moment? How do know which stories are the best?
You have a couple of options.
If you want to read about Wolverine or Captain America, don’t be scared to ask for help. The right comic book store (use this comic shop locator to find one in your area) will help you on your quest. That superhero I recently added to my list was Thor. When I told a staff member at my regular comic book shop that I was interested in Thor, she was so excited and immediately handed me the first issue of a new series and recommended a trade that would be released soon. If you don’t have such a place within your reach, get thee to the internet. Ask your friends, ask random people on Twitter. It might take a few titles, but from what I’ve seen, every person finds at least one story that fits them.
If you have little or no interest in superheroes, you can still dig into fantastic stories. Where do you want to start? You can discover comic adaptations of movies and television shows, comics that continue the stories of on-screen characters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer!), comics about everyday people, comics about mice, comics about fairytales, and I could keep going. These come from publishers or independent creators. I’ve found lovely stories and art by walking the aisles of the Small Press area at San Diego Comic-Con. Conventions are good for comic book shopping because artists and writers are usually present. Indie creators are obviously behind their table, and publishers often have signings throughout the day. You can get the pitch from the person who is more passionate about the story than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to ask your favorite creators what comics they read every week or what stories inspired them to make comics. And again, ask your local comic book store or friends for recommendations. I happen to have a few stories for you to check out as well:
1. Mouse Guard – David Petersen’s story about intrepid mice that guard the realm and protect their kind will grab you with phenomenal art and a fierce story. The tales of the Guard, published by Archaia, reach across two graphic novels, an RPG, and comics. The story is a combination of fairytale and fantasy, and all the details push you into immersing yourself in the world. And just so you know, Archaia is a fantastic publisher. They specifically don’t release stories about typical superheroes. I’ve read several books in their catalog, like Return of the Dapper Men, and I’ve yet to be disappointed.
2. Love and Capes – As you can see from the title, this series does have capes. Stay with me. The comic by Thom Zahler, currently published by IDW, is about Mark and Abby. They’re newlyweds going through all the relationship and life stuff that everyone else deals with. Something sets them apart though. Mark is actually The Crusader. He’s a superhero that has a day job and a regular life. It’s witty, funny, charming, and darnit, every issue makes me smile. Don’t you go writing it off as a rom-com just for girls either. If you’ve ever laughed at a sitcom, you’ll like this comic.
3. Buffy, Angel, Spike, Illyria – I am a fan of all things Whedon. If you wish that Buffy or Angel had continued, well—they sort of did. It’s just in comic book format. Joss Whedon has penned the Buffy season 8 comics but, by and large, it’s other creators bringing us stories. You’ll find episodes adapted to the comic format and brand new stories with your favorite characters. These comics have been published by Dark Horse and IDW. The run with IDW is just ending though. One of my favorite writer/artist combos for the IDW stories is Scott Tipton and Elena Casagrande. Their recent Illyria comic – Illyria: Haunted – really captured everything about one of my favorite characters in the Buffy-Angelverse.
Have fun looking for comics that you love, and don’t let anyone judge your comic book choices. Happy reading!