Arts and Culture

A Beginner’s Guide To Comic Books



By: Lindon Walz

With the recent hit movies based on comics, many moviegoers want (wish) to read the works  that spawned these creative and interesting characters, but are unsure about getting into this complex world. This article will teach you about the world of comics and introduce you to this expanded universe.

First of all, it is a myth that comics are exclusively for kids. Although there are comics made for small children, most modern books focus on darker storylines and characters. Even Superman explores themes of morality and power. Heroes don’t just save cats from trees anymore.

Now that you understand the state of comic books today, you must answer a few essential questions for yourself: “What do you want to read? Where should you want to start?and How should you store your collection?”

Finding out what you want to read is entirely up to you. You can talk to friends, people who work at a comic shop, or search the internet to find the perfect comic for you. Today’s comic book industry is great because if men in capes fighting crime doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to read those comics. There are many different comic publishers, like Vertigo, which is a great source for horror stories. Another company, Image, covers many genres from the ever famous “The Walking Dead” to the space love story “Saga” or even the Noire detective book “The Fade Out”. Companies like Zenescope takes existing universes like Grimm’s Fairy Tales and put a spin on them. The possibilities are endless for finding comic books.

But if you do want to read about capes and cowls there’s the titans of the industry, Marvel and DC. Marvel has captivated the world with movies, but if you want to pick up a Marvel book that reflects the cinematic universe, then don’t pick up their recent books. Recently, Marvel tried to mix up their characters’ lives, but have ended up ruining the characters. So my advice if you want to read Marvel is to read comics from the start of the century. DC is a little more complicated. To simplify it, if the comic has “New 52” written on the top, stay away, unless it’s Batman.

Keep in mind that these movies do not always follow the comic books, and they do not have to.

Now, figuring out where to start requires you to ask many other questions. You must first decide which comic book “age” you want to read. The Golden Age was the infancy of comics, and features mostly crude writing and illustrations. However, most books from the Golden Era have a charming innocence to them. The Silver Age is the age that was written for small children and features simple and lighthearted storylines, along with your daily dose of campiness. The next age is the Bronze Age which showed characters in dark situations as they dealt with modern problems including racism, and drug use. The Modern Age is the current age, and expanded on the darkness of the Bronze Age by including more violent crimes, fouler language, and more realistic artwork. Many characters will appear throughout the ages, so if you’re not sure which sounds good to you, pick up one of these books for a character that interests you.

But most characters go through different series that will most likely disregard the previous author’s work to some extent. This can cause confusion for many, but it can be easily solved. An author’s run will be usually be broken up into separate books that include a few issues each. So just find a book with the number “1” on the spine and try it out. If you like the comic continue with the series, but if you don’t, there is always different authors and characters.       

In today’s world, technology is everywhere and comic books are no exception. So when deciding what comics to read, take into account whether you want to read comics physically or digitally. Both have perks, but some people prefer one over the other. Most people who get physical comics love interacting with fellow comic book lovers at the shop, and the feeling of holding an actual comic book has as they read it. Physical comics also have value, so if you hope to one day buy a book that will be worth thousands in the future, physical is the way to go. If you want to find physical comic books, then go to Atlas Comics in Charlottesville.

People who read comics digitally will argue that it is easier to store the books.If you wish to find a comic, you do not have to go on a hunt for the actual book. Also, rare comics that are expensive to buy as a physical copy will be the same price as a normal comic. If it’s digital comics you want, all the major companies have an app that includes all their books. Both types of collectors are respected among the community, so whichever one you choose will be the right decision.

Now you know the basics of comic buying, and you can walk into a comic shop or online shop confidently. Even with your newly acquired knowledge, you can’t know everything. If you have questions, though the internet is a great source, members of the comic book community love to socialize and introduce people into the community, so they would be more than happy to answer your questions.

Now if you have no idea where to start or just don’t want to look anything up, I can give you a few recommendations. First for DC, read: Batman: The Killing Joke, Kingdom Come, and All-Star Superman just to name a few. As far as Marvel goes, I recommend: Civil War, The Night Gwen Stacy Died, and Daredevil: Born Again. If Image sounds like your forte, try Saga, They’re Not Like Us, and The Fade Out. If you like horror try Vertigo’s Wytches, John Constantine: Hellblazer, or Lucifer. I hope these books will help you start your collection, happy reading!    

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