Recently a long time friend of mine messaged me on Facebook saying he had a question to ask. He said he’d really enjoyed the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and wanted to get into comics. He’s always been a bit of a geek, but the world of comic books hadn’t really been his brand until now. So he asked if I had any advice about delving into the world of comic books, since he had no clue where to start.
It doesn’t surprise me that someone wanting to jump into comics finds the task daunting. The comic book world is vast, and the content is limitless. There’s also a certain pressure to find the “right” way to do comic books, which can seem impossible. After talking with my friend and taking him to a local comic book shop, I thought perhaps my advice could be useful to others.
Here’s my disclaimer: I’m not a hardcore comic book fan. There are a ton of writers on Nerdophiles who are probably better comic book fans than I am. My advice is more for the casual readers. These tips are oriented toward people who want to break into the world of comics, but not necessarily jump in and start collecting. I’m the type of person who reads what I like, doesn’t know a lot about what I don’t like, and doesn’t know jack squat about collecting. So take my advice for what it is, which is a casual reader trying to give some tips to people who would like to become casual readers.
Tip one: Read what you like.
There’s no “right way” to enter into the world of comic books. You don’t have to start from the beginning and work your way to the modern adaptations. You don’t even need to understand what superheroes belong to DC, who belongs to Marvel, and the names of all of the independent publishers. All you need to know is that you can read what you like and it doesn’t make you any more or any less of a comic book fan.
For my friend, I told him if he liked Guardians of the Galaxy then he should go read the comics. Walk into a comic book store, pick out the story arc that looks the most interesting, and dive on in. Odds are there will be some questions at the end of it, especially if other stories are mentioned, but it is a starting point. Pick something you like, read it, and branch out from there.
For me? I’m big on The Avengers, so I’ll pick up the latest stories and read through them. I’m enjoying Saga, so I’ll keep up to date on that when the trades come out. It is the same with Hawkeye. I pick and choose the comics I like, read them, and sometimes I branch out from there. The important part was that I started by reading what I liked and the rest came after that.
Tip two: Go hang out at your local comic book store and talk with the employees there.
First and foremost, supporting your local comic book shops is a great thing to do. The one I go to is a shop in Keizer, Oregon called Tony’s Kingdom of Comics. It is a small shop but is well established and the people who work there know their stuff. I’ll admit I don’t get over there as often as I’d like. Yet I am moving to the point where I’m interested in taking out a list and picking up the new issues every Wednesday, and they will definitely be the shop I go to. As a bonus, there’s a dog who takes up residence in the shop and the quickest way to my heart is through a dog.
I think taking my friend to the comic book shop was one of the best ways to welcome him into the world of comics. The lady behind the counter happily helped him and answered the questions that were out of my league, considering I’m not up to date on the Guardians of the Galaxy. He got a chance to talk to her about what the different series meant and parceled out the difference between buying issues and buying trades. It is always better to get advice from someone who is surrounded by comics every day and I appreciated the help she offered.
I love local comic book shops because the owners and the people who work there are often just as in love with comics as the consumers are. When I walk into Tony’s Kingdom of Comics I don’t feel pressured to act or think a certain way. They just want me to enjoy the comics they’re providing, whichever ones I want to pick up. Sometimes they’ll make suggestions, or we’ll talk about what I’m reading, but it is a laid back atmosphere because we’re all there for the same reason. We all love comics.
So go buy local! Let the people at your local shop share their knowledge and love of comics with you.
Tip three: You don’t have to know everything about comics.
I’ve been in the nerd world since I was little. My dad was an avid comic book collector and my brother took after him. I enjoyed comics, but I never collected. In all of my years engaging in conventions and with other “nerds” I’ve found that there are certain groups of people who don’t like it when someone doesn’t know as much as they do. I don’t know where this attitude comes from, but I’ve experienced it firsthand. There are people who pride themselves on their comic book knowledge to the extent that if you don’t know all of the inane facts they do, you’re an inferior comic book fan.
It is the hipster mentality that is mocked in a number of mediums, yet it still continues to run rampant and discourages new fans. Why even bother trying to break into the world of comic books when you’re just going to be continually reminded that you’ll never know as much as Nerdy Joe who lords his knowledge of comic books over anyone who dares to claim they are a fan. These are the fans that make new people hesitate and keep them from sharing that they’re interested in comics for the first time in years.
For my friend, I could tell by the way he asked his questions that he was looking for the right way to do comics. He didn’t really want to jump in without knowing enough to get by. I told him to do what he loves and let the haters hate.
Don’t let what other people think dictate what you read or don’t read. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about comic books to be a “real fan”. Read what you like, ask questions when you’ve got them, and don’t hesitate to consider yourself a fan just because you haven’t been reading comics for a while. You’re still a fan.
So that’s my advice for anyone trying to break into the world of comics as a casual reader. Read what you like, go hang out at your local comic book store, and remember that you don’t have to know everything about comics in order to be a fan. Comic books are supposed to be fun. They’re an escape from reality. Don’t get bogged down in trying to do comics “right,” especially now as comics are becoming popular and widely accepted as something cool to engage with. Do what you want to do, read what you want to read, and go out and enjoy some comic books