Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Interested in Comics? A Look at Where to Start (Part 1)

We’ve been talking a lot on here lately about Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and the CW show Arrow, mostly in the context of the source material.  But while comics have been growing in popularity lately--sales are actually up over the last few years--they still aren’t near where they were in, say, the 1970’s.  And it occurred to me that maybe there are folks out there who would like to give comics a try, but they don’t have the first clue about where to start.

Frankly, you walk into a comic shop these day, and for the most part, it’s not exactly a user-friendly experience.  If, on top of that, you have no idea what you’re looking for, I can easily imagine that you’re gonna turn right around and walk back out.

So here’s my list of potential starter comics, in the order in which they occurred to me.  Most are superhero comics--because that’s mostly what’s on TV and in the movies these days--and they’re all complete stories.  Which is to say that, yes, something like Brian K. Vaughn’s Y The Last Man is indeed excellent, but it’s also 90+ issues and therefore not the place for a rookie to begin his or her comic journey.  The stories listed here are fairly short self-contained story arcs.

The links here are mostly to Comixology, but this stuff will also be available in hard copy via Amazon

1.  The Dark Knight Returns.  Maybe you’re wondering what folks love about Batman.  What all the fuss is about.  Well, this is the book that’ll explain it.  It also looks like it’s gonna be the basis for the next year’s Superman/Batman movie, so if you want to read it before you see it, start here.

On a side note, lots of comic nerds say that Alan Moore’s Watchman is the greatest comic work ever.  The reason that’s not true is that Watchman is a deconstruction of the sub-genre, and for my money, you can’t approach the deconstruction before you’ve read enough of the original source material to appreciate the way it’s working.  Which is why DKR gets pride of place here, and indeed, why Watchmen isn’t even on this list.

2.  Batman: Year One.  A lot of the stuff that was in the first Nolan Batman movie, Batman Begins, came out of Year One, and I’m recommending it at number two not only because it’s excellent but also because it’s short and because it’s another part of the basic mythos that’s permeated even mainstream popular culture.

3.  Avengers Assemble (Vol. 1).  There was no question that I was gonna put an Avengers book high on the list.  I chose this one because it’s a very old-school book, with superheroes being super and classic superheroic art.  After this, the Avengers really went in a million weird directions, so really, if you ask me, this is the last of the classic Avengers stories for a good, long time.

There are two volumes of the Kurt Busiek / George Perez Avengers.  They’re both good, but I’d start (obviously) with volume one.

4.  Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories.  Conan is another one of those properties that may have you wondering what the fuss is about.  This is the first volume from Dark Horse; it came out in 2005, and it’s excellent.  I mean, it is really, really good.  

This is Kurt Busiek writing again, this time with artist Cary Nord doing pencils that they then color digitally.  It’s a very unique look for a terrific collection of stories.

5.  A Superman for All Seasons.  Jeff Loeb created the TV show Smallville.  Before that, he and artist Tim Sale did a long set of defining works for many of the seminal characters in both the Marvel and DC Universes.  A Superman for All Seasons is the one about The Man of Steel, and it is, frankly, everything you could ever want to see in a Superman comic.

If you took your kids to see the recent Man of Steel movie, now buy them this comic to help them wash that taste out of their mouths.  This is Superman the way he ought to be.


  1. If I can come up with different ideas, I'll let you know.

    1. I'll look forward to it. But just so you know, I'm planning to run this list for four weeks, a total of twenty books. Still, I'd love to hear your thoughts.