So you’ve decided you want to check out the medium of comics, but don’t know where to start? This is the place for you to learn all you need to know about starting to read comics.
First off, you’ll need to know that there are many publishers of comics. In the US, the biggest two are Marvel and DC, and these are often referred to as “The Big Two”, for obvious reasons. These are the equivalent of big movie studios, and any mainstream comic is likely to have been published by one of these. These two publishers own the characters that appear in their comics, rather than the writers/artists that created or worked on them, which will be important to know for later in the guide.
These are the publishers you should check out if you’re interested in reading about a character you’ve seen in cartoons or movies, such as Spider-man, Superman, the X-Men, Batman, etc.
(We have reading lists for both Marvel and DC)
In addition to The Big Two, there are many, many smaller companies that publish comics. These are referred to as “independent” publishers. This is where you’ll find many “creator-owned" comics, which means the writers/artists that created characters are the ones who own the rights to those characters,rather than the publishing company. In the US, the two biggest independent publishers are Dark Horse and Image. These are the publishers you may want to check out if you want to start with self-contained (as in they have no long-running continuity) stories. Other places you may want to check for these are imprints of The Big Two (covered later in the guide).
Dark Horse is also home to a few characters/series that have been adapted into movies, such as Hellboy and Sin City.
ACQUIRING AND READING COMICS
The internet is your friend for this. We’ve already published a few tips on finding comics on the internet, as well as programs to read digital comics. Digital comics you find on the internet will most frequently come in one of two formats: .cbz and .cbr. You don’t really need to worry about these extensions, since the programs will read them for you. (For those of you who are more tech-savy and curious about these extensions, they’re just renamed .zip and .rar formats)
PAST THE BASICS
Now that we’ve covered the basics of reading comics, we can cover a bit more of industry-specific stuff.
You may have heard of things like Vertigo and Icon when reading about comics. These are “imprints" of The Big Two. Imprints are basically smaller lines published by The Big Two where the series published exist either in their own universe or in a sectioned-off corner of the bigger universe of their respective publisher. These are also really good places to check for creator-owned or self-contained stories.
You can check out the imprint list for Marvel and DC on Wikipedia.
If you’re looking into what to read for long-running series or really popular characters, you may find that there’s a plethora of things under their name. Don’t worry, this happens. There are two approaches to take with this: read everything involving the character/series from the beginning, or read whatever is recommended in a list online. Most times, the best approach is the latter one.
Comics are really different from other media when it comes to continuity, since many writers and artists work on a character or series throughout the history of the series/character. What typically ends up happening is subplots or character development used by one writer will be ignored by future writers or only brought up sporadically, as the new writers will have their own ideas for the character/series. Sometimes, old things will be retconned out in order to better fit a plot of a new writer. This is all OK; rather than worrying about the entire history of a character that’s 50+ years old, you can simply choose to read the good stories involving that character. If you should decide you want to read more, you’re always able to go back and read whatever you missed.
You now know the basics about the industry in the US and how to acquire comics. If you’re at a loss for what you want to read:
- pick a character you’re interested in, and look up a reading/recommendation list for them. If one doesn’t exist, ask politely on /co/, and some helpful anon may help you out.
- Check out our general rec list and start reading things from there
- Read some self-contained stories, Vertigo is a good place to start
Once you’ve figured out what you want/like to read in comics, keep branching out and exploring. If you ever find that you don’t know what to read next, feel free to look up a list on here, or ask for a recommendation or reading list either here or on /co/.
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