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For Average Joe/Jane, Tips

How I Started Reading Comics and 4 Mistakes You Shouldn’t Follow

Before I cracked open my first graphic novel, I had this notion that comics was something you “get into”.  I thought comics were these superhero-y magazines only “geeks” can understand.

Mistake #1:  “Getting into” comics.

This is a terrible assumption to begin with.  Comics is just a medium, like TV, books and theatre.  You don’t “get into” movies.  You just watch them.  Comics are not inherently complicated.  You just read them.  

I admit, sometimes you have to “get into” superheroes.  Those kinds of comics are sometimes hard to follow because of all the history, characters and weird “science” involved.

However, not all comics are about superheroes.  Assuming this is like saying all TV shows are about funny middle-class families (Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Guy, Modern Family, The Proud Family, The Cosby Show, and the list goes on…).  There’s comedy, history, sci-fi, slice of life, romance, biographies, fantasy, etc., most of which don’t need an extensive knowledge of spandex.

I took a year off school to do an internship starting in September 2012.  I had some extra cash and time (no homework for once).  I’ve always loved learning about superheroes, so I decided to “get into” the source material, the comics.

I heard about DC’s New 52 title, Earth 2.  It starred a cast of golden-age heroes revamped for the modern age.  The concept sounded cool, so I bought volume 1 in hardcover, from Chapters for about $30.

Mistake #2:  Spending money on comics you’re not sure you’ll like

Try to check your local library or borrow from a friend for a “free trial” of the book.  If you like what you read, buy the next book or ask your library to do so.  Theoretically, you can read comics all your life for free if you can wait for your library to order them.

To be honest, I didn’t like it much.  The characters, concepts and the art were cool, but the execution bothered me a lot.  The dialogue sometimes didn’t flow well panel-to-panel and the characters didn’t feel genuine.  (Green Lantern’s too dutiful to shed a tear over his dead boyfriend?)  That’s the short of it.

Then, I thought, Hey, maybe it gets better later in the series.  So I bought issues #7-13, Earth 2 Annual #1 and that month’s issue, #14.  That totalled to another $30 more (thus repeating Mistake #2).

Mistake #3:  Not checking online first for jumping-on points and ratings.

Before committing to or continuing a monthly comic, find out if it’s worth reading and which issue you can jump into, if you can.  You don’t have to spend on a less-than-stellar comic.  You don’t have to start from issue #1.

I still didn’t like it much, but I kept buying more Earth 2 as it came out, waiting for it to get good.

I started reading other books from the comic book store and the library based on online recommendations.  Around this time, I finally learned I could’ve saved $30 if I read Earth 2 Vol. 1 from the library.

Me finally realizing most of what I want to read is at the library.

Me finally realizing most of what I want to read is at the library.

September came around again.  I finished my internship and returned to school, the University of Toronto (Mississauga Campus).  I continued my monthly pull and continued reading whatever I could borrow from the local library.

Second semester, half of my classes were in the downtown campus.  I figured since I’m in Toronto most of the week, I might as well dip into their library’s wider selection of comics.

They had almost everything I wanted, but I only had one semester down there.  Four months to read everything the Mississauga Library didn’t have.  So, I put myself on a tight schedule to take full advantage.  9 volumes of Preacher, 6 volumes of Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing volumes 3-5, Flex Mentallo, Astro City Vol. 1, Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits, The Sandman (recoloured editions)…

Mistake #4:  Making a job out of comics.

There are 80+ years worth of classics to explore and more coming out by the week.  Don’t kill yourself trying to read them all.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved reading a lot of those books.  Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol and Preacher became some of my favourite series’ in comics.  But I couldn’t finish them all unless I read at every chance I get; while eating, between classes, on the shuttle bus between campuses.  It was overwhelming, and when the book wasn’t good, it felt like work.

Summer school came around.  I didn’t have any more downtown courses, but there was still the shuttle.  I still had access to the Toronto Library and all the books I haven’t touched on yet.  So I kept placing holds and piling up the books.

Then I had my my mini-epiphany outlined in my about page.  Basically, I took a step back and realized I made a job out of it.

And that brings us to the point where I started this blog.  Yeah, given that I realized Mistake #4 only recently, I still consider myself a new reader.  Lots to learn but, hopefully, not that much.

Do you read comics?  How did you start?  Do you have any tips for new readers?  Let me know in the comments below!



One thought on “How I Started Reading Comics and 4 Mistakes You Shouldn’t Follow

  1. Great post Lenard. I could especially relate to mistake #4 as I usually don’t like jumping into a comic right in the middle of everything, so I almost always end up starting from issue #1. I don’t know I just feel like I’d be missing out on vital story arcs if I skip anything. This quickly becomes a problem with giant-sized comics like Amazing Spider-Man which has over 700 issues. Luckily though, I managed to bring myself to start somewhere around issue 400. But yeah I can definitely relate to what you said as sometimes it can feel like a chore when I’m reading just so I don’t miss out on any story.
    Interestingly and coincidentally, I also happened to start reading comics seriously while I took a year off school for an internship back in 2010.

    Posted by davidzwfu | June 11, 2014, 12:07 PM

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