Superhero movies and TV shows reign supreme, but where would we be without their source material?
Long before these heroes ventured on swashbuckling adventures on the big screen, they first embarked on journeys through the printed pages of comic books. Most of the biggest blockbuster superhero movies draw inspiration from past story arcs, many of which were era-defining among comic book fans.
For many, there’s a lot of joy in reading source material over seeing the movie. Just ask the host of Harry Potter fans who are always happy to share a detail missed in the movies but lovingly laid out in the books.
So for comic book movies, where can you go to read the stories that inspire these motion pictures? Also, where should you start? Many characters have been around since prior to World War II with a massive push in the 1960s.
Fortunately, there are plenty of methods that will allow you to embark on your own adventure in reading comic books.
Identifying the Right Story
The first step in reading comics is to identify your interest. It’s typical and normal for newcomers to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount available.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to start. Identifying your favorite characters is a great starting point. Another is to identify your favorite movie and look for the corresponding story.
Keep in mind comics are not limited to superheroes as they can include franchises such as Star Wars, Star Trek, The Walking Dead, video game characters, and anime. Furthermore, comics do have a rating system that will help you differentiate family-friendly issues vs. adult-oriented ones.
Sometimes comics aren’t the most user-friendly for newcomers. You’ll have to find a good “jumping-on point,” which is a good place to start in reading arcs without backtracking on 60 years of material. This is important because these points allow you to begin reading without much backstory.
There are some excellent blogs out there dedicated to guiding you through the messy world of comics. Some personal favorites include Comic Book Herald and Comic Book Reading Order. Both these sites provide excellent resources to help you identify the best jumping-on point for your interests.
Once you’ve identified the right story, the next step is to read.
Collecting Single Issues
The first way is to head to your local comic book store and start buying single issues in a physical format. This is the most traditional approach as readers can buy numbered issues on a regular basis.
Depending on the publisher, issues come out weekly, bimonthly, monthly, or less frequent. A good comic shop will have people there to help you get started.
The downside to this approach is it can be difficult to locate older issues. Costs are another concern as prices range from $2 to $5 per issue, which can add up quickly.
Furthermore, space is a concern as single issues have to be stored somewhere, especially if you plan to keep them after reading and in good condition.
Still, collectors will love this hobby as the hunt for issues to complete your collection can be exhilarating.
Trade Publications and Omnibuses
If you’re a fan of physical editions but don’t want the hassle of single issues, a good alternative may be to buy trade publications or omnibuses.
These formats collect several issues of comics into a graphic novel format. Trade publications tend to encompass entire arcs, which typically run for about six issues, while omnibuses collect large swathes of issues into a large book.
These formats also make jumping on easier since there’s a clear starting point and volumes are clearly marked so you know which trade publications come next.
Both trade publications and omnibuses come at a higher price but can make for some fun displays on your bookshelf. They are usually less valuable to collectors, but easier to keep in good condition.
It’s no secret that most aspects of entertainment continue to creep to an all-digital format and the comic book world is no exception. Many publishers offer digital downloads of both single issues and trade publications at the same price as their physical counterparts.
The pro for these is you don’t have to find a place to store them as you can access them on your mobile devices. The downside is you don’t have a physical copy to go along with it. The quality and size of the pages on display can also be limited to the quality and size of your reading device.
Furthermore, this method allows readers access to a host of options for purchase, ensuring they won’t miss an issue because it’s not at their local store.
Online Services and Libraries
If you don’t care to collect and just want to read the issues, then online services are a solid option. These services act similar to streaming TV and film: They allow you to read as many comics as you want, for an annual or monthly price.
Furthermore, these services often provide curated reading lists, some of which are released to correspond with popular movies and TV shows at the time. You can access these services via apps on your phone or tablets as well as on your desktop.
If you’re looking to get outside the Big Two, Comixology is another great option as it carries Marvel and DC along with Image, Darkhorse, and numerous mangas. If you have Amazon Prime, some comics are available free to you via Prime Reading.
Your local library is another great option to consider when reading comics. Many libraries carry trade publications or manga collections in their physical formats that you can check out.
Furthermore, some libraries have single issues that you can read while at the library and may even have sales as new comics come in. Less often due to costs and loan restrictions, many libraries will carry digital subscriptions on behalf of their patrons that you can use simply by logging into them with your library card number! Check with your librarian to find out.
If you’re not a fan of checking out materials, spend the day at your local library and read from their collection while visiting.
Reading Comic Books in the Modern Age
With the right amount of preparation, you can fully immerse yourself in the world of comic books.
Getting started may be intimidating but once you start, there’s no going back. There’s no wrong way to read as we all have individual situations and preferences. The important part is to just immerse yourself in the world and see where your favorite superhero movie or show got its inspiration.
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