One of the things that happens when you write for a comic book website is that you get known as the comic book guy by those who are not very familiar with the industry. This doesn’t really come as a surprise: if I were a chef I would expect that I’d get asked a lot about recipes, or if I was a personal trainer I’d field numerous questions about the correct number of squats to obtain buns of steel.
But, as luck would have it, I am more familiar with Men of Steel than muscle-bound posteriors so I find my family and friends asking me what I thought of the latest Thor movie (loved it), or whether or not I bought Superman stamps (of course). There is one other question that actually comes up quite often: how do I get back into comics?
Now, I’m not talking about getting back into collecting comics (for that I point them towards Walt). I’m talking about getting back into reading them. Maybe once upon a time you were into Spider-Man, or Hellboy, or Bone, but you went to school/had kids/sold your collection and now you want to start reading again.
The good news is that there is an embarrassment of riches today in comic books. The bad news is that entering your local comic shop after years out of the game can seem a bit overwhelming. If you loved Marvel or DC superheroes and wanted to start reading again I’m not really sure that either universe is terribly accessible (although Marvel does a better job than DC, explaining the New 52 is a nightmare) but you can definitely point people to some great stuff that they have missed.
And there has been a lot of great stuff. If you stopped reading comic books in the mid-nineties (so almost 20 years ago) you’ve missed The Long Halloween, All-Star Superman, Spider-Island, Old Man Logan, Hawkeye, Frankencastle, Ultimate Spider-Man, Planet Hulk, and Annihilation to name but a few. Sure, not everything has been good in the last 2 decades but there have been some amazing stories. And that is the beauty of coming back to the hobby; you can just read the quality.
Vertigo fans that checked out after Sandman and Preacher ended can read Fables, Y the Last Man, 100 Bullets, House of Mystery, or Scalped. Hours upon hours of comic book joy are waiting for you.
For those whose tastes were more along the lines of small press fare or specific genres you would now get to read Habibi, Tale of Sand, Two Generals, Criminal, the Parker books, Blacksad, or Walking Dead.
But even if you don’t like any of the new stuff, you have a ridiculous number of choices in reprints and collected editions of comics from your childhood. There have been the Marvel Omnibus collections, Essentials, the Carl Barks Duck collections, EC reprints, and the Complete Peanuts.
And on top of all the choice of what to read you now get to choose how you read it. Did you want to buy single issues, collected editions, oversized hardcovers, digital release, or support a Kickstarter campaign? You get to decide what works for you, and how you want to get back into reading comics.
I never left comics. I’ve been reading them for more than 25 years, so I don’t get to experience the joy and wonder of returning to them now. Shelf after shelf at your local comic book shop has more choice than ever before, many shops have sales staff that knows just as much about Los Bros Hernandez as they do about Jim Lee.
So if you are thinking about getting back into the game I hope you look up some of the titles I’ve mentioned above, or you know someone who loved comics as a teenager but lost track of their favourite worlds, point them towards the quality that you know exists, and share how this medium has grown.