Guest Blogger Jeremy Vine answers the ago old question posed by comic book newbies
It’s a question that gets asked a lot by newcomers to comics. Some characters, like Batman and Superman, have been getting published every month for the last seventy five years. These aren’t really stories where you can just start at the beginning and read through to the end – there’s too much. That kind of history can be incredibly daunting to a new fan. So where do you begin?
The best answer is; where do you want to begin?
Comics were originally something that could be bought at every newsstand and rarely had a story that lasted more than an issue. Even today, with epic story arcs and massive multi-title crossovers, there’s still a strong element of the original stand alone nature. For the most part, you can enter at any point in the story and a character will exposit what has already happened. But this can still be a little overwhelming and confusing, like catching only the last two-thirds of a film. Fortunately, there is a much simpler (and more enjoyable) way.
Ask yourself; who’s your favourite character? For this example we’re going to use Harley Quinn (because of reasons), but the ideas can apply to any character. The best thing to do is start with the most recent book featuring that character – you’ll get a good idea of what the character is like when they’re the main focus of a book rather than a supporting character in someone else’s. In this case, it’s Harley Quinn vol. 1: Hot in the City. Did you enjoy that? Awesome! You can try the next one, Harley Quinn vol. 2. But you could also go back and try out some of the classic run, like Preludes & Knock Knock Jokes. It’s a different sort of book, but you get more of the character you love! Or maybe, you really enjoyed the writing style and want to see what else that writer has done. A quick trip to Wikipedia tells you that the author also wrote All-Star Western (hyperlink) – why not give that a try too?
This is a great technique for finding new characters to read about and different styles you might like. It’s also a good way to enter the world of comics. You can read as much or as little as you like just by only sticking with the characters you enjoy. Generally if something is vital to a story, it will be explained, but you can also find out where it occurred and read about it yourself if you want.
Jeremy Vine has been hooked on comics since he taught himself to read with the help of Asterix and Tintin. When not dressing up in costumes and attending pop culture conventions, he is an account manager for Penguin Random House Australia.