HOW TO READ COMICS
(ultra brief edition)
Tip #1: Realize it's not that hard to figure out how to read a comic book page. Believe that, and you'll figure things out in no time. Sometimes, comic book pages can be intimidating. The format is unfamiliar, there are lots of balloons and captions and panels and god it seems like a lot to puzzle out. Don't give into the temptation to get frustrated or feel like somehow the page looks different to other people; it doesn't. As with anything else, practice makes perfect—or in this case, practice makes effortless. Left to right, top to bottom. That applies to balloons (dialogue), panels (individual pictures), captions (boxes with text in them, like narration), and everything else. If the comic artist has done his job (most will if you stick to the best and the brightest), there will be a discernible flow to the page. Just do your best. This is for fun, and I promise nobody is going to shove a quiz under your nose.
|Basically, you just look at it.|
Tip #2: Start at the beginning of the story. Whenever possible, this is a good idea. This doesn't mean you have to go back to 1938 if you want to read Superman. There are reboots and self-contained arcs all over the place that anyone can pick up and enjoy. These self-contained arcs are often collected into hardcovers or trade paperbacks, typically about 4-6 issues long (an issues is around 22 pages). Not only does this make enjoying comics cheaper, it means you can read the whole story without hunting around like mad for individual issues. (We'll get into acquiring comics later in this series.) If you want to give Batman a shot, for example, often it's as easy as googling "Top 25 Batman Stories" and looking them up on amazon. I've discovered tons of great stuff this way.
To summarize further, just remember: You're smart enough for this! It can look like a big confusing world out there, but most of what you need to know is a click away. It's a treasure hunt, and discovering new things is part of the fun. I promise you'll stumble onto something amazing that will make it all worth it. And there's nothing like sharing something new with your friends and watching them get excited about what you dug up. There's great stuff out there; go find it.
Bad ass at work.
But what if you're thinking, Slow down, Steve.Your tips are all well and dandy, but I know literally nothing about comics. I've seen the Incredibles, and that's it. (Great movie by the way.) I can't google a character I want to read, because I don't know any of them well enough to know if I want to read them or not. I'm greener than Green Lantern on his first day. (Okay, you probably wouldn't say that last thing.)
Here's what I'm going to do for you:
I'm going to assign you some homework. That's right, I'm takin' yo ass to school. Eventually, we'll get into things like DC's New 52 titles, indie comics, movie and novel tie-ins, manga, current mainstream comics, animated movies, even individual superheros. We'll get into how and where to acquire comics, how to store them, the benefits of trades vs individual issues, but not yet. Right now, we're going to start with the classics. And trust me, in the world of comics, that's a good thing. A very good thing. Because these babies won't bore you. On the contrary, they will grab you by the face, entertain the ever-loving shit out of you, and overhaul your brain in the process. That's right. Some of the comics I'm about to suggest won't just entertain you; they'll change you.
Big talk, right? I confidently stand behind every word. These books are the reason why:
STEVE'S HOLY TRINITY FOR NEW READERS
(alternate title: "Read These and You Can Instantly Talk About Comics Like You Know Your Shit")
1. Sandman by Neil Gaiman
|^It's in here. All of it.|
2. Watchmen by Alan Moore
...but for reals this time.
3. Batman: Year One and/or Batman: Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
|The Sin City/300 guy does Batman.|
That's all for now. I'm super stoked for the next post, "Owning Comics (Part 3): Superheroes and the New 52" because we'll be getting into the New 52, DC Comics' reboot of all their titles. If you know nothing about DC, go watch this documentary. (I know, I know. So much homework. But seriously, it's a great documentary even if you don't give a shit about comics.) The New 52 is what's happening now in the comics world, so it's relevant and fun and chock full of great stories (not to mention some of the slickest art I have ever seen). I can't wait. :)
Also, if you're following my series Chasing the First Sale, look for "Part 2: What a Pro Story Is" on Monday.