I originally posted this article on another site, but decided that it was time to help newbie comic book #geeks out a bit.
There are hundreds of posts dedicated to telling people WHICH comics to start with. This is great information depending on what you’re interested in and what genre of comics strikes a chord with you. However, many people are very intimidated with starting a series that’s already several hundred issues long, or feel completely overwhelmed trying to understand the history behind characters they’ve seen on TV or the movies. What’s particularly problematic is that many of the major companies has dramatically altered their respective universe of comics (DC Comics rebooted their whole universe two years ago with The New 52) or they’ve made tweaks (Marvel Comics slightly altered their universe after The Age of Ultron event) that change enough of the characters that make them slightly unrecognizable. So, the task of finding WHICH comic to start with is pretty daunting, but HOW you start is a little easier to deal discuss. The other main reason people have a hard time starting with comics is THE COST. With that, here is a list of formats that will be less expensive to obtain than individual issues and easier to consume large amounts of history.
Graphic novels first appeared in 1978 with Will Eisner’s “A Contract with God”. This format is used to tell more self-contained stories that tell a complete story. This is really great format to become familiar with the stories are a part of the comic book lexicon like Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”, Frank Miller’s“The Dark Knight Returns”, Alan Moore’s “Watchmen”or Mark Millar’s “Wanted”. Depending on the sale, I’ve bought some graphic novels for $5.00 to upwards of $25.00. This is a cheaper and less expensive way to get ahold of some great, award winning material and not break your bank account doing so.
A lot of people use the term trade paperbacks and graphic novels interchangeably, but I find that not to be the case. Trade paperbacks, or trades as some people call them, are generally used to collect multiple issues of a story line in a successive series. In many cases, the publishers release sections of the story over a series of trades. For instance, the Sinestro Corps War that ran through the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corpscomics was collected over two books. Another story featuring the appearance of Gah Lak Tus (or Galactus from the Fantastic Four series) in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe comic book line was spread out over three trades. So, unlike the more self-contained graphic novel format, the trade paper format can allow you to read a whole series that ended or is still in publication in sections at a time. So, instead of paying $3.99 or more per issue, you can pay $20.00 and get six or eight issues in one book.
Some individuals like to have a more pristine look to their library and collect the hardcover format of the trades. These are bound books typically covered with cloth or leather exteriors. You pay a little more, but its undeniable the affirming effect of seeing these beautifully style books on your shelf next to your Chaucer or Charles Dickens. If you want to class up your comic book collection, this is a sure-fire way to put a monocle to the eye of your brilliant selection.
Omnibuses are HUGE books! If you want to get the greatest collection of a series or character, plus get a real in-depth crash course on their history or a series, this is the way to do it. Yes, you will pay quite a bit more, but for $50 (in some cases $100) you can literally obtain the first 50 issues of a series or maybe a series whole run for a fraction of the cost per issue. I picked up Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man series during its first run around issue number 40, so in order to catch up I ended up buying the Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 Omnibus for $25.00 that collected the first 39 issues. That’s less than $1.00 per issue. Over the next week, I quickly caught up and was able to continue on with the series fully understanding the series dynamics and characters. AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead” has a few omnibuses out that collect 24 or so issues in each book. An omnibus is the ultimate way to save more than a few bucks and time searching for back issues and inundate yourself in a series or character.
Let’s face it, this is the 21st century and digital media is the wave of the future. Thus, the major publishers have already seen the writing on the wall and began offering not only their new issues, but ALL of the issues of a series ever published (mostly Silver Age and some Golden Age comics) in digital format for selected series. So, instead of paying $3.99 for an issue you may get it for $2.99 (or less) instead. On many occasions you’ll catch wind of one of the publishers having a sale and allowing you to purchase selected digital comics for $0.99 some days. It’s cost effective and you don’t have to worry about any books taking up space in your home.
My hope is that any new reader will be able to use this information to open up a whole world of wonder at their fingertips and become a part of the growing collective of comic book fans. With the movies becoming a multi-billion dollar industry and the TV shows (animated and live-action) capturing the hearts and minds of youth across the world,the source material is where the love of the characters is stoked and the imagination of some of the most creative minds is laid bare. Use these cost-saving suggestions to grow your collection and enter a universe of infinite possibilities.
I salute you on your epic journey.