Comic Books. Whether you are already into them or are considering if it’s a good idea to start reading them or not, this article should help you out. Now, in case you are new to the comic book game, let’s go over some terms and their definition so we are all on the same page.
Comic Book: A publication that consists of comic art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes.
Graphic Novel: Graphic novels are similar to comic books because they use sequential art to tell a story. Unlike comic books, graphic novels are generally stand-alone stories with more complex plots.
TPB: In comics, a trade paperback (often shortened to TPB, TP or trade) is a collection of stories originally published in comic books, reprinted inbook format, usually capturing one story arc from a single title or a series of stories with a connected story arc or common theme from one or more titles.
Alright, now that we got all the formalities out of the way, lets talk comics!
I have been a fan of comic books since I was a kid. Back then I chose what to read the way you would expect a little kid to… by picking whichever comic had the most awesome cover that week. Back then I was all about what looked cool and finding out more about each character that I liked (like Gambit or anything X-Men) and not so much about following any particular story line from beginning to end. This led to me having a collection of random Marvel comics with some of the best looking covers made in the early nineties. That is my opinion and yours might differ, but for a little kid who knew nothing about comic books the Marvel covers were simply awe inspiring. The color, the characters, the action, it was like seeing something drawn and illustrated that I thought I could only see in my imagination. That’s how I ended up being such a huge Gambit fan.
Don’t get me wrong, I was all about the X-Men, but out of that team Gambit was the man. He was cool, he was different (even by mutant standards), he was an outsider in a team of outsiders. Point is, that by picking comics at random, I didn’t learn all the storylines, I didn’t learn about the huge story arcs, but what I did get was a sense of how big this imaginative universe was and got to fall in love with characters that were not meant to be the center of attention. Single issue comics allow you to dip your toe in a characters proverbial water before committing to bathing in the pool that is their individual world. This is what makes single issue comics great, you can see if you like a writer’s point of view and an illustrator and colorists’ style before completely diving in.
Now, what I didn’t mention was the fact that I got into comic books after I moved to a house that was only a block away from a comic book store, thus making it the only place my parents would let my 9 year old self walk to alone or even with a friend. I would spend hours just browsing at the different comics and when Friday came, I would spend my entire allowance at that store. However, once I moved away I was unable to simply stroll to a comic book store anymore. I would have to wait to go to a yard sale or flea market with my mom to actually find someone with a box of comic books just to have the chance to buy a couple. This made it more and more difficult for me to keep up with everything going on in comics and I lost interest. Not because I didn’t love comics anymore, but because I didn’t have a chance to keep up and every time I found a new issue of anything, I felt completely out of the loop. I would see any movie based on a comic book character and I would read a few issues here and there but it wasn’t the same as when I lived just a block away from that comic book store.
Fast forward more than 15 years later and I’m a married man who loves movies, TV shows, and anything comic book based. But I’m still not reading comic books themselves, I have no idea where to start. Then, I walked into a used book store and learned about TPB’s… yes, I am a nerd that knows way too much about wrestling, comics, movies and a lot of nerdy things, yet I know nothing about Trade Paper Backs. As they say, I was once lost but in that used bookstore, I was found. The concept of TPB’s opened up a new world for me. No longer did I need to find 10 issues of a series to be able to read an entire story, I could but one “book” and get an entire storyline, or 2, in one shot. Not only that, but in that store I learned about how many awesome independent comic books there were out there, and how awesome they could be. I found 100 Bullets, Y: The Last Man, The Boys, Irredeemable, Incorruptible, I mean total awesomeness. I was hooked. I mean completely hooked.
When it comes to comic books, I learned that as I got older the stories mattered more and more to me. Learning about a characters’ personality traits and nothing else no longer did it for me. Yeah, Gambit is still incredibly cool in my eyes, but now I need more. What motivates him, what’s going on in his life, is his reaction in this comic in tune with his personality? I need to know these things now. While single issue comic books gave me the excitement of meeting new random characters, TPB’s have given me the opportunity to get to know entirely new worlds with less effort. I can read CHEW as it’s own thing and the jump into an X-Factor TPB and seperate that I’m in a different world. I can read that X-Factor TPB and get a cameo from the X-Men without feeling like I’m reading an X-Men story. Y: The Last Man reads like the most awesome TV show that’s ever played in my imagination.
So my suggestion for you is simple, if you are just getting into comics and don’t know any of the characters or worlds or storylines, grab a couple of single issues of whatever grabs your eye and see if you like it. Most single issue comic books end up being included in a TPB thus giving you the opportunity to “upgrade” your comic book purchasing strategy once you find something you like. If you already have an idea of what you like and are just looking for new comic book worlds to explore, check out any of the comics I name dropped in this article. They are all awesome, they are all worth reading.
If I missed anything, let me know in the comments below. Also tell me about how you got into comic books and what your personal preference is when deciding what to buy and read.
Here’s an infographic that can help out.