Four Letter Nerd

A Beginner’s Guide to Comics from a Beginner

I have been into superheroes my whole life, but I am a Star Wars nerd at heart and that dominated a majority of my childhood (… and adulthood).  However, I have recently begun branching out and explore the vast fictional multiverse that is comic books and to say it can be a bit overwhelming would be an ENORMOUS understatement. Sure, I read some graphic novels here and there (a few of them may even make it onto this list), but I never followed a book issue to issue or read more than a few at a time.  So for those of you also beginning your trek into a larger (insanely more dangerous) world, these are a few of my favorites so far.

Superman for All Seasons– Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

This is probably one of my favorite comic runs of all time.  The story is broken up into four books correlating with the four seasons (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring), which all relate to the overall tone of each part of the story.  The art and the story work well together and bring a whimsical (but down to earth) tale that was an awesome read.  This is not a dark and gritty reboot that shows a depressed alien bludgeoning monsters into the ground.  It is a story about someone just trying to do what is right, assuming that someone is Superman.  It’s the simpleness of the plot and the art that really made this one of my favorites. (also check out Loeb and Sale’s Batman: the Long Halloween – much darker but also really good).

Thor: God of Thunder – Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

This is the series that launched Thor into the upper echelon of my Hall of Favorite Heroes.  Jason Aaron does an incredible job blending the mythological and modern superhero aspects of Thor into a cohesive story.  I am particularly enjoying the current Last Days of Midgard arc, but really the whole series has been great.  The artist, Esad Ribic, is also killing it on this run.  Young Thor, Avengers era Thor, and Old King Thor all look distinct but familiar, and the set pieces are stunning.  They have collected the first 18 issues into three volumes so I would definitely recommend starting with Volume 1 and catching up.  (You can check out Stephen’s article on the series here).

Batman – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

This one took me a little bit longer to get into and I don’t really have a good explanation as to why.  Bill let me borrow them and I read the first few issues and just gave them back without finishing them.  A couple months later I borrowed them again and now it’s one of the few comics that has made it onto my pull list.  Snyder is a great storyteller (and once the Court of Owls story arc takes off it REALLY takes off).  In the Death of the Family arc we get to see a terrifying iteration of the Joker that might give you nightmares, care of artist Greg Capullo (who is doing a phenomenal job on the art and on Twitter).  I read it right before going to sleep one night and had to turn on the TV to get the image of the Joker out of my head.  This series is probably the best DC has to offer as far as the New 52 goes, and it’s great.

Superman/Wonder Woman – Charles Soule and Tony Daniel

This might seem like a silly one to put on the list (at least to other more hardcore comic readers), but I have really enjoyed the first 7 issues and look forward to it each month.  The N52 reboot did wonders for Wonder Woman’s origin story and powers.  Gone are the days of the invisible jet, now she can fly and her strength seems comparable to Superman’s (oh and SPOILER ALERT she is now the God of War).  It’s actually been interesting to see these two (Clark especially) stumble through the beginnings of a relationship, while also defending Earth against some of Superman’s strongest villains.  Plus Superman punches Apollo out of a mountain after being blasted with sunlight (that’s a sentence I never expected to write).  The Wonder Woman title is also a good read.

Captain Midnight– Joshua Williamson and Fernando Dagnino

Captain Midnight could easily have turned into a rehash of Captain America, but ended up being a really fun read.   There are similarities between the comics (both fought in WWII, and both ended up being superheroes in the present), but there are some major differences in the style.  Captain Midnight is a very pulpy/adventure comic that has ghost Nazi’s, crazy weapons, and wild story-lines (It’s what you would have if Indiana Jones was a genius weapons designer who ended up in the present and fought… ghost Nazi’s).  Anyways, check it out if you want a fun read that’s a little off the beaten path.

Kingdom Come – Alex Ross and Mark Waid

This is probably one of the most beautifully done comics in terms of art and storyline.  Alex Ross is by far one of the best artists in the business and his work on this book really spoiled me for a while.  Kingdom Come a post-apocalyptic tale that is told through the eyes of a preacher witnessing the end of the world via a civil war between DC’s greatest (and not so greatest) heroes.  It’s set in the future where Superman has retired, Batman runs Gotham with an iron fist (via Bat-Robots), and new “superheroes” who spend all their time fighting each other and killing whatever civilians get caught in the crossfire.  Superman returns (but this time it wasn’t Brandon Routh) which leads to a war between the old heroes, the new, and the rest of humanity.  It’s absolutely terrific and is definitely a must read.

Trillium – Jeff Lemire

I am only a few issues into this series so I guess it could blow up in my face and turn out to be terrible, but so far it’s awesome.  Lemire’s art is pretty out there, but it fits well with his story (which involves a WWI veteran turned explorer, a xenobiologist from the year 3797, killer viruses, and inter-dimensional time travel). Trillium has a very sci-fi, B movie type feel, which is one of the things that really drew me to the comic.  If you like the whole sci-fi/adventure genre this is definitely worth a look.

 

Like most things, there were definitely some false starts with a few books (I REALLY wanted to like the current runs on Superman but just couldn’t get into them), but it’s all personal preference.  That being said, I had a really hard time with Snyder’s Batman for the first few issues, and now it’s one of my favorite’s each month.  There are a lot of great stories to read so get out there and start reading.  If you need any additional advice (beyond what’s below) then feel free to comment or message us on Facebook.

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Thoughts on getting into comics by 4LN writer, Stephen Andrew

I’ve learned a few things in my time as a comic reader. I read Superman and X-men pretty regularly as a kid and then stopped as I became a teenager but got back into reading current books a few years ago. I’ve kept casually collecting most of my life, but this is the most dedicated to comics that I’ve really been. The best advice I can offer a new reader is this…

ORGANIZE!

Trust me… start doing this from the very beginning. It’s much easier to organize 20 comics than it is to organize 200 comics. Alphabetizing is a good place to start and then once you’ve amassed a larger collection you’ll want to start separating by publisher and any other criteria you deem necessary for you. Another good thing to do is to start a spreadsheet to help you keep your titles available whenever you need to remember if you have something, rather than digging through dozens of boxes for one book. I use a spreadsheet in Google Drive so that I can access it on my phone whenever I’m picking up back issues so that I don’t accidentally buy multiple copies of the same issue. These 2 pieces of practical advice will save you lots of headaches.

It’s important to find a shop that knows you.

When I got back into reading current issues, I started at a place that has comics but doesn’t really “specialize” in comics. They were good folks, and always would chat about books when they had time, which wasn’t very often due to how busy the store always was. It just wasn’t very personal. But on the other side of that, there were a couple of stores that I visited where the people running them were… how to say this delicately… assholes? Yeah that’s a good word. Typical “Comic Book Guy” dudes who will literally laugh in your face for buying a book THEY’RE F—ING SELLING! What? That doesn’t make any sense and, while some people may get along fine in that environment, it’s not for me.

I know we pimp them A LOT on here but, finding Comic Collector Live was the best thing that ever happened to me. You know, comic community wise. I’m contractually obligated to say that my wife and kids are the actual best thing that ever happened to me (but I’m not contractually obligated to mean it). Steve, Joe, Chance, and their whole crew have been awesome. I’m a Marvel guy, but I try to stick with at least one DC title at a time. It was Earth 2 for a while, but when I decided to give that up it was Steve from CCL who just started putting Harley Quinn in my pull box, and now I’m in love with it! (The book, not the character. See: previous “Contractual Obligation” comments.) Another bonus is that my guys know to just put #1’s and variants in my pull box. The collector in me loves first editions and variant covers. They don’t even ask anymore, they just know I’ll want it. I like to think that when I inevitably become one of those “I only read indie books” douchebags (that seems to be the natural evolution for us comic book nerds, we become comic book shitty-hipsters), I’ll still trust their advice on what indie books I’d like. You want a shop that you can trust that much; a shop that knows you well enough to put stuff in your pull box because they know you’ll want it. This brings me to my next point…

Step outside your comfort zone.

Remember how I said I pretty much only read Superman and X-men as a kid? Guess what… I don’t read either of those now. They’re not really for me. As I grew up, my personality evolved, my tastes changed, and now my favorite books are Deadpool (which always has me laughing out loud), Thor: God of Thunder (because it’s so inexplicably bad ass), and the aforementioned Harley Quinn (because… well, because she’s like a female Deadpool and will just straight murder your face). But I didn’t start reading any of those books at first. Seriously. I started getting back into comic reading by collecting as many trades and graphic novels as I could, and reading those first.

 a trade paperback (often shortened to TPB or trade) is a collection of stories originally published in comic books, reprinted in book 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

Then, among the first series I started reading regularly were Spider-Man and Daredevil. Two characters that historically I have not really been all that into, and honestly haven’t kept up with. But that’s where I started again. Don’t assume that just because you don’t necessarily love, or like, a character, means you never will. Under the direction of a great writer, you may discover that a character you were indifferent to will become one of your favorites. Speaking of writers, find writers that you love and support their stuff. I’m a huge fan of guys like James Robinson (All-New Invaders, Fantastic Four), Jason Aaron (Thor: God of Thunder, Thanos Rising), Gerry Duggan (Deadpool, Nova), etc. Before expanding my interests and allowing myself to be open to new books and characters, I didn’t know about any of these writers, and now I try to get my hands on everything they do.

Stepping outside you comfort zone also means being open to suggestions. Talk to your comic shop workers, and other comics readers, and see what they like. Maybe you’ll find something you didn’t even know you love.

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Cam Clark

Cam is a husband, father, and a fan of many things. In college, he wrote his senior thesis on Mythological, Philosophical, and Theological Themes in Star Wars, and now spends his days causally specializing in Star Wars, Tolkien, and cubical work. No relation to Bill Clark.

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