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How To Start Reading Comic Books

Thinking about exploring the captivating world of comic books? Whether you're a budding enthusiast or simply curious, this guide covers everything you need to know. 
Table of Contents

Ways to read comic books

One of the joys of the 21st century is the multiple avenues available for comic enthusiasts to immerse themselves in their favorite stories. From the tactile pleasure of a physical book to the digital convenience of an app, the options have evolved, broadened, and become more user-friendly. Many newcomers to the comic scene often wonder how to read comics online, given the plethora of digital platforms and the convenience of accessing stories from any device. Let’s delve deeper into the various ways to read comic books and how to read comics in 2024.

Physical copies

Nothing beats the classic experience. The pages’ texture, the ink’s vibrancy, and the thrill of flipping to the next page during a cliffhanger are unparalleled. Most comic aficionados will tell you that the authentic sensation of holding and reading a physical comic book is part of the whole allure.

These hard copies offer a tangible reading journey but can also become collectables, increasing in value over time. Local comic book stores often act as community hubs where enthusiasts can interact, share thoughts, and discover new recommendations. There’s also no better feeling than having your favourite comics on show on your shelf or wall.

Try out: Guide to styling your shelves

Digital platforms

The digital age has brought about a revolution in the way we consume content, and comics are no exception. How do I read Marvel comics online? Many platforms cater to the digital-savvy reader. Platforms such as ComiXology and Marvel Unlimited offer an extensive catalog from various publishers. Marvel Unlimited caters specifically to fans, offering an expansive collection of classic and new titles.

One significant advantage of these platforms is the ability to zoom in on specific panels, ensuring you catch every detail of the artwork and text. The convenience of storing thousands of comics on a single device and the ability to read anywhere and anytime make digital comics a top choice for many.

Library services

Did you know your local library might be a treasure trove of comics? Many libraries have expanded their collection to include graphic novels and comic books for beginners. They recognize the literary and artistic value these books bring. Readers can borrow titles without committing to a purchase with a library card.

For those leaning towards the digital side, services like Hoopla offer digital comic lending. This means you can download and read on your device, then simply “return” the digital copy once done. It’s a budget-friendly way to explore various titles and genres without breaking the bank.

Subscription boxes

Subscription services have gained traction recently. These monthly or quarterly boxes deliver curated comic selections right to your doorstep. It’s a blend of the physical reading experience and the excitement of unboxing and discovering new titles or rare issues you might not have picked up on your own.

Webcomics

The internet has democratized comic creation. Webcomics are often accessible and available on websites or apps like Webtoon. They offer a vast range of genres, styles, and voices, some of which have even been picked up for print publication or adaptation into other media due to their popularity.

Top comic book publishers

The world of comic books is vast, and while many are familiar with giants like Marvel and DC, numerous other publishers offer a diverse range of stories, art styles, and genres. Understanding these publishers can enhance your comic reading journey by introducing you to new worlds beyond the well-trodden paths. Let’s dive into the realm of comic book publishers.

Almost synonymous with superheroes, Marvel has gifted the world with iconic characters like Spider-Man, known for some of the best Spider-Man comics, Iron Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. Starting in 1939 as Timely Publications, it was renamed Marvel in the 1960s and has since dominated the comic scene, especially with its interconnected universe concept.

Marvel’s perennial competitor, DC, is home to legendary figures like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash. Founded in 1934, DC’s multiverse concept and its epic crossovers have made it a significant player in the comic industry.

Established in 1992 by a group of high-profile illustrators as a space for creators to publish stories without relinquishing the copyrights to their creations. Titles like “Spawn,” “The Walking Dead,” “Saga” and “Invincible comics” have made Image a haven for innovative and fresh narratives.

Founded in 1986, Dark Horse is renowned for producing mature and unique titles. They’ve been behind hits like “Hellboy,” “Sin City,” and licensed properties like “Star Wars.”

Initially known for their high-quality reprints of classic comic strips, they later moved into licensed properties. They’ve produced comics for franchises like “Transformers,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and “Star Trek.”

Beyond the iconic teenage tales of Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead in Riverdale, they’ve expanded into darker, more contemporary narratives like “Afterlife with Archie” and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

A relatively younger publisher, BOOM! focuses on original titles and licensed properties. Series like “Lumberjanes” and “Mouse Guard” demonstrate their commitment to diverse and engaging storytelling.

Tips for starting to collect comic books

Collecting comic books is more than just accumulating stacks of paper; it’s about preserving art, history, and culture. For many, it’s a passion, a hobby, and an investment. If you’re wondering how to start comics collecting, here are some steps to help you on your way.

Define your purpose

Why are you collecting? Is it for the love of a specific character? An investment? Or just for the sheer joy of reading and owning? Understanding your goal can help guide your collecting journey.

Do your research research

Before diving in, get familiar with key terms and concepts. Phrases like “first edition,” “mint condition,” and “CGC graded” are essential in the collecting world. Knowing the difference between “variant cover” and “limited edition” can also be beneficial.

Take care with your storage

Protecting your comics is paramount. Invest in acid-free bags and boards to ensure your comics remain in top condition. Store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. For precious issues, consider getting airtight containers or cases.

Know your budget

Collecting can be an expensive endeavor, especially when hunting rare issues. Set a budget for yourself to ensure you don’t overspend. Remember, the value of a comic is determined by factors like rarity, demand, and condition.

Visit comic book stores

Building relationships with local comic book stores can be beneficial. They can keep you updated on new releases and rare finds and even offer discounts to regular customers. Conventions, meanwhile, are excellent places to find rare issues, meet other collectors, and immerse yourself in the comic culture.

Utilise digital tools

Use online platforms and apps to track your collection, stay updated on market values, and even trade with other collectors. Websites like ComicBookRealm and apps like CLZ Comics can be invaluable.

Stay in the loop

The comic world is ever-evolving. New editions, reprints, story arcs, and crossovers are continually being released. Join comic forums, subscribe to newsletters, and follow comic news sources to stay in the loop.

Consider protecting your assets

If your collection grows in value, consider getting it appraised and insured. Knowing what your comic is worth and how to value comics can be crucial if you’re considering selling or want to protect them against potential loss or damage.

Best comics of all time

The term ‘best’ can be highly subjective, especially in a medium as vast and varied as comics. However, specific titles have consistently been lauded for their storytelling prowess, artistic excellence, and impact on the comic industry and culture. Let’s dive into some comics that have withstood the test of time and are often revered as the best comics of all time.

1. Watchmen 

By Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 1986-1987, DC Comics

A masterpiece in the world of comics, “Watchmen” challenges the conventional superhero narrative. Set in an alternate reality, it questions the morality of heroism, the implications of power, and the nature of reality itself. Its deep, philosophical undertones and riveting plot make it an essential read for any comic enthusiast.

Image credit: DC Comics

2. Maus  

By Art Spiegelman, 1980, Raw Books and Graphics

A poignant and harrowing tale, “Maus” delves into the horrors of the Holocaust through anthropomorphic characters. Spiegelman narrates his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew during World War II, juxtaposing it with their contemporary father-son relationship. It’s a powerful commentary on memory, trauma, and the lasting impact of history.

Image credit: Raw Books and Graphics

3. Sandman 

By Neil Gaiman, 1989, DC Comics

A mythological epic that spans time, space, and reality. Gaiman’s “Sandman” introduces readers to the world of the Endless – personified abstract entities like Dream, Death, and Desire. Each narrative thread is masterfully woven into a larger tapestry, offering a rich, immersive, poetic and profound experience.

Image credit: DC Comics

4. Blankets 

By Craig Thompson, 2003, Top Shelf Productions

A semi-autobiographical graphic novel, “Blankets” is a heart-wrenching tale of family, faith, and first love. It beautifully captures the essence of adolescence, with all its confusion, passion, and discovery. Thompson’s evocative art and poignant narrative make it a touching and memorable read.

Image credit: Top Shelf Productions

5. The Dark Knight Returns 

By Frank Miller, 1986, DC Comics

An older, grizzled Batman emerges from retirement in Gotham spiraling into chaos. Miller’s take on the caped crusader is darker, more cynical, and reflects societal fears and tensions. It’s a compelling commentary on heroism, age, and the cyclical nature of conflict. The comic that inspired one of Christopher Nolan’s best movies, this goes down as an all-time classic. 

Image credit: DC Comics

Best comics for new readers

If you’re new to the comic book world, the sheer volume of available titles can be daunting. With decades of narratives, multiple universes, and countless characters, knowing where to start can be challenging. However, some comics stand out for their accessibility, gripping storylines, and stunning art that makes them perfect for beginners. Let’s break down the best comics for beginners, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable entrance into graphic narratives.

1. Saga 

By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, 2012, Image Comics

As a space opera epic, “Saga” blends elements of love, war, magic, and politics in a beautifully illustrated universe. Its diverse range of characters and intersecting storylines are a testament to how comics can effortlessly mix genres to create something entirely new. Plus, it’s not tied to a larger, more intricate universe, making it less intimidating for newcomers.

Image credit: Image Comics

2. Ms. Marvel 

By G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, 2014, Marvel Comics

This comic provides an ideal introduction for Marvel beginners. Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City, becomes the new Ms. Marvel. Her journey touches on identity, family, and heroism in the modern world. The relatable struggles Kamala faces, and the universal themes of growing up make this comic an ideal start for those looking to explore the Marvel Universe.

Image credit: Marvel Comics

3. Batman: Year One 

By Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, 1987, DC Comics

Batman is a character almost everyone is familiar with, but this comic takes readers back to his origins. It’s a gritty, realistic take on Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman and the challenges he faces in his initial days as the Dark Knight. Stripping away the layers of an established superhero and offering a fresh perspective makes this an excellent read for newcomers.

Image credit: DC Comics

4. Lumberjanes 

By Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke A. Allen, 2014, BOOM! Studios

Set in a supernatural summer camp for girls, “Lumberjanes” is a delightful blend of adventure, friendship, and mystery. It’s fun, inclusive, and offers a light-hearted entry into the world of comics.

Image credit: BOOM! Studios

5. Paper Girls 

By Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, 2015, Image Comics

Think of it as a mix between “Stranger Things” and a time-traveling adventure. Following a group of newspaper delivery girls in the 1980s, this comic quickly spirals into a thrilling tale of time travel, aliens, and the challenges of adolescence.

Image credit: Image Comics

Conclusion

Reading comic books is a unique adventure, intertwining art, literature, and sometimes even history. Whether you delve into superheroes’ worlds, indie tales, or a mix of both, remember that the journey is as rewarding as the destination. So, what are you waiting for? Embrace the vibrant world of comics and let your imagination soar!

Ryan Toomey
Ryan Toomey
Ryan is Upbeat Geek’s editor and connoisseur of TV, movies, hip-hop, and comic books, crafting content that spans reviews, analyses, and engaging reads in these domains. With a background in digital marketing and UX design, Ryan’s passions extend to exploring new locales, enjoying music, and catching the latest films at the cinema. He’s dedicated to delivering insights and entertainment across the realms he writes about: TV, movies, and comic books.

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