I am a gamer, an Otaku, a sci-fi and fantasy fanboy, a Planeswalker, and an avid reader of comics, novels, and manga.
So, You Want to Start Reading Comic Books?
This guide tracks my journey in becoming a comic book reader in the hopes that it might help others who have the interest but don't know where to begin. With the recent surge of superhero movies and television, many people (like myself) have developed an interest in the world of comics. That world is just so vast and deep that it can be intimidating for us new readers.
After you read this article, check out the handy resources and tips for new readers at the end!
How to Get Your Comics
You might be asking yourself, as I once did, "Where can I buy comics?" Well, there are several different ways:
- I took the Trade Paperback approach. If you're lucky enough to have a comic book shop nearby, then great. Support them! You can pick up single issues and Trades there. If not, your local bookstore usually will have various Trades.
- In case you're not of a mind to collect and store a bunch of physical comics, most publishers, including the Big 2, offer digital comic services to pick up back issues and purchase ongoings.
- Another great option is your local library. Seriously, you'd be surprised at the Trade Paperbacks you can check out there while saving your wallet a little heartbreak.
The Big 2: DC and Marvel
Entering the world of comics, you may hear the phrase "The Big 2." This refers to the two largest publishers of comic books: DC and Marvel. The debate over which is better has raged on for many years, but in my experience they both put out equally amazing content. It really all depends on what kind of hero you're looking for.
In Marvel, the majority of characters feel like normal people dealing with their powers and the circumstances surrounding them. There's also a distinct chronological feel to Marvel's stories with an emphasis on history. This can make it harder to get into at first, but is ultimately very rewarding.
For example, Spider-Man is your average guy who develops spider-like abilities. He then has to cope with the idea that "with great power comes great responsibility" as he lives his life from high school to college to working man. He has girlfriends, makes friends, and grows as a person over a specific set of time. This makes jumping into a later Spider-Man a little intimidating, but allows you to follow and empathize with Spider-Man through his journey.
In DC, the majority of characters are larger than life types, role models as opposed to your average Joe. The stories are often more formulaic, focusing more on individual storylines instead of how events fit into a larger pattern. This can make it easier to get into, as starting from the beginning is less important than knowing who your character is.
For example, no matter what Batman comic you pick up, you can expect him to be rich, fighting crime at night, working with his butler and/or a sidekick and that you shouldn't need much, if any, prior information to understand whatever it is that Batman is doing.
Getting Into DC Comics
In 2011, DC published an event called Flashpoint that shook up the DC universe. The conclusion of said event lead into the DC universe reboot known as the New 52 Initiative. This relaunch involved the re-imagining of many of DC's biggest characters.
The changes in this new universe ranged from small tweaks to complete reboots. This means that getting into DC is much easier now that the current universe effectively began just a few years ago with issue 24 the highest number among current series (at the time of this publishing).
- How to get into DC comics: Beginner's guide to the New 52
Here is a more in-depth guide to DC Comics that I continue to update as new trades and anthologies are released.
New 52 Categories
DC's publications, post New 52, are split up into the following 7 categories:
- Justice League
- Green Lantern
- Young Justice
- The Edge
- The Dark
The Justice League category is for the big name heroes and their team books. Titles include the likes of The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow, and more.
The Batman category focuses on the primary characters related to Batman such as Nightwing, Catwoman, Batgirl and others. These heroes are mostly street level heroes without powers. They tend to feature "Just a man and a mission" kind of stories.
Superman family stories usually focus on overcoming obstacles that are not physical in nature. Sure, there are threats that only a "Super" hero can face, but their stories are really more about fitting in, self-discovery and growing as individuals.
The Green Lantern category is for your cosmic stories, featuring threats and events that span the galaxy. The themes here include finding strength in emotions and in other people, as well as the struggle of not only fighting for the greater good, but how to fight for the greater good.
Young Justice is the home of DC's young heroes such as the Teen Titans. These are coming of age stories sharing some themes (and Superboy) with the Superman category.
The Edge is home to war stories, westerns, anti-heroes, crime, politics, and some smatterings of Sci-Fi.
The Dark is for your Magical or Paranormal heroes, such as Swamp Thing, The Phantom Stranger, and Frankenstein. These stories tend to focus on tragedy, horror, and the dichotomy of good and evil.
Recommended Titles by Category
- The Justice League
- Wonder Woman
- The Justice League of America
- Birds of Prey
- Batman and . . . (originally Batman and Robin)
- Detective Comics
- Red Hood and the Outlaws
- Batman Incorporated (Completed)
- Action Comics
- Superman/Wonder Woman
- Green Lantern
- Green Lantern: New Guardians
- Red Lanterns
- Teen Titans
- The Ravagers (Completed)
- Legion Lost (Completed)
- All-Star Western
- Suicide Squad
- Animal Man
- Swamp Thing
- Justice League Dark
- Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger
- Trinity of Sin: Pandora
- I, Vampire (Completed)
- Getting Into (DC) Comics: Why Read Justice League Dark
A brief guide to why readers new to, or experienced with, the current DC comic universe should read the Justice League Dark title.
Getting Into Marvel Comics
Marvel was a bit of a challenge for me, largely because of how vast and deep the universe is and the focus on history and its impact on the involved characters. My strategy was to focus on large events that helped shape the universe as a whole first, then focus on individual characters or teams that I liked.
My Event Timeline:
- Civil War
- Secret Invasion
- Dark Reign/Siege
- Fear Itself
- Avengers Vs. X-Men
- Age of Ultron
- Original Sin
- Avengers & X-Men: Axis
- Time Runs Out
- Secret Wars
- How to Get into Marvel Comics: A Beginner's Guide
This is my full introduction and guide to Marvel before, and including, the Secret Wars event. It's a long wild ride, but if my journey into marvel has taught me anything: It's worth it!
In October 2012, Marvel began its Marvel Now! initiative which, similar to DC's New 52, saw the relaunch of many of Marvel's titles. Unlike DC, however, this relaunch initiative was not a reboot of Marvel's continuity. Instead, it serves as a good jumping on point for those somewhat familiar with the Marvel universe.
A full list of titles launched in this initiative, including "All-New Marvel Now!", will be coming soon.
All-New All-Different Marvel!
Secret Wars will, more or less, completely destroy the Marvel Multiverse and leave it in a brand new single continuity. Or so it claims. The All-New All-Different begins in October 2015 just as Secret Wars comes to a close and jumps us 8 months into the future of this new universe.
Marvel is completely relaunching their entire line with this endeavor, easily compared to DC's New 52 reboot. Everything from this point forward is a new #1, whether that's returning series in the new status quo, or the plethora of new titles being launched.
A complete guide to this relaunch will be linked here once it is underway.
- ComicVine.com is an excellent resource for comic research and news.
- This Publication History provides a complete list of Marvel Events so you can choose your own jumping in point if you want to start earlier or later than I did.
- Once you have figured out which Marvel Heroes you want to track, this Marvel Comics Database is a good resource for figuring out reading orders.
How to Use the Marvel Database
- Just search for your hero in the search bar, make sure you select the mainstream continuity or Earth 616 version.
- At the bottom of the hero's wiki page, under "links," there should be one that links to appearances.
- From there click show next to chronological appearances. Then click the arrows next to "month/year" to sort ascending.
- If you've done all that, then you have a chronological list of comics for that character in order of first to most recent!
Not all characters can be sorted like this, which means some painstaking research with comic vine, and others are already sorted in chronological order (like Wolverine).
Finally, Just Follow Your Passions
I present this guide, not as a definite roadmap, but as one of the many paths one can take in the hopes that I might help one of you find one of your own. There really is no wrong way to get into comics. As the old comic saying goes "every comic is somebody's first comic". Meaning that if the comic is well written, you can theoretically jump in anywhere. Comic books are a medium of passion, so find characters, writers, and/or artists that evoke that passion within you.
Sam on January 25, 2018:
I am very confused about something. I have some avengers comics, but some are titles “Avengers” and others “The Avengers.” Is there even a difference?
Michael (author) on November 16, 2015:
@Cody, I'm (slowly) working on more comic guides for non-superhero comics. In the meantime I can suggest Enormous from 215Ink http://www.comicvine.com/enormous/4050-75382/
Or what IDW has been doing with Godzilla in Rulers of the Earth and Godzilla in Hell
Cody on November 05, 2015:
I've never read comics before but there is a store across from my university and yesterday I went in to look around. I felt lost because there was so much Information and stories, but I didn't know where to start. It was so cool because it was a whole universe I have never been introduced too and I loved it but I was lost. I want to say I know I would like comics and just want some advice. I like the idea of huge massive monsters, say like, think they were trolls in Harry Potter or even as far away as the idea of the movie pacific rim. I like crazy sized monsters (my favourite animal is a blue whale) I just enjoy the slow, powerful movement of creatures. Can anyone help me find a series I might be interested in? I am 21 and can handle anything. I just want to get started.
Alex Sherman on October 25, 2015:
Really good, inspirational hub. Nicely done!
Jonas Rodrigo on July 26, 2015:
The comic book fandom is something that might scare a reader who just wants to read the books and not be ready to give up everything for the fandom. Helpful guide.
Olde Cashmere on July 15, 2015:
Top notch recommendations. My cousin got me back into Marvel comics with Civil War. This was a fun read and ignited that spark again to start picking up some more titles.
DavidCombs on May 14, 2015:
great guide! and a lots of useful resources.
Mike on May 10, 2015:
This is incredibly helpful. I am someone who enjoys reading very much, but the world of comic books was completely foreign to me. Almost all of my friends are immersed in comic books and superheroes, and while I tried to get into it, the world is just so vast and felt almost unapproachable to me, like I would never know how to get into it. I finally feel like I'm equipped with what I need to know to start.
Thank you so much for this really comprehensive guide!
Autumn on April 19, 2015:
I have some experience with comics but mostly graphic novels. I am a big reader and gamer. I have been a huge batman fan since I was little, the sub-catergories helped. I am still interested in romance and drama comic. This helps when it comes to action comics.
Simon from NSW, Australia on February 24, 2015:
A great guide. As someone who only really got into comics myself about 4 years ago, I think this would have been a great guide to have had at the time. It is a pretty interesting journey, discovering the things you enjoy and the things you like less. Batman got me in and is still one of my favourites, but I have really grown to enjoy Daredevil and Green Arrow, two characters I thought would not interest me when I started out! A really helpful Hub, thanks!
Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on December 22, 2014:
Really awesome. I got a lot of backstory recaps and suggestions on what to read by listening to podcasts about comics. That really got me started. I'm going to check out some of those books that you mentioned.
belleart from Ireland on July 07, 2014:
This is such a good idea, I have literally only read the Deadpool ones, because my partner's been collecting marvel comics since he was like 2, so I said I'd give it a try. Really enjoyed Deadpool, he's a brilliant character, but I still had to ask my partner a lot of questions throughout because I wasn't up to speed with the whole marvel universe.
Great hub, voted up
Damiano on July 05, 2014:
Thank you so much for this, I always had an interest getting into comics. I want to get into both Marvel and DC, especially DC because of the characters. The New 52 seems interesting i have to check it out^^
Muebles de jardin from madrid on May 10, 2014:
thank you for this good info.
Renelle on April 19, 2014:
This has been really helpful. Thank you! At least I have a few things that could help me get started. Coincidence but I'm also starting with Civil War :)
Michael (author) on November 03, 2013:
Thank you both for your kind words! As someone who is still new to comics, I'm glad my advice is helpful. I remember how daunting it was for me not too long ago and if I can help alleviate that for someone else, then my job is done :) I do have a few more guides that I plan on doing. The X-men, Incredible Hulk, and Marvel's Youth for starters. The X-men are something I definitely want to tackle soon because they were my first experience with anything comic book related (The X-men cartoon when I was a kid) and their history can be hard to follow.
Diane Van Hook from CT on November 03, 2013:
Most of my comic book experience has come from the ones tied in with television shows, like Buffy and Serenity. My brother is a longtime comic book fan, and his kids are being raised with that same love, so I became one sort of by osmosis, and with the difficulty of acquiring the older restarts, this gives me a baseline from which to start. This is great advice for beginners like me. Thank you!
Nicole Quaste from Philadelphia, PA on October 27, 2013:
I am surprised that I am the first to comment on this, because it is awesome. I was really excited to come by it, because I have always been interested in this but only recently decided I wanted to commit some free time to really getting into it. This is a really helpful and interesting article, and it was fun to read. You're a great writer, and I can't wait to check back for new hubs :)