So You Want to Read Comic Books 2.0: The Essentials

Now that Lady Geek Girl has gotten all you up to speed on some ways to introduce yourself to comics, I’m hijacking this series to talk about some comics you can start off with. Throughout your life, or at the very least, through reading our posts, you’ve probably heard of Marvel and DC, two rival comic industries forever competing to see who can piss their audiences off more. But it goes without saying that they have produced some great stories with some of the world’s most iconic characters. So sometimes it’s best to not pay attention to what the industries do, or what the writers say, and just sit down to read their comics without the fear of it being forever tainted by evil marketing strategies implanted in your mind.

There are more comic producers besides DC and Marvel, and many universes that are less confusing to get into, but we’re not going to talk about them in this post.

But now you face a problem of which comic you should start with. And which character. Well, that’s easy; go back to all those movies and TV shows Lady Geek Girl made you watch, even the painful ones. Which character do you like? Once you have that character, you have a vital clue into picking out your first comic.

Now the next part gets a little tricky. Comics have been going on for so long, that chances are, you’ll have no idea where to start. I know I didn’t. People told me that I just needed to pick a comic halfway through the already established story and go from there. And you can do that, and by all means, that’s not a bad idea, especially if you have watched all the movies and TV shows and what-have-you.

But what if you skipped all the movies and shows and wanted to just dive right into comics? Well, I don’t really recommend it, but it’s certainly doable. That’s what I did, but nowadays that isn’t really necessary. I got into Thor about six years ago, and unfortunately, back then, there weren’t too many things outside Wikipedia helping me figure everything out. So I really do recommend taking advantage of all the different mediums available.

All I had was the 1960’s cartoon, and well, yeah…

But even when you do start reading comics after all that valuable research that more than likely did not include the above video until now, some of you may be put off by starting comics in the middle of the story.

Starting halfway in is not actually a problem, especially if you’ve already familiarized yourself with the characters. I cannot stress that enough. And then you can take into account that both Marvel and DC do like to reboot their universes periodically and that even when they don’t, they’ll occasionally get some artists to go back and reproduce the original origin stories.

But what if you still really want to start at the beginning?

That’s near impossible, right? I mean, these stories have been going on for forty, sixty, sometimes seventy or eighty years. And you’ll probably never get your hands on some of the originals. Those issues can be over thousands of dollars. Some of them can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and forgive me, but I’m going to make an assumption that most of you following this blog are not that rich.

This can be quite a conundrum. But there is a solution to it: The Essentials.

As long as you’re into the more iconic characters that have been around awhile, like Batman or Captain America, The Essentials are your new best friends. They’re pretty much a collection of the original comics—all in black and white with about fifty or so issues in each volume—for a relatively cheap price. Though, to be fair, I believe The Essentials are purely are Marvel title. I’m not sure what DC calls their release. I’ll have to look into that.

I should also point out that The Essentials are not for everyone. Not everyone can stomach the artistic styles from way back when for too long, and the fact that they have been reduced to black and white when everything else is in color. I know Lady Geek Girl still hasn’t made it through my Essential Thor Volume One, even though she’s been borrowing it for two years!


But if you’re someone who really does want to start at the beginning, The Essentials are for you. And despite everything I just said, they can be pretty enjoyable. Yeah, compared to today’s standards for comic art, they’re not really up to par, but they are enjoyable in their own way. Reading them, you really get a perspective on how the writing in previous decades differs from our own, and what kinds of wacky ways the writers viewed science. Or profanity. I don’t think I’ve ever read so many Holy Hannahs taking the place of Holy Shits!

But yes, that’s how fictional comic characters cursed back in the 60s.

So while I do suggest watching the movies and TV shows—which we have a lot more of today than we did six years ago, so please take advantage of it—The Essentials can be a fun way to start. In fact, you can do both for a lot of characters now. If you’re not sure if The Essentials are for you, then the next time you’re at your local comic store, just pull one down from the shelf and flip through it for a bit. Maybe you’ll like it, but if you don’t, the worst you can do is decide to not buy it and go home to watch episodes of Young Justice while you wait for Lady Geek Girl’s next comic post for instructions.

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About MadameAce

I draw, I write, I paint, and I read. I used to be really into anime and manga until college, where I fell out of a lot of my fandoms to pursue my studies. College was also the time I discovered my asexuality, and I have been fascinated by different sexualities ever since. I grew up in various parts of the world, and I've met my fair share of experiences and cultures along the way. Sure, I'm a bit socially awkward and not the easiest person to get along with, but I do hold great passion for my interests, and I can only hope that the things I have to talk about interest you as well.

2 thoughts on “So You Want to Read Comic Books 2.0: The Essentials

  1. While visiting the Baltimore Comic Convention, a friend of mine told me that Valiant was an interesting comic book publishing company. It seems like you’re more interested in the classic comic book characters, but do you know anything about them?

    • No, I’m very familiar with Valiant; however, not everything I read is done by DC and Marvel. I brought those up first because most everyone I’ve talked to who aren’t familiar with comics only know them through DC and Marvel movies, so we are trying to address those comics first.

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