Where to Begin: A Guide for New Comic Book Readers

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By: Scott Lynn (@thatscottlynn @tysk_podcast)

With the ever-increasing slate of comic book properties being turned into movies or television shows, it can sometimes be daunting to want to jump into reading the books that inspired them. With DC having 75 years and Marvel having 50-plus years of back issues and stories to read, it can be a sobering reminder that being able to turn on a television or computer wasn’t always a way to consume our comics. You have to remember there was a time when the Avengers weren’t a household name and the only way to see them in action was in the pages of a comic book.

Most of the community of comic book nerds takes for granted that we have been reading these stories for years and we forget that not everyone knows how great the comic books can be. I have friends who, when they watch a comic book movie or television show, will inevitably ask me, “What story is this from?” or “What books should I read to understand all the references in this movie/show?” I never mind answering these questions because for me, it’s great that we have more shared interests. I am also painfully aware that for them to get the full understanding that I have, they would have to spend a lot of money to have the same knowledge I’ve acquired in my years of being a nerd.

Luckily, through the years, DC and Marvel have understood they have a fan base that increases with every new generation. With that understanding, they began making collected editions or trade paperbacks that collected anywhere from three to ten issues of a series for the convenience of their readers. Most of the chain bookstores, Internet sources, or the comic company websites themselves allow you to buy these at pretty reasonable prices. But where should you begin your search? Well as luck would have it, I am here to help in a total non-spoilery way. These are just good places to begin your reading; these are not meant to be ones you can pick up and know everything – they’re just jumping off points.

1. Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco


avengers forever

The story is about a group of Avengers from different points in time (past, present, and future) that are brought together to fight one of their greatest enemies: Kang the Conqueror. The reason I chose this as my starter book for people interested in an Avenger story is because of how interesting it is and for the complexity of the story.

The TV show or movie that closely resembles this premise is the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow as it involves time travel and the bringing together of a team that doesn’t fit into a standard team. If this story interests you, I also suggest reading The Runaways or Young Avengers.

2. Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer and drawn by Rags Morales


identity crisis

The story is about what happens when family members of superheroes are attacked or killed. This story is written like a whodunnit murder mystery, but to this day still tugs at my heartstrings when I read it. Brad Meltzer took a b-list character and made him relevant, he made Batman sympathetic (if that’s possible), and wrote one of the best fights featuring Deathstroke in comic history.

The closest TV show or movie I would compare this title to would be Criminal Minds because of the aspect of trying to get into the mind of who would do the bad stuff in the book. If this story interests you, I would also recommend Batman: The Long Halloween as it has a similar vibe in a longer time frame.

3. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.


y

The series is about the only man who survives the death of all other male mammals on Earth except his pet monkey. It is one of the best-written stories I have ever read, and I have read a crap ton

The TV show or movie I would compare this to is The Walking Dead as it involves a post-apocalyptic landscape except no zombies. I would also recommend the comic version of The Walking Dead because it is similar as well.

4. The Superior Spider-Man (33 issues) by Dan Slott and Various Artists


superior spiderman

This series is about Doctor Octopus taking over the body of Spider-Man and tries to prove he is better at being a hero than Peter Parker ever was. I liked this story because it showed the villain winning and the evolution of the villain into something he wasn’t anticipating: the hero.

The TV show or movie that I would compare this to would probably be Face/Off because of the changing-places-with-the-hero storyline, even though this was executed so much better. The comic that I would recommend if this interested you would be the AXIS event from Marvel.

5. Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo


batman court of owls

This story revolves around Batman coming across a secret society that has been active in Gotham City since colonial times and the fight for control of Gotham. This story was good because it introduced a new set of villains that even Batman never knew existed and makes him wonder what else he never knew.

The movie or TV show that would compare closest to this would probably have to be The Da Vinci Code movies due to the secret society that’s running the world parts. If you enjoyed this story, I would have to recommend the current Valiant series Ninjak because it involves secrets and spies, plus there is a ninja and who doesn’t love ninjas? Hypothetical question, because everyone does.

6. The Flash: Rebirth (2009) by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver


flash rebirth

This story is about the return of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, after being thought dead for 33 years. I enjoyed this story because it brought fans back to the classic characters that made the hero names famous to begin with after the initial success of Green Lantern Rebirth four years prior.

The TV show or movie that most compares has to be the Flash TV show as it uses Barry Allen and can make it easier for fans of the show to jump in on. If you enjoy the show or this story, I would recommend Flashpoint or Green Lantern: Rebirth (2005).

7. X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and John Byrne


x men

This story, similar to the recent movie, is about an X-Man who comes back to the past to prevent the future where most mutants are dead. The difference in this story is that the mutant who goes back is Kitty Pryde instead of Wolverine. This story was good for several reasons, but the top reason would have to be how timeless it feels, even though it’s dated (if that makes sense).

The TV show or movie that compares to this would have to be the movie adaptation, X-Men: Days of Future Past, or really any time travel movie/show. If you enjoyed this story, I would recommend the Marvel series The Exiles because it deals with alternate timelines and alternate versions of characters you probably already love.

8. Civil War by Mark Millar and Steven McNiven


civil war crop

This story is about the government imposing new laws concerning superheroes because of deaths caused by a young group of heroes. I enjoyed this because I would say this is more of a Captain America and Ironman story because they are the main focus, even though it involves all the heroes in the Marvel Universe, and how it was a brother fighting a brother over their differences.

Once again, the TV show or movie that is similar is the Captain America: Civil War movie, even though in the comic, you tend to lean more towards Cap than the movie where you can see both side having valid arguments. If you enjoyed this story, I would recommend World War Hulk because of how it involves betrayal and heartbreak similar to Civil War.

9. Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez


crisis on infinite earths

This story is about a multiversal enemy named the Anti-Monitor who threatens to destroy all universes throughout the multiverse. This story was good because it fixed, or tried to fix, continuity issues throughout the years leading up to this event and was the series that killed off some big-name heroes of the time.

The TV show or movie I would have to compare this to is the Justice League animated movie Crisis on Two Earths or possibly Back to the Future 2 where it deals with alternate universes. If you enjoy this story, I would recommend Zero Hour, Final Crisis, or Flashpoint as they all attempt to fix continuity issues.

10. The Sinestro Corps War Parts 1 & 2 by Geoff Johns and Various Artists


sinestro corps war

This story is about the Green Lantern Corps facing off against their biggest threat yet: the former Green-Lantern-turned-villain Sinestro and his newest weapon: his own corps of bad guys all with their own yellow power rings. I enjoyed this story because it gave the Green Lanterns a threat that is very much on par with them in not only power level, but also to their ability to overcome fear.

As for the TV show or movie that would compare to this, I would have to say SWAT with Samuel L. Jackson, not because the movie is great, but because it involves a former member of the team turning traitor and fighting them. If you enjoy this story, I would recommend the rest of the Green Lantern stories: Rage of the Red Lanterns, Agent Orange, Blackest Night, and Brightest Day.

This list is far from in-depth, but it is a great starting point for anyone interested in reading comic books. If you are wanting more after these, I would recommend asking your local comic shop or bring someone you trust to help find something you would enjoy.


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