A Guide to Graphic Novels

Nerd culture has taken over the world in the last few years with everyone loving comic book films, Star Wars and 80s pop culture references, but what if you want more than the films? What if the films have unlocked your love of Captain America or Batman and you want more? I have spoken to a few wannabe nerds who want to read comics but they find the idea intimidating and don’t know where to start. Well, I have been reading comics and graphic novels for most of my life. Hell, one of my first words was Batman (no joke). So here is my guide to graphic novels to help you out.

Know your companies

Not knowing your DC from your Marvel is a big rookie mistake. If you dont know what company a particular series belongs to look it up. I will give you a quick run down of the most popular titles:

Marvel: Avengers (and all Avengers characters), X-men, Spider-man, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and many more…

DC: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Justice League, Suicide Squad, The Flash, Green Arrow, and many more…

There are also other companies that are slightly less popular, like Dark Horse (Hell Boy) and 2000AD (Judge Dredd).

Start off Small

Even the big companies have smaller publications. Some only run for a volume or two. My personal way of introducing myself to a new series is to follow a particular character, for example right now I am obsessed with the Robins from Batman so I am reading all of their separate short series’, such as Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Super Sons. I am reading those shorter series’ before tackling the monster that is Batman and Robin.

Also some of the more famous titles are actually really short reads by comic book standards, such as Sandman, Sin City or The Crow.

Wikipedia is your friend

When you first start out it might seem like every comic fan knows more than you do, but believe it or not, even the biggest comic book nerd hasn’t read every comic. When it comes to comics the internet is your friend. There are reboots, relaunches, teams full of characters and characters constantly coming back from the dead to keep up with. That is a lot of information to juggle, and even the most experienced comic reader still has those moments of “I thought he was dead/evil/in another dimension?” and having to quickly google a character while in the middle of reading something. No one is an expert, and everything is available in a quick internet search. Sometimes those wikipedia pages are just fun to read in general.

Watch Cartoons

Here you are wanting to read graphic novels and I am making you watch tv? Bare with me, it will make sense.

You love the films, but the films are limited in what they can show. They have to pick out the biggest villains, the most interesting story lines and most dramatic character development, and fit it all in 2 hours. When it comes to animated features comic book companies have more freedom. They are show more characters and smaller storylines that are still a lot of fun. This especially applies to DC comics. Marvel has some good animated shows that are mostly aimed at kids, but I would recommend watching the 90s X-men and Spiderman cartoons. DC comics dominates when it comes to animation. The 90s Batman series is dark and true to the comics while also being kid friendly. DC also releases regular animated films that are aimed at adults and they are better than their live action cinema releases. (If you thought the film Suicide Squad was a bit of a miss look up Assault on Arkham) When I watch these films I keep my phone nearby so I can google characters while I watch, just in case it raises any questions or someone I am not familiar with is introduced.

Save Some Cash

Comics do not have to cost a fortune. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a very expensive hobby to get into. There are some cheats though.

Comic book shops sometimes have a free comic book day. You can get your hands on a few new issues during that. There is a set day of the year for it, but I don’t think it applies to every country and shop, so do some research for your local day.

Comic book swap meets. Yeah this is a thing, or at least it is for me locally. My local nerd bar has regular comic book swap meets where comic book fans bring along issues they don’t want and swap them for new ones. You might already need some comics to take part.

Get social. I am a member of a local gaming and general geekdom society at my old university. Occasionally members will move house or have a general clean out and post photos of comics they are looking for new homes for on the society’s Facebook page.

Go online. I normally do not endorse this sort of thing but it is handy for beginners. There are entire websites dedicated to letting you read comics online. If you read manga you will know the sort of sites I am talking about, but if you don’t, simply Google “Read comics online” and you are sure to find a few. These sites are great for testing a series without having to spend money on a comic you might not like. This doesn’t just apply to manga, but also Western comics.

Those are my tips for getting more into the world of comics and graphic novels. I might write a separate post on graphic novel recommendations for beginners because I could be talking about this topic all day. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask. I would be more than happy to help you out.

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