So, you love the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Logan gave you the chills. And Batman is… Batman. And now you want to know where these characters came from. You yearn for more Ronan the Accuser (he fought alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy?!). And what the Hell are Infinity Stones? Where do you start with a character that has been around for 75 years and has died three times? What do you read if all you want is a really good Joker story? And finally, who the crap is Squirrel Girl (trust me, you don’t need to know)?
Let’s be real. Comic books are intimidating. Marvel started out as Timely Comics in 1939, and after several name changes they became Marvel in 1961. DC started 5 years prior to Timely, in 1934. That’s a lot of history. Batman celebrated 75 years not long ago and while his core has remained fairly constant, his character has changed and evolved, his rogues have come and gone, and he has even knocked up R’as Al Ghul’s daughter!
As someone who only recently returned to the world of comics after an 8 year hiatus, there is a lot to catch up on. The universes have changed drastically. My recommendation is choose a character or team and really hone in on their story. That story will likely lead to interest in other characters. And suddenly you have a universe. Surprisingly, a lot of very popular characters are fairly ‘young. For example’ Deadpool was created in the 90’s.
Another thing is ‘reboots’. While DC has rebooted a few times, (2016’s Rebirth, for the most recent example) and while Marvel never officially has, they’ve essentially done it a dozen times, most recently with 2015’s Secret Wars. While many of the characters’ backstories remain and key events in their stories remain relevant, often characters find themselves on new teams, or with a completely different story projection. While this can be extremely frustrating, it does allow different creative flow and a fairly good entry point for newcomers.
One of the better options is actually to sidestep Marvel and DC and go for one of the independent publishers, such as Image, Dark Horse, IDW or Boom! Studios. Dark Horse and IDW helm many TV and movie tie-ins – from Planet of the Apes to Firefly. Thanks to them, a whole slew of dead or dormant series have found new life in comics. Dark Horse even published Chuck Pahlaniuk’s sequel to the popular film Fight Club as a graphic novel. In addition, these publishers also release original stories – my favorite being the Dark Horse released Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire, which has garnered rave reviews.
Image, celebrating 25 years, is killing it lately with their spread of titles. From the longstanding The Walking Dead and the publisher’s first title Youngblood, to newer titles such as Extremity and Curse Words, the publisher is dishing out titles in every genre imaginable. Image has vowed that the company will never hold creative rights to it’s creators’ work and that no partner would interfere with another. This promise has led to some of the most creative and original work out there.
Invincible, coming to an end within the year after almost 15 years, takes a satirical look at superheroes. I Hate Fairyland, created by Skottie Young – the individual responsible for the hilarious kid versions of Marvel characters – is the highly entertaining story of Gertrude who was trapped in fairyland for one decade too long and has turned into a maniacal serial killer. Kill or Be Killed tells the story of an ordinary man who must kill on a monthly basis, or die. The possibilities from Image are endless.
However, no matter which approach you take, the number one piece of advice is to go to a local store and talk to the staff there. People who work at comic book stores are passionate about comics and the stories woven within them. Also, they’re generally brutally honest – they will tell you if a story is bad. Tell them what you like, tell them what you don’t like and chances are they will find one (or 10) books that they recommend.
There is no better time to get into the multiverse of comic books. The MCU is booming. And DC is showing promise with Wonder Woman and Aquaman. Image has not faltered in recent history. There are amazing stories to read in a medium that cannot be duplicated. Batman has never figured it out. We got a tease at the end of Darkseid War. Who is The Joker? Let’s read and find out!