Did you know there is a right way and a wrong way to read comic books? Yeah, I didn’t either until last year. I’m working on widening my appreciation and understanding of different types of storytelling, and I thought comics would be a good place to start.
To get started, I enlisted to the help of a couple of comic aficionados – who also happen to be two of my best friends – Nick Lane and Lauren Williams. Listen in as we discuss how to read comics for n00bs like myself, as well as which books you should read first and which ones to save until you’re more experienced.
5 tips for getting started
Since we can’t all jump on the comic reading train with ease and grace, here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you pick up your first few books.
1) Panel layouts can be confusing, even for the most experienced readers. If things aren’t making sense, you may need to back up, do a brain wipe, and try reading the panels in a different order.
2) To get a feel for navigating page layouts and how to digest one panel at a time, try the comiXology website or app in “guided mode.” They even have some free comics available so you can give it a spin before committing to a book.
3) S l o w d o w n. The artwork and text work in concert. If you’re just looking at the pictures, or just speeding through the words, you’re missing out on the unique comic experience.
4) Think of yourself as the director and editor of a movie. You’ve got the script and the storyboards, now it’s up to you to make the movements and cuts in your imagination.
5) Keep reading! Your instincts on where to start reading a page will develop over time.
Choosing your first comics
Carefully selecting your first few comics can ease your path into new reading territory. So, where should you start? Ideally you would start by asking a few of your comic reading pals for recommendations. Hopefully your friends know you well enough to zero in on a story that you’ll like that isn’t too complicated when it comes to page layout.
I tried picking out a couple of books on my own and failed to see why comics, as a medium, are so compelling for so many people. When I asked for suggestions, Lauren gave me Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, and The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire. Both of those were excellent recommendations and pretty straightforward when it came to reading.
The other option is to stick with what you know. If you loved Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman movies, start with Batman. The obvious drawback to starting with any of the classic superhero characters is the decades of material you have to choose from (but that’s a topic for another podcast). If fantasy is your thing, try something like The Last Unicorn. Superheroes are what most people associate with comics, but the truth is, much more than that is available. If your interests do not include spandex costumes, don’t worry. There’s something for everyone.
For the well read among you, which books you recommend for beginning comic readers? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments.
- Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
- The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
- Watchmen by Alan Moore
- Daniel Clowes
- Craig Thompson
- Matt Wagner
Lauren Williams has been an avid comic reader for the past 7 years and has attended San Diego Comic Con since 2005. An all around nerd to the core, you can find Lauren enjoying the latest episode of Doctor Who over a hot cup of jasmine green tea or laughing over Alex Trebeck’s latest quip on Jeopardy. She has previously produced “In the Ring,” a radio talk show exclusively about Professional Wrestling (go figure) and is currently dreaming of a career in voice acting. Her senior year thesis at CSUSM was about Batman; seriously.
Nick Lane can usually be found at Disneyland, or at home where he’s either violently throwing video game controllers across the room, or organizing his iPod, and pouring over his latest musical discovery. Nick has been an on-and-off reader of comics since he was 5 years old, but didn’t become an avid fan and regular of his local comics shop until the last nine or ten years. But even when he wasn’t reading comics, he ALWAYS had, and still has, an undying love for all things Batman.
His ultimate dream for the majority of his life has been to become the new revolutionary face of radio. He’d also settle for a decent paying job doing anything, so long as it’s in the radio or voice business. He currently works as a board operator at AM 1170 KCBQ. Oh yeah, and Nick is also a lover of most things sci-fi. His favorite show of all-time is The Twilight Zone, and he has a sweet poster of a DALEK hanging in his living room. That should say it all right there.
This podcast is part of the New to Comics series, listen to all of the entries in this series here.