I know I’m not the only bookish person who’s wondered about comics, or thought about trying them out. As a kid, I liked comic adaptations of classic novels, and I often read them side-by-side with the original texts. But I never really attempted to immerse myself in comics before 2014 because, frankly, I was intensely intimidated by the fans and history.
Superman’s been around since 1948. Batman’s been bashing around Gotham since the late 1930s. The thought of having to familiarize myself with over 50+ years of comic history was more than enough to put me off reading superhero comics for most of my life.
But over the last two years of writing for a comics-centric online magazine–led by women at that–I found myself curious about what I was missing. I went mostly by recommendations from friends at first, as I learned about the comics industry and the work of lady comics creators. What I found was a rich spectrum of stories and characters that have made my reading life even more interesting. Here’s a few of my favourites, with a bit of a guide for those who are totally new to reading comics and might be feeling awkward or confused. Consider this me holding your hand while you jump into some fantastic stories.
Part 1: I talked about Ms. Marvel, Monstress, and Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat! on Tuesday.
Part 2: Gotham Academy, Faith, and The Legend of Wonder Woman round out my recs.
Part of the intimidation I felt upon beginning my comics journey was because I just wasn’t sure where to find comics. I heard terms like “single issues,” “trades” and “pull lists” being tossed about, but I wasn’t sure what they meant or what I would need to do to get them.
Panels Managing Editor Swapna Krishna has done a great roundup of comics terms that can help you figure out what type of comics you’d like to start reading. A super quick breakdown of three common terms:
- Single issues, or “floppies,” are usually about 20-25 pages long and can be released monthly or bi-monthly.
- Trades are collected issues in a single volume, usually 5-6 issues to a volume. Their releases are less predictable than single issues, depending on the publisher.
- A pull list is your customized list of comics that you read regularly. You can ask to set up a pull list at your local comic shop, and let them know which comics you’d like them to set aside for you upon release. You can always ask to remove comics from your list–I’ve had a pull list for about two months now, and have removed a few series after deciding I would rather not commit to reading them in single issues.
Let’s say you’ve decided you want to read Lumberjanes in single issues. It’s an ongoing comic, with 24 issues out now. There’s a lot to catch up on before issue #25 comes out in April! There’s also a couple ways you can catch up.
Your local comic shop or LCS may have the newest issue and a couple back issues. You can ask if it’s possible to order a few of the older issues, and they may be able to help you. If the issues are out of print–which is likely–you might have to rely on the trade volumes to catch up.
There is another option: Comixology! It’s a great digital platform where you can get single issues and trade volumes on your iPad or other device, and you can also subscribe to series so that you’ll always have the latest issues in your library. I’ve used it to catch up on series like Giant Days and DC Bombshells when my LCS was out of back issues. It’s also where I read Lumberjanes, mostly because by the time I started the series, I was only able to pick up physical copies of issues #7 and #9.
Comixology also has Guided View, which is excellent for readers who are totally new to reading comics. Tap twice on your screen, and the view will zoom in on each panel in the designated reading order. Of course, you can always choose to read pages as they are, but I found that Guided View helped me figure out how to follow through panels when I was starting out.
That’s pretty much all I knew going into comics, and it is a working knowledge still. You’ll pick up more terms as you go along, and sites like Women Write About Comics and Panels are great ways to find out more about the comics industry. Let me know if you have any questions, or things you might like to see in future pieces on comics!