How To Start Reading Comics In 2021: A Beginner's Guide
I still remember those days when no out-of-station journey was complete without me running to the newspaper stalls on a railway station. I was of a smaller height and usually, just my hands would be visible. Beneath the Stack of Newspapers and behind the two little hands, a voice would say “Do you have any Comics, Uncle?”. There would only be two outcomes to this question. If they would say Yes, I’d run back to my parents and ask them for money, another daunting mission. If they’d say no, a sad & dejected me would think about the comic all throughout the trip. But when I got a comic book on my hand, I would read it again and again. I wouldn’t have to sit and stare outside the window, instead, I could just be transported to different universes.
History of Comic Books
A very early version of printed comic books was at the Trojan’s Column in Rome in 110 AD. During that time, the loose outline of a Comic Book existed which comprised of Sequential Pictures, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, and tapestries and images to tell a story. Other than that, there were a lot of other examples like in the Bible, where images were used instead of text.
The medium of Printing Press allowed the comic books to travel to the readers instead of the other way around. Early examples of the Printing Press were usually concentrated on religious subjects but later it included caricatures on social and political life. Later on, throughout the 18th Century, there were several transitions. Inclusions such as Thought Bubbles and regular comic book series for the public through Magazines.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the industry saw a meteoric rise. It was in 1938 when Action Comics published their first Issue No.1 which contained ‘Superman’. Other than that in Belgium, ‘Adventures of TinTin’ had been published as a regular newspaper column. Another use of the comic books was that they were supplied to American Soldiers who went to other countries to fight for their mother-land.
During the latter half of the 20th Century, comic books saw another rise in their popularity with other older comic books coming out as collector’s items. Before the 1970s, the term Comic was applied to Comic Books because they were usually seen as having a mostly humorous plot. Then there was the term called ‘Graphic Novel’ that was introduced as a more serious form of comic books. In the 1980s, there were more and more iconic characters being created like Calvin and Hobbes and also included notable creators such as Frank Miller and Alan Moore.
Ever since the inception of the Internet and the Digital Revolution, more and more artists have found a way to self-publish their comics. These were called as Web-Comics and still feel relevant in Present Day Pop Culture.
Categories of Comic Book Options
There have been two main options for reading Comic Books: Print and Digital.
Print Comic Books have been in the market for more than a century and are the traditional choices of many readers. Print Comic Books allow you the entire comic experience and also you get the smell of new books. Ever since the self-publishing trend carried on there have been various newer and better artists and genres on the market. Other than that, digital versions of Printed Comic Books and Graphic Novels exist. This is but a question of my preference.
Where to Start with Comics?
So now you have decided to start reading comics, where do you start with?
Present-Day Comic Books are available in huge numbers and also in various genres and it could get overwhelming and mostly confusing. There are a few things that would help to start with comic books.
- Search for the Genres you are comfortable with/Search for Genres you’d like to try
- Search for the 100 Comic Books of all time
- Reading according to your favorite publisher (Marvel, D.C, etc.)
- Film and TV Series Adaptations of Graphic Novels and Comic Books have been made. Reading their original versions would be great reads. (and trust me, a better experience)
Comic Book Recommendations
This has often been regarded as the best Graphic Novel of all time. Written by the Creative Team of Writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and Colorist John Higgins and published as a single volume edition in 1987, the subject has been the subject of a movie and even a Spin-off TV Series.
Deflecting from the traditional thought that comic books are meant for children, this Graphic Novel has been intended for Mature Audiences. Watchmen follows the story of a bunch of superhero groups called ‘Watchmen’ after their downfall. This Graphic Novel helps to shift the generally thought notions of superheroes as always ‘moral and good’ and shows them to us in a ‘flawed and ambivalent’ light.
Being a Critical and a Commercial Success, Watchmen has been regarded as the comic’s greatest series. This is as intellectual a read as it is inventive and it is definitive to leave you wanting for more.
Neil Gaiman is a celebrated author in the Literature world with bestsellers in fiction such as American Gods, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, etc. and he also has set his foot in the comic book space. The Sandman is often regarded as a Comic Book Masterpiece which is a perfect example of what Gaiman can achieve, mixing mythology and history with a horror background. The Original Series ran for about 75 issues with it being published under the DC Comics’ division of ‘Vertigo Comics’.
The main character of the Comic Book Series is Dream, who is also known as Morpheus, one of the Endless. The other members of the Endless are Destiny, Death, Desire, Delirium, Despair, and Destruction. It was one of the few graphic novels. The Comic Book follows the plot of Morpheus who is captured and learns about the inevitable change.
The Sandman Series bounces around everywhere from Morpheus traveling in his Realm of Dreams and dreams that range from a Serial Killer Convention to Arabian Nights. The Series has garnered a cult following ever since his publishing and in 2019, DC resurrected the brand. There is an audiobook version available and there’s a Netflix series of the works.
Maus is a graphic novel by American Cartoonist Art Spiegelman which depicts the creator interviewing his father about his memories and experiences as a Jew and a Holocaust Survivor. The graphic novel follows metaphors such as representing Jews as Mice (hence the name), Nazis as cats, and Poles as pigs. Maus is a lot of things such as a mixture of memoir, biography, fiction, history genres.
The Graphic Novel was the recipient of the 1992 Pulitzer Award. It traverses through Themes such as Racism and Guilt, Language against the backdrop of the Holocaust. According to the artist, animals had been a staple of children's comics. Maus has been often considered with the Big Three Graphic Novels such as ‘Watchmen’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.
Equal parts Simplistic in artistic style as intimate with its storytelling, Maus is really a riveting read and a good start for reading Comic Books.
Saga is a romantic comedy space opera that was first published in 2014. The comic book was written by Brian K Vaughan who’s known for working on shows such as Lost and on other critically acclaimed comic books such as “Y: The Last Man, Runaways, Ex Machina and Paper Girls”. Said to be heavily inspired by Star Wars and personal influences being a parent. Apart from winning the Hugo Award, the series has also garnered twelve Eisner and seventeen Harvey Awards.
The Series tells the sweeping tale of two lovers whose families are at war with each other, as they try to find their home or their place in the Universe. In other words, they are literal Star-Crossed Lovers. Alana and Marko are the parents of a newly born baby, Hazel. Hazel has already survived assassins who are out to kill her, armies and horrific monsters are all out to get her in the cold vastness of outer space.
Saga is actually a rich world that is full of history and detail and lore. Other than that, Saga will fulfill a lot of your expectations which is full of progressive-yet-relatable characters and incredible visuals.
Doom Patrol can be simply put as a superhero team from DC Comics, but it is more than that. The original Doom Patrol was released back in 1963 and was created by Arnold Drake and Bob Haney. This comic series has been rebooted and has different incarnations in different universes.
Doom Patrol is a group of misfits whose superpowers instead of making them all-powerful have made them go through alienation and trauma. They have been often dubbed as the “World’s Strangest Superheroes”. The original members of the team were Elastic Girl, Chief, Beast Boy, Negative Man, and Robot Man.
There have been a lot of different versions of Doom Patrol but the version of Writer Grant Morrisson and artist Richard Case has been regarded as the best version. In the four years on the series, they delivered a small team of freakish, outcast superheroes and even introduced new villains and newer characters. Richard Case’s thick linework imposes a satisfying structure to already amazing storytelling in a comic book.
Other Comic Book Recommendations
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan
- Batman: A Killing Joke by Alan Moore
- Locke and Key by Joe Hill
- Day Tripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon
Indian Comic Book Recommendations
- The Sadhu by Gotham Chopra and Jeevan Kang
- Aghori by Ram V, Vivek Goel
- Ramayana 3392 A.D
- Devi by Samit Basu
- 18 dys by Grant Morrisson
- Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir
- Parmaanu by Raj Comics
- Caravaan by Yali Dream Creations
These Comic Books and Graphic Novels are sure to company through the Winter Cold. Happy Reading!
- Harsh Kichambare
To read more article written by Harsh Kichambare - CLICK HERE
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