How Do I Start Reading Comics? The Simple Guide For New Readers

“How do I start reading comics?”

That’s a question I’m regularly asked by those who are curious about this wonderful medium but have no idea where to start reading. While comics can look impenetrable from the outside, I’m here today to tell you that it’s not as hard as you think!

This simple, yet comprehensive guide, will set you on the path of your comic book reading journey and show you that it’s not as hard as you think. At the same time, I’ll clear up misconceptions some new readers have about starting and the medium as a whole.

If you’re looking to get your friends into comics check out our How To Get Your Friends And Family Into Comics Guide.

Before we continue: while I try to not use too many comics specific lingo in this guide, some of it may be unavoidable. If you’re not sure what something means then this Glossary of Comic Book Terms will come in handy.

Let’s Smash Some Common Misconceptions First

There are lots of misconceptions about reading comics and sometimes these uninformed facts can be a roadblock for potential comic readers. It’s a real shame, as some of these are simply not true!

Once these misconceptions have been eliminated, getting into comics will be an easy task.

You Have To Start At Issue #1

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to start a comic book with issue #1. For many readers, their first issue was not a #1. It was some random number, sometimes in the 100s.

For examples, I read a lot of X-Men but I didn’t start with issue #1. My first issue was #188. While I didn’t know 100% what was going on I soon got up to speed with characters I was unfamiliar with and it didn’t lessen my experience. When I was confused about something or wanted to know more about a particular character, Wikipedia had the answers I needed.

While I do admit, it can be confusing to pick a series mid-story. Although, if you start with an issue that begins a story arc it doesn’t matter if it is not issue #1.

As long as you are enjoying the story and/or art it doesn’t really matter where you begin!

I’ve written about not having to read everything that has come before in greater detail.

Comic Books Are Hard To Find

While comic books are not everywhere, they’re not as hard to find as you might think. From comic book stores, bookshops, online, to your mobile phone, comics can be found in many places.

Check out the ‘Where Can I Buy Comic Books And Graphic Novels‘ Guide to discover more in greater detail.

The Simpsons. Comic Book Guy. Milhouse

Comic Retailers Are Unfriendly, Like The Guy On The Simpsons

If your only contact with a comic book retailer has been this guy then you have been lead astray. Most comic book retailers are friendly, helpful, and passionate about what they do. They’re willing to have a chat with you about all kinds of things and don’t mind answering your questions.

While the unfriendly stereotype used to be true, in the past 15 years comic book retail has made leaps and bounds to become more professional and accommodating to all customers. As a result, dealing with people like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons is a rare occurrence.

If you do happen to meet an unsavoury retailer, I have written a helpful guide to combat the rudeness.

Sandman: Overture art by J.H Williams III.

Comics Are Only Superheroes

While the most popular comics are superheroes, there are a vast array of different genres represented such as science fiction, humour, fantasy, memoir, horror, crime, espionage/spy, romance, adventure, war, and heaps more.

Some genres you may need to dig a little deeper to find, but if it’s a genre it has probably been done in comics.

It’s Too Hard To Figure Out The History Of Series And Characters

The late Stan Lee is credited for stating “every comic is someone’s first.” It’s a notion that many writers and editors, especially at Marvel and DC, take into consideration when they create comics.

Writers will keep readers in the loop with what they need to know through exposition and other storytelling techniques and editors will often include recap pages at the front of comic books.

Additionally, with the power of the internet, even the most convoluted histories are not that hard to figure out. With sites like Wikipedia, Comic Vine, and a variety of wikis, the answers are at your fingertips.

Further to this, it’s not required to know the full history. Just like people in real life, not every single event that has happened to a character informs their current story. Often, a lot of a character’s past is never referenced after a certain period of time. In some cases, they are forgotten about entirely!

Even the X-Men enjoy reading comics!

The Simple Steps To Starting

Alright, now that we’ve got some misconceptions out of the way, it’s time to start reading comics!

1. Think About Which Kinds Of Comics You Want To Read

This can be hard at first. If you’re unsure, here are some simple questions to help you find an answer:

  • What kind of movies, books, TV shows, or video games do you enjoy?
  • Which comic book movies did you enjoy?
  • What kinds of stories do you want to read?

Your answer(s) could be as simple as “I want to read Batman” to something more complex such as “I am interested in stories that are set in a dystopian future.”

Once you have an answer, you can start to look for comic books that match that criteria.

Another way of figuring out what kind of comics you want to read is to take a look at what’s available to read. This website has an ever-growing reading recommendations section, well supplied with new reader-friendly reads. There are also heaps of reading recommendation lists on a variety of topics, characters, and themes to help you get started.

Like I mentioned earlier, there are more to comics than superheroes. As a result, you don’t have to limit yourself to what Marvel and DC are producing. There’s a tonne of other quality publishers such as Image Comics, Boom Studios!, Kodansha USA, Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Viz, Archie Comics, Scholastic, Europe Comics, AdHouse Books, along with many others.

2. Take Advantage Of Comics That Are Free

Before you slap your money down on the counter (or the online equivalent) on something you might not be sure about, I highly recommend that you take advantage of free (and legal) sources of comics. This allows you to start reading comics without financial risk and to get a taste of this wonderful medium.

2A. Borrow Comics From Friends

Do you have friends that read comics? If that’s a yes, then beg them to lend you some! Not only is this a free source of comic books but they generally know what stories you enjoy and can help expose you to the right ones.

2B. Take Advantage Of The Graphic Novel Collection At Your Local Library

Does your local library have a graphic novels section? If it does, then you should definitely check it out.

Good libraries will have a great range to choose from, which will allow you to sample all kinds of different stories. Also, it’s not a big deal if you don’t like a particular graphic novel as you can return it and borrow something else.

Just like borrowing from a friend there is no financial risk involved – as long as you return the graphic novels on time!

Many libraries also have access to online services such as Comics Plus and Hoopla. Head over to your local library’s website or ask a librarian to find out if you can access these services.

2C. Comixology Has Free Comics

Comixology, the largest digital comics marketplace, has a feast of free comics that can be read on a variety of devices. Most of the free comics come in the form of first issues, previews and the occasional mini-series from almost every genre imaginable.

You’ll need to sign-up to Comixology first before you can take advantage of their free comics.

Comic Book Store.

3. Visit Your Local Store

Okay, you’ve dipped your toes in the pool and now it is time to jump right in. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting your local comic book store.

Don’t worry, they’re not scary places. Pop in and have a look around.  Browse the shelf and get a feel of what they’re selling and what kinds of comic books are available to buy/read.

Based on the free comics you’ve read, you might have a good idea of what kinds of stories you want to read. But if you’re still not sure then don’t be afraid to ask a staff member what they recommend. They’re a friendly bunch and love helping readers discover new comics to read. They also love seeing new readers in their store.

You can find your closest store using the Comic Shop Locator.

New comic books and graphic novels are available in comic book stores on Wednesdays. You can find out more about this here.

4. Return To Your Local Store Regularly

If you think reading comics is for you, try and make an effort to visit the store on a regular basis. This could mean visiting weekly, fortnightly or even once a month. Although, how regular you visit your store will generally depend on how invested you are and what your budget is.

Follow the store on social media so you can keep up to date with all the news and events. Many stores post weekly release schedules, which can be handy for keeping track of when the next issue of your favourite comic comes out.

If you visit regularly enough consider starting a pull list, something I discuss in ‘Why I believe you should have a Pull List/Standing Order.’

If You Don’t Have A Comic Book Store Near You

If you don’t have a comic book store near you then don’t worry, you can still get your comic book fix. There are a plenty of good online stores that ship all over the world, that stock a wide range of comics to read.

If you prefer to read digitally – on your phone, tablet, or laptop – then Comixology is the way to go. They have tens of thousands of comics available for sale, will often have generous sales, and have great reading software too.

There’s also a plethora of webcomics available online.

5. Slowly Broaden Your Horizons

After reading comics for a while, slowly broaden your scope of reading. By doing so you will open yourself up to a whole new world of stories, ideas, and art that you never knew existed!

This can be done by:

  • Checking out other work from your favourite artists and/or writers
  • Ask other like-minded readers what they are enjoying at the moment
  • Asking the staff at the comic book store what you should read

When broadening your horizons keep in mind of your budget and go at a pace that is comfortable for you.

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Free Comic Book Day by Sergio Aragones.
Free Comic Book Day by Sergio Aragones.

6. Get Into The Community Aspect Of Comics

If you’re really enjoying comics, you might want to discuss them with other like-minded people. This could be by joining an online community such as Comic Vine or Reddit. This can also extend into the real world through events at your local comic book store, such as Free Comic Book Day, or going to a convention.

If you have never been to a comic book convention, here are some handy survival tips.

By getting into the community aspect of comics you will meet people who share the passion of comics and you might even make life-long friends.

7. Get Your Friends Into Comics

As we all know, everything is better when friends are involved. Why not get them into reading comics? Not only will there be additional comic readers in the world but it is always fun when your friends share the same interests.

They don’t have to be die-hard fans of the medium. They could start by reading some of your collection or tag along with you to an event, convention, or your local comic book store. 

Need more tips on this? I’ve written about strategies to get your friends and family into comics further detail.

Conclusion

With these steps, you’re on your way to a loving comics! If you ever have any questions about comics, don’t hesitate to ask. All you need to do is get in contact and I will answer your questions as soon as I can.

If you have found this guide useful feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch through Facebook or Twitter.

Useful Links

Glossary of Comic Book Terms

Marvel Comics Reading Recommendations

DC Comics Reading Recommendations

6 Best Places To Buy Comics Online

Where Can I Buy Comic Books and Graphic Novels?

When New Are Comics & Graphic Novels Released?

The 5 Best Websites For Discovering Webcomics

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