How to become a Comic Book Enthusiast
Are you strange if you love Comic Books?
There's just something "right", perfect, when you hold that freshly printed document in your hands. The smell of newly pressed ink, the smooth, uncreased sheets, all carrying a conclusion to last months amazing episode.
Did you know the world was on the verge of impending doom? I did; see? It says right here on page 7, next to the ad on Study Kung-Fu at Home in 8 Easy Lessons. Now that's what I'm talkin' about! That's a comic book!
Ok, yes. It's definitely one of the best hobbies to have in the world. And here's a wall of prove it!
Well maybe you need to be enlightened. Maybe you wonder why that kid is sitting in the corner, reading an old-yellowed comic book with his eyes glazed over in a state of euphoric amusement.
That's ok. I'm here to help. A bonafide comicbookologist, I've managed to crack the code.
Now release your fears. I've assembled everything it takes to enter the world of the Comic Book Enthusiast: the lover of pictoral stories, the connoisseur of adventures heroic and comedic, and the purveyor of art extraordinaire. Read on, and you will soon be amazed; within minutes, you will be one of us! Mwahhahahaa! (Yes, the evil laugh is part of comic book fandom.)
Enter! Or as the great Stan Lee would say: Excelsior!
What's a comic book Enthusiast?
A comic book enthusiast is a person who loves comics as much as the collectors, but is married, dating, or doesn't have enough money to get them all.
Step 1: Free Comic Book Day - Every great Comic Book Enthusiast starts with his first Comic Book.
To start, we should start at the start. Ok? And what's the best way to begin seeing the world of comic books the way all the rest of us addicted nerds do?
Three Words: Free. Comic. Book. Day. (The author does not take responsbility for reading comic books when he should have been studying math.) On the great eve of the lunar equinox, where the... ...Ahem. I mean the 1st Saturday in May. If you want to take a chance, do it! Head on over to your local comic book shop on the first week of May; it happens every year. They will literally give you free comics!
If you're unfamiliar with this great yearly event, check out; Free Comic Book Day!
Three Reasons to participate during Free Comic Book Day:
1. It's Free.
2. It's Comic Books.
3. It happens on a day.
Step 2: Understand The Comic Book "Event" - Making sense out of explosive comic book stories.
Above: The alien shape-shifting Skrulls capture and impersonate earth's heroes, attempting to colonize the earth in The Secret Invasion event.
What's an event? That's the question you'll need answered if you get yourself buried deep into comic books. But don't worry; although there's a lot to a "Comic Book Event", it's fairly easy to understand what's occurring. A Comic Book Event is a lengthy storyline that crosses over into multiple comic book titles. The duration of this epic journey can be a few months; lately, they have been spanning a year's time. Two publishers run most, if not all, of the events; this would be DC Comics and Marvel Comics, with their supehero-based titles.
The hardest thing for a newcomer to deal with is picking up a title in the middle of an Event; a lot of things will be going on and you'll get confounded. But don't give up yet: this is something that happens from time to time. The way to navigate through a Comic Book Event is to find the starting point:
1. Comic Book Events typically center around one hero or one title. For Example: The Blackest Night was a DC Event that spanned 9 issues and centered on the Green Lantern supehero. To really get into the event, you'll need to pick up the core comic book involved.
2. Comic Book Events normally have Tie-ins and Crossover Titles. In the above example of "The Blackest Night", the story involved titles such as The Blackest Night #0-8, Green Lantern #43-52, Green Lantern Corps. #39-47, and many others. To resolve this issue, you only need google the name of the event and the words "reading order". (For example: "The blackest night reading order".) This will help you find an ordered list for following the entire event.
3. Comic Book Events tend to shake things up in a global way. Which means that you can get easily confused by the cameo appearances of heroes and characters you've never seen in the midst of a major destructive occurrence. The best website I've found to be helpful is Wikipedia. If you see a name, item, or place that doesn't make sense, head over to wikipedia and look it up. It'll do wonders.
4. Comic Book Events spur a lot of discussion. And this is one of the fun things that coexist during the Event releases. You can hop on over to Marvel or DC forums and read what people are talking about. FYI, though, expect to see some "high-level" discussions, including things you've never heard of. Don't fret: this is where you get to ask questions when you don't know something.
Note to self:
Comic books typically release every week, on Wednesday. So be sure to anticipate your favorite issues then.
Step 3: Understand "Variants". - It looks like another comic book, but it's not actually another comic book.
Above: Looks like another comic book, huh? Nope. That's Iron Man #503, the left cover is the original and the right is the Thor Hollywood Variant, but it contains the same story.
So you're looking around the comic book shop and starting to get into the groove of being really cool. You've got your favorite titles in hand, you pay for them, and head out. Once you get home, you bust them out and start reading.
Wait a minute! Some of these comics are the same; they just have different art covers!
Well, my friend, you've just purchased what is known as a Variant! That's a comic book that's been released with different versions of cover art.
Are you upset? Discouraged? Don't be. Although you bought the same comic book twice, variants tend to fetch higher than average prices because they are more valued as collector's item's.
Step 4: Know the term "RetCon" - The Past? We don't need no stinkin' past!
Far to say it; the comic book community has had to deal with its share of aberrations and distortions over the course of time. Remember when Superman was leaping tall buildings in a single bound? Well, what happened? Now he flies. Something must have transpired between 1938 and now. How about Spider-Man? Wasn't he a teenager in the 60s? Shouldn't he be 70-something by now?
Basically, it all gets down to the following observations:
1. My hero's past must have changed, because my hero is different than I remember, or
2. My hero doesn't seem to change, even though he's been around longer than I can remember.
Don't fret; known as the "RetCon", or retroactive continuity, the comic book publishers have used this technique to keep their most popular superheroes and villains working in modern time. You see, what happened was all the good things we like about them kept them active. As they became more popular the response was to make certain new and exciting adventures would be available.
And so they RetConned some of your favorites, just to make them fit in. For example, Iron Man, originally was born out of the Vietnam and Korean War era, yet clearly in his origin movie, he's now fighting terrorists in the Middle East.
In summary, when you hear the word RetCon, it means they've changed something to keep the character's story moving along. (You'll also find with every RetCon, a bunch of comic book fans get very angry.)
If you've been interested in comic books for awhile, then you've come to the right place. And if you have any opinions or helpful advice, please feel free to leave them below.