This post is for anyone who is looking for tips on getting into comics (and some tips if you just want to expand your collection).
Terms I use:
Run - A collection of issues that are connected in sequential order. Example: Iron-Man issues 50, 51, and 52. NOT: Iron-Man 3, 36, and 200.
Series - Comic books with the same title. Note: Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, and The Avenging Spider-Man are all separate series and are numbered differently.
Set - A collection of issues related by story, usually marked by a sub-title. Example: Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage. These are NOT always from the same series.
First off DON'T PANIC! Ok, now for the first two steps!
|Comics can be found anywhere.|
Step One: How to get comics.
Here are a few tips on how to find comic books, whether you just want a few issues or are looking to seriously upgrade your collection:
1. Find a close (AND DECENT) comic book shop. It doesn't have to be a big or popular store, but it does need to get current issues you are interested in and it has to be well organized -- if a comic shop can't keep its "new arrivals" wall organized and neat, avoid it! It will confuse and frustrate you! If you can find a shop with a helpful staff, that would be amazing -- it's not mandatory though. What you want to do at your comic shop is to set up a "Pull List", a list of new titles you want to have set aside for you every time they come out. Say you want to start following the current issues of Scarlet Spider -- ask the shop employee to set up a Pull List and then add Scarlet Spider to it. Every time a Scarlet Spider issues comes out, they will set it aside for you so you don't have to worry about it selling out or being hard to find later. You simply go into the store and ask to pick up your pull list -- all the titles you want will be set aside in this way. Note: some comic shops offer discounts if you have a Pull List, others require you to have a certain amount of comics on the list, etc... Each store is different, find one that works for you!
A. Shop Bonuses: If you can find a shop that has a lot of back issues, that can be useful for when you get into a series and want to pick up some earlier issues. If a shop has a cheap bin/section, this can be the perfect way to build up your collection -- some shops have areas that range from 25 cents to 1 dollar an issue. Comically Speaking, in Reading, MA, has a large section of cheap comics -- they buy large comic lots from random sellers and are able to keep the cheap bins well stocked (over stocked, I've never made it through every bin in a single trip). Don't think that these bins are full of crap! They are a great way to fill in a collection and you can be really surprised at what you find -- most of my Ultimate Spider-Man collection came from those bins!
B. Some shops put together runs/series or rare issues on their wall. Sometimes it is nice to find a set that interests you and being able to get them all as a set -- usually it is cheaper than paying cover price as well.
C. Pull List Note: Some shop employees/staffs are able to be really fluid with their Pull Lists -- My current Pull List (at Joker's Child in Fair Lawn, NJ) not only has series, like Amazing Spider-Man, but it also requests and issue where Carnage pops up. This way, whenever a Carnage limited series comes out, the staff knows to add it to my list without me requesting it. If Carnage was to fight the X-Men in an issue just released, that would also be put aside for me. Don't be afraid to ask what the staff can do for you -- they want repeat customers!
2. Go to comic conventions! Yes, it may be nerdy, and yes, you may see a lot of people who are dressed really strangely, but that doesn't mean it isn't still about the comics! A lot of local and not-so-local stores are represented at conventions. They bring rare issues, collected sets, and back issues, and they want to sell! You can always find awesome cheap bins ($.25, $.50, $1, etc...) and a great selection of other issues you might be interested in. One of my favorite things is to find tables that offer $5 sets -- sometimes you can find a really awesome set of issues for that price, simply because the store wants to sell them quickly. I have the entire series of Gen 13 Bootleg that I paid $5 for. I think the series is about 20 issues long... I'm not good at math, but that's a damn good price!
A. I personally suggest conventions (cons) that are in smaller cities or towns. I've done several cons in towns around MA, and they are small but decent. I have done Boston Comic Con several times and love it -- a lot of vendors are present and it is more focused on the books. I've done New York Comic Con once, and will probably not go again -- there are still some vendors, but they are NOT the focus of the event. If you want to meet writers/artists/etc... or learn about new things nerdy, or dress up in your favorite costume, NYCCC is for you. I'm all about the books and was underwhelmed in that department -- great event, just not great sales.
B. Your first convention will be overwhelming. Depending on the size, there are tables, comic books, and people everywhere. And no roadmap. That's ok! Take your time, do a circuit of the room(s) before you even stop at a booth/section. When you feel like you know what's going on a little better, then dive in!
C. If you're buying collections/expensive issues at a con, make sure you've checked other tables! A friend went with me to BCC and spent $25 on a Batman run. About 20 minutes later, we found the same one for $5. Well, ok, I don't remember exact prices, but I remember he paid a lot more for the first item and was unhappy finding it for MUCH cheaper.
3. To the internet, Batman! There is no reason why you can't use the resources at your fingertips!! Want to bulk up your collection fast? Type "comic collection" or "comic books" or some general terms into Craigslist or eBay. Find a price that suits you -- trust me, you can get some amazing steals online like this. It also works if you know what you're looking for. Spider-Man 300 might be a bit expensive, but you can find it online. Or "Spider-Man Comics" will have people potentially selling stacks of Spider-Man. Usually this isn't as cheap as the other two methods, and it isn't as fun, but it can be the most effective way if you're struggling to find a specific issue (Damn it Thunderbolts 78, why does no one have you in store!).
4. Find a yard/garage sale on the weekend! You can use the newspaper/classified/Craigslist to find local options. Some will even mention they are selling comics, others you might just find some fun stuff. Make sure you bring cash!! These can be complete busts, but it is also possible to get the most luck here -- most people selling the comics have no idea what their value is. The above mentioned Spider-Man 300 is worth $100 and up (depending on printing/condition). I have no doubt some lucky sap has paid a buck for it at a yard sale at one point. I don't have any cool stories about this yet, only because it seems to rain any time I try to attend a sale...
5. Free Comic Book Day! It really exists! The first weekend in May, most comic shops participate in an event where they give certain issues of comics away to anyone who comes buy. Each store has their own deal with FCBD -- you can find out if they participate by checking online at FreeComicBookDay.comand then ask the staff how they run the event.
Ok! Moving on!
Step Two: What to Buy.
Comic books have been around for a long time and there are a ton of issues for every character/series out there. It can be hard to just jump in. Here are my tips on what you can do:
1. Find a series to read. It only takes one to start you off, but finding one can be difficult. If you know of a character you like from a movie, television, video games, or people talking about them, see if they have a series. Most things have been turned into comic books. Did you love Firefly and are sad the show is gone? Fear not, you can pick up the continued adventures in comic book format (in fact, the most recent FCBD featured an issue of Serenity!). I'd personally suggest starting with a basic character everyone knows -- Spider-Man, Wolverine, Superman, Batman, etc... If they're popular, there's generally a reason for it. From there, you can meet obscure characters, learn about their villains, and branch out from there. If you're not into the Super-Hero thing, there are still comics out there for you. I could list suggestions for pages, but this is already going to be a giant post. If you're not sure what you'd like to read, feel free to ask some questions in the comment section, I'd be happy to help. List your tastes, maybe a favorite movie or book or genre, and we can go from there.
A. You DO NOT need to start at issue 1!!!!!! Most comic books make a point of trying to be easy(ish) to understand as you go along. If, after finding a series you enjoy, absolutely try and find some back issues. That doesn't mean you can't start reading Amazing Spider-Man at issue 686 -- it would be nuts to try and read them all first!
B. Some series have tricky numbering -- sometimes there are different volumes (meaning they restart numbering at 1 even though they keep the same title). Other series try to renumber themselves midway to commemorate an event. Sometimes this sticks and sometimes this doesn't. Ultimate Spider-Man goes like this: 1-133, Requiem 1 and 2, 1-15, 150-160, 1-Current issues. It can be confusing! I suggest using website like ComicVine to help you sort things out.
2. Buy in bulk at first. Using one of the Step One methods, try to get a continuous run of books to read. As mentioned above, it doesn't matter if you start at one. If you can get a continuous set of 25-50 issues, you'll be golden. I paid something like $40-50 I think on my first bulk order from eBay and The Thunderbolts are what started me writing this blog way back when!
A. Also, consider looking into Trade Paper Backs. These are sets of comics bound together within either a hardcover or thick paper cover. If you can find them cheap, they can be an awesome way to fill out a story you want to read. These usually tell you what story arc is inside as well as what issues those would be in the series. Unfortunately, these can be expensive -- I prefer single issues myself.
3. Go to Free Comic Book Day! The whole purpose of FCBD is for publishers to offer a wide variety of their products for free to get people reading something different. You'll find major titles like Spider-Man there, but you can also find new series coming out or mostly unknown series that might be worth reading.
Ok, that's the end of step two unless I come back and edit this as I get inspired again!
Step 3: Collecting, will come in a future post, keep an eye out for the tag "Beginner's Guide" please!