Meet Jake. Jake loves superheroes. He loves the DC movies. Somewhere in his heart, there has always been an urge to connect more deeply with Batman and Superman. Moreover, 2016 is shaping to be an important year for DC regarding film. He had never been exposed to comics before, sadly. So what better time than now, to start reading right? Well, that’s what Jake thought.
He stopped dead in his tracks after realizing the sheer vastness of the comic book world, filled with plethora of material. Jake just did not have a clue where to begin. Much to his chagrin too, nor did he know that many of said comic book elements (characters, items, stuff…) even existed. He felt helpless.
“Between The Panels” is a series of blogposts dedicated to help people like Jake: newbies to comic reading, to jump right in the wonderful and very very colorful universe that DC Comics has forged over the decades and experience some of the best stories ever told.
Getting to into superhero comic reading is very daunting. It’s like a train that moves very fast without stopping, and the only way to get in is to grab onto the handrails and jump aboard. The speed will make you feel uneasy at first but you’ll grow to love it.
Anyway, enough analogy. I’m gonna talk about a few things you might wanna do/know before going any further in your journey. Let’s get to it.
1. Comic book stores aren’t what they used to be. The one seen in Big Bang Theory, owned by Stuart, that’s a fantasy for many people. In countries like mine, the situation is even worse. But if you do happen to be lucky enogh to have one nearby, make sure to visit the regularly, keep an eye out for issues on your to-read list and ask around to gather as much info as possible.
2. You can buy comics online, but it’ll cost you more (hardcover prices are off the hook, even in the US). I live in India, and here it can range anywhere from Rs.500 to Rs.5000 (that’s around $8 to $75). Just like movies and songs nowadays, comics too are available in digital formats. While that doesn’t beat the feel of holding a real book and reading, it certainly is more convenient to obtain. If you want to make a purchase, head over to comiXology, a site from Amazon itself and pretty much the center for all digital comic sales on the internet. Beware, some issues’ price tag may look tempting, but such things usually belong to a series. Put all the issues in the series together and you’ll be looking at a massive bill. For example, each issue in Injustice: God’s Among Us costs say, 1$. There are 5 ‘years’ in total to be read, and each ‘year’ consists of 24 issues. Do the math and then tell me if your smirking jaw didn’t drop to your expensive Italian marbled floor.
3. Like all things in today’s world, comics can be found free. Of course, piracy isn’t cool, but hey, not all of us got the means or the money. Besides, after 5 or 6 good reads, you’ll feel obligated to pay for them in the future anyway. For now, go to Get Comics.
4. I’m sure if you felt driven to read comics, you hold some amount of knowledge about the characters and all, but it won’t hurt to do some more background research. You don’t have to memorize their Wikipedia page or anything, just give it a brief look. You can visit the DC Wiki site too. It’s better summarized there. So do read about some of the characters of your liking, their important storylines and if possible, about a few famous authors, artists and their styles of work.
5. DC Comics have a continuity. This means that there exists a main timeline which contains interconnected many, many stories and more importantly, “events”. Since it doesn’t look like much of an option to read the whole damn thing right from the 1960s to current day (you can read it once you’re hardcore, maybe), it’s better to choose something that’s out of the continuity. Don’t worry, I’ll help you out, there.
6. Attend the annual Comic Con, if your city hosts it. And instead of ogling away at leather clad girls dressed as Catwoman or Black Canary or something, or clicking away a million selfies, take a moment and talk to the cosplayers. They are usually very passionate towards these stuff and some of them are actually nice enough to make conversation!
7. Join online communities like Comic Vine or the DC Sub-Reddit to keep updated about what’s hot and happening and if there’s any new stuff that’s worth reading. Once you’ve read a few classics from the past, your inner comic book gut will be demanding for the balance between books from yesterday and the books coming out right now. It’s like listening to music. We listen to a lot of older songs, but still keep an ear open for a nice tune from today’s time. Also, Comic Vine acts as a great check list of sorts, as it helps you check all the issues in a volume, complete with the necessary information. Also check out Comicstorian on YouTube.
8. Read slowly and savor the experience. Most people new to comics rush through the text and don’t stop to look at the artwork. This also happens while reading on a smartphone, as it isn’t always the most comfortable thing to read on a ~5 inch screen (tablets help though). When I first started reading, I used to rush through the speech bubbles, without stopping to look at the art, unless there was something important going on, or if it was a full page panel (or if Lois Lane was bending over). As a result, the whole story felt disconnected and the progression just fell apart. I would reread the whole thing, making sure to (almost) inspect each panel. It made a dramatic difference and gave me a sense of satisfaction I didn’t feel since I had sex with my imaginary girlfriend. I learnt that the artwork is the most important part of the comic. A friend of mine once said, “Like words to a novel, art and illustrations to comics”. Every stroke, every shade variation matters and that’s what sets the tone and takes you away to the world of the story being read. So go slowly, there’s no hurry. Stop to look at the illustrations. Run them over in your head, and feel the effect they produce.
9. Speaking of speech bubbles, as you read the text in them, try saying them in your mind. And not just normally, but like how you think they actually sound according to the situation they’re in or just the kind of person they are. For example, we are well aware of how Catwoman talks. I’m talking about her legendary flirtatious, teasing, confident phone sex like twang that she has in her speech. Apply that to her bubbles (hopefully, that didn’t sound wrong). If you come across a new character, just study and observe them for a few pages and then begin to say their lines. This helps in bringing depth to the relationship between you, the reader and the characters. Also, comics take us to some really crazy places and times with a variety of bizarre people and beings. Obviously, they sound unusual and comics acknowledge this fact by changing the outline of the speech bubble and the font of the text in it. For example, Booster Gold’s sidekick, Skeets is a robot. It speaks in this computerized manner. So the font is changed to sharp and digital like. Do your best impression of a robot and you’ll be good. Similarly, The Spectre, an omniscient, godlike being has his own custom bubble. It has this green aura around it and the text is also made ominous and unholy looking. I like to imagine that he sounds like Morgan Freeman on steroids.
10. Lastly, if you’re feeling bored while reading a certain comic, put it down for a while and pick up another one, something easier to digest. You may find yourself reading more than one comic in the beginning, trying to find that right balance, but soon you’ll grow accustomed to reading one at a time. Just don’t give up on a comic.
I’m not gonna do a deep analysis of comic books, just a brief review like thing really. Sure, there are millions of people who review comic book stuff, but “Between The Panels” is meant for beginners, from a beginner (moi). So, you know, relatibility.
As most of the stuff that you’ll be reading will be in .cbr or .cbz format, we’ll need a trusty reader. Get Comic Rack. It may not look too pretty, but trust me, it’s the most functional reader I’ve seen. It’s donate-ware, so you’ll have all the options for free (but yeah, you’ll have to deal with ads in the Android version. TBH, it isn’t a huge problem). Go to Play Store to get it on your Android smartphone.
I’ll be posting from this series twice a week, hopefully. So, look forward for that. Also, if you know anyone who wants to get into reading comics, spread the word to them. I’ll be grateful.
Cheers and happy reading!