I am a geeky nerd when it comes to comics – also when it comes to comics! There, I said it. And with the ever increasing success and popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (hereon after referred to as the MCU), of course I mean Marvel comics. But if you’re just the tiniest bit familiar with this vast universe, you are also aware of how infinitely huge and interconnected it is. This might for some people be a reason for not wanting to give Marvel comics a go. Therefore, I cooked up a quick guide with 5 steps to start reading Marvel comics, so you can get along on this fun ride with the rest of us!
My steps to reading Marvel comics
So how do I start reading Marvel comics, you probably ask.
Well, it seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? If you are able to read and look at pictures, it should be pretty easy. Yeah, not really. If you’ve read the above, you’ll know it’s not quite that simple.
To save you the trouble of starting from the first comic published, read on for my 5 steps to start reading Marvel comics. They are based on my own experiences, and they are merely suggestions that worked for me.
So, here we go!
1. Start With A Cross-Over Event
More or less all characters in the Marvel Universe are featured in their own on-going series. Some even have several going on the same time. For some time, Spider-Man even had 2-3 running series simultaneously!
Besides their own series, they have their occasional appearances in other characters’ series and team features like the Avengers. These guest appearances may or may not be connected to the series of the character in question.
The universe becomes increasingly interesting with the so-called cross-over events. Two of such are Civil War and The Infinity Gauntlet, as well as Secret Invasion and Secret Wars, to name a few. These cross-over events gather some of the Marvel Universe (and occasionally, the entire thing), resulting in far-reaching consequences for the characters involved and even the universe itself, in some instances.
Quick side-note: As a continuation of this post, I am planning on writing a post basically about what to know when reading Marvel comics, i.e. the history of Marvel Comics, terminology, how to collect comics, series vs. cross-over events etc. Stay tuned!
Starting by reading a cross-over event will give you some inspiration and ideas of what characters to follow in their own series. Personally, I started out with the Civil War event from 2006. This was a great introduction to the Marvel Universe, and although there were a lot of characters and references that went right over my head, it made me want to go find out more about those.
The more you read, the more knowledge you gain of the universe, and the more you know what you actually want to read.
2. Choose Story Arcs Based On MCU Features
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 11 years, you should know about the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe, remember). Starting out with Iron Man in 2008 and finishing up Phase 3 of their movie line-up with Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home this year, the movies have been around. And the cool part: it’s all based on the comics.
So why not find some inspiration in some of the movies already out? Or how about preparing for the up-coming features? Your film experience will most definitely be increased, and you will get a status of Marvel guru with all the answers among your friends (who doesn’t want to be that guy in the group?).
I have used this tactic several times. As mentioned in the previous point, my first comic book experience was Civil War. This was due to the recent release of Captain America: Civil War. Similarly, I read Planet Hulk in preparation for Thor: Ragnarok, that draws a lot of its story from this Hulk story arc.
With Phase 4 of the MCU at hand, and a crazy amount of movies and (now) TV series coming in the years to come, there is a lot of inspiration to draw from.
3. Visit Your Local Comic Book Store
This step can be quite overwhelming, I know. Not the “visit your local comic book store” part, obviously (unless there is no comic book store near you, and in that case I feel for you). But actually getting something useful out of it might be a challenge. Especially, if you’re on your own.
My first visit to a comic book store was in Sydney, Australia. I was met with numerous bookshelves and an unmanageable amount of rows of comics. Had I not been looking for a specific one (Civil War, again), I don’t know where I to have begun.
With an endless amount of characters and an almost equal amount of series, it is very difficult (and time-consuming) to find the “right” comic. Don’t get me wrong. I love going around scrolling through various issues, it’s fun! But I usually tend to end up buying something I already decided beforehand.
However, if you’re not into doing a lot of research before going to a store, you are very fortunate that the people working there are extremely passionate about comics. They know a sh*t-load of stuff about them, and they have recommendations for both newbies and hardcore readers. So just ask for help!
And even though you don’t need any help and got everything covered, it’s always fun to chat with like-minded people about your passions.
4. Go Unlimited
In my opinion, physical trade paperbacks on your bookshelves are awesome. But let’s be real. As I’ve already mentioned, Marvel has published infinite amounts of comic books, and they publish multiple issues every week. So catching up and keeping up is practically impossible. Especially, if you plan on buying them all in their physical form.
Fortunately, Marvel has their own digital comic book streaming service titled Marvel Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, you get access to 25,000+ comic books and new ones added every week. In other words, you will never run out of reading material.
What’s more, you can read on your phone or tablet anytime, anywhere. When you are commuting, waiting for the bus or, hell, going to the bathroom, you can always pull out a comic book from your pocket.
Obviously, you will most probably never get through all of the featured comics, but you’ll be able to read a lot more than if you had to buy them all. Also, it’s a way cheaper solution.
And no, I’m not getting paid for writing these things (unfortunately). It just really is a great service.
5. Follow Blogs, Youtube Channels and Podcasts
Finally, the last of my 5 steps. To some people, this is a no-brainer, to others it probably isn’t. But there is no shame at all in searching for help on the world wide web. I mean, that’s what it’s for, right?
There are a ton of people eager to tell those who want to listen about their passion for comic books and share their expansive knowledge on the subject. It’s basically like your local comic book store sales clerk, but instead of having to go to the actual store, you can “ask” him (or her, if you will) from the comfort of your home, or wherever you are in the world.
A great blog with crazy amounts of content on Marvel comics is Comic Book Herald. This site is a gold mine for finding reading orders for characters and events. They’ve even made a complete Marvel reading order guide, where they go through the comics from the beginning of Marvel Comics in the early 60’s up until now.
Comic Book Herald also hosts a couple of podcasts. One of them is My Marvelous Year. This podcast takes you through the comics of each year since the beginning of Marvel Comics. For each year, they recommend some comics worth reading, both for the entertainment but also for the overall understanding of the Marvel Universe. By now, they are in the late 70’s.
On Youtube, I am subscribed to Collider’s channel, called Collider Videos. Besides a lot of talk on movies and TV series (including MCU features!), they have a segment called Comic Book Shopping. Along with a celebrity, the host goes comic book shopping, recommending a lot of material to both his guest but also you, the watcher. Very inspirational.
That’s it. Those were my 5 steps to start reading Marvel comics based on my own experience. In case, you’ve already forgotten or just skimmed through the post quickly, here’s an overview of the steps:
- Start with a cross-over event
- Choose story arcs based on MCU features
- Visit your local comic book store
- Go Unlimited
- Follow blogs, Youtube channels and podcasts
As a complete newbie with minor knowledge of the Marvel Universe, you should be able to get started fairly easily following the above steps. And if you are already well within your comic book adventure, I hope you can take some of my suggestions with you, anyway.
Finally, there’s only one thing to say: Get reading and be excited!
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