Introduction to Comic-Books
This is an introduction and guide to beginning your journey into the eclectic world of graphic novels. You’ll find out where to start, and how to interpret the format used by the medium.
I recommend for anyone interested in getting into comic books as a literary medium in which they keep up with or passively read, they should begin like any other form of literature, with their local library. Most, if not all libraries carry graphic novels in some capacity or another, most are featured in young adult sections under the genre “Graphic Novel”. It’s important to find what style you prefer, the types of writings you will encounter will dictate your interests and preferences going forward so in the beginning try to find trade paperbacks such as the one featured in image 1 and 2. These are self contained stories that usually feature one single story arc or possibly an amalgamation of multiple stories known as “one-shots”.
Now that you know where to look, it’s important to understand that if you prefer certain types of movies, television series, books, video games or any other form of fictional entertainment, that you should try to start from a similar point in graphic novels. If you love “noir” check out the golden age Batman books, or the golden age “The Spirit” comics, Marvel did a run of Noir themed books that all take place in a very striking world where dames and gangsters are everywhere and the usual “superhero” characters aren’t exactly what they appear to be. If you love more grounded cop stories and cop serials on television similar to NYPD: Blue, NCIS, or The Wire (whenever The Wire was being more of it’s cop procedure style) then you need to check out Powers the graphic novel series by acclaimed writer Brian Michael Bendis. If you enjoy the surreal that is still grounded look into most of the works of writer Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Hit Girl, Marvel’s Civil War, Wanted, The Secret Service[film version known as Kingsman: The Secret Service]). If you love the works of the Brother’s Grimm and don’t mind a lot of “fan-service” (sexy drawn women, and men) check out Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales. The point of all of this is that if you like something there is more than likely a comic book you could be reading from one or more writers that you will love.
As the name suggests it is a visual novel created by taking dialogue from formal prose and placing that within bubbles represented by the type of outline, a solid box such as that of image 3 is one used by the narrator, often the writer, a plot device driven character (such as the antagonist, protagonist, or third party to those characters), or even in some cases a creative character such as Marvel’s “The Watcher” character who has been a literary device on top of a justification for a decent amount of narration in Marvel’s works.
The next form of bubble is the thought bubble, much of mainstream media has utilized the thought bubble over the years but you can see an example of such a bubble in image 4. Lastly there is the standard dialogue bubble which can be seen in image 5 and it is the format in which characters speak to one another on a graphic novel page.
The next thing that separates graphic novels from standard prose is that you remove all descriptions of how things look as well as the tone involved. In Prose you may come across a description of where your characters are, time of day, weather, etc. In graphic novels that is all wrapped up by the artist resulting in fewer pages since you can just show someone, “was it rainy?” well in the panel the characters are in the rain so I guess so; you don’t have to question any of that stuff, nor do you have to imagine what you’re reading and end up with differing images from reader to reader. Now everyone knows things look a certain way and have a unified experience.
Once you have an understanding of the information that is presented to you, it is important to understand how to follow panels. In image 6 I have scanned and edited a page from a more standard format of graphic novel panels, like reading american english formats you move from the left to the right, then diagonally down and left till you finish a page. Once you understand that you need to be made aware of two additional concepts, one being that sometimes a page is actually two pages at once utilizing the larger size to convey a more powerful image, called a double page spread, and that rather than reading one page then the next, you must treat it like a really large page reading all of the way across before heading lower left from where you just were, for reference observe image 7. The second thing to be aware of is that sometimes artists will get extremely creative with formats and do something a little bit out of the ordinary such as in image 8 which is much more difficult to follow but presents a more compelling framework than your standard block formatting.
Now that you have been reading comics from your local library it’s time to find out if you want to passively read new/old books or collect new/old books, and if you want to get into the single issue scene or trade paperback scene. Before you choose you should understand that if you are looking to collect for the sake of saving and eventually selling, individual issues are the way to go, just be aware that comics appreciate in value at an excruciatingly slow rate. If you are looking to collect for personal satisfaction, I must recommend collecting trade paperback novels, you will have more complete storylines and feel like you have a more satisfying experience being able to read it all at once. Be aware that older comics are less likely to appear in trade paperbacks apart from big omnibus formats, in addition that collecting is not easy and will take a toll on your wallet more than anything else. Last thing to keep in mind is that if you are collecting individual issues please purchase backer boards and bags to place each individual book within to preserve them the best, what good is your collection if it’s heavily deteriorated or slightly damaged?; also understand that your books won’t begin appreciating for about 3 decades. It takes about 2 for the bulk of purchased issues and back issues to leave the market and become scarce, even at that point it won’t appreciate in value much until it begins to hit the 50+ year mark. That isn’t to say don’t do it, just be very aware of these things and be careful how you take care of them.
With that I can say that you are ready to begin indulging in the fascinating world that is graphic novels or more well known as Comic-Books.
Many of the images provided are courtesy of Marvel Entertainment, LLC