Once upon a time, comic books were affiliated with kids or geeky teens and adults. But with the rise in popularity of comic conventions, beloved TV geeks like The Big Bang Theory, and a major influx of superhero movies and television, it can’t be denied that comic books – or at least, the stories they tell – are now mainstream and majorly on trend.
But reading comics still tends to be a niche interest. Generally, adult comics readers have been life-long comics readers. One could argue that dedication to a genre or format tends to be true for all types of readers. If you grew up loving sci-fi, you still shop in that section. If you were drawn more to nonfiction, you eagerly await the next Bill Brysson or David McCullough book. Romance readers blast through their favorite bodice-rippers, and on and on from there. But one thing readers across genres usually agree on is “The book was better.” Better than the movie, of course! And movie adaptations of books increases the demand for the book version. A new film adaption of a NY Times bestseller is announced, and suddenly you can’t get your hands on it as readers scramble to get an assessment of the original story before the new version debuts.
This isn’t always the same for comics, probably because catching up on comics prior to a screen adaptation can be very overwhelming, especially when it comes to the superhero genre. Many superheroes getting the big screen treatment (Superman, Batman, Spider-man, X-men, the Avengers) have been around for decades, with dozens of versions by dozens of different creators. Many older versions of these stories may not even be available beyond comics collectors. Plus, the popularity of blockbuster superhero stories has enabled lesser-known characters to get their own movies and TV shows: take Netflix’s Jessica Jones and upcoming Luke Cage spin-off; and what comics novice knew who the heck the Guardians of the Galaxy were before the hit movie?
So how does an excited cinemaphile catch up on the comic books and graphic novels that have taken over both the big and small screen? First off, websites like Den of Geek can keep you abreast of which comics adaptations to anticipate. They recently profiled the 60+ comic book movies and 40 TV adaptations coming up in the near future.
Once you know which characters you’d like to read up on, the comics-focused blog Panels (from the creators of the literary website Book Riot) offers a feature called “Start Here”, which helps narrow down the comics to read if you’re new to a character or storyline. (See, for example, their profile of Deadpool, the decidedly adult comic book movie sure to break the box office this Valentines Day weekend.)
You could also visit your local comic shop and talk to the experts there. Booksellers also carry trades for purchase (trades are hardbound or paperback multivolume editions of comic series). If you prefer your eReader, you can purchase digital comics through websites like Comixology or comics publishers themselves like DC Comics and Marvel.
If you’re frugal, you’re in luck; while library collections can’t compare to booksellers, more and more libraries are increasing their graphic novel section. At the Merrimack Public Library, you can borrow trades of many new and upcoming comics-to-screen series, including Supergirl, Daredevil, Batman V. Superman, and Captain America just to name a few. If you want more info on what comics series the library offers, just ask for Liz on your next visit, as she curates most of the comics series at the library.
Most of all, the best advice we can offer for new or hesitant comics readers is: just dive in! The worst that can happen is you won’t love it. Actually, the worst that can happen is you will become addicted to comic books and your family will have to stage an intervention. Luckily comic books are much lighter than traditional books?