wht primer: A chicks guide to Comics

photo: we heart this

Geek is chic. I hate to even use that phrase, because back in my day, it was not cool to be a geek. Not a computer geek, not a sci-fi geek, and ESPECIALLY not a comic book geek. And a girl comic book geek? Forget it. But some of us risked our reputations and braved the comic shops to get our monthly fix. Now it’s much more acceptable to be into comics, a badge of honor sometimes! (Kids these days…they don’t know how good they have it…)

So what’s a modern comic chick read? Before we delve into the gigantic world of comic stories, a short primer may be in order. Like any sub-pop-culture, there are some basic facts, terms and players you’ll want an understanding of before you dive in. For those not yet educated in the ways of the comic book world, let’s use the analogy of movies and television to give you an idea of how things work. (Work with me, here; it’ll make sense, promise…)

Let’s start with the publishers. DC and Marvel are the big guns, the oldest and most prolific of publishers. DC runs Batman, Superman, Justice League and Marvel has Spiderman, X-Men, the Avengers; think of these guys like major movie production companies, with the smaller publishing companies being like independent production studios.

A standard series would be an ongoing comic, such as the Batman or Spiderman series which produce issue after issue, year after year. Think of them like a soap opera; they can change writers, switch characters on you and take the whole thing in such a new direction that you get fed up and spend hours on a forum, swearing how you’re never reading it EVER AGAIN. Until the next month when you buy it again, “just to see what is going to happen.”

Falling in love with an on-going series can be fabulously frustrating, awesomely rewarding and very expensive. But if your bestie mocks you for getting caught up in the series and spending money monthly on it, ask her how that “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” addiction and Showtime subscription is working out for her.

If an on-going series is too much commitment for you, you can be a more casual reader by reading trade paperbacks, or TPBs. These are like the full tv season DVD sets of comics; they collect story arcs in one giant book so you can read them all at once or get caught up with a series you haven’t read before. Sometimes they’ll collect a particular story arc that spans several series, but a TPB can also collect sequential issues in one large book so you don’t have to collect individual issues.

TPBs are great ways to get a taste of a particular series without being fully committing to buying it on a monthly basis. If you have the patience to wait for a TPB to be published – they can come out every few months (but also up to every few years) – this can be a cheaper option. Like I said, it’s like waiting until the DVD for a series comes out and then watching it all at once. If you’re a fan of an on-going fiction series, you’ll probably be okay with this option. (CAUTION, this can lead to buying the on-going series.)

Now if you just want an occasional comic fix, you can read one-shots or graphic novels. “One-shots” that are stand-alone comics within a series. Think of one-shots like the movie version of a beloved TV show or character; they take characters from familiar series and put them in one issue story arcs that don’t always affect the regular series’ storyline. (They can also have mini-series that does this too, 3 or more issues of a single story.)

Graphic novels can feature regular standard comic characters, but sometimes they are their own book and tell tales that won’t span more than that particular novel. Graphic novels, like movies, are sometimes mediocre, but often AMAZING. When people speak of comics as art, I bet you dimes to dollars they are thinking of a graphic novel when they say it.

Ready to take a dive into the world of comic books? Check in tomorrow for my list of my very favorites culled from a lifetime of addiction. Be forewarned, it’s an addicting hobby. But at least you don’t have to worry about what they’ll say about you in the cafeteria anymore.

Alyssa is kinda geeky, kinda girly and all the way in love with her cowboy husband who can say words like, “ornery” with a straight face. She live in Texas and is working on her Masters, being a good cook and starting a blog. One day. Eventually. Sometime soon. She promises.

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Written by lyssachelle

16 Comments

  1. Avatar of Kellie
    Kellie

    I am new to the comic world this past year. So I am still getting the lingo down. But I am 100% now a comic book nerd! I still think it is hilarious. I used to think that comics were probably dumb. Oh, how little did I know!! So many of them are brilliantly written. And the art is amazing! I can’t wait to discuss our favorites tomorrow

    And even if you never thought that you could love a comic I implore you to give them a try. I would be willing to bet that you just might fall in love!

  2. Avatar of lyssachelle
    lyssachelle

    @kellie76 – It is never too late to start! What brought you into comics, if you don’t mind me asking?

    @turboterp – Thanks so much! I think you’ll find that I and other WHT readers (because I KNOW some of you are secret comic fans out there…) will have some great suggestions!

    @pangmastahflex – Oh Lord honey, don’t even get me started on webcomics! :-) I used to have a whole favorite folder full of them I’d visit daily.
    Webcomics are SUCH a great medium because not only are they more accessible and generally free, but they are able to handle more innovative and controversial issues because they are not subject to the same scrutiny that print comics are.
    Pop in tomorrow and give us some more of your favorite on the rec’s post, I’ll share some of mine too!

  3. Avatar of brooklynshoebabe
    brooklynshoebabe

    Great primer! I’ve been a comic book reader/fan for 30 years. I’ve been into everything from Wonder Woman to X-men to Archie & Jugghead. My favorite series ever was the Uncanny X-men. I stopped reading it for awhile, and picked it up again in 2005 when Joss “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Whedon started writing one of the many X-titles.

    Strangers in Paradise was a fun grown up series that I read in my 20s. Although written by a man, it was a distinctively female comic. In my preteen years, I was in love with a short lived comic series called “Dakota North” about a supermodel who really was a spy.

    Also, one of my all time favorites, was the extremely noirish Sandman Mystery Theater featuring the Golden Age Sandman. Oh, Preacher, that was a creepy, fun, way out there series about a man who was actually the love child between two angels and was more powerful than God. He was friends with a vampire and his girlfriend was hooker and drug addict. It was really a twisted series.

    A lot of the more obscure titles I got from my husband who still goes to the comic shop. When I used to buy my own comics, I always felt like the woman who wandered into the men’s locker room. lol.

    Okay, I just realized that this was an extremely long comment and that I just revealed all of my comic geekness. Well, I am a librarian so I get 50 geek points right off the bat. As kids, my brother and I were huge Sci-Fi, Monsters, Kung fu geeks, but especially with Sci-fi. We were also really big on Greek mythology. *Sigh* I’m having a pleasant flashbook.

  4. Avatar of jpal
    jpal

    I’m so excited about this primer and what is to come! Thank you for getting your geek on @lyssachelle! A friend of mine has a great web comic called Envira…an environmental superhero out to save the world! http://lowimpactbetty.com/introducing-envira/ So fun and timely!

    Rakisha – I’m a big Whedon fan too …and my dad is …well he’s retired so was…a librarian at ASU for almost 40 years and taught Library science there. I love libraries and librarians.

    I’ve been watching Dr. Who and thought that was the highest (lowest?) in geekdom but I see I have a lot of company! Yay!
    Jennifer Palais recently posted..We think we control what we do

  5. Avatar of lyssachelle
    lyssachelle

    @brooklynshoebabe – Girl, you and I would have been comic book besties. I have nearly the full run of Preacher AND most of the Sandman TPB’s. There’s a couple of suggestions tomorrow I think you’ll like!

    @jpal – Envira looks so fun! As a fellow Dr. Who fan who cried at the end of last season, (and still feels a pang when I see David Tennant. *sigh*) I can tell you that you are DEFINITELY not alone! :-)

  6. Avatar of katezena
    katezena

    @lyssachelle – On top of comics and graphic novels, there’s also a third kind of “comic” that is becoming more popular here in the states–manga. Otherwise known as “Japanese comics” (although here in the states manga also encompasses comics from Korea, China, Taiwan, and other Asian countries),it’s normally the beautiful artwork that attracts Americans.

    One could argue these type of “comics” fall under the “graphic novel” category, hardcore manga fans (like yours truly) argue they deserve a category of their own. Manga typically are thicker and look like a book that runs backwards to the American eye. They almost always involve intricate plotlines not normally seen in American and European comics. One can’t typically pick up a manga from volume 7 and expect to know what’s going on. One has to start at volume one as the plotlines are what people call web plotlines (plotlines weave themselves together into a web) versus a phallogocentric plotline (ahem, if you’ve seen Star Wars, you know the plotline I’m talking about).

    If a manga is popular enough, it’s turned into animation style called “anime.” It’s really hard to not have come across anime if you came from the 80s and 90s.

    If you’re a child of the 80s and 90s, you have undoubtedly watched anime even though it was horribly dubbed (in my opinion) and censored dramatically. Voltron Defender of the Universe, Thundercats, Dragonball Z, Ronin Warriors, all Gundam Series (0080, ZZ, After War Gundam X, Gundam Wing, et cetera), Astroboy, Pokemon, Digimon, Cowboy Bebop and Sailor Moon ALL are anime series that come from Japan (these all aired originally in the 80s and 90s. If I included the ones airing now, the list would go on forever). Also, even though it’s not an anime, all the Power Rangers series are based off the series running in Japan.

    I just thought I throw that there’s arguably more than two types of comics. I had this discussion with one of my favorite teachers who has he PhD in Horror but also teaches a comic book class. To my surprise, he also classifies manga as a third category. He’s the comic book/graphic novel geek, I’m the manga geek. He doesn’t read much manga; I don’t read many comics (although, I have a soft spot for Garfield, The Smurfs, Marmaduke and Peanuts. I love The Smurfs.).

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  8. Avatar of lyssachelle
    lyssachelle

    @katezena – Thanks for the info! I purposely did not include manga in here because honestly I consider it its own category and think considering it a type of what Americans think of as comics is actually doing it a disservice.
    Also, although lots of people read both, it’s mostly a one or the other type of thing.
    But I’m glad you made your comment; please comment in the comic primer 2 post on some manga recommendations, you may have some converts! :-)

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