A Beginner’s Guide to Comic Books

[dropcap size=big]So, you’re new to comics.[/dropcap]


You have no idea what you are doing and the guy or girl at the comic shop gave you a weird look when you asked for help. And even though the world outside doesn’t like new comic book readers for whatever stupid, stupid, stupid (did I mention stupid?) reason, you still want to read comics and are desperate to dive into the medium. Because you are a champion among humanity. A golden child among trash. You are a survivor. A rock in the sand. A powerful hulk who*

[toggler title=”*DISCLAIMER” ]Edited by Logan because he rants sometimes when he gets excited.[/toggler]

My name is Logan and I’m about three years ahead of you in regards to reading comics. I’m still a “n00b” if you will—please don’t—and my story of coming into comics wasn’t horrible but it did begin awfully lonely.

I had, and still have many of them, Marvel trading cards my uncle had given me as a kid. My friends and I made up our own games and fought over who would win in a fight (Hulk always seemed to win back then). I watched Batman: The Animated Series and the Batman movies—I even liked Batman & Robin back then. Yeah, I know.

The fact is: I loved superheroes but I had never been around comic books or stores. My mother would buy me Archie Comics when I would beg in the grocery store and that was the height of my exposure.

I was in college and Rocksteady’s Arkham City had just released. I had just got my hands on The Dark Knight, which I had tragically missed in theater, and had it on repeat. I loved it. I still do. I wanted more Batman. So, I was getting groceries at Walmart and noticed that they had a bundle release of Arkham Asylum and Arkham City for the price of one. I mean, I just couldn’t help myself. I grabbed it and ran.**

[toggler title=”**DISCLAIMER” ]Logan did pay for Arkham Asylum and Arkham City from Walmart and does not encourage or endorse any form of theft or running in stores.[/toggler]

I missed three days of class that week because I could not get enough of the story written by Paul Dini.***

[toggler title=”***DISCLAIMER” ]Logan does not condone missing class for any form of entertainment. Even if it is a stellar piece of art that is both mentally and emotionally resonant with it’s impactful narrative and poignant nuance. This, too, applies even when said art can lead to affecting discourse about life, love and all things human. Seriously, kids, go to class.[/toggler]

Arkham City is to this day my favorite game of all time because of the impact it had on me (I literally would not be writing what you are reading if I had not played that game) The creepy tone of Asylum with the cinematic opening of City with it’s sprawling epic story, I was sucked in. I was held tight and it wasn’t letting go.

My parents and I once discussed the tragedy of any good story ending: when a story ends that has taken hold of all your attention, it feels like you have been broken up with, that you’ve been divorced.

I knew immediately: I wanted to make up with Batman stories.

I didn’t know much about Comic Book stores, nor did I know about what to read. I actually had the thought: “I wonder if comics are still around.” Yeah, I know. So, I did what all millennial generation kids do…

I googled: What Batman Comic should I read?

What I found were giant articles defending what they thought was the best Batman comic, but nothing that told me where to start. I just saw a few titles and I drove to Barnes & Nobles and brought five Batman “graphic novels” back home, which were: Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Mad Love & The Long Halloween. I read them and loved some more than others, but overall, I wanted more stories written in this fashion. Basically, I wanted more comics.

I googled: What comics should I read?

This got me nowhere. If it weren’t for my stumbling into podcasts and my accidental finding of Talking Comics Podcast, I would probably have given up and only read Batman comics. The comic book medium is so gargantuan and intimidating I almost gave up. I didn’t know where to start. All the while, DC has the New 52 initiated and that was for people like me at the time. The biggest problem here was: I didn’t know what the 52 was much less what it meant for it to be new!

Thankfully, I took it upon myself to reach out to the Talking Comics crew, Bobby, Bob, Steve and Steph, and asked for help and, if you are new to the show, you will find this to be true, they did everything they could to help me. And help me they did.

I now know what I’m doing! Can you believe it? Only three years after I thought the very thought: “Do comics still exist?” I know what I’m doing. Or, at least, as much as I think I do.****

[toggler title=”****DISCLAIMER” ]He doesn’t. He’s a bit of an…*(redacted by Logan because it was mean. Seriously, guys, don’t be mean. Not even to yourself.)[/toggler]

If you don’t know what you are doing, you’re a beginner; you’re at the right place. If you do know what you are doing, you’re at the right place: tell people about this article. We’re going to talk about what comics are, how to read them and where to start!

If you have any suggestions for this article, please either leave them in the comments, or better, email me at!

So, let’s dive into comics and what makes them, well, comics.


[divider]Comic Book Information[/divider]


[dropcap size=small]Who makes the comics?[/dropcap]

Some dude or gal just writes them and doodles right? Well…not really.


[toggler title=”Who Makes Comics?” ]

Writer—The writer writes the story and most often has the overall vision and direction of the narrative. They write dialogue and how the plot moves forward. This person has a lot to say.

Penciler—The penciler uses the script given to them by the writer and they make that vision come to live on the page. They are the cornerstone, the anchor for what the rest of the art will be. This person doodled on their homework a lot, I’m sure.

Inker—The inker inks over the pencils that the penciler drew, enhancing and bettering the original product. This person not only perfected tracing, but have made it into an art form, leaving the petty idea of tracing far behind. Not all can ink.

Colorist—The colorist colors the inked pencils. This person took kindergarden homework and turns it into an expertly executed art, capturing the tone and quality of both the pencils and inks and the writer.

Letterer—The letterer takes the script and places the dialogue into the art through cleverly placed word and thought balloons and sound effects. This person has better handwriting than you and gets to write the fun “BOOM! BANG! POW!”, shenanigans.

Editor—The editor has the daunting task of ensuring everything done by the art team and the writer is actually good and not hot street trash. Unfortunately, there is a ton of hot street trash, but there are still plenty of great stuff (hot street gold?*)

*Just no.


[toggler title=”Comic Book Formats & Where to Buy Them” ]

LCS—Local Comic Book Shop. This is the brick and mortar building closest to you that sells comic books.

Comixology—Comixology is a company owned by Amazon and is the most popular place to buy digital comics. Most comics are not DRM-free, but many have become such on the site. Just know, that if you buy a comic on Comixology that is not DRM-free, it is the only place you can experience that comic. Image sells digital comics, DRM-free. Marvel and DC sell digital comics, but they are in partnership with Comixology.

Single Issues or Floppies—This is the serial magazine style format of comic books that have roughly 20-33 pages of story and can sometimes be more, depending on the publisher. These are numbered with what the young hip kids are calling a “hashtag”. For example: The Fantastic Four #1 is The Fantastic Four number one, not hashtag one or pound one.

Digital Comics—The way of the future or the end of all things good? This is editions of all comics that can be viewed on digital devices, whether that be computers, tablets or smartphones. Some books actually come to digital releases first, rather than in print, and these are referred to as: Digital First’s.

Collected Edition—When multiple issues have been released of a comic, most often, publishers will release a collected edition of said issues, making them convenient for us readers who have to catch up! Binge reading! Whoo hop!

There are many versions of collected editions though, including:

Trade Paperback (TPB)—Most common collected edition often holding 5-8 single issues in a paperback format.

Digest—Collected editions that are smaller in physicality and are most often used for all ages and Manga.

Hardcover (HC)—This is the hardback version of the TPB, but can sometimes collect more single issues.

Omnibus—Gargantuan collections that can hold 25+ single issues. These are bricks. Expensive, beautiful bricks.

Graphic Novel—A fancy term used to describe a collected edition for those too embarrassed to admit they are reading comics. Only, not really. Many books are released as such, being long-form narratives presented in one book. Examples: Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba and Bone by Jeff Smith

Manga—Refers to Japanese comics, or Japanese style comics. The best person to talk to about Manga, if you are interested, is Mara Wood from the site.

Be sure to check out her awesome Manga Monday articles every Monday at!

Her Twitter: @MegaMaraMon

Anthology—Comics or novels that contain multiple short stories from multiple creators.


[toggler title=”Physicality of the Comic Book” ]

Seriously, some of them are really odd:

Cover: The cover of the book where you can find a teaser for what may take place behind it in the book.

Variant Cover: A cover that is alternate of the original cover, most often created by a different artist.

Panel—A panel is a single piece of art within a comic book page that is most often held to one single box, but that is a soft rule of thumb.

Splash Page—When a panel fills an entire page.

Two Page Spread—When a panel fills two entire pages.

Balloons—Speech, thoughts and many other forms of communication is used within these little balloons above everyone’s heads. You know, like in real life. Elementary stuff, Watson.

Creator-Owned—This is a bit on the nose, but this means that the creator actually owns the rights to their own work. This means that the publisher does not own the rights to characters or stories, but have the right to publish them.

Continuity—Where comic’s narrative has a history within the overall universe that affect all current and future stories.

Retcon—Changing continuity retroactively, short for Retroactive Continuity, by adding new elements to existing cannon.

Crossover—Where story elements of two or more comics invade each others pages.

Event—The bane of Stephanie Cooke and the cash cow for the Big Two. But seriously, it’s a story that takes place within and affects an entire universe that can take months—sometimes years to deliver.

One-shot—A single story contained within one single issue.

Back-issue—If you are reading this article, you will be reading a lot of these. It’s the past issues of a comic that are older than the latest issue.

Mini series— Comics with a limited amount of issues, most commonly six but can be more; has a beginning, middle and an end.

Webcomic—Comics made for the Internet. Can be a comic strip or ongoing narrative.

Publishers—the people who pay the people to make the books but make more money than they do.

The Big Two—Refers to the gigantic publishers who have dominated comics for many years (though, that is falling) and they are DC Comics and Marvel Comics.

Indie—Usually used to refer to any publisher that isn’t DC or Marvel. Independent publishers who publish comics for creative teams.[/toggler]

[toggler title=”Reading a Comic” ]

Essentially, you read a comic as you would read a book. Left to right. (Unless it’s a Manga, from which you start right to left!) Now, this does not mean that the artist has structured the comic this way, whether it be a stylistic decision or poor plotting, it can be daunting, but you get used to it quickly.

You can read comics weekly/monthly by purchasing single issues through digital stores or local comic shops. New comics always come out on Wednesday and, as you will find, is celebrated weekly (it’s why Talking Comics releases their show on Wednesday!). You should look up the hashtag #NCBD just to see what I’m talking about—translation: New Comic Book Day.

Or, you can read them in Trade, waiting for monthly stories to finish so you can consume them with ease in one complete volume.

Truly, you can read comics any way you want.

One caveat I would express is that buying single-issue comics monthly is the surest way to keep a comic alive, but don’t break your wallet.

Which brings us to the cost. Comics can be costly, that is for certain, and it is easy to fall into the trap of collectionist disease** where you begin to believe that you must buy comics to keep up with the conversation. Though the conversation is one of the best parts of comics, read what you want to read. It seems silly, but it’s a problem that is easy to fall into, especially when you are new. So, truly, just have fun. Comics at their bare-minimum is the essence of fun. It’s what they are made for.

** invented disease by Logan–is not life threatening.

I know it’s hard to get started, and honestly, it is, no matter what you do. But there are some places that you can start to get a good idea on what you like and what you want to read. Below this is an extensive idea of what Talking Comics thinks are the best the medium has to offer. It is for you, new reader, to peruse, enjoy and devour. Comic Book Shops can be intimidating. Terribly intimidating. Some can be downright awful and rude, especially, unfortunately, towards female readers (bah!). Hopefully this list can help you walk into a store being informed and knowledgeable about what you want. On another note, if they are rude to you, in any way regarding your belonging in the store or in the comic book culture…leave and never darken their door again. Do not give them money. They don’t deserve it. Let their store go where their opinions and ideals about the medium are going.

And if you are like me and you don’t have a comic book store anywhere near you, try comiXology or some other digital comics retailer. As Robert Kirkman, writer of The Walking Dead, said on a podcast, it allows you to buy and read a comic while you are on the toilet. I mean, who can argue with that?***

***We apologize for the crude nature of this joke and while it was left in the article, it was seriously and thoroughly considered for annihilation.




[dropcap size=small]For New Comic Readers[/dropcap]



Click on each name below to see what your very own Talking Comic’s contributors think you should be reading if you are new to comics!

[toggler title=”Mr. Logan Anthony Rowland” ]

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

This comic is pure in almost all it’s form; a swashbuckling young hero who is as real a threat to bad guys as she is a real human being with flaws and virtues. This is a book for all people and should be enjoyed. Just started, so it’s easy to jump in on!

Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick

The book, as in the characterization and sprawling plots, is just as inspirational as the hero it is about. Captain Marvel is the next big thing, mark my words.

Daredevil by Mark Waid & Chris Samnee

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are putting out the best book on the stands each month and that book is Daredevil. The amount of themes and genre bending things they do with the story, as well as take you down a road of emotional turmoil and reward is breathtaking. This is by far my favorite book.

Batman by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Okay, so you’ve heard of Batman and probably know a bit about his past stories, even if you just know them from hearsay or movies. He’s legend! But what Snyder and Capullo are doing with this book is insane. It’s engrossing, it’s powerful and is a feat of art in and of itself.

Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan & Brenden Fletcher & Karl Kerschl

If I could have more than one ultimate favorite book, this one would be tied with Daredevil, and we are barely even a few issues into it. Gotham meets Harry Potter? Thank you very much, here’s my money.

Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn

Science fiction at it’s absolute best. A wonderful story of relationship and hiding from the government. It’s a character study that keeps you on the edge of your seat with true tension and excitement.


[toggler title=”Mr. Bob Reyer” ]

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

A comic that is filled with fun and youthful energy, as well as important messages about the sense of self, community and inclusion; for me, the series that I most look forward to reading, as it reminds me of the early Lee/Ditko Spider-Man.

Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick

A close second to Ms. Marvel, the continuing adventures of “Earth’s Mightiest Hero” remain an essential read due to the masterful work by Ms. DeConnick of showing us how the Stan Lee model of a “hero with flaws, but not a flawed hero” can still be the well-spring of inspiration, as her re-launch (and “de-fridging”!) of Carol Danvers has been for so many!

Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples

A star-crossed romance and inter-planetary politics are at the core of this award-winning series, but it is the characterizations that are the true heart of the piece.

Velvet by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting

Gripping adult spy-fiction featuring a veteran female agent both on the run from, but fighting back against, elements within her own agency.

Red Sonja by Gail Simone & Walter Geovani

You need not have any fore-knowledge of Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonja to enjoy Gail Simone’s fresh take on the “She-Devil with a Sword”, nor any worries regarding her classic outfit, as she’s generally much more covered up.

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin

A sparkling all-ages book about the Princess Adrienne who decides to rescue herself…and any other Princesses who require it!


[toggler title=”Mr. Justin Townson” ]

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

A book about people who have sex, stop time and rob banks. Not for kids.  Everyone else should read this.  (Current issue: #8)

Birthright by Joshua Williamson & Andrei Bressan

What happens after the fable ends and the hero returns to his world?  More than you think.  Super fun read. (Current issue #2)

Low by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini

Mankind has to flee to the bottom of the ocean to avoid the Suns radiation while probes search out a new home for humanity. Amazing world and incredible art. (Current issue: #4)

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch

Maidens for hire in a hysterically mature fantasy series.  (Current issue: #8)

The Amazing Spider-Man by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos

As far as I’m concerned, this is the best superhero comic on shelves.  Funny, exciting and full of heart, it doesn’t disappoint. (Current issue: #9)

Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley

People will be more familiar with his wildly awesome Scott Pilgrim, but Seconds is just as good if not better.  A story about choices, relationships and magic mushrooms. It’s not to be missed. (Hardcover out now!)


[toggler title=”Mr. Nick Guerrera” ]

Batman by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

Batman is DC Comics’ highest selling comic and most popular character.

The Amazing Spider-Man by Dan Slott & Humberto Ramos

The Amazing Spider-Man is Marvel’s flagship title and most popular character.

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

The wackiest, most down-to-earth, well written and illustrated independent book out there…for adults.

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Written by the most “comic-book famous” writer in the industry, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Bitch Planet is a women-in-prison story full of camp and action, that stays true to the principals of feminism.

Outcast by Robert Kirkman

Created and written by the creator and writer of the Walking Dead, Outcast is a horror story that explores the one man’s inner demons…

Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch

Playful, witty, funny, action-packed, and heart warming, Rat Queens combines humor with traditional fantasy conventions resulting in great stories and beautifully illustrated characters and creatures.


[toggler title=”Ms. Mara Whiteside” ]

Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

Set in modern-day New York, the characters from popular fairy tales must learn to govern themselves and live among the mundies.  The story focuses on the relationships the characters have with each other as well as the reason they are in the real world.  Great for older readers; Fables is a Vertigo title and slants towards more mature audiences.  Start with volume 1.  The series is ending soon, so there is plenty to read with a definitive ending.

Echo by Terry Moore

Julie doesn’t have much going for her.  With a nasty divorce, no money, and no direction, Julie could really use a pick-me-up.  Instead, she gets a strange metal that attaches to her body and becomes a source of power.  This science-fiction story is written and created by Terry Moore, a writer and artist who is well-known for creating some of the best developed female characters.  Completed series with a definitive ending.

Peter Panzerfaust by Kurtis Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins

A retelling of Peter Pan, Peter Panzerfaust takes place in WWII.  Peter is a brash American soldier.  The Lost Boys are French teenagers he saves.  Captain Hook is a Nazi.  Told through flashback memories of the Lost Boys, Peter Panzerfaust is rife with emotion and power.  On top of a great story, Jenkins’ artwork is the perfect match.  Do yourself a favor and look into grabbing the deluxe editions of this series.  Currently ongoing with an ending in sight.

Batgirl by Bryan Q. Miller

Stephanie Brown wants to be a crime fighter so bad.  After a dangerous road, she finally takes up the Batgirl cowl.  Barbara Gordon is reasonably concerned about Steph’s life choices.  Part coming-of-age, part comedy, part wish fulfillment, Miller’s light-hearted take on Gotham City and Batgirl is one of the most memorable runs on the character.  Consider buying digitally – the volumes are out of print and hard to come by.  This run is also completed.

Wonder Woman: Eyes of the Gorgon by Greg Rucka

If you’ve listened to our Wonder Woman episode on The Missfits, you know why this is an important comic arc.  Let me refresh your memory.  Wonder Woman is a diplomat and works in an embassy.  She is committed to growing the relationship between America and Paradise Island.  She is also a hero and a target.  Medousa is out to get Wonder Woman and will stop at nothing to see her defeated.  This arc features Diana as a hero, a diplomat, a friend, a warrior, and a pawn of the gods.  Rucka’s run is completed, but this story stands out the most to me as a fan.

Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick

The first volume of DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel is a must-read for all comic fans.  She doesn’t pull any punches as she introduces us to a Carol Danvers who is reluctant to take up a legacy.  DeConnick’s story has sparked a movement in fans to reach out to one another and remind each other that they are important.  Once you read the stories, you understand how Carol inspires us to be better.  Volume one is 17 issues, volume 2 is currently ongoing.


If you’ve tried American comics and want to dive into the scary world of manga, here are some suggestions:

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Light Yagami is bored with life.  Straight A student with a bright future in front of him, Light is missing some direction in his life.  When a notebook from the Shinigami realm drops into the real world, his whole life is turned upside down.  By writing names in the notebook, Light gains the power to kill anyone he wants.  The catch?  He can neither go to heaven or hell if he starts using the notebook to kill.  Suspense, murder, psychological thriller, and cautionary tale all mixed into one series.  Completed manga (13 volumes) with several bonus stories and an anime.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama

This is a hot series right now!  With the huge success of the anime last year, folks are tuned into this post-apocalyptic dark fantasy manga.  Humanity is forced into small, walled-off area to live.  Outside of the walls are giants with only one purpose: eating humans.  No one knows why they exist, no one knows when it all started.  All anyone knows is that these creatures are threats to humanity itself.  Eren and his friends are charged with helping protect civilization from these giants as well as discover their origin.  Ongoing with bonus stories and an anime of the first few volumes.

Black Bird by Kanoko Sakurakoji

Misao has always been plagued by demons.  Under normal circumstances, these demons do minimal harm.  When she turns 16, the demons suddenly become more aggressive and drawn to her.  She is saved by Kyo, a man she knew briefly when they were children.  Kyo is also a demon, and he tells Misao exactly why she attracts demons like him.  Black Bird is a shojo manga, meaning it is focused on romance and relationships with a female protagonist.  It is a completed series.


[toggler title=”Mr. Joey Braccino” ]

Joey’s suggestions for new readers:

Under 10 issues: 

The Fade Out

Sex Criminals

Over 10 issues:

Morning Glories


Graphic Novels & Collections:

Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba

Bone by Jeff Smith




We want you to be comfortable. Pull up a chair, drink some coffee—on second thought, no drinks are allowed on this column. You will kill it. Anyway, please, the community of Talking Comics loves people. Go check out our site, find reviews, find columns written much better than any of mine. Go check out our forums where more intelligent people than myself have discourse about the things they love.

Just come and see what we have to offer and don’t be scared to offer yourself.

At last, I leave you with this:

Welcome to the medium & welcome to Talking Comics.

Writer, musician, lover of story, lover of love. Follow me on Twitter: @loganArowland and learn about how boring I am, or, as boring as I think I am!

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