The New Reader: Single Issues and You
By Amy Devine
When I started reading comics all I wanted to read were trades and collections. It was much easier to get the hang of an arc, a character or a book if I could read it all at once, assured that it was in the right order. This might be how you started as well; taking in as much content as possible so that you had a steady foundation to build upon. This tactic is all well and good for past series and catching up but if you want to read and support new books then you might need to (gulp) start reading single issues.
An alternate title for this column could very well be “How I Overcame My Fear and Learnt To Love the Single Issue Wall” because in the first few of months of my comic-reading journey I consciously stayed far, far away from purchasing single issues. I didn’t even want to look at the section of my local comic book store that contained them, floor to ceiling covered in mysterious slim books in what seemed to be an arbitrary numbering system, lest I be found out as a fraud.
- It can be very daunting to try to jump onto a currently running series. It can feel a little like trying to get on a moving train. Here are a few quick tips that I wish I had known when I started:
Issue #1 isn’t the only jumping on point. A lot of books have clear-cut arcs or provide divides in their story for a new reader to jump on at. Alternatively, some books of short recaps of what has happened previously, making it easier for you to pick up on past plot-points if they become relevant to present ones.
- If the book you want is still early in it’s run, ask your store if they have any back-issues or if they can order some in. Even if they don’t, they might be able to give you a run down of what’s happened so far. Comic Book Store employees are a gold mine for recommendations and recaps.
- Look for new series. This can be a little bit of a risk as perhaps not everything with a #1 will be up your alley but you never know when you’ll find something you might not have picked up otherwise.
- Don’t be afraid to jump in! Even if you’re super confused and don’t know who half the characters in the book are, you might find something that sparks your interest. You can always fill in the blanks with past trades or issues later.
- Pick something familiar. I know that I just told you to try something new but you can do both. If you have been reading past Avengers trades then pick up something with a familiar title or character. If you have been reading old Birds of Prey then maybe try Batgirl’s current run. The continuity won’t always line up but you’ll be more comfortable with a recognisable name. The same goes for writers or artists whose old books you loved. Their new books could be your new favourite!
- Be selective! This is especially for those on a tight budget. If you don’t want to be taking home and storing piles and piles of issues every week then pick a few on-going series that you want to read month-to-month. You can base this choice on your need to avoid spoilers, a desire to support smaller series or just a passion for the cover art. If you think that you can stand the wait, you can always pick up other series as trades later on.
- You’re not going mad, there are sometimes multiple covers for the same book. Variant covers are a dangerous rabbit hole to fall down. Try not to choose a cover because you think it might be ‘collectable’ and ‘worth something’ one day. Buy a cover because you like the style or it means something to you. Of course, you may still end up buying all of them but at least you did it for yourself. You’ll be much happier in the end.
It’s important to remember that you don’t actually have to read monthly issues to be a ‘comics fan’. Whether for reasons of finance, storing problems or just plain personal preference you can read trades to your heart’s content. There is a huge backlog of fantastic stories and characters to catch up on and maybe you don’t want to commit to reading something so agonisingly slow as month by month. However, if you do find yourself standing before a wall of colours, numbers and too many variant covers take a deep breath. It doesn’t want to hurt you and nobody will burn you as a witch for not knowing what series to pick. They were all once like you.
If all else fails, grab something. You never know what you might fall in love with.