My Journey to Comics

By Krysta of Pages Unbound

When I was growing up, no one talked about comic books, not really.  Sometimes teachers would disparage comics as books for kids who could not—or would not—read.  Sometimes librarians would do the same.  Even five years ago, I still knew teachers and librarians who did not believe reading comics counted as reading.  Perhaps there were students in my classes who did read comics.  But, in a culture where liking comics was equated with laziness and stupidity, I can see why no one would have dared to talk about them.

I do not remember thinking that people who liked comics were stupid, exactly, but the opinions of the authority figures in my life certainly meant reading comics never crossed my mind.  I liked to read.  I was what teachers like to call a “good reader,” meaning I found reading easy, I devoured long books, and I enjoyed even assigned reading.  When everyone takes it for granted that you are a “good reader,” doing something as “regressive” as reading comics simply never occurs to you.  It would be like playing the piano for years only to start practicing on a toy.

Comic Journey 2

In recent years, however, the popularity of comics (or “graphic novels,” if you prefer) has exploded.  Professional publications recommend comics for librarians to purchase.  Teachers are including comics on their reading lists.  Titles like El DeafoSmile, and Roller Girl are not only getting buzz, but actually being lauded as quality stories by librarians and educators.  In 2016, Gene Luen Yang was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!  I enjoy children’s literature and follow the market fairly actively, so naturally I took notice.  My foray into comic books actually began with using professional publications and blogger recommendations to find the “best” graphic novels for children and teens, not because I was being snobbish, but because the number of graphic novels being published can feel overwhelming and I felt like I needed guidance.

However, even though I was reading and enjoying titles like Gene Luen Yang Boxers and Saints, I still had not really ventured into superhero comics.  Not even though I was avidly following the MCU.  The long history of comics, along with the sheer number of titles available, made reading anything published by Marvel feel intimidating (I was less interested in DC, though Wonder Woman has been a favorite of mine for ages—thanks, Lynda Carter!).  Would I have to know Spider-Man’s long history to enjoy a Spider-Man comic?  Would I have to be familiar with the histories of side characters?  And which heroes should I start with, anyway?

Comic Journey 3

I started trying superhero comics the easiest way I knew how.  I saw buzz online and in professional publications for comics that were, as far as I could tell, either being rebooted or just starting out.  Ms. Marvel was my first superhero comic—an ideal choice since she was a new character with no history (aside from whatever I was maybe supposed to know about the former Ms. Marvel).  Then I naturally progressed into Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel.  Ms. Marvel was phenomenal.  Captain Marvel confused me a little—who were all these space people and what was up with the young girl and with Rhodey?  It did not really matter because my library only had one volume, anyway.  Then I tried Thor because I saw all the excitement about a woman taking up Mjolnir.  And then the weight of comic history really hit me.

Comic Journey 4

My experience with Thor was one of deep confusion.  Thor (or Odinson now) was off somewhere doing something because for some reason he is unworthy.  New Thor was doing…stuff.  And was probably Jane Foster.  I knew from the movies that maybe Thor and Jane were a couple?  Or maybe that was over.  I had no idea.  Nor was it clear if this even mattered.  And there were an awful lot of realms and characters and just stuff I was apparently supposed to know about—but I didn’t.  So I never picked up the second volume.  And, for a while, I stuck to reading Ms. Marvel, where my greatest struggle is (still) understanding the character’s feelings about other superheroes when they make guest appearances.

My experience with Ms. Marvel was positive, however, so, when I eventually tried branching into other comics again, I largely stuck with seeking out newer characters.  Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was my first superhero comic after Thor.  Then I tried The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl based on Michael’s recommendation.  Recently I’ve been enjoying reading about Black Panther, Miles Morales, and Riri Williams.  Only Black Panther has confused me, since it is more strongly linked to past storylines I have not read.  Or maybe I am simply growing accustomed to slight confusion as I read, accepting that I do not need to know everything about Pepper Potts to appreciate an appearance by her, do not even need to know what happened with Storm and Black Panther.  I know what is happening now, even if not why, and it is usually enough to carry me through the story.

Comic Journey 5

I still am confused by comics.  I still feel like I am not entirely sure how to read them or where to find storylines I miss.  But diving into various titles has helped me feel more comfortable about my confusion.  The more comics I read, the more characters I fall in love with, the more I realize that comics are really just about immersing one’s self in the story, accepting it no matter where it goes.  There’s no secret to reading comics.  You just have to be willing to enjoy the ride.

 

[Krysta is the co-founder of the brilliant literature blog Pages Unbound.  You can also follow their exploits on Twitter – @PagesUnbound – or on Instagram – at pagesunbound – or on Facebook – at Pages Unbound Reviews – too.  Thank you Krysta for sharing the story of your comic journey!  Pages Unbound is one of my favorite blogs and, if you don’t already, you should totally use all the links I’ve provided to check them out.]

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16 thoughts on “My Journey to Comics

  1. Krysta, your point about Thor totally blew my mind. But thinking about it in this light it makes total sense! Those comics are in no way accessible to a newbie. When I picked up the title again, it was after having read it for years as a kid. So I only had a few gaps to try and fill in as I went. But without that background? Yeah, that’d be a mess.

    I’m especially excited that you’re loving Riri Williams! She just got her own solo title by Eve Ewing (we’re three issues in right now) and it is the best debut comic by a new author I’ve read in ages. She takes the groundwork Brian Michael Bendis laid and expands it beautifully. If this keeps up, Riri will have a long and glorious future as one of the best comics Marvel’s publishing!

    And of course, yay for comic books! Welcome to the genre. We’re happy to have you :).

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    1. This guest post inspired me to give Thor another try, so we’ll see if I’m less confused during a second read. And I’m so excited Ironheart has her own title now! I saw the collected volume was just released, though, and I get most of my volumes from other libraries–who don’t send out their new books. So I thought I’d start with Riri’s first appearance in Iron Man while I’m waiting for an area library to get the new Ironheart volume and then, eventually, take off the “new’ designation. It could be a few months, assuming someone around here buys it. We’ll see. But it gives me something to look forward to!

      And thanks for the welcome! Your blog really helps me decide which titles to try out!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Starting with Riri’s intro in Iron Man is the way to go. She was the reason I started reading Iron Man, actually! As far as I’m concerned, taking the time to enjoy her whole journey is worth it.

        I’m excited you’re giving Thor another shot too. Here’s hoping it’s a little more accessible with a second read. I’m always down for comic banter though so, should any particularly vexing questions arise, feel free to ask :).

        I’m happy my comic musings have helped you with recommendations too. Yay!

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      2. That’s very cool! I could see myself getting more into Iron Man comics because of Riri, but right now I admit I’m more interested in Ironheart. I love her!

        Haha! I might have to take you up on that offer for Thor explanations!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Iron Man – no matter how much I love RDJ in the MCU – often feels pretentious to me in the comics. I fell in love with Ironheart so I tried the new Iron Man title with Tony back in the suit when Dan Slott took over. So far it’s been surprisingly fun! But it still has nothing on Riri. Both in Bendis’ stories and the new Ewing ones, she’s the far more interesting character to me.

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      4. Yeah, I found early Iron Man in the MCU completely off-putting. So arrogant! I didn’t understand why he was so popular with fans. So I wasn’t invested in his comics, certainly. But he’s been kind of interesting so far from what I’ve seen in the first volume with Riri. He’s obnoxious enough to turn himself into an AI, I suppose, but his AI seems not that annoying so far.

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      5. I was amazed (although it makes total sense given the character) when I learned Stan Lee created Iron Man just to show he could make anything “cool” for comic readers. It was almost like a bet! So at the height of the Vietnam war, he made a character out of an arrogant, wealthy, arms dealer who was also a womanizing alcoholic. He wanted to take the least popular premise he could think of and prove he could get readers to care about him.

        And yeah, I found the Tony A.I.’s relationship with Riri to be oddly endearing.

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      6. I didn’t know that’s how Iron Man originated! But that’s kind of sad because I don’t want selfish, arrogant womanizers to be cool role models for people. I’m glad I got to see MCU Tony change! (I give so much credit to Pepper for that. She really grounds him. Go Pepper!)

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Absolutely! Pepper and Tony’s relationship – and all it yields – is one of my favorite parts of the MCU. And, while Tony Stark started out more as a hey-look-what-I-can-make-cool character, he did evolve in the comics too. For example, he was the center of a remarkably groundbreaking storyline in 1979 called “Demon in a Bottle.” This looked at Tony’s alcoholism and saw him enter recovery. He has had a few relapses, but he’s been in AA in the comics ever since. He even serves as Captain Marvel’s sponsor since she realized she was struggling with addiction too. Also, Rhodey took over for him as Iron Man for the first time in 1983. This was one of the first Legacy Character moves, putting a more diverse character in the lead in a major book. So once they realized the power of Iron Man as a character, even if it didn’t start out that way, they did look to use him in more honorable ways.

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  2. There have been several comics that do not read well if you are a newbie, so I appreciate ones that are more welcoming to new readers. When Runaways was rebooted and authored by Rainbow Rowell, she worked hard to bring readers up to speed with the Runaways past. It was a good move because there was a new generation of readers picking it up for the first time.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Michael and Krista,

    Thanks for sharing this story. Is this how you both met over comics? I have enjoyed hearing about these comics and I am always learning from you all. I guess it’s a neverending ever-expanding story.

    Thanks,

    Gary

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