Author’s Note: A Year in Comics is a three-part series identifying what I’ve noticed in my first year as a regular comic book reader.

Up until last summer I’d never owned a comic book. I loved superheroes, but to me comics were like vegetables. I knew they existed, but only because other people told me about them. I had recently discovered the adulthood phenomenon of having disposable income, and I figured that, after getting a 401k, treating myself to comics was the perfect way to embrace being a grown-up. My problem was that I had no idea where to start. Where did you by them? (Were they mailed to you?) I knew comic shops existed, but surely that wasn’t the main way you got them. It seemed crazy that people would drive to a store on a semi-regular basis to pick up what was essentially an elaborate pamphlet. After finding my first comic shop, I haphazardly bought a collected edition that turned out to be the 3rd of 4 books in the Batman: No Man’s Land story arc. I read the whole thing and didn’t understand any of it. I was confused and annoyed. If this bag of carrots bothered to tell me what was inside, why couldn’t my comic?

Carrots

I’ve come to learn that, as any comic fan will tell you, it’s hard to break into comics. You can’t just pick up an issue and expect to know what’s going on. There are hundreds of characters, each with past relationships, weird rules that govern the universe, and off-hand references need five-minute explanations. Hell, these problems are understandable given how comics are published, but what shocked me was how hard it was to do anything about it.

When DC comics launched The New 52!, their goal was to correct for this problem. Reset the continuities, clean up the mythologies and make it easy for new readers to jump on board. It was a great idea that kept me from giving up after several confusing purchases, but in reality was only a short term fix. After catching up on just a year of new titles, the only place to turn for more was our friend, the rich back catalogue of confusion and bewilderment. DC was solving the problem of getting new readers, but so far there isn’t anything being done to keep them.

To really make a fan of the medium, you have to expose them to the classics. These are the best examples of storytelling in the medium. It gives hope to the worst of the monthly titles and fulfills desires when they’ve run through their pull-list. I, too, wanted those things, so I went to the internet to make sense of the continuity. Find something that would help explain it all to me, tell me which order to read it in, and highlight the best titles. The only problem? Nothing like that exists. In order to understand what I was buying, I had to I spend hours on the internet researching. I had to read each book’s synopsis, customer reviews, and internet forums just to be 80% sure I was buying what I wanted to buy. It’s understandable that no fan has taken on such a daunting task of creating such a helpful tool, but I’m genuinely surprised the major companies have not. In fact, their sites contained the least relevant information for my searches. Comic fans are a unique bunch in that they more dedicated, motivated, and obsessive than most. It’s why took the time to do that research, but if you only rely on those specific kinds of people to drive your sales you’re missing a huge audience. And no wonder – you don’t make it easy for them.

Comics are hard to break into  – so why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? More thoughts coming in A Year in Comics, Pt. 2.

About The Author

Having recently discovered the adulthood phenomenon of disposable income, figured that, after getting a 401k, treating himself to comics was the perfect way to embrace being a grown-up. He lives in Washington, DC.

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