Let’s just get this out in the open, we love comics at Wayward Raven. We’re fanboys through and through. I’ve personally spent more time talking and blogging about comics for it to be healthy, and I’m only one third of the company. Unlike other fanboys, we’re all fairly social, and for some strange reason, people like to ask our opinions about comics. The question we’re asked most frequently, “I’m new to comics, where do I start?”. My answer to that is to pick up a comic book at your local comic shop, and start reading.
Now, I know that may sound somewhat intimidating, considering the cost of a single issue and what with them being monthly and all. So I’m going to do the leg work for you and tell you where to start, and put things in terms you may understand if you’re new to comics. So let's start this beginner's guide to comics (dun dun duuuuun!)
You can thank me later!
A short history lesson
When you think of comic books, certain characters immediately jump into you brain, especially since every blockbuster movie for the past decade has been based on comics. You have Batman, Superman, Spider-man, Iron Man and Captain America to name a few.
Each of these characters was originally in comic book (gasp!). The thing some people forget, is that comics, in their current format, have been around for nearly a century. (real gasp this time). These movies and TV shows are just the latest versions of characters that have been distributed in various mediums over the years, including radio dramas, television shows, movies, even plays!
Many have called comics our modern mythology, and this is actually quite true. Characters, like Superman and Batman, are analogous to gods and heroes from mythology, and some like Hercules and Thor, are lifted directly out of the pages of myth. Like mythology, the characters have evolved over time to reflect our ideals as a society.
The Golden Age
There’s a period in comics, roughly between the 1930’s till the 60’s called the Golden Age. This period reflects a time when comics were the children’s programming of the day, and most superhero comics were very polarized; good vs. evil, heroes vs. villains.
You knew who a good guy was because he was the heroic ideal; buff, tall and righteous. He might have even worn a white hat (I say he, because these stories were marketed to little boys. Female superheroes are a whole other bag of worms that I want to cover in the near future). Each of these heroes were somewhat cookie cutter and stood for truth and justice (and propaganda). Mostly villains were throwaway characters set up to advance the plot and sell issues.
DC Comics, the creators of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman came out of this era, having formed when many small publishers were gobbled up by Detective Comics, which eventually became DC Comics.
The Silver Age
At some point in the mid to late 60’s (many will point to the Kennedy Assassination as exact moment), where American comics began to grow up and get more edgy. This period was known as the Silver Age, where the line between good guys and bad guys first started to blur. In this era, as the hippie and drug counter culture, as well as the civil rights movement began to grow, superheroes grew up. In the Golden Age, Batman and Superman were loved by the police and the establishment, but new characters like Spider-man and the X-men were feared and hated by those they protected.
Spider-man, one of my favorite characters, was a flawed character, whose super powers cost him the life of his beloved Uncle Ben and wracked him with endless guilt. Unlike Batman and Superman who had unlimited resources and the assistance of the police in their respective books, Spider-man was a broke teenager, barely able to afford to the ingredients for his web fluid and for most of his initial series was wanted by the police!
The X-men were a departure from the original superhero teams like the Justice League, in that they banded together to fight against oppression and racism. Magneto, their first villain, wasn’t a two dimensional bad guy who wanted to take over the world. He was fighting against for the same thing the X-men wanted, just in a different way.
More to come
As we continue this Beginner's guide to comics, we'll look at the more modern eras; The Bronze Age, and the Silver Age.
Stay tuned True Believers!