So… You Want to Start Reading Comics and Graphic Novels?

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I’ve seen a few people around the blogosphere (is that a thing? it is now!) say that they’d like to try and start reading comics and/or graphic novels, but don’t know where to start. I was in the exact same position a few years ago. I thought I’d make a post with a few tips on how to get started if you’re brand new to the world of comics.

I have absolutely fallen in love with both mediums and they are my go-to for when I’m in a reading slump. I can also read them super quickly so that’s a huge plus. I love comics and graphic novels because they’re fast paced, addicting and full of so many interesting characters and settings.

I know comics aren’t for everyone. If you have wanted to try them though and felt too intimidated then I’m here to tell you that you honestly have nothing to worry about!

As a disclaimer I’d like to state that I am still a baby to the comic book world, so if there’s any misinformation on here I apologise and please feel free to correct me. This will only cover Comics & Graphic Novels because I, shamefully, know nothing about Manga. Also, this is just my opinion and preferences in no way am I trying to say this is “the best way”!


What is the difference between a comic and a graphic novel?

The main difference is that comics are usually long running series that are released periodically and center around multiple characters from within the same universe. Graphic novels are usually a standalone story that are more like a book and they are also released in hardbacks. Of course, there are exceptions to both these rules and graphic novels can be part of a series and a lot of comics from Image Comics and Dark Horse are self-contained universes. Honestly though the terms aren’t a huge deal and can be interchangeable. If anyone gives you a hard time because you mix them up then just be like:


Where can I read or buy comics and graphic novels?

If you’re outside the US I highly recommend getting your comics from your local comic book store or library. If you don’t have access to those then your best bet is to probably use Amazon, Book Depository or Comixology because the subscription based services for print copies can get quite pricey.


Where the heck do I even start?

I started reading comics because I heard about Ms Marvel and was so interested in the concept and the diversity that I was like “I need to read this now” and when I was trying to find out how to start this was 100% literally me:

I think the most important thing I’ve learnt is that you don’t have to read everything. I was heavily under the misconstruction that I had to read every single issue in a series and it was so stressful trying to find out when the series started and how to get my hand on back issues. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be considered a “Real Fan” if I didn’t know every single historic detail of the Marvel universe. I have since, fortunately, learned that it is entirely possible to just jump into the most recent volume and you will still be able to understand what is going on. You are still a fan of comics no matter what the extent of your knowledge is. No one is going to judge you because you haven’t read a comic that was published in the 1950s and if they do then they’re honestly not even worth your time.

How to deal with Pretentious Comic Fans

Some handy links:

I highly recommend using the Marvel Wiki and DC Wiki because they are full of information on the universes and characters and all the series and issues that exist. If I was ever confused about something I’d go there and normally have my question answered right away.

If you want to start reading Marvel or DC comics then I suggest picking your favourite character and starting from there.

Some handy links:

If I left out something you think is popular or important then no offense is meant! I just didn’t want to make this post more overwhelming than it probably already is.

Not all comics and graphic novels are about superheroes. Feel free to also choose your favourite genre and start there.

Some handy links:

If you’ve never picked up a comic or graphic novel before then I suggest starting with graphic novels because you don’t need to worry about established universes that have existed for years and are constantly changing. The stories are normally singularly contained and you don’t need to know any kind of back stories. It will also help you get used to the formatting if this is your first time reading a graphic based book.

If you have never had any kind of exposure to any of these, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.


My Beginners Recommendations

If you’re not a beginner then I still definitely recommend all of these if you haven’t read them! All the covers link to Comixology or Book Depository, but you can then search for them on Amazon if you’d prefer. These are just a few of the thousands of comics and graphic novels that exist. I know I did leave out a lot of popular series, but I had my reasons I promise! I tried to make sure these were easy to understand and didn’t have too many issues that heavily rely on crossovers to make sense. If you guys want more recommendations (for intermediate readers) or want to know my personal favourites I’ll be happy to make another post! 

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll Amulet, Vol 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Camp Midnight by Steven T. Seagle Nimona by Noelle Stevenson This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

  • Just to totally plug myself I did reviews for Amulet and Camp Midnight here and also one for Through the Woods.
  • Amulet is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. It has the perfect balance of action, comedy and emotion.
  • Camp Midnight features an incredible female friendship and the ending made me bawl my eyes out. So you know … if you’re into that kinda stuff then I definitely recommend it.

COMICS

These comics are mostly all trade paperbacks, but there are a couple singular issues too.

Marvel

Alias, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis  Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick Black Widow, Vol. 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Sidekicks by Allan Heinberg Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (2015-) #1 by Kate Leth Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy by Brian K. Vaughan Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

  • ALIAS is the basis for the Netflix show Jessica Jones and is intended for mature audiences. Trigger warnings for: abuse and alcohol. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat is the basis for Trish Walker from Netflix’s Jessica Jones, however this comic is suitable for all ages and has none of the dark tone that the show does. It’s super light and fun.
  • Young Avengers, Runaways and Ms Marvel have awesome and diverse representation.
  • I know I left out quite a lot of popular Marvel comics, but if you’re just starting out I think your best option is to go for something that doesn’t incorporate too much of Marvel’s past. These are all pretty light and fun too (…except ALIAS, but that is a great starting point for people who like the grittier stuff!).

DC

Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan Starfire, Vol. 1: Welcome Home by Amanda Conner Harley Quinn, Vol. 1: Hot in the City by Amanda Conner Gotham City Sirens, Volume 1: Union by Paul Dini

  • Harley Quinn is my all time favourite comic. Harley is hilarious and when written right (which thankfully Amanda Connor does SO WELL) she is one of the most complex and layered characters in existence.
  • DC can be very dark and gritty so if you’re a beginner I recommend you start with some more light and fun series, this is why I didn’t include anything Batman or Superman – there’s also so many of these that I don’t even know where to start (also because I’m not really a fan of them… Please don’t revoke my Comic Fan status)

Image Comics

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen The Beauty, Vol 1 by Jeremy Haun & Jason A Hurley Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson

Wytches, Vol. 1 by Scott Snyder Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan Saga, Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

  • Not to totally plug myself again but I did a review for The Beauty, Paper Girls and Wytches.
  • Paper Girls and Saga can be quite bizarre and I wasn’t sure whether to include them, but a great starting point nonetheless if you’re like me and love odd things!
  • Lumberjanes is actually a Boom Studios publication and The Beauty is an IDW publication. My bad.

Dark Horse

Zodiac Starforce #1 by Kevin Panetta The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way

  • Zodiac Starforce is like a modern take on Sailor Moon but with Zodiacs instead of planets. It’s so fun and cute and there’s diversity!
  • The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is written by Gerard Way who is the vocalist of My Chemical Romance (be still my emo heart) and it’s based on their Danger Days album.

Singular Issues vs Trade Paperbacks

You’ve probably heard the term “Singular Issue” and “Trade Paperback” floating around. Trade Paperbacks are a collection of 5-7 single issues that completes one story arc. Trade Paperbacks are released roughly every six months and singular issues are released fortnightly or monthly.

If you’re reading a current series then I suggest you get singular issues. This can get a bit pricey, but otherwise you’ll be waiting nearly half a year and fall behind. If you don’t mind that though the Trade Paperback would be the way to go. If you’re reading a series that is completed or catching up on back issues then your best option is definitely a Trade Paperback.

Some handy links:


“Girls Can’t Read Comics or Graphic Novels”


Other Helpful Links


Congratulations, you made it to the end!

I really hope this was somewhat useful and informative!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on comics and graphic novels. Do you read them? Have you read any of the ones I’ve mentioned? Please let me know if you’d like more comic recommendations and posts!

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67 thoughts on “So… You Want to Start Reading Comics and Graphic Novels?

  1. Oh my gosh, this is an awesome post! I’m such a newbie, and I do feel like there’s a weird threshold to starting to read graphic novels and comics! I’ve had Saga recommended to me before, and I think I’m going to start on that soon. But so many good points in your post, and great recommendations! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

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    1. Aw, thank you so much! I’m glad you found this helpful 🙂 I was definitely very intimidated when I first started. I thought I was never going to be able to understand, but once you get started it just all sorta comes naturally and it’s not as difficult as it seems. What I’ve read of Saga so far has been really good. Like I said it’s pretty strange, but very intriguing and unlike anything I’ve read! I’m definitely going to keep reading it.

      Like

  2. Great post! Just this past year and a halfish I got into graphic novels. I used to think they were all superheroes, but then I saw the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill. Which is horror so I read those and loved them! Now I’m more open to reading graphic novels (of all kinds), but at first it was very difficult figuring out where to start. This is such an awesome post for those who would like to try one, but have no clue where to start.

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    1. Thanks so much 😀 I used to think the same, but there’s so many more out there – it’s so great! Ooh I really want to read Locke & Key! I was really confused and intimidated when I first started too and had no idea what I should have picked up first. Once I got started though it was a lot easier and it all came pretty naturally.

      Like

  3. Really, really happy you posted this! I’m still very new to the comic and graphic novel world, so your post was super helpful! I’ve added a bunch of these to my tbr (*looks at tbr* oh, well *sigh*): Wytches, Starfire, Gotham City, Paper Girls and Harley Quinn! I’m really excited to get to them sometime soon. And more recommendations would be great (even though my tbr is slowly but surely going to bury me haha) 😅

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    1. Aw, yay! Thank you! I’m so happy it was helpful 😀 Those are definitely great choices! Harley is the love of my life. Starfire is really fun too and is also written by the same writer.

      Being new can be quite overwhelming, but once you start reading a few comics/graphic novels it just gets easier and easier and just all comes naturally.

      I think I’ll definitely make another post where I mention my personal favourites 🙂 Mostly because I like talking about things I love 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I really need to get into it more. They all sound so good! And I think they will come in handy when time is restricted. They are just so expensive! That’s one of the reasons I don’t buy them that often and rely on recommendations, so it doesn’t end up with me being broke and disappointed 😅
        Who doesn’t? I’m definitely looking forward to it! 😀

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        1. Yes, they’re such a quick read! They really help me when I’m getting a slump too. Ahh yeah, I totally feel you on the expensive thing. I actually own no physical copies because of the pricing. My Kindle constantly reaches its storage limit because my collection is entirely digital.

          I hope you enjoy the ones that you decide to read when you get to them ❤️

          Liked by 1 person

            1. 90% of the time I find the formatting is fine! Sometimes there’s a few smaller stylized fonts that are a bit hard, but they don’t happen often and you always have the option of zooming in 🙂 Oh also, I have a Kindle Fire so I can’t say how they’d be on other devices.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. This is seriously such a great post, and so helpful as well! I never really read graphic novels or comics before but then I picked up Nimona because everyone was talking about it and I loved it. I definitely need to start adding more to my to-read list and now I have the perfect post to make a start on my TBR list!

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  5. LAUREN! I’m totally not wearing socks so I technically can’t say this but you ROCK the bomb-diggity out of my sockless toes! >.> There, I made it work!

    Seriously, though, I’m totes going to be coming back to this post for the recommendations because you are all sorts of apple-tastic sauce. No, NOT applesauce. There’s a huge difference. Mostly: you’re not a squishy sticky mess. Also: glitter and applesauce just don’t miiiiiix, and you’re glitterific.

    I…am going to stop the random squealing, now. Thank yooooou for this post, though! SO MUCH HELPFUL, I can’t even!

    Like

  6. Awesome post!

    I absolutely love reading comics. My comic book collection is not as big as my book collection, but it is definitely growing. I started reading them about two years ago and fell in love with the DC Universe. I actually began reading Harley Quinn comics, they are absolutely hilarious — and she has become, perhaps, my favourite comic book character. I do want to venture out and read some Marvel comics in the next few months or so, because the Black Widow comics look amazing.

    I actually have a couple of comic book posts in my drafts folder for my blog. I want to expand my blog a little more and talk about comic books as well. You’ve really inspired me to get my butt into gear and begin getting those posts out! 🙂

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    1. Thank you!

      I unfortunately don’t have any physical copies of comics because of prices/shipping in Australia, but my Kindle is constantly running out of storage space because of my digital collection haha. I stuck with Marvel only for so long, but then I discovered Harley and branched out to DC because she just seemed so amazing and I was so interested to read about her! The Black Widow run I mentioned in this post is SO GOOD. I’m not the biggest fan of the newest volume that was just released, but I am still reading and liking it because she’s another one of my favourite.

      Oooh, yay! That makes me so happy to hear! I can not wait to see your posts! .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no, your poor kindle! Hahaha. But that is awesome. I am the complete opposite! I have been mostly DC comics, but I really want to branch out to Marvel. Some of the best DC comics I have read are also Birds of Prey, Batgirl and Catwoman. So if you ever get the chance, definitely choose those ones. You’ll enjoy them 🙂

        I actually live in Australia as well (down in little old Tassie!) and I actually have a comic book store near where I live. And they actually sell them at pretty good prices. I’ve had a look at ordering some that I can’t find down here, but perhaps getting them digitally is the way to go! 🙂

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        1. Those are all on my TBR! I love what I’ve read of Catwoman in Gotham City Sirens and her appearances in Harley’s run so I’m excited to read that one! Hopefully I can get to them soon.

          Oh, that’s so cool! I’m super jealous that you’re near a comic store! I live in the middle of nowhere in WA and don’t even have a proper book store 😂

          I would definitely buy physicals if I could! Digital is just way more convenient for me because of my location.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE comics. They are just such a unique and cool format, a story with art. AND LEGIT GERARD WAY IS EVERYTHING. I love both Killjoys and Umbrella Academy. I was fortunate enough to meet him at a signing last November and it still doesn’t feel real (because, like you said, BE STILL MY EMO HEART). And I REALLY need to get my hands on The Wicked and the Divine. I am reading Wytches now, and so far so good. I am glad to see more posts about comics on blogs lately. Lovely post!

    Like

    1. Ahh, RIGHT. Oh my god that’s so awesome!!! I am so incredibly jealous! I need to read Umbrella Academy! What I’ve read so far of TW+TD has been so good. The art is gorgeous and I love Kieron Gillen’s writing. Wytches was another favourite of mine. I hope you continue to enjoy it! There are a few parts that seemed a little confusing (to me, anyway), but overall it was so gritty and intense with a great plot twist. Me too! Thanks so much 😀

      Like

  8. I honestly have no interest whatsoever in comics, but I have a few graphic novels on my wishlist. I think the main difference is that graphic novels have a more silent, beautiful feeling to them. Comics are fast-paced and include lots of dialogue and action, while graphic novels have less plot and more thoughts. At least that’s my impression!

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    1. Yes, definitely! I love comics because of how fast paced they are, but I also love graphic novels because they normally have a more developed and consistent plot. I only started reading graphic novels recently, but I’m really glad I did 😊

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  9. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! I really want to start reading comics and graphic novels, but I had no idea where to start because there’s just so many released. One day I walked into Waterstones, bought Wytches on a whim because I liked the art, even though I’d never heard anything about it, and had never read a graphic novel before. I’m glad to hear that it can be a good one for beginners! I like horror, so I think I will enjoy this one. I really want to read some of Gerard Way’s comics (I mean, I just have to read Killjoys, right? Can you really call yourself a Killjoy if you haven’t read the comics? ;), but I can’t decide between Umbrella Academy or Killjoys. The new one he’s creating (did you see that recent interview?) sounds amazing too! So, thank you so much again! I’m so excited to read some of these 😀

    Denise | The Bibliolater

    Like

    1. Aw, you’re welcome! I’m so glad you found it helpful!

      Yeah it is VERY intimidating when you first start, but once you pick up a few issues or novels it all starts to become so much easier. You find it all starts to come naturally to you and you learn what styles you like and don’t like.

      Wytches is definitely great if you’re into horror. It’s very gritty and intense. There’s a few things that went over my head, but it didn’t take away from the story and there’s a fantastic plot twist. I’d definitely also recommend Through the Woods to you if you’re a horror fan. It’s a collection of short horror stories and it has the most gorgeous art ever. The stories are all quite open to interpretation, but I was so hooked.

      I haven’t read Umbrella Academy, but really want to. It sounds super interesting. I think I like the concept of Killjoys more though because I’m a huge fan of the whole apocalyptic desert wasteland. And ooh no! I had no idea he was working on a new one. That’s awesome 😀

      I hope you find something you love ♥

      Like

  10. This is a really great post. You have put together a lot of good info and links for GN/ comic newbies and I’m sure it will help people. I like your recommended picks and would add Alex and Ada which I think is a really good series as well (there’s 3 GN’s and then it’s done- it’s not ongoing). I’ve been wanting to try Runaways too…

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  11. I started reading comics with Ms. Marvel! Since then I’ve read a volume of Capt. Marvel and one of the new Thor. Ms. Marvel is still my favorite, but I’ve had fun exploring other selections! Thanks for the suggestions!

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  12. What an awesome post! I’ve been trying to read more graphic novels lately. I loved Nimona but wasn’t such a big fan of Saga and WicDiv… I tried reading until volume 3 for both before deciding to quit the series. I have This One Summer, Ms. Marvel and Amulet on my TBR pile!

    Like

    1. Ah, thank you so much!! Yeah, I think they’re definitely series that aren’t for everyone! I’ve only read the start of both of them, but at the moment I want to continue, but that could change haha. Ms. Marvel and Amulet are so good! If you loved Nimona I’m sure you’ll love Amulet! It has a lot of the same feelings. I love it so much.

      Like

  13. Yes, I do want to read more graphic novels in particular!

    I have only ever read a handful in my life. :s But I think I will start with Nimona.
    For Comics, I’m so down with reading Ms. Marvel! Are any trade paperbacks or volumes out for it already? I do not like single issues due to all the waiting that’s involved. I was thrilled when I bought the first issue of the new Black Panther, but then I had to wait for the next one after I finished the issue in like 20 minutes. :/

    Last month I read the first volume of Saga and finished the entire TJ and Amal graphic novel. They were both fantastic. See, I’m making an effort to diversify my reading genres! I have been stuck on novels for too long. hah

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    1. I just posted a review of Nimona 😁 It was amazing!! Definitely one of the best places to start with graphic novels along with Amulet!

      Ms. Marvel is brilliant! There’s 4 volumes currently available and the 5th one is being released in July.

      And yeah I totally get the waiting thing for single issues! That was something I struggled with when I first started reading comics. I think I prefer them with my ongoing series because I don’t like being behind, but trades are my go to when I’m catching up!

      Haha, yay 😝

      Like

  14. I started getting into comics this year because I had the huge misconception that all graphic novels and comic books were about superhero. It wasn’t until a couple years back that I realized it wasn’t just superheroes when I read The Walking Dead. But it wasn’t until this year where I really got into it with Saga and Fables and couple others.

    It’s also a great way to get into fantasy and sci-fi for me since I tend to stay away from that genre in books, but I find it easy to read them in this style.

    Great post!

    Like

  15. I LOVE THIS POST IT IS WHAT I NEEDED AND THANK YOUUU! I have actually been in dying need of this type of post for a while now, I’ve only ever read a few graphic novels and I wanted to get into comics as well and this is what I needed! Plus all the recommendations! I was wondering… I want to start DC comics and Marvel and with all the issues out, I have no idea where to start! As in, do I have to start with issue one? Or which particular edition to begin with? AHHH, this really is such a wonderful and helpful post and I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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