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Where to Begin…

Some tips on getting started for the new reader/collector

So you’ve become interested in comic books, but don’t know where to begin. Maybe you’ve seen one (or several) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies, binged Teen Titans Go! on Hulu, or enjoyed Umbrella Academy on Netflix, and now you’re looking for the source material and more. Here’s some tips on how to get started.

Reading vs Collecting

Hopefully, you’ll be both a reader and collector, but throughout this post, I’ll make some distinctions between these two aspects of the hobby. My first recommendation is to start reading and familiarizing yourself with stories and characters from different publishers in a cost effective manner. You’ll then have a sense of what you might want to spend money on going forward.

Your Local Library

As a new fan, your first stop should be your local library to see if/what comics they might circulate. I am fortunate that my town library (Guilderland, NY Public Library) has an extensive collection of Trade Paper Backs (TPB’s), Hard Covers, and Graphic Novels. Over the years, I’ve been a regular borrower from this collection. In fact, my most recent loans are the Daredevil Shadowland collections depicted in the featured pic of this article. Taking advantage of what your library has to offer will give you a great sense of what you want to pursue further, and best of all it’s free. You only need a library card!!!

Graphic Novels and TPB’s Ready and Waiting!!!

In addition to the impressive collection of graphic novels and TPB’s shown above, my local library also has an assortment of recent single issues available to read. These comics are marked as provided by a Local Comic Shop (LCS), not only exposing library visitors to some popular titles, but also making them aware of their store should the reader wish to explore the hobby a little further.

Single Issues Available to Read – Courtesy of Aquilonia Comics of Troy, NY

Digital Loans

On the subject of libraries, check to see if your branch has any digital comics for loan. Libby by OverDrive is a common app used by US libraries to make digital materials available to their members. These digital materials might include TPB’s/graphic novels that you can download and read on a tablet, as shown in the example embedded below. Your libraries digital collection might also include audio books, and novels/adaptations based on comics, so you’ll have to experiment with your search terms to see what’s available to borrow.

Paid Apps

Digital services such as Comixology and Marvel Unlimited make huge catalogs of comics available by different means. Comixology allows you to purchase digital versions of comics, which you will build into a virtual collection accessible from any of your devices. Comixology does have a category of FREE comics to download, so you might want to take a look there to see what catches your interest.

Marvel Unlimited on the other hand charges a monthly fee which allows access to a reported 25,000 comics. Think of this as more like a streaming service, but instead of watching movies, you’re reading what’s available from the inventory offered.

Trade Paper Backs, Omnibus. Etc

When we begin talking about collecting, rather than reading, we are talking about ownership of items. Yes, a service like Comixology as mentioned above lets you collect digital versions of comics, but I think most will agree the hobby is built on holding a paper publication in your hands.

Some enthusiasts focus on Trade Paper Backs, Omnibus, and other collected editions, which typically collect a story line, or run by a creative team into a single volume, or volumes. These collections allow someone to own/read an established and complete story line, including what you might consider the greatest hits of comic books. The downside is that they are collections – not true first appearances, or key issues sought after by collectors. As mentioned above, I regularly read these types of collections as loans from my local library, but I don’t purchase them.

Single Issues

In my opinion, there is nothing better in the hobby than collecting single issues. Yes, you may be collecting series or runs, but those series or runs are comprised of…. you guessed it – single issues.

Whether purchasing new issues, or back issues, buy, read, and collect whatever interests you. However, a word of advice – if you try to collect everything, you’ll go broke!!

I strongly recommend that you set some parameters and a budget for yourself. Read some collections in the free or more affordable ways described above to see where your interests are (publishers, creators, characters, series, etc) and then start buying/collecting.

Like any other product, you can order comics online, but if you have one (or more) in your community, nothing beats visiting a local comic shop (LCS). Not only will you be able to buy new and back issues, but you’ll have the opportunity to get recommendations from staff and customers on titles you might be interested in. To find an LCS in your area, try:

I hope these tips are useful to new readers/collectors in getting into the hobby. Check back soon, as our next Collecting 101 post will focus on protecting and storing your growing collection.

Gary Govel
Gary Govel is a life-long fan and collector of comics, with a particular interest in Bronze and Copper Age Keys. He recently launched Collector Syndicate to share his experiences and promote the hobby.

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