Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jumping into the Deep End

So after I realized graphic novels aren't porn, I didn't immediately jump into graphic novels. There was no particular reason why I didn't, other than there were so many regular style novels I hadn't read and no compelling reason for me to switch mediums. 

I was, of course, aware that I was missing an entire medium of stories, but generally graphic novels were just too expensive to even think to get into. Twenty dollars for a book I can read in three hours? Yikes! Not to mention that the medium as a whole has given me trouble. The pages are simple too overwhelming with images. I like to have my images one at a time. It helps me focus.

Recently, however, I have attempted to get into comic books, and there are two reasons for that: my undying love for Loki and my purchase of an iPad. Now I have a character I actually want to explore. Now I have a device that allows me to view the story pane by pane instead of page by page. Bingo!

So a couple of months ago, I tried to wade into the Marvel Universe. And promptly realized there is no "wading" into the Marvel Universe. There is no shallow end. There is only an extremely deep end and a high dive. 

What do I mean by this? Well, generally when getting into any story, there is a place to start. Granted, that place can be debatable. Is it A New Hope or The Phantom Menace? The correct answer to that is A New Hope, but you're not really wrong if you start with The Phantom Menace. You're not really wrong until you start with Revenge of the Sith or Return of the Jedi. I mean, you just can't start at the end like that.

With Marvel comics, however, the true start for most of their stories is back in the 1960s, and the world has been running continuously since then. So to start at the true beginning and catch up, you need to read fifty years worth of comics. Sure, comics are the kings of retconning, but they generally assume you've been reading since Marvel Girl joined the X-Men. (Which is in the first X-Men comic, and Marvel Girl is Jean Grey who also later houses the Phoenix Force and... *brain explodes*). 

What about reboots you may ask. Well, Marvel has rebooted it's universe before, but rarely (if ever) at the expense of the old continuity. They just create an entirely new universe and leave the old universe running. And sometimes those universes cross-over. And every comic seems to assume you've read all the comics that come before it. And suddenly I'm reading a comic that assumes I know the entire history of The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and the X-Men in three different universes. *brain explodes*

Oh! And another bone to pick with the Marvel Universe: no where online have I found a list of comics in chronological order and none of the comics say "this story is continued in comic named [XXX]." Sure, it's pretty much understood that Thor #620 is followed by Thor #621, but how are you supposed to know when Siege comes into all of this? Or Civil War? And in what comic did Thor die in for him not to be in Civil War and in what comic did they bring him back in since he's in Siege? Those comics aren't that far apart in time and they're in the same universe! WHAT THE CRAP, MARVEL! *brain explodes*

Do you see what I'm saying, dear readers? There is no shallow end. There is only the deep end. And yeah, I read The Ultimates, but I don't want the Ultimates Universe. I want Earth 616! (Which is the main continuity universe, thank you, wikipedia for explaining that because the comics sure don't.)

I don't want Marvel to reboot their universe (again). I want them to give me an in, a direction. I want them to say, "Hey you, new reader, start here." 

And theoretically, that's what they're doing with Marvel Now, but for right now, I'm just too tired of trying to figure it out. Here I am, an eager reader trying to break in, and I can't. You're killing me, Marvel comics. 

Maybe you know where I should start, but general advice I've gotten is just pick a character/group and go with it. Just jump in and try to read as much as you can and eventually it will all make sense. Unfortunately, I don't have the patience for that business. I want an order, I want direction.

And I've realized that for some people this may be a problem with breaking into other things. Like the Star Wars Extended Universe. Or Doctor Who. Or heck, the works of Isaac Asimov. So you know what, dear readers, I'm going to start to write handy dandy "Where to Start" guides on the different things I'm familiar with, so none of you will get burned out trying to figure out that things I love (and want you to love too!). 

So look forward to that, with this Friday's Doctor Who Where to Start. And the answer is not at the beginning. It's more complicated than that in my opinion. (And I'm doing Doctor Who first because it's timely, what with the new season starting up and all).

Have any of you out there ever been burned by trying to break into things? And I don't mean by fans. I mean by the actual thing itself. Anyone else feel my pain with comics? And, for the love of all that is good, if you have the definitive "this is where you start in Marvel" answer, please please please please share it.


  1. I don't think there is a 'definitive this is where you start in Marvel'...I was once told Civil War, however as you brought up there is still back history to learn. But, that's what I like about the Marvel comics. The search for answers, looking for where this story began how that history came to be, in what universe is that and how does it relate - if at all - to this one, and deciding which characters to follow. Where did I start? With the beginning. I read some and then skipped around, but at least I had some idea of where they began, also Marvel wiki was my friend. For me, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I pretty much stay exclusively within the X-Men universe - the 90s cartoon actually follows the comics to a degree, and some episodes focus on histories. That's actually how I was introduced to the universe when I was a that would actually be a decent start. *shrugs* But I'm no expert.

  2. Marvel wiki has become my friend too. That's the only way I'm surviving right now. But really, it's just hard for me to start all willy nilly and jumping in. I've discovered I don't really have the time or the patience for that. Which makes me sad. I'm trying to work through it all, but it would be nice if there was an easy way.

    Who knows, maybe Marvel Now will actually do what it says and be a good place to start.