I’m sitting in a library reading comic books. I have only recently graduated college, and I have found myself a job in marketing, and I don’t hate the job yet, but that will come just be patient.
Not you. You don’t need to be patient. I mean, it’s not terrible advice, depending on the context I suppose. For example, if you’re reading this instead of catching the last train out to your office, or instead of picking up your child from daycare, maybe be less patient? A little haste could improve things? I don’t want to be bossy though. The choice is yours. But you don’t need to be patient in regards to my disillusionment with my first job. That isn’t even a part of this story.
This story? Yes. This is the story of why I started Comic Book Herald, the blog you are reading now. It starts in the library, after work, as a grown adult. With comics.
Already, my favorite part of every day is to go after work to the library and read comics. I just grab them off the shelves and read. Caution be damned. I’m a regular wildman!
I don’t know it yet, but in a few very short moments a librarian will offhandedly imply I may be a dangerous predator. At the moment this is ok. Mostly it is ok because it is still at the moment, and future outcomes are not actuality, and I would certainly never anticipate accusation of predation.
But more even than that it is ok because I am reading comics. Specifically, I am reading Mighty Avengers – Secret Invasion, Book 2.
“Sir, you can’t sit here. Sir?”
At first I barely hear her, the librarian’s scolding tone taking a dramatic backseat to a wildly confusing Marvel narrative. Captain America is in the Savage Land? Why is he fighting Spider-Man. Wait… Spoiler Redacted is a Skrull!!!
“Sir,” there are long black nails attached to a series of veins tapping the desk now. I leave the Savage Land for a moment and look up.
“Sir you can’t sit here. This is the children’s section. It’s our rule to prevent predators. Do you have any children?”
I’m a little confused and taken aback by the sudden appearance of this spidery visage disguised as a librarian. Do I have children? What? I’m barely old enough to drink.
“I … No, no, kids. ”
“Then I’m going to have to ask you to move. This is the children’s section. We have rules to prevent predators. ”
The assertion of any predatory inclinations leads to a hard flop sweat, which probably does not help my claims of innocence. Why am I here? Sitting in the kids section? I look around and there are little boys and girls playing with trains and plastic kitchen sets on a village carpet design. Oh my god! I’m a predator! What was I thinking sitting near the kids! I’m a grown dude with a beard for Thanos’ sake!
“I’m sorry! Don’t call the cops!”
“Err I mean, sorry about that, I just err…” I look down at the bewildering form of a skrull in front of me. Clarity. “Sorry, I just wanted to read the comics. ”
The grandmother of all spiders is still looking at me with disdain. Me holding up the image of a human Beast in an alternate universe does not seem to be helping my case.
“That’s fine sir. But you need to take your… books… To a different floor. ”
A different floor! Of course! There was an escape from certain imprisonment all that time.
“I… Yes, of course. Thank you. Thank you for letting me have a future. ”
“Have a nice day” I say scrambling away from the mewling masses with a stack of comic trades so high Snoop Dogg just got jealous.
I sink back into the Savage Land and am enthralled but realize I’m missing information. As confusing as my experience with child predators was, this comic is even harder to understand.
Comic Book (Dis)Continuity
I tell you that rambling story to make this point: I don’t much like horribly confusing scenarios. I once had an English Professor tell me to never use the phrase “my point is this” because it means you clearly haven’t made your point. Good story, Dave.
Comic books – particularly the big 2 Superhero powerhouses, Marvel & DC Comics – can be incredibly confusing if you haven’t been keeping up with all the major events, and storylines, and crossovers, and one time Spider-Man made a deal with the devil and it literally erased storylines, and WHAT!?
Reading a Mighty Avengers Secret Invasion tie-in wasn’t the first time I realized this, but it elucidated my growing concern to make these stories accessible. At the time this was mostly for myself. I was having a fun reading these outlandish situations my childhood favorite heroes had found themselves in; I just needed the context.
Why was I completely lacking in context at the time? Hadn’t I been following comic books all my days?
Given my love for the medium now, and the Volstagg-sized hole in my wallet (and in my ability to deliver a non-comic based metaphorical adjective) you’d think I’d been reading comics forever and ever, hail Doom. This is hardly the case, and it’s clear this isn’t the case for many fans as well.
For me, love of the Marvel Universe started with the 90’s X-Men and Spider-Man animated series. I didn’t actually start reading comic books – not really – until college. You know, the normal time in a growing man’s life. Around the same time I finished Ulysses for a second time (#joycebrag), I finished The Essential Spider-Man: Volume 1. I’ll give you two guesses which I enjoyed more.
From there I made my way to The Age of Apocalypse and many more, but as I started trying to get into the modern comic scene, it became clear I would need to become a student of history.
Enter Comic Book Herald.
Why Does The Order Matter? Why Not Just Read Stories?
Imagine you’re starting to watch LOST for the first time. A friend says you’re gonna love this show, and he doesn’t tell you what a mess it will become because he’s a jerk. Or maybe it’s kinder that way.
Anyway, you flip open Netflix and all you see is a jumbled mess of numbers. 4…8…15…16…23…42. There’s no number one. Also, a big hairy dude is screaming something about bad luck outside your window, but ignore him, he’s a nut. You start with 4, but it turns out that episode is actually the Season 3 finale. You leave the viewing confused, angry, and having spoiled mostly all of seasons 1 & 2.
You’d hate this.
Comic books are often referred to as sequential art, and with good reason. Well, within the world of Marvel & DC Comics the stories are nearly always sequential as well. One issue follows another and that comprises a mini story arc, and that mini story arc leads to future plot developments, and then – oh look over here! – there’s some serious BIG STUFF going down in the Marvel universe and that’s going to impact the next story arc…
Like I said. Continuity matters.
It also particularly matters if you’re a little too obsessed with collecting things, with having all the information.
This is a personal trait. I am compelled to have all the possible information of things I love. I have listened to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. Am I proud of this? I don’t know. Honestly, is that what you asked? I can hardly hear.
With comic books, I don’t like entering a story not understanding why Juggernaut is a good guy, or why Professor X is walking, or why Deadpool is so deathly afraid of Squirrel Girl.
More importantly, I don’t like reading ahead and realizing I just consumed the buildup of a 20+ issue arc I’ve never read. The Wire isn’t as cool if you know Spoiler Redacted is going to die. The Sixth Sense isn’t as fun if you know Bruce Willis doesn’t have hair. You get it.
The Future of Comic Book Herald
So that’s why I started Comic Book Herald. I wanted to help create a reading guide to these comics that I knew I could trust, and to put it out there for readers in a similar place.
I’ve heard from a lot of really awesome comic fans who are coming back to the medium, or brand new altogether. The reasons are always different, but the goal is generally the same: to read as many comics, in as enjoyable a manner, as humanly possible.
It’s a wonderful goal. I’ve gotten away from helping with that goal a bit in previous months, but future-forward you can expect more reading guide help from Comic Book Herald.
Finally, thanks to everybody who enjoys the blog. It’s hugely rewarding to hear from you guys. You don’t make it possible persay (that would be my tenacity and Odin-like ability to maintain this thing with a full-time gig), but you definitely make it worth it.
As always: Excelsior!