Until I was in my early twenties, I was never that into comic books. See, I have a lot of trouble being a “dabbler” when it comes to things that captivate me. A coworker of mine recently joked that he’d want me to be president of his hypothetical fan club, because he knew that I’d get, and I quote, “SUPER into it.” And it’s true: Until I’ve dug myself headfirst into a universe, I constantly feel like I’m missing out on something vital.
That’s why I’ve always thought comic books were a bit beyond my grasp — especially ones about superheroes, which made up the vast majority of what I had access to. I did like manga for quite some time in high school, but those series had distinct beginnings and ends; by contrast, I often found myself in the store just staring at the giant Superman shelf and making vague hand gestures until I gave up and went to eat a cheese pretzel from the cafe. I understood that there were varying character arcs and that different authors had different styles, but I couldn’t figure out any good places to start.
Every book I read felt like a joke I wasn’t quite in on, and as a teenage resident of a town where the main purveyor of comic goods was the local Borders, I didn’t really have anyone to ask.
Even the stand-alones I found, like “Sandman” or “Watchmen,” weren’t really to my taste. They were gritty, dark explorations of Man’s Inhumanity To Man, and I found myself unable to emotionally connect to any of the main characters. (Probably because most of them were, um, men.) The plot lines would interest me, sure, but the stories lacked the kind of engagement I generally seek out in my entertainment.
This is the complaint I hear from a lot of my friends, too. It’s not that they dislike the visual format of comics themselves, but they tend to find the subject matter overwhelming at best, alienating at worst.
And like I said, I get it: I was once right there with them. That said, though, we find ourselves in truly spectacular times in the comic world, and I would hate for anyone to miss out on some of these books just because their medium carries unpleasant associations of pawing ineffectually at a pile of “Aquaman.”
So for those of you who have always hated comics, please, I beg of you, at least try out the following. These aren’t obscure titles by any means, but they are writ large upon my heart, and I hope that’ll be the case for you, too.