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Wading into Comic Books

by Susan Quilty, author of The Insistence of Memory

In 2007, Joss Whedon released Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 in comic book form. As a
huge Buffy fan, I wanted to see where the story went after the TV show had ended. As a not-so-
eager-comic-book-reader, I was reluctant. Unsure of what to expect.

I waited for the first trade paperback to check it out. The trade (collection of the first several
issues) seemed like an easier transition. It felt more substantial in my hands than the single
issues, and it was easier to stand on my crowded bookshelf.

That led me to Angel: After the Fall, which is essentially Season 6 of Angel. I then found some
Doctor Who trades. And some continuing Firefly stories. Then Felicia Day released some one-
shots for The Guild. And then I discovered some cool and trippy graphic novels.

In short, Buffy Season 8 was my gateway comic. It opened my eyes to a genre that offers more
weird and wonderful worlds than I’d realized. More than the classic superheroes. More than
Archie and Jughead.

It was a gradual wading in to comic books that was more my speed. I may never take the plunge
of being a regular subscriber (my husband has that covered!), but I enjoy my occasional swims
in the shallow end.

It’s taken me years to come to this conclusion—and there are some who might vehemently
disagree with me—but here’s my current theory:

There’s no “right” way to read comic books.

You can dive in to collecting ongoing series—but that’s not the only way. You can buy the
trades of short series after they finish. You can buy graphic novels. You can even find some
favorite fairy tales or short stories in comic book form.

Intrigued? Have a friend who might find that approach more their speed?

Here are some thoughts on getting started:

1. Stop by a local comic book shop and talk to the staff. Ask for recommendations and tell
them that you’re new to the whole thing. Don’t expect to know the lingo. You’re new to
this. You’ll ask questions and eventually figure out the difference between a trade
paperback, a graphic novel, and an omnibus. (Sort of.)

2. Look for graphic retellings of classic novels. Marvel’s Pride and Prejudice is my favorite.
It has gorgeous art by Hugo Petrus, while Nancy Butler does a fabulous job of scaling
down the story without losing its lovely language and timeless characters. If you prefer
dark and twisted fairy tales, try The Red Shoes and Other Tales, by Metaphrog.

3. Check out some original graphic novels. Daytripper, by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon,
takes you on an emotional trip that you won’t forget. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy,
by Alison Bechdel, is a graphic memoir that might make you rethink your own family
relationships.

4. Find out if there are comic books about your favorite TV shows and movies, like I did
with Buffy. Many popular franchises have comic book series, such as Doctor Who,
Stargate, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Orphan Black also released some companion comics
to delve into side stories that were lightly mentioned on the show.

Wherever you start, know that you don’t have to jump into the deep end. Comic books don’t
have to be a big commitment. Just dip a toe and test the water. You might find some great
reasons to wade on in.

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