Obsession Perception: Helping Comic Noobs
In nerd culture in general there is a term that gets thrown around with a very negative connotation amongst veteran collectors, hobbyist, and fanboys alike. That word is “noob” (or newbie depending on who you talk to). Generally speaking a “noob” is somebody who is just getting into their new obsession, who may not be as well-versed in the rich history, or may not yet have the knowledge of a seasoned vet. Video games, collectible card and miniature games, (Magic The Gathering, Warhammer, etc.) and other competitive “nerdy” communities can be very closed off to newcomers and treat them with a certain disdain that can be discouraging and drive people away. It has been my experience that with comic book readers and collectors it seems to happen a lot less, often times not at all, which is great for the comics industry as a whole. As comic readers we all have to start somewhere and work our way up. I have done this in my lifetime twice now. Once when I started getting into comics at the age of 5 and then again after more than a decade of absence from collecting and reading. What helped me was the hospitality of a few select friends, a great local comics shop, and a big and welcoming online community of fans, readers, and journalists who provide a wealth of information for anyone looking for a starting point. So here is how I go about assisting (or enabling, because let’s be honest it’s an addiction) these “noobs” in their journey to obsession.
As a long time reader who spends way too much money on comics weekly as well as trade paperbacks, original graphic novels, and digital comics, I always am more than willing to not only recommend some of my personal favorites to an interested party, I will literally act as a comics library. Anyone who comes to me with even the slightest interest is likely to leave with one or a stack of books to read. I have a short list of comics that I usually guide new readers to. I try to keep a wide variety of genres and point them to something I feel would fit their interest. For horror fans who want to read something of an adult nature I always start with Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke and Key. For those only loosely familiar with specific superheroes seen films or television I might recommend Frank Miller’s Batman Year One, or offer a first issue of a starting point from DC’s The New 52 or Marvel’s Now relaunch. I am a firm believer that there is a comic (or hundreds) for everyone and if you know someone or even have a short conversation with a new person, you can likely offer them a comic they’re sure to enjoy.
If nothing I have to offer interest our theoretical “noob” I’m always down for a trip to my local comic store (or LCS). The owners and employees of my LCS (Yancy Street Comics, New Port Richey, FL) are very knowledgeable and diverse in their personal taste. They are always friendly, helpful, and willing to point you in the right direction for new reading material. Even to someone like myself who picks up a pull list of tens of books every week, they have made recommendations of books whenever I ask. As recently as a few weeks back when I was looking to read more and become more well versed in Superman (I tend to read more Marvel and indie than DC) I was handed a copy of Mark Millar’s Superman Red Son, which I loved and am now looking for another Man of Steel-centric book to read next. Very few local shops are ever unpleasant or unhelpful and will do the same for new readers, many even have big sales on back issues and/or graphic novels so you can keep it affordable while exploring new books. If you are new to the fold and want to stay interested and learn more, building a relationship (and even a friendship) with your LCS is a priceless resource and will have you on your way in no time.
An additional and incredible resource for comics knowledge is the internet. There are dozens of dedicated comics sites (most importantly www.all-comic.com) that have a ton of information, reviews, and previews for upcoming comic-related events and stories. There are passionate journalists (myself included) who want nothing more than to talk about, suggest, debate, and read comics. Still to this day, whenever I find myself drawing a blank on something new to read I’ll grab my phone and go to any number of sites or do a Google search of let’s say “most essential Spider-Man stories” and I’ll stumble upon a list or a ranking that a well educated, well versed comics fan compiled so I can pick one and know that it will most likely be enjoyable, if not amazing. There are also many podcasts where fans, writers, and nerds all gather weekly to talk about comics. All Comic itself has several to choose from! These podcast have people talking deeply and passionately about the comics they love, and even sometimes about the ones they hate. They talk about personal taste and writers and artists who speak to them as readers. There are a fair amount of trolls and people online who want nothing more than to insult and act immature from behind a keyboard but with comics the great resources far outweigh the negativity.
A couple other “veteran” tips for “noobs” are not to be intimidated by comics, even with high numbering and uncertainty of where to start in many books there are still countless comics out there that are new or recently started and are completely accessible. Also, once you’ve read and figured out some comics you enjoyed at great length, pay close attention to the creators of the books. Many new readers assume that if you like The X-Men that you will like every single book with an “X” in the title. This isn’t necessarily true (because trust me there are some less than awesome X-books), however if you read a couple books by Grant Morrison, for example, you are likely to enjoy a great majority of what he writes, regardless of what characters are in it. The same applies for the artist/penciler, I personally will read anything I can get my hands on that’s drawn by Francisco Francavilla, so keep that in mind with every new book you pick up. The most important tip I could offer any new comics fan anywhere in the world is…… Keep your internet browser locked on www.all-comic.com, look for my column on Fridays and definitely feel free to strike up a conversation in the comments so maybe you could help turn a noob into a full-fledged comic nerd!