It has been a while! In December I moved, and didn’t really have the time or the funds for comics. But now it is a new year, I am (mostly) settled in my new home and while I play catch up to my comics, I decided it would be great to do a post on how exactly to get into comic books.
I should start with how comics are released. Most comic book series are first released in single issues; these are the glossy magazine-type comics, typically around thirty pages in total. Once a series has progressed through a story arc, those single issues are collected and released in a soft or hard cover copy, often with extras such as a prologue or bonus artwork. These are called trades. Many people collect only trades. I usually use trades to catch up on a series, or I buy trades for books I can’t make room for in my budget to buy single issues. Some companies like Image usually have a hiatus period on their books after an arc has finished, and the trades will be released during that break before the single issues resume their release. Marvel and DC however are not always quick to release trades, so if you decide to buy only trades from the big two publishers, you might be in for a little bit of a wait.
Comic books are always released on Wednesday. The reason for this is that Diamond Comics is the sole distributor of comic books to retailers. Digital copies are also released on Wednesday, I suppose so Diamond doesn’t get too pissed off, but there are a few comics that are “digital first”, meaning they are available in digital format before they can be bought in stores. Sensations Comics, a personal favourite, is a digital first.
So how do you go about buying comics? If you’ve decided you’re going to only buy trades, good news! Trades are usually not exclusive to comic book stores, you can find Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No Normal on Amazon or Chapters or whatever your preferred book store is; if you frequent an indie bookstore they may be able to order it for you as well. But if you have a local comic book store, I of course encourage you to support their business first, and they’ll have a larger selection than your local Coles anyway.
If you’re going to collect a series issue by issue, however, there are two ways you can do this. You can check out your local comic book store on Wednesday the day the issue is to be released and buy it off the shelf, but a good alternative is to give them a pull list. This means they will order the comic for you and set it aside, and you can simply come in and pick it up. Some comics fly off the shelves really quickly, and some comics aren’t popular in some stores so the owners may not order it unless someone requests it. This way, you make sure your series is being ordered and that a copy is guaranteed to be put aside for you. If you hear of a series coming up in a few months, it is also great to preorder the comic this way; you may forget by the time it comes out, and strong preorder numbers are a great way to support a creative team.
Some stores will ask you if you want to buy board and plastic with your purchase. This is to protect your comic and preserve its condition. Personally, I love sharing comics, so I don’t bother. I don’t want to pressure the person I’m lending the comic to. If it gets beat up, no big deal. I DO regret that decision with some comics, however. I feel like my copy of Ms. Marvel #1 first printing edition might be worth something someday if I only had preserved it better, but it is often hard to predict how popular a comic will get and how many copies will be released, which is part of what determines a comic’s value.
There is also the option of buying comics digitally, either directly from the publisher’s website or comiXology. I really, really love comiXology because not only can I get my comics without braving the weather/traffic/people, but they have a lot of back issues that are no longer in print and hard to find. Marvel Unlimited is also a great option; for $9.99 you can read all the Marvel back issues you desire. While you’ll have to wait for current issues to be added, it isn’t so dissimilar to waiting for a trade and it is a great budget friendly way to read comics.
You do not have to stick with either physical copies or digital. I like digital for the most part, but the series I really love I like to own a physical copy of, and it is the easiest way to share. If I had a lot of money, I would probably collect comics the Lucky Star way: buy three copies of each issue. One is to be put away and never touched, another to be taken out sometimes and read, and another to spread the gospel.
A really helpful tool is comiXology’s Pull List website. You add the comics you want to collect, and you can check every Tuesday night to see what is coming out. Some comic book stores actually use the site itself to update their customers’ pulllists. If you don’t use a pull list or if you buy digital comics, this saves you a lot of trouble of trying to remember when something comes out.