Start Anywhere


People wrote in asking, “Where do I start reading _____?” so often that it became a recurring feature on the site.

The comics community became transfixed by the mythical Jumping-On Point in a way that people have not been transfixed by a thing since Lambada, the Forbidden Dance transfixed the trying-to-start-a-trend-that’s-just-not-going-to-happen community back in ’90.

Jim bought several thousand Marvel back issues on DVD back in the pre-“app” days when they sold that sort of thing, and then he let them gather dust and weight in his psyche for many years until a whimsical wonderscreen called the “iPad” came into his life, providing him with the vital excuse he was looking for to dive in. After five years of not touching these discs, he has plowed through about eight years’ worth of Amazing Spider-Man in the past week and a half.


You’ve heard it here before, but never often enough: most of the time, there is no reason to wait for a Jumping-On Point.

Most of the time, I said. Of course there are exceptions, and you can’t always tell which books they’re going to be. Those exceptions aside, there’s really nothing stopping you from diving in with whatever happens to be on the shelves of your local shop this week.

I say this as someone who is concerned about you. You collectively, I mean. Since I came back to comics in 2000ish, I have gradually seen the legend of the Jumping-On Point grow to the point where people who buy comics for fun seem to be clutching at reasons not to buy comics. You’re not getting in on a game of Double Dutch. You’re not hopping a freight train. You’re just trying to find out if Batgirl is really that good. No sense fretting yourself sick about it. Live, damn you! Live!

I also say this as someone who, as a frequent contributor to iFanboy, is by the nature of the job essentially a crash test dummy for this viewpoint. The last time I sat in on the Pick of the Week Podcast, the POW was Power Girl #22. I’d never read an issue of Power Girl in my life. If she’s ever been in any comic I read, that news would come as a surprise to me. I had no idea what the character’s status quo was. I had no idea what her name was. But we were talking about it, so I read it.

It was fine. It was a good book, actually. I bought it again last week, and as I read it I thought, “You know…? If this one had been my first issue, that would have been fine, too.” I find myself thinking this often now when I read a really good issue. I think if Scarlet #5 was the first issue I’d ever read, I would have enjoyed it just as much. And it would have piqued my curiosity enough to scour the earth for the previous four, and I would have enjoyed them just as much as if I’d read the whole thing in order. Just pretend you're watching Pulp Fiction. Put the last chapter first and see what happens.

This is without even considering how many books begin with a recap now, although I somehow managed to survive Power Girl without one. (That’s another column all by itself. The idea of DC Comics pulping trees to bring back the letter column in 2011 instead of giving a page to recap for new readers is like GM closing their hybrid division to devote more resources to updating the 8-track player.)

But maybe I just happened to hit a good Jumping-On Point for Power Girl. Maybe none of us stand a chance without Marvel's Point One Initiative. As it happens, though, for that same Pick of  the Week Podcast someone had floated the idea of discussing 28 Days Later. Again, I had never touched an issue of it in my life. The book was clearly in the middle of an arc, several issues into the series.

It was fine. It was a good book, actually. Even mid-arc, it rapidly became clear what was going on and who the characters were because, as it turns out, the guy who wrote it is a good enough writer to write for a living. Most of the time, they do not give that job to the first person who sees the “Help Wanted” sign in the window. He is good at communicating ideas to readers. Most paid writers are.

You will be fine.

Of course, why start in the middle of the story if you don’t have to? I guess that’s the argument, and I certainly get it. For better or worse, though, not every book is on issue #5. More often than not, they’re on #213 or something by now, if not #713. If you are the sort of person who needs a Jumping-On Point, even when you find the new arc by the new creative team and take that first step, the characters will be talking about what happened in the last arc, and the part of you that needed to be jumped in will be whispering, “This isn’t the beginning. #1 has to be online somewhere.” You’re better off just strangling that thinking in its crib before you spend a fortune.

That’s another thing: you hear a lot of people fretting about Jumping-On Points because comics cost this egregious $3-4 now, and nobody can part with such a princely sum for anything less than a sure thing. (Many people making this claim have been paying every month to have the same Netflix disc on their endtable since August, but never mind.) What is more expensive, though? Taking a $4 chance, or treating every comic like a trig class with prerequisites and six textbooks to buy first?

I’ve had PDFs of complete runs of beloved titles in my house for years without reading them in part because I let myself get paralyzed by the question of where to start. “I should read Byrne’s Fantastic Four run… but then, I have all the stuff he builds off of right there on the same disc. Should I not read the Galactus issues first? Or the Simonson? I have every issue; the only reason not to start at #1 and work my way forward is that I would rather die on fire than do that. Hmm. I wonder what’s on TV?”

When I did eventually dive into the Amazing Spider-Man collection, it was at the point where I started buying back issues as a kid. The book was in the middle of the “Who is the Hobgoblin?” mystery that I now know had been building for the previous three years by the time I hopped aboard. I figured it out without Wikipedia or a recap page. I’ve been reading it ever since just fine.

(I know people say “every issue was a good starting point back then; the characters’ thought balloons explained to new readers what was going on every month.” Those people did not start reading Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men when the team had Magneto and Longshot on it. Hell, grab some of the Australia Years and tell me how accessible books were then compared to now.)

Like I said, of course there are exceptions, and when my way costs me it costs me big. The first issue of Fables I bought was the climactic reveal of who the Adversary was, which I read without knowing it was a climactic reveal. I essentially started by finding out who killed Laura Palmer and went from there. These are the blunders we’re afraid of when we hesitate and wait for the next arc.

You can’t let that fear rule you, though, when there are so many good stories hitting the racks every week. If nothing else—insider tip alert!—if you jump right in and it doesn’t work out, you can just jump in again somewhere else. The world will barely even end. Drop that three-star book of habit from your pull list this week and take a chance. Do yourself and the industry a favor.


Jim Mroczkowski, as it turns out, does not actually know who the Hobgoblin really was because he jumped in and jumped out at the wrong points, but he stands by his thesis statement.


  1. This weeks Power Girl WAS my first issue, read just fine. 

  2. Great essay! I had a similar experience to your “Fables” situation. On my first day of work at a movie theatre back in 1999, I had to watch the end of The Sixth Sense so I can raise the house lights when the credits hit. Little did I know what I was ruining!

    So while I agree that jumping into the pool rarely results in drowning, it makes me wonder if the better scenario for prospective readers should be, “Hey! I’m gonna start reading ______! Should I start somewhere OTHER than the latest issue?”

  3. Thanks for this Jim, I’m glad someone finally wrote this article.  I’ve always felt that if someone is interested in starting a book, they should just start it.  I hate the idea of telling a person they should not pick up at a certain point.  Just dive right in! 

    The first comic I ever got was Uncanny X-Men 243, it was the second to last entry in the Inferno crossover and I had no idea that it would finish in another book (X-Factor) rather than issue 244.  I was really confused but also interested enough to get as much backstory as I could and I really got interested in the X-men’s world.  I understand that X-continuity can be confusing and intimidating, but I was 11 and didn’t have wikipedia and it worked out OK.

    If people are interested enough to start, they might be interested enough to start anywhere and figure it out.

  4. The idea of DC Comics pulping trees to bring back the letter column in 2011 instead of giving a page..”

    I had been thinking the same thing. Honestly, what are they thinking? There is no relevance in taking up two pages with letters. I don’t get it. I agree with the premise that most “jumping on” can work out just fine, but a backup page would make a nice security blanket.

  5. I think it always depends on what the book is. Normally I like to wait for a new arc to begin, whether it’s a first issue or somewhere deep in a series.

    However, my favorite series right now is Chew and I jumped in on the 3rd issue. No idea what was going on but Layman wrote it like he does every issue: Each issue advances the story somewhat but mostly it’s a standalone plot. So it was very accessible to me and I got hooked ever since. Hell I still don’t have the first two issues in my collection. (That’s only because when they reprint them they immediately get sold out)

  6. When I was first getting back into comics, I just started picking up JLA trades based on the blurb on the back, rather than the number on the spine. I read them in a crazy order, and it never did me any harm.

  7. Totally agree with the “start anywhere” mentality. It’s what I’ve always done, and it’s what EVERYONE had to do back in the ’80s and ’90s.

    Unfortunately, it seems we live in a really paradoxical age now. Most comic readers are adults, and there have never been more resources or opportunities to “get caught up” or “jump on here!” . . . and yet readers seem to be more and more scared, finicky and picky about where they start reading.

    I was part of literally like 500,000 new readers who started reading X-comics in 1991. We only had a few trading card synopses to go on, and we were reading by far the most convulted, continuity-heavy line of comics out there. But we did fine. It was a joy to put things together and slowly discover the world.

    But now there are adults who basically think they need to know the whole story before they even start reading their first issue. I don’t get it. Is it some sort of OCD-ish mentality? I don’t get it. I don’t get it! People just need to realize that they don’t need to “understand” everything. I started reading Morrison’s Batman with a random issue in the “Black Glove” arc. I had no idea what was going on but could appreciate the storytelling and was very intrigued by what I saw. But at the time there were habitual Batman readers who trashed that issue (Batman #673) and complained that it was unfair because Morrison was obliquely referencing a Batman comic from the ’50s, which (to them) automatically disqualified anyone who hadn’t read that old comic from enjoying the new one.

    It’s just a different mentality these days. It’s like people are scared to discover.

  8. i agree for the most part. Makes sense of ongoings, makes no sense for minis like Generation Lost or something like that. Now i just keep an eye out for new arcs or creative teams. HOWEVER, with A lower numbered series, i’ll try and get the issues and start from #1, or if its already 10+ issues in i turn to a trade person. At this point though, i feel maxed out so i’m looking to cut instead of adding anything new.

    I’d rather have a recap than a letters page. As ifs its any consolation, DC isn’t pulping many trees…comics are printed on the lowest grades of paper available…its the bottom of the recycling food chain. They actually pulp more trees to make your toilet paper than anything you buy for reading. What you should be concerned with is the amount of oil (plastic) in your comic pages more than the wood pulp…

  9. in internet speak: YES! THIS!

    This is exactly how I feel about comics and how they should be written. Anyone should be able to just pick up an issue and dive right in. They should never feel like they need to “start from the begining” or worse, wait for the next arc to start (because let’s face it, people have short attention spans, theyr’re not going to remember to come back in a month or two). I get crap from people when I say I’m just jumping on – which is also part of the problem. But 90% of the time, it works out just fine for me.

    Also, yay Power Girl and Batgirl!

  10. My wife has a Netflix disc from September of last year…. I hate it.

  11. great article as always

  12. Avatar photo Kelly (@annaluna) says:

    “even when you find the new arc by the new creative team and take that first step, the characters will be talking about what happened in the last arc”

    unless you’re starting with a trade, i find jumping on points frustrating because of this very fact.  they seem to be characters mostly going “wow. that was something, huh?” and they end with a big “holy hell!” moment, but the gut-punch factor only works in context. 

    even with a friend (or an internet) that will explain to you why you “care” about what just happened, you’re still left un-hooked for a bit.

  13. I kind of agree with the start anywhere approach since I also had to start reading in the 90’s and back then I didnt have internet to read what was a great jumping on point, and I did a lot of back issue diving of older comics and most times didnt pick them up in some sort of order, just randomly and was never lost. At the same time, comics weren’t as reliant on long epic runs as they are today. Personally, I think that if a person is interested in a current book, they should probably start where the current writer started. If you want to read Detective Comics, start with #871, if you want to read Action Comics, start with 890(though 901 looks like it will be a great starting point too). Unfortunately that becomes a problem when you have a writer on a book for so long, like Green Lantern right now is so dense with characters Johns created along the way that I imagine a person would be lost if they jumped right in, same goes with Morrisons Batman. 

  14. @Kelly  but then, you are also the very person who was interested in X-Men and tried to start at #1.

  15. yeah! I’m going out to pick up Scalped 47 right now!

  16. I tend to not do this at all. I pick up series when there’s a writer change or a new number 1, as I assume that it’ll be new reader friendly. Because I preorder everything, I can only read things I assume I’ll like two months out. Will Zatanna #14, due out June 22nd, be great? Could be, but since I need to make a perchase decision for June books in a week or two, chances are that I won’t find out until its bound in trade and my library gets it. The system I use to buy books may be a bit screwy, but I can’t beat the discount I’m getting.

  17. I agree with this mentality in theory. But the problem is when you have a completist/OCD mentality like myself, it’s very hard. When I indulge in any form of storytelling, I want the whole story. If I’m going to decide to watch a serialized tv series, I want to start with season 1. If I’m going to watch a movie that’s a part of a specific triology, likewise. And same with comic books.

    I’m not crazy and saying I would need to go back and read all the X-Men or Spider-Man comics of the last 60 years (although a certain recent Jimski article planted a seed in my head about how cool it would be to read through the entire run of ASM. Funny how that article was followed by this one. 😉 No, for me it’s all about creative team or contained storyline. When I see a great creator owned book that has a vision and overarching story, I want to get it all. Just like I went back and watched Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, or Six Feet Under from the start, I do the same with Scalped, The Walking Dead, or Powers. To me there is something to most definitely be gained in consuming all of a certain creator’s long form story.

    When it comes to decades old characters who’ve been written by countless creative teams, I’m obviously not going to take such an approach. I’ll instead look for the start of a good creative team. Geoff Johns has crafted a great Green Lantern story (this is until recent when it’s grown stale and bland). I read starting there and didn’t feel the need to go back and read all the GL books prior to that. I read all of Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men and Morrison’s Batman & Robin. Those books were great. I didn’t need to continue reading when other creators took over. I dunno. If it is likely be be collected as a trade, then to me, that means it’s a part of a larger story. I’m the type that likes getting the whole story. Can’t really change what I like.

    I’m not telling others to go about reading comics this way. By all means, if you can do it the way this article suggests, that is awesome. I somewhat wish my brain was wired differently and could approach entertainment and storytelling in a more casual manner. But I get a vastly more enjoyable experience if I get the whole story. What that means is different in every situation. Could mean needing to go back a handful of issues of a current story arc, or might mean getting the first tpb or dvd box set. 

    Try what Jimski is saying. If it works for you, that is wicked. If not, do whatever it is that gives you the most enjoyment. To me, it’s all about finding out what that is. We do this stuff for fun afterall, right? 😉

  18. Avatar photo Kelly (@annaluna) says:

    @jimski to be fair that was after reading a couple of story arcs and discovering a trade with the first 10 at the library.  it seems like a good idea (at the time) to learn my roots. I think i got 4 issues in before i abandoned that idea.

  19. I have given myself the challenge of reading every issue of the Fantastic Four, starting all the way back at issue #1 and going forward. I think it will be a great learning experience and a reminder of just why the FF and Marvel Comics are so special to me. One thing i noticed in those really early issues so far: pretty much any issue is a good jumping on point.

    Cheap plug: if you want to follow my progress, check out: 

  20. That Stan Lee dialogue will make a man out of you.

  21. I’ve often said, ya know to myself, since no one cares about my thoughts on such things, but that it’s the best time to be a comic reader. If there’s a book you’re seriously interested in, go out and try it. When I was a teen just getting into comics not everything was made available in convienent trades and there was no Wikipedia. I’d have to hunt for back issues, or read through letter pages/Wizard Magazine hoping for tidbits to help fill the gaps in my knowledge. Now I can spend a few minutes on the internet and read up on probably more than I need to know to get caught up on a story.

    And sometimes you don’t even need that. I heard a ton of great things about Batgirl (and they were all true) but I really never read any Robin so I knew just about nothing about Stephanie Brown other some very basic “She used to be called Spoiler, got pregnant, then became Robin, then died” when I finally just decided to try a random issue. I didn’t even need to know all that to enjoy this book. She’s Batgirl, she’s fun, the book is funny and well told and the rest I can get from the context of the story or the occasional bit of exposistion. Which is fine. That’s what that’s there for, for people like me just getting into the title. Eventually I can get the trades and get caught up, but for now I’m just happy to be reading another awesome comic.

  22.  “…like GM closing their hybrid division to devote more resources to updating the 8-track player.”

    I know these are the jokes, but you ain’t far from honest when it comes to GM’s sensibilities. I needed a “square” job back in 2008, and went to work as a service writer at a GM/Jaguar dealership. GM still mandates (2008!!!!) viewing training videos (2008!!) with titles like: Service and the Female Consumer, Marketing to the African American, The Senior Citizen and the Buick.

  23. @Jimski  It’s all good. I have a love for 60s Marvel. 

  24. My problem is that I don’t know where to KEEP GOING! Example: I read Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, but then had no idea what to pick up next. I am, admittedly, an amateur comics reader, but it seems like you need to make it your job to find out how all these stories progress in order to follow it.

    I also think it depends on the type of person you are when it comes to consuming media. I NEED to know the backstory.