The iFanboy Letter Column – 04/03/2009

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means you have to spend the next 48 or so hours with your horrible horrible family, begging to go back to the sweet mind numbing sanctum of the corporate office. For others, Friday is the day when you request the hard bastards.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming – contact@ifanboy.com


I just watched your “West” episode and one of my favorite western characters has always been Zorro. I see that Dynamite has a Zorro series going right now and I am just wondering if any of you guys are reading it and if so what do you guys think. I have always been a big fan of Zorro with the old Disney TV show and the first movie with Antonio Banderas and I am interested in reading some of his comic book adventures.

Kevin G. from Simi Valley, CA

I’m a big fan of Zorro and have been a dedicated reader of the series from Dynamite Entertainment.

From writer Matt Wagner and a few different artists, the story itself seems to stay pretty close to the original novel, which has been the potential to be both good and bad. It’s good in that I’m always a fan of honoring the source material. It could be bad in that Zorro has been a prime example of a comic book that is deconstructed and written for the trade.

The pacing of the series in issues is something that is very apparent in not only Zorro, but Dynamite Entertainment’s other big licensed property book, The Lone Ranger. Both of these comics are really good and a lot of fun, but both can feel very slight in issues. I’ve been thinking of switching over to trades on both of them for a while now. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but I might do it soon.

But if you’re a fan of Zorro there’s really no reason to not pick up Zorro and give it a try. The first trade just came out in February and it features a great origin story.

Zorro is like nothing else I’m reading in comics right now. It’s fun, there is swashbuckling action and adventure, sword fights, and hilariously foppish alter egos.

Ah, hell — I think I just talked myself into switching to trades on Zorro and The Lone Ranger.

Conor Kilpatrick



I’m a 23 year old who recently started reading comics as a way to help quit drinking. Replacing one addiction with another I suppose. Anyways I started with the trades as they seemed the easiest place to test the waters. Read Y: The Last Man and Preacher and was hooked. Now just four months later I’ve read quite a bit of the Vertigo catalog and found quite a bit I like and quite a bit I don’t. I even started buying traditional comics.

Now my problem is, while I’m quite interested in some of the DC / Marvel’s more well known characters, I can’t seem to find a place to jump into any of their series. I love Batman and have enjoyed some of the stand alones that I have read but I feel like I cant jump into any of the current series without missing a lot of the back story. Ditto goes for most of the more mainstream characters that I like ie: Iron Man, The Punisher, the Justice League, etc.  So what I’m wondering is if you can steer me towards an appropriate starting point where I wouldn’t lose too much backstory. Or is this not even possible and should I just bite the bullet and jump in somewhere.

Dom

Can I just say, “hell yes!” to you for getting your shit together. A lot of comic shops aren’t really all that different from most of the AA meetings I’ve been to. It smells a bit like sadness and stale cigarettes. Congrats for taking control of your life, and focusing that energy on something.

That out of the way, can I also say something else? And this is really in response to questions like this about where someone can “jump on” to a comic book. And what I want to say is:

“RRRRRAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!”

Okay, good. Now we can move on.

My first issue of Hellblazer was issue #146. My first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man was #315. My first issue of Detective Comics was #613. I’m sure Ron started reading Uncanny X-Men in the 200s. Conor’s first Batman issue was easily 40-50 years after the first one. And we started reading all of those when we were kids. So, as most of the comic readers on here are adults, I think we’ve lost the patience to give ourselves some time to learn about things. As a rule, good ongoing Marvel or DC Comics should be relatively accessible to new readers. Just go into a comic shop, and tell them the kinds of things you like, and they should be able to point you to some good places to start, but you can’t expect to understand everything at the start. Think of it like sports. You can watch a football game as a relative neophyte, and you can enjoy it, but a person who’s been watching football for 30 years is also going to enjoy that same game in a completely different way. You’ve got to start somewhere though, and if you want to read regular issues of mainstream comics, you’ll have to paddle a bit to catch that wave.

But that’s not all the advice I’m going to give you, because I’m a helpful guy after all. You like Flash? Good news. Go read The Flash: Rebirth #1. You’ll be up to speed (heh) in no time. You want The Punisher? Well, Rick Remender’s series is on issue #3. Go read them. You won’t be that lost, and you can pick up the earlier issues pretty easily I’d imagine. Marvel reprints a lot of books. You like Iron Man? I think Matt Fraction’s The Invinicible Iron Man is on issue #12, so it can’t be that complicated to catch up. I just read an issue randomly, and it wasn’t all that confusing. But it was a little confusing, because I was dropped in the middle of the story. I suppose as a comic reader who wants to try new things, I’m used to it. I just started reading Green Lantern Corps with issue #33. That was my first. I sorted it out. And no, contrary to popular belief, I really don’t know that much comic continuity. It’s more like tiny flashes of knowledge, but in no way is it a complete chronology. I guess what I’m saying is, listen to the show, read the Comics section here, and if something sounds like you might like it, buy it for 2 or 3 issues, and decide if you want to keep going. If you get lost, each comic book has a page on this site, so ask questions there. It can be done! It will be fun, and it will be better than a hangover any day of the week.

Josh Flanagan

 

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Remender’s first Punisher issue as a writer was also my first Punisher issue as a reader.  Had fun with it.  No sweat. Go grab those issues, Dom!

  2. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh… nobody tell Dom that he can drink while reading comics.  Seriously though it’s great that cut back or quite drinking, I could probably use to cut back alittle myself.  Want to know what book I started with in the DCU?  Well after a couple Batman books, the good ones, I jumped right in at Infinite Crisis then went back to Crisis on Infinite Earths.  I’m not saying these are good starting points but it ties in to what Josh was saying, if something sounds interesting you just have to jump in and give it a shot.  And like Conor says over and over agian they’re just comics, sometimes you just have to accept things and move on.  We don’t know half of what goes on in our world so why must we know every detail of theirs. 

  3. rons slacking this week.

  4. Ron’s shooting the Seattle Comic Convention with Gordon, but not me and Conor.  Hardly a slack! I’m slacking!

  5. ifanboy crossover event: Slack on Both Sides!  Just kidding can’t wait to see the Seattle coverage.

  6. Dom: I started reading comics at Invincible Iron Man #1 and found it to be very enjoyable! I think you can jump in due to Marvel providing convenient recap pages for each issue. Flash: Rebirth was fun too. And I don’t that much about Flash. There’s also, The Mighty which is awesome and completely self contained and we’re only 3 issues in.

    Congrats on your quitting the bottle! And good luck! 😀

  7. @Dom~ I started in comics again a couple years ago after not reading them regularly for like 5 or 6 years.  You can always pick something up, and if confused, just use Wikipedia.  That’s where I was able to piece things together.  It’s not sweat to just leap in.  Also, like Josh said, ask the iFanbase on the site or hit the forums and start a thread.  We love feeding your addiction!

  8. I love Wagner but dropped Zorro around issue 5. Didn’t realize the trade was out, maybe I’ll pick that up 😮

  9. So my new random theory is that TV DVD sales is to blame (partially) for the recent "I can’t start something unless I can begin from the beginning!" hysteria. Before this became standard practice, you had no choice but to just start watching a show. But now, we are accustomed to starting from the pilot episode until we catch up to current episodes.

    I can’t pretend I haven’t fallen into this trap as a new comics reader, but I am learning to just dive in. I try to be a smart as I can–don’t pick up #5 of a 6 issue arc. But it hasn’t been too hard and now I can finally place some of the names that I’ve heard about on the podcast or the forums.

  10. Uhm, I don’t what’s so horrible about wanting to start from the very beginning. It’s just a preference…

  11. @Meg  YES!  Thanks for saying that.  It’s only been in the past 5 years or so that, between cheap DVD sets/netflix/hulu/on demand, it’s been easy to go back and watch a show from the beginning.  And while there are some shows that need to be seen that way to get the whole experience, most of them don’t (or didn’t until recently; arguably now, shows like ‘Lost’ and ‘BSG’ are written for the current state of the medium).  But I’ve had discussions with friends who are, ahem, younger than me who insist that I’m not watching a show correctly if I don’t start at the beginning.  But, well, TV shows *want* to pick up new viewers with each episode; if they don’t, they don’t survive.   

    Now, uhh, take everything I said about DVD sets and substitute TPB, and ‘single issue’ for episode, and it’s basically the same thing.

  12. @JumpingJupiter: Because it’s mostly impossible when you’re talking about Marvel and DC comics.

  13. Also for anyone that is looking to get into a line of comics, Marvel will occasionally release a SAGA issue where it basically recaps everything you need to know to jump into one, or some, of their books.  Just recently they released WOLVERINE SAGA, WAR OF KINGS SAGA, NEW MUTANTS SAGA, etc.  Better than Wikipedia and totally free.  Plus, I know at least the WAR OF KINGS SAGA is available online for free at Marvel.com.

    Sorry if I sounded like an ad for Marvel books, just figured it was worth pointing people towards

  14. @drake: Those saga books arent that bad, your right. Plus when they do #1 issues (i.e. Deadpool or Punisher) they recap the character’s full history….That means a rise in price tag but you gotta admit Marvel made a great decision do that to their #1 issues.

  15. @Conor: That’s true. I  managed to do it, but it does require patience and some lucky timing.

  16. and enormous amounts of money and time, most of which will be spent on shitty stories that don’t matter anyway.

  17. That hoyts a little bit. 🙁

    I like the stories I’m buying. Even if they "don’t matter". They matter to me ’cause I like ’em … 🙂

  18. Yo Dom: I’m kinda in the same boat you’re in.  I got my jaw broken last summer so I decided I would be better off staying home and not partying all the time anymore.  That’s when I jumped back into reading Batman and Superman comics after more then a decade long absence.  Well The Dark Knight movie was also motivation.  I really wanted to jump into a different Bat-story after streaming the bootleg of that flick 90 times before the blu Ray came out.  Then I found out that Spiderman had just done itself a light reboot so I jumped into that and picked up half a year’s worth of back issues to be caught up with Brand New Day.

    It really isn’t that hard.  Wikipedia is very helpful with accessing the information, and it’s very helpful if you have one of those girlfriends who are best to just ignore most of the time.  Trades help a lot too. Your library should have enough to get started with.  Then you can get awesome deals on paperback trades on Ebay after that.  I don’t think I have ever payed more then 60% of a cover price on a trade that wasn’t brand spankin new!

    And if you wanna jump into some stuff that is happening right now without doing a bunch of backtracking, check out The Mighty, the new Punisher series (which is decent), or Dark Avengers which was a hell of a bunch easier to jump into then I thought it would be!

    If you do come across a title where you really wanna read every story about, seek some of those DVD-ROMs Marvel puts out.  I got the Amazing Spiderman one that I have hardly put a crack into yet htough…

  19. just how many AA meetings has Josh been to?

    for Dom i would suggest to start reading the Batman titles after the end of Battle For The Cowl, that should be a realatively fresh starting point. I’ll also pick up Geoff Johns’ Superman: Secret Origin when it comes out. Again it should be a fresh start plus a re-telling of Superman’s origin so that should help too.

     and pick up Seaguy the Slaves of Mickey Eye issue 2! it should be very new read-friendly!!

  20. You could also start in Trades and work up to Issues, Walking Dead, Invincible are great places to start since they don’t go that far back.  Same with Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corp, get the trades and start moving forward. Great thing about that is you get Sinestro Corp War in there as well, which was one of the best events in recents history. 

  21. Just use Wikipedia to fill in the gaps. Worked for me a ton of times. 

  22. Congradulations!  Keep it up.  I spent alot of time in my LCS when I was trying to kick the habit.  From alcohol to comics is the healthiest, smartest, (and  relatively harmless) action.

    I commend  you and want you to personally know that you are not alone.  Also, what a great habit to pick up… you can only learn more and become more well rounded by reading, anything.

  23. i forget, which one of the twelve steps is Start A Comic Book Collection?

  24. Dom: you can also read essentials if you don’t mind them being in black and white. There is the masterworks series but I don’t know if they are from the begining of a series and they are costly. There are omnibuses and digital collections. Marvel has the classic line – Deadpool Classic TP #1 + #2 and Cable Classic TP #1 and I don’t know if there are others. I didn’t read Deadpool Classic TP #2 and I can’t recommend TP #1 – it’s has some nice things but I’m not sure if it’s worth it. The cable TP was really boring.

  25. Typing while drunk – see, I can manage my addictions, but I usually drink alone. Late at night. At home. Uh-hhhhhhhhhhhh. 🙁 Anyway, congrats and keep it up.

    I’ll agree that picking up #5 of a 6-isssue arc isn’t advised. You can usually jump on a title at the beginning of an arc – The Punisher Max (or whatever it’s called these days) usually turns over to a totally unrellated arc ever 5 or 6 months, and there are always the trades.  JLA and Iron Man are a bit trickier, given their either A) severely lacking quality recently (JLA) or B) ties to a recent major event (Iron Man). I’d recommend going trades with JLA, especially Morrison and Waid runs from the last iteration of the book, and then just moving to the current series with what’s-his-faces opening arc. Iron Man- Marvel’s recap pages are tremendous, and the ones in Iron Man are no different. They’ll get you up to date ASAP and you can then pull some enjoyment out of any given issue. Hope that’s some help.

    Oh, Metzler=JLA writer. Sorry. Took me a second to remember that. 

  26. Forgot to say that Cable Classic TP #1 didn’t seem to tell much back story about the character but I’m not sure, and Deadpool Classic TP #1 gave some nice background information about deadpool and showed an interesting side of him.

  27. I say you can pretty much jump in on any comic.  You read it, it you like it, get some back issues and catch up.  

  28. The question wasn’t, "how can I read every comic that came before.  The question was "where can I start?"

    The answer is "pretty much anywhere."

    No need trying to turn another comic reader into an obsessive complusive nutbag.  This is a problem with comics, that people need to make severe investments to just start enjoying comics.  It keeps people away from comic shops, and it’s a harmful notion.

    That nutbag thing was a joke….sort of.

  29. Not every comic… just the first 300 issues.

    You sound a bit like an evangelist 🙂

    It is done to add to the fun. Having a "Batman died. big whoop. guy number one might replace him, guy number two might also"  doesn’t sound much fun. The things I listed might give some background information that will make the main characters more substantial and will increase the involvement of the reader. I don’t expect people to read a whole omnibus… there are friends and libraries and used copies. Deadpool is an idiot that enjoys violence without the background information that’s supplied in Deadpool Classic #1. He wanted the back story… There are also reprints of major events in a character’s life in trade form – TheNextChampion is covering that angle.

    Also reading Wikipedia really sucks.

    The same shtick gets annoying after a while. Substance – like background information  – adds to the enjoyment of the comicbook. Also you can never have enough foil covers.

  30. @Josh – I resemble that remark!

  31. you see that everyone? Josh thinks you’re all nutbags! (especially TNC) Get him!

  32. You don’t see me arguing do you?

  33. he he! you guys must love my sarcy little comments

  34. @ Edward: Seaguy?  If there were ever a comic that led me to drink, it was that one.  Sure, you can jump on at any point and not feel any more lost than you would if you started at the beginning, but that’s hardly a selling point.  😉

  35. Wikipedia makes me murderous.

  36. Josh himself in a podcast said he didn’t like or get Brubaker’s Captain America until he went back and read it from issue #1.  It’s actually important to read stories from the beginning.

    For example New Avengers by Bendis should be read from the first paperback "Breakout" or the hardcover vol. 1.  Amazon.com is the best way to go.  And just jumping in can be unexciting.

  37. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I think the distinction here is that, if the first issue isn’t available to you, you shouldn’t let that stop you from reading a book you want to read, especially in the case of longer ongoing series with multiple authors.  Nothing wrong with starting with the beginning of an arc.  But just because Action Comics is in the three digits doesn’t mean you can’t start there.  It doesn’t mean you have to read from issue one.  

  38. Paul nailed it.

  39. Actually, I haven’t read large swaths of Bendis’ Avengers. I also didn’t read a lot of his Daredevil run.

    It makes every new issue an empty and lonely experience.

  40. @JumpingJupiter  If you want to read something from the start, and you have the time and resources, more power to you.  The perception that I find frustrating — not to speak for anyone else — is that this is the one and only right way to do it.  Since, as other commenters have pointed out, this can be really difficult to do, it creates the perception of a barrier that isn’t really there for a lot of people.

    Speaking from personal experience, I know it was frustrating when I got into comics to be confronted with people who basically told me that my opinion didn’t count because of being a newbie.  "You might think Joss Whedon writes good X-Men stories, but that is because you aren’t informed enough to know any better."  There are plenty of places you can go and find that attitude; I’m grateful that ifanboy isn’t one of them.

  41. I started Astonishing X-Men with issue #14.  I think at some point later I read the first trade.

  42. As Conor once pointed out when he said he would no longer read minis to the end even if they were bad, the rules of reading can’t be said to be 100% true.  The same goes for jumping in.

    Astonishing X-Men is an example of one having to go back and read the previous trades, as well as Captain America.  Those stories wouldn’t make sense without previous issues and the enjoyment would be lessened or lost.  Amazing Spider-Man is easy to jump in, however the latest "Character Assasination" arc wouldn’t make sense without having read the previous stories.  The enjoyment would be lost or lessened.  Even New Avengers, I’d imagine is hard to enjoy where it is now for a new reader.

    I jumped in on Peter David’s She-Hulk never having read Dan Slott’s or previous runs, and I thought it was excellent.  So there are examples of both.  But I think there is no 100% way of jumping in on titles, and that should be ackowledged and dealt with appropriately with each title using helpful advice. 

    You’ll turn readers off by telling them, "Astonishing X-Men #19!  Just jump in!  Go!"  The appropriate advice would be, "Buy the Astonishing X-Men books you find on Amazon.com, read and enjoy those.  Then find the next issue, #13 or so at your comic store or through Ebay.com, and continue reading them from there.

  43. @KickAss: Unless there is a very specific reason, I’m not telling someone to go to Amazon and then to eBay because they want to read a comic book.  I’m telling them to read that comic book they are interested in.

    This is why comics are becoming more and more insular.

  44. I think if you told someone to get say "Astonishing X-Men vol. 1" which collects the first 6 issues, that’s all you need.  They’ll find the rest on their own.  The would be X-Men fan will likely seek out the next issues or volumes, because the quality is there, and it helps that the story makes sense.  And the recommendation is finished right there.

    Suggesting a random issue, the one in stores, whether it be #16 or whichever, might turn the reader off.  The impact of the story is lost, and maybe they’ll find that this comic or comics in general are not for them.

    I jumped in on New Avenegers #13 or so, which was the current issue.  I had no previous knowledge of the book.  But it was enjoyable, and it had Spider-Man in it so I wanted to keep reading.  So I went back and found issues #1-12.  So that is a way it could work, but even then, going back and reading is helpful.  And it definitely helped me understand "Who is Luke Cage? Who is Spider-Woman?  Who is Sentry?  Who are the Avengers?"  All questions I didn’t have answers to, and weren’t clarified in issue #13, but on reading the beginning I did feel a clarification of those questions.  Even then I saw that issue #13 was "part 1" in a series.

    All I’m saying is, it can’t be black and white on "jumping in."  Every title and every reader is different.  It’s a case by case basis.

  45. @KickAss   it seems like you’re letting your own judgments about what might turn the reader off get in the way of the reader making their own choices.  I think anybody who is going to be interested in a book is capable of deciding for themselves if they like it enough to go back and read back issues — or if they think the back issues are necessary.   

  46. deadpool is early on in its run also,  you could also jump in on spiderman with the last issue (the dot one)

  47. http://www.youtube.com/user/DCompose – search for the 101 classes. Fast background information, but if it’s something like the batman thing it will be deeper if you understand his connection to the characters that are said to replace him. Or watch a 90s batman movie… Or look for issues with a recap in the beginning – like in Wolverine: The End (but don’t get Wolverine: The End).

    Or you can always watch that Rammstein video clip where they’re all naked, and abandon comics. Go back to booze?