The Perfect Jumping-On Point Is In Your Hands

imgres-1Imagine a typical Wednesday. You’re standing in your local comic shop, staring wide-eyed at a wall of the week’s current comic offerings. You’re trying to figure out which of these books deserves to come home with you. You’ve got a limited budget for comics; you don’t want to spend your cash willy-nilly. You’re itching for something new, something fresh. But you seem to always go for the familiar, the books you’ve been collecting without fail for years. Your old pals the Avengers and The Fantastic Four never disappoint. You know what to expect from these venerable characters and generally speaking their comics deliver the entertaining but predictable goods. Truth be told, there’s something that’s stopping you from sampling new titles. There’s something that’s holding your back when it comes to broadening your horizons and exploring new characters and new storylines.

You’ve always heard good things about Alpha Flight, but you just can’t seem to pull the trigger. Animal Man? I’m intrigued, but…  Fear not. This is all perfectly normal.  Simply put, you’re dealing with an age-old problem for comic book readers looking to branch out. You thumb through a random issue of BPRD and wonder to yourself: Is this a good place to start? You eyeball Hellblazer #299 and think silently to yourself: Is this the right time for me to get on the John Constantine train? That’s right, you’re dealing with a question that echoes through comic stores across the country each week. Is this a good jumping-on point?imgres-3

“Jumping-on point.” Say it with me. Let it hang in the air there for a moment. What does it really mean? It’s like you’re standing on a subway platform, the comic book train is speeding by and you’re contemplating just the right time to hop on in a way that won’t result in your complete bodily obliteration or at least the wasting of three or four of your hard-earned greenbacks.  When it comes to uncharted comic book territory, you try to find that story arc sweet spot, that place where you at least have some sense of what the heck is going on. But what if you’ve missed something critical? What if you can’t figure out what’s happening in a book’s plot? What if you miss a reference to something from previous issues? There are a lot of risks when it comes to dipping your toes in the waters of the unfamiliar title or character. And comics ain’t cheap, so you can see why people might be a little tentative when it comes to dropping in on a random issues of an established ongoing series.

url-1Aside from the occasional one-shot, today’s comics come out as serialized arcs, so there’s always a chance that you’ll come into a story with things already well underway. Don’t worry. It’s okay to drop into a story that’s already into the meat of its plot. We do it all the time with movies on TV, right? Our brains have an uncanny ability to fill in the blanks and put the pieces of a story puzzle together, even if we’re missing some key pieces. Why should comics be any different? It’s actually part of the fun when you think about it. Sure, a partial narrative may compel you to seek out back issues of a title for answers, but is that a bad thing? I will say that if an issue is solicited with the phrase “the startling conclusion” or something along those lines, then maybe you want to wait a month or double back to a couple issues before. Sometimes the ol’ mopping up/epilogue issue can be a bit of a letdown, as it may not be fully indicative of a title’s potential. Still, these are risks we as comic readers should be willing to take.

Comic book publishers will attempt to make jumping on to titles easier on us by dropping number one issues onto the market with reckless abandon. The idea isn’t rocket science. People are more inclined to start buying a book from the beginning, so why not reset to number one whenever possible.  But while the rebooting and renumbering of comics isn’t going away any time soon, you will at some point find yourself faced with the reality that sampling new titles sometimes just takes a leap of faith and a willingness to accept the reality that’s its simple a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. Waiting around for a “perfect” jumping-on point is ultimately doing yourself a disservice.imgres-4

In the end, if you want to really open the floodgates of the comics reading experience and explore new worlds, then you’re going to have to take some risks. You’re going to have to accept that the term “jumping on point” is what you make of it and can come whenever you simply pick up a comic, crack the cover and start reading. With this in mind, I implore those waiting on the great comic book subway platform to simply close your eyes, put your trust in the universe and jump on. There will be mishaps. You will have to think. You will have to fill in the blanks at times. And yes, there will be those occasions when your get to the end of a new title and have absolutely no idea what just happened. However, none of these potentialities should stop you from embracing the simple idea that the best jumping-on point for any given comic is right now.

Gabe Roth is a TV writer trapped in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He’s @gaberoth on Twitter.


  1. I can’t remember the last time I tried just buying an issue of a long running comic, maybe “Back in Black” in ASM? I could’ve done it when Lemire took over JLD (a decision inregret now, those issues that I put back on the shelf got snatched up quick), but I’m considering doing it on “Green Arrow #17”. I actually did read Mark Waid’s DD volume 2 before 1 and even tho I was a little thrown by the story, I followed along ok. Some series are just not great for hopping on whenever, it doesn’t help that alot (or at least the titles im picking up that I’ve followed for months anyway) don’t use recap pages anymore. More could be done by publishers to make new readers feel welcome; for instance last week I was reading a review of JLD #15 or 16, and at the end the writer wrote if it was a good jumping on point (it was, but he recommend picking up 14 to be safe). That is a great idea to me, “this issue is new reader friendly” or “pick up this month and last month’s issue and you’ll follow along fine”. Maybe instead of putting “WTF” on their covers they could put “New Readers Welcome” or something. A slightly more expensive idea may be for FCBD, have a copy of every series that explains everything from last year to catch people up; a Zero issue if you will.

  2. Your last sentence referenced not one, but two Van Halen songs. Well played?

  3. I’m always firmly of the mind-set that just about any time is a good jumping on point. It’s worked out well for me so far. Don’t be afraid to pick up an issue of a book, and if you really like it you will find yourself seeking out relevant things that you missed. Back in 2002 when I was getting back into comics there were tons of characters and books I had no clue about, but I found myself diving in and everything worked out find. Now in the age of the “New 52” it’s even easier to jump on without much trouble.

  4. It was about time this topic was discussed in such a manner. Recently it seems all we read about is how the numbers are too high and people claim to have a hard time just jumping in without doing so from Number One. Nonsense. That whining is probably part of the whole “New 52” launch and why it has fizzled like a wet firecracker. People know going in these are serialized stories, and with the availability of trades now it is easier than ever to read a characters back-story. The best time for reading a book a person is unfamiliar with is the second it catches your attention, read it, and go from there.

    • What book has a number that’s too high? Every Big 2 book out there right now has been relaunched or renumbered, some more than twice. In the last 5 years we have had 2 Uncanny relaunches, 3 Captain America relaunches, 2 Iron Man relaunches and 1 renumbering, a multitude of Avenger relaunches, handful of Thor relaunches, 2 Hulk relaunches, so need I continue?

      And if the New 52 proved anything, it proved that reboots don’t work. Sales of Batman, Detective, Superman, and Action titles over the years prove that high numbers don’t matter if the content is good or compelling. Even people who know nothing about comics would not look at a display in a comic book store and say “This is only the 16th issue of Superman?”

      Comic book sales are suffering these days despite the ease of entry. Flooding the market with 52 monthly books, and that’s one publisher, is what is hurting sales.

    • But the reboot DID work – it gave DC their best year in a long time and if they haven’t dropped off as far as people think. A whole mess of people DID start picking up books up – the problem is SUSTAINING that readership not CREATING it.

    • I meant pre-New 52, there was Batman 700-something, Detective 900 was coming up, but DC is marking that with something called “The 900” for that anniversary. Just it was coming across that too many people were beefing about a fear of jumping on due to those high numbers. But both Marvel and DC have used needless relaunches to death to appease that fear. To the detriment of telling good stories in a lot of cases…

    • Frankly, I’d be happier if more comics followed the “Hellboy” approach of packaging each arc as a distinct mini-series.

  5. Gabe, first: “It’s like you’re standing on a subway platform, the comic book train is speeding by and you’re contemplating just the right time to hop on in a way that won’t result in your complete bodily obliteration…” Too soon, man. Too soon.

    Second, I’d like to know what kind of sales surge happens when a book is marketed as “a good jumping on point.” Quite frankly, now is a great time to just grab a book if one is interested. (insert old prospector voice here:) Back in my day, you didn’t have comic shops to go find back issues if you bought issue #176 at the local Kroger’s, and liked it enough to read the previous issues. You just bought it and held on for the ride! (normal voice back on:) All the “young’uns” out there: yeah, don’t worry about the issue number or if it’s a jumping on point or not. Only YOU – once you’ve read it – will know if you want to keep reading it. Don’t listen to the hype unless it comes from a trusted source, like a friend or LCS employees (NEVER listen to the company tripe). Sure you will have spent $3-4 on something you don’t know if you’ll like, but trying is better than never trying at all:

    “Why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

  6. I had always been afraid to jump into a title in the middle of its run until I decided to pick up a random issue of Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery.
    Am I ever glad I did.

  7. I just started buying comics a year or 2 ago so everything so far has been a bit of a test the waters with different books. Really great opportunities with Marvel Now! and the New 52 with the whole renumbering, and a lot of the titles I tried were long into their run such as ASM and Deadpool. I really do like resting out new series such as Nova this week along with JLA and next week I`ll give Guardians of the Galaxy a shot.

  8. I remember that as a young comic fan I loved jumping into the middle of a series. There was all this stuff going on and backstory and characters and history, and I would get all excited and want to explore their past. I wanted to stick with it so I could be savvy to the cool stuff happening, too. I like jumping on points now mostly because the companies create them. But if they didn’t, I would still pick up new comics and try them.

  9. Ever since I started reading things digitally, I’ve been less concerned about this…because generally I can just go back to issue #1 and start from there. As for jumping on or jumping back onto an ongoing series…most series that are that high up in their numbers probably aren’t that interesting to me anymore. Unless it’s a creator I like doing a three or four issue arc (like when Eric Powell did that awesome Superman/Bizarro story).

  10. This was never a problem when I was a kid. Almost every omicron back then was a long running book numbered in the hundreds. You just saw something that interested you, you bought it, you read it, you figured stuff out. But kids are more likely o do that. Now, comics are written for adults, who spend more time over thinking things, worrying, and whining. You know what’s a good jumping on point? Whenever you want.

  11. This is all fine and good, but I suspect that people who are sufficiently invested in comics to visit sites like iFanboy are not the ones who have this problem. It’s the more casual readers.