Daniel M. Clark

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In Brief

It's never been easier to get into comics, says the guy that started in 1985.


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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Every Wednesday, I take a look at a recent Reddit post. Sometimes weird, sometimes thought-provoking, always interesting.

For those unfamiliar with the lingo, “616” is the designation given to the Marvel comics universe. When you pick up The Amazing Spider-Man or X-Men, those stories take place on Earth-616. It’s a multiverse thing.

Can a person read modern comics without having read older comics? YES!

I’m nearing 50 as I write this, and I first became aware of superheroes in the late 70s. They were on my TV every Saturday morning! Into the 1980s, I had some friends who had some comic books, but I didn’t have any of my own until November 1985. The first comic I ever owned was Crisis on Infinite Earths #10, and if you know Crisis, you know that’s a weird place to jump into comics. Tell you what, though. It worked. I’ve been a fan for four decades.

I bought as much as I could back then, and it was easy considering an issue was only 75 cents. That’s a lot of comics for a kid with an allowance of ten dollars a week. (Side note: that’s about $30 in today’s dollars. I could afford more than a dozen comics a week when I was a kid. Today, the same purchasing power buys half that. And they wonder why kids don’t buy comics like they used to.)

I read Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and my favorite: Firestorm. I didn’t need a new #1 to get me started. Superman had just passed #400. Batman was getting close. I just bought whatever the current issues were and figured it out. It wasn’t hard. Comics are great at recapping recent issues whenever a refresher is needed. 

But, that’s the thing that worries people, I think. They’re great at recapping recent issues to catch up the reader. When I got started, there was about 50 years of history with DC Comics and about 25 years with Marvel. It was widely known that the Golden Age stuff didn’t matter to then-modern continuity, and that the Silver Age was winding down, so there really wasn’t any pressure to read everything that came before. We’re 40 years on from that, and it’s understandable that someone hears about The Dark Phoenix Saga and figures they’ll have to read it if they want to understand the X-Men.

You don’t. You really don’t. 

It’s a great story, sure. Seminal. Chris Claremont at his best. John Byrne is a master. But while it’s good reading, it’s not required reading.

I know that because I didn’t read The Dark Phoenix Saga until I was in my 30s. By the time I got to it, I’d been reading X-Men (and X-Factor and Excalibur and New Mutants and Wolverine and… on and on…) for quite a while. My understanding of what was going on hadn’t suffered. Between context clues and characters literally explaining what happened to Jean, I was pretty clear on the whole matter.

Now, all this has been apocryphal. I get it. What worked for me decades ago wouldn’t work today, right?

If you’re concerned about jumping in, I challenge you to start a series you haven’t tried yet without going back to the last #1 issue. If you read on Marvel Unlimited or DC Universe Infinite, that should be easy. Start in the middle of a storyline and see how long it takes to get up to speed. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll be surprised. Only way to know is to try.

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