The year is 1975, Marvel comics has halted production on new stories for the X-Men comics and have instead been reprinting different stories from their earlier run. X-Men had been a dying franchise and was about to be cancelled due to poor sales and general lack of interest…until Marvel decided to publish Giant Size X-Men #1. Now; I’m not sure if this was the plan of The Editor(Marv Wolfman), The Writer(Len Wein) or The Artist(Dave Cockrum) but these men would be creating a multi-million dollar idea. 42 years later and The X-Men are considered one of the biggest franchises Marvel has, but why do I point to this issue as the saving grace? This was the team that introduced us to characters like Nightcrawler, Storm and Colossus as well as make Wolverine a staple for comics in general, paved the way for stories such as Days Of Future Past, The Dark Phoenix Saga and The Trial Of Magneto. This comic is why we know who the X-Men are and since April 1st is it’s anniversary I decided to do an article on it.
Up to this point, The X-Men had just been 5 students of Charles Xavier who happened to go on missions from Time to Time but they were honestly pretty boring and just couldn’t hold up to The Fantastic Four or Spider-Man. With the second team, they added diversity to it by making every member of a different nationality and made sure to focus on them working as a team by building their personalities, giving us their backstories in a very quick but effective way and laying the stepping stones for the group to grow. These weren’t inexperienced heroes either, most of them had a grasp on their powers and we didn’t have to focus entire issues on Wolverine learning how to extend his claws; instead, we got a group that would slowly become a team. Their growth and looking at the character development from 1975 to 1991 is genuinely one of the best parts about the X-Men and we owe it to these three men.
This comic did have one other factor who wouldn’t be added until later : Chris Claremont. Claremont is quite possibly my favorite comic writer of all time. The man is an absolute genius and his work on this series has proven why. He created most of the X-Men characters that we care about and was the man who made all the other characters work. He even made the original 5 X-Men interesting, Something that even Stan Lee couldn’t do for too long.
It can’t be looked over that he also gave us what is arguably Marvel’s best rogue’s gallery. Look at this list : Mystique, Apocalypse, Sabretooth and the Brood just to name a few. All of these characters are incredibly different and each have brilliant backstories that Claremont fleshed out over his run. But, in my opinion, Claremont’s crowning achievement is his work on Magneto. Whether it was his rivalry with Cyclops, his friendship with Professor X or his want to actually live in peace, these were the things that have made Magneto Marvel’s best villain…and one of it’s best characters in general.
This man gave us 16 years of a whole new universe to explore and it was all because of the freedom he was given after Giant Size X-Men #1 and the success of his early run. His earlier books were done by Dave Cockrum but he was followed by the likes of John Byrne, Terry Austin, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Romita Jr., Jim Lee and many others who would give us some truly stunning art over the years and create a mythos that will never die.
Since Giant Size X-Men #1, The X-Men have gone on to have multiple Television Series, Films and Comic Book Series that have been one of Marvel’s leading seller throughout most of the last 30 years or so. The X-Men have grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and it’s not hard to see why. The X-Men will always be a staple of Marvel and it’s all because of four men who took a risk in 1975.
Every person in their lives has a turning point, whether it’s the death of a loved one, a new job, a new city or even a new friend. It’s a constant fact of life that things will happen which will change everything you knew before. The same thing happens in our stories, Frodo finds the ring, Luke loses his aunt and uncle and Bruce loses his parents, these moments affected these characters deeply and set them on a new path and Spider-Man is no different. Peter Parker is a character that has never been unfamiliar with tragedy, his very origin story involves his uncle dying while trying to stop a mugger, later he would witness the death of Captain Stacy and his best friend’s struggle with Drugs but it wasn’t until Amazing Spider-Man #121-#122 when he and comics would truly change forever.
In 1972, Gerry Conway started writing for Amazing Spider-Man, his run on the comic was truly phenomenal and only got better as it went on and it has to be stated that he started writing it while he was only 20 years old which is insane to think of all that he was doing. He began to craft a story that was very personal, his Peter struggled constantly in the same way that he did during Stan Lee’s run but he never stopped being who he was. He had everyday problems like the rest of us and that struggle which made him even more of a relatable character. His love life had almost always been in flux until he got to Gwen, Gwen Stacy was the love of his life and she was perfect for him. She was sweet and kind and everyone who knew her loved her. She was never a big fan of Spider-Man though and even less so after her father died during one of Spider-Man’s fights with Doctor Octopus. Peter was going to explain everything to her and reveal his identity to her when the tragedy struck.
Norman Osborn had returned as the Green Goblin and found out that Peter Parker and Spider-Man were the same person. He kidnapped Gwen to draw Peter out and took to the top of the George Washington Bridge. A battle ensues where Gwen is pushed off the edge of the bridge, Spider-Man has seconds to act and he spins a web to catch her and it grabs her ankle but the whiplash causes her neck to snap. Peter doesn’t realize what he’s done until he pulls her up and resuscitate her.
This moment shook the character and the world of comics as a whole, it’s ramifications are still felt today in the issues of Spider-Man’s various comics. This turning point caused us to realize that our heroes can fail. Up until this point every hero was always able to save the day…until Spider-Man. Now, I can hear people already : “So, you hate Spider-Man?” or “So you think he’s a bad hero?” Nope. Spider-Man will always be one of the world’s greatest even after everything that happened and it’s how they wrote it that makes it that way. Peter is devastated after Gwen’s death and his entire career after that is working to avoid that situation but when it ultimately comes down to it : it was no one’s fault. It was a tragic accident that no one could’ve helped. It was a moment where we truly felt connected with Spider-Man because we’ve all felt helpless before where no matter how hard we try to fix something it never seems to get any better. But what do we do when that happens? Do we give up? No, we carry on like Peter does. His choices following this moment all have immensely more weight to them due to this and are even felt today.
It has to be spoken of how great of a job they did with the Peter and Gwen relationship in The Amazing Spider-Man films. I know, they may not be the best movies but the two of are done incredibly well in them and I loved that they handled her death in a very personal way that really focused on Peter’s love for her.
Gwen Stacy has since become an even more important character in the comics now due to where she stands as a figure of Peter’s past and his constant reminder of how to carry on. Different stories have referenced her in the years since she’s been gone and some of them have been awful but stories like Marvels,Spider-Man : Blue and The Clone Conspiracy have handled her incredibly well and made her character much more than just a girlfriend who died. Gwen was his life and he lost her that night.
Comics 101 is a series I’m doing which focuses on different facets of the Comic Book industry as a whole. Each article can be read separately without having to read other articles first so you can read at your own pace, or if you wanna read them all in order then hit that button at the top right of the page. The purpose of these articles is to make comics more accessible to people who aren’t too familiar with them. This article will be talking about the films based on comics, which is where most people begin with these characters and stories.(Including me) So let’s get to it!
(Real quick though, obviously I can’t mention every single film that we’ve had over the years so please excuse me if I skip over any of them.)
Throughout the years we’ve seen multiple different versions of some of our favorite characters on the big screen. Currently, Batman and Superman still have the most on screen appearances but characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man are definitely catching up to them. Why do these characters work so well on screen and why have some been almost oscar worthy and others have been almost unwatchable? Well that’s what I’m here for.
The films of DC’s Heroes go back to the classic Batman and Superman Serials of the 1940’s. Different characters starred in different serials as the popularity grew but it all unfortunately withered away following the end of World War II and the death of George Reeves.(The actor who played Superman.) Most of these characters wouldn’t see the screen again until the late sixties where we got Adam West as Batman in the film which spawned the T.V. Show(But we’ll be talking about those next time)
DC did really well on the big screen with the success of Superman in 1978 which was highly praised and got three sequels and one spin-off with Supergirl. I still love the first Superman movie and I will say that it’s the best live action version of the character as of this writing. The second film was a lot of fun as well but it struggles with itself due to director/producer power struggles and the third and fourth films are better left forgotten. Batman in 1989 did just as well as the first Superman and also got three sequels which I struggle with because, yes I grew up with all four of these films but as I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized that even the ones we thought were good just weren’t as good as we really thought.(I’d be happy to do reviews of these if anyone would like my opinion on them.)
1997’s Batman and Robin was and still is widely considered to be one of the worst superhero films of all time and because of it’s failings it would be eight long years before DC would release their next big film : Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.
In 2005, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan gave us Batman Begins. In the film, we get to see Bruce Wayne in a very realistic setting. This Batman is one that could happen in real life so all of the villains in the trilogy are grounded in reality such as Ra’s Al Ghul, A toned down Scarecrow, Two-Face, Catwoman and a Venomless Bane. This would lead to two sequels : The Dark Knight, (which is widely considered to be the greatest comic book movie of all time) and The Dark Knight Rises (Which isn’t looked on as fondly as it’s predecessor, unfortunately. But it was just really hard to top that greatness.)
These films were widely considered a turning point for comic book movies as a whole with Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and the rest all giving Oscar caliber performances and with Screen writing that was as air tight as you could make it. The Dark Knight never wastes a single scene, every single one in there is there because it needs to be. Seriously, go rewatch Dark Knight and then watch any other movie and the Dark Knight has more scenes that actually move the story along. It’s a masterpiece of Filmmaking and should be carried down and talked about for years to come.
Also, it has this scene which is one of my all time favorites…as in film in general, not just comic book movies :
In 2006, Bryan Singer released Superman Returns. It wasn’t well received by many critics and fans and I was among that number until recently. It’s honestly not as bad as I originally thought, it just isn’t as good as it could be or should be.
Throughout the next few years DC released dud after dud with films like Jonah Hex and Green Lantern. It wasn’t until 2013’s Man of Steel that they would have a successful film that wasn’t Batman related…which is kinda funny cause it immediately lead to them making Batman V. Superman : Dawn Of Justice to attempt to follow the powerhouse success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. This latest DC Cinematic Universe that they’re trying to build has hit quite a few snags in the last month, let alone the last year. I’m a solid DC Comics fan but I agree with most people that their films are falling short, I have hopes for Wonder Woman but I wouldn’t be surprised if this fall’s Justice League is the last DC film that we see for a while.
Unless they let me write them…
The 1960’s were a great time to be a fan of Marvel with their merchandise, television appearances and comics being everywhere but much like the roaring twenties it all came to a screeching halt in the mid 80’s for Marvel. While their comics were on the rise, their films had been commercial and financial flops at the box office with films like Howard The Duck and The Punisher they kept trying to get back to where they had been with their shows but they couldn’t find any big studio that wanted to help them which resulted in the 90’s versions of Fantastic Four and Captain America. Both of which were never properly released in theaters and considered to be genuinely terrible films. With their films flopping under their guidance they began to sell off their film rights to any studio that they could just to keep the lights on. This was a terribly low point for Marvel and this act of selling, in the mid 90’s, would go on to still have ramifications almost 20 years later. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Now it’s around this time that we see Marvel just start bombarding us with films. After the early success of Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man we then got a plethora of sequels and spin-offs which lead to incredibly high points such as Spider-Man 2 and incredibly low points such as Elektra.
The Spider-Man franchise was really great for their first two films and then the third one just fell off the deep end unlike any other. Although many people complained about him I always really liked Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, I fully understand that I’m in the minority of that discussion and I also understand everyone’s complaints about him but I think he manages to pull off Peter Parker very well. After Spider-Man 3 was a critical disaster, the following reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 was headed up by Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. Both this film and it’s Sequel were met with lukewarm responses from a critical standpoint but no one had a bad word to say about Garfield or Stone who were brilliant in their roles.
The most successful of these Franchises would have to be 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise but once again it was plagued with High points like X-Men : First Class and low points like X-Men The Last Stand, X-Men Origins : Wolverine and X-Men : Apocalypse. These films have all been carrying on through the years and they’re still going strong..which I am both happy and sadabout but we’ll get to that momentarily.
Many different studios besides Fox all owned different properties which is why we never saw any crossovers for a long time until in 2008 they released their first film which would take Marvel leaps and bounds beyond what they were already at : Iron Man. TheIron Man film was the brainchild of Producer Kevin Feige and Director Jon Favreau, Favreau gave us an amazing first film and Feige began working on the rest of the building blocks that would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the following four years, Feige headed up the concept of Marvel creating their own studio and building The Avengers Team on screen by showing their different films for Hulk, Captain America and Thor while having characters like Black Widow and Hawkeye make small appearances in the other films before they all came together in Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012, which was also the first official Marvel Studios Film.
Avengers was incredibly well received and since then Marvel has only gotten better. With a backing of new and old fans Marvel has had the freedom of building up their roster of Characters which gives us Powerhouses like Black Panther but also gives us the more odd choices like Guardians of the Galaxy. They earned our trust by handling these films with the attitude of building the best possible story. Which also leads to this scene which is another one of all time favorite scenes in film :
They cut it off a bit soon but they both survive and Bucky actually saves Steve from Drowning.
Marvel has just connected everything so beautifully that we can enjoy multiple different cameos of other characters that it truly feels like Marvel Comics come to life and that’s why we love them so much.
Now, the main reason I have issues with Fox is because they won’t release the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four back to Marvel. Now you might be thinking : “well they’d lose money.” Well tell that to Sony. Sony allowed Spider-Man to be in Captain America : Civil War with their merger and because of it everybody wins. Each company gets a percentage of the profits and we get to see Spider-Man with the Avengers. It’s perfect for everyone!
Now if only we could get X-Men in there…
And I don’t even like the Fantastic Four that much but I know that they can be a lot better than those last three awful films so give them back to Marvel too!
Yes, I hadn’t forgotten about the Film versions of some of our favorite Independent Comics(Any comic that isn’t from Marvel or DC) There’s many out there but I’m just going to be looking at two of the biggest ones in this article.
The first major one was The Crow in 1994, it’s dark aesthetic and the brilliant performance by Brandon Lee is what makes this film work. Eric Draven isn’t really a hero. Instead he’s basically just a man on a revenge quest. It was a great film overall and definitely deserves a viewing.
Another major comic book adaptation was SIn City which was almost shot for shot from the comic during the first film and it connected the stories well and made you want to know more about this world of wild characters but for some reason the second lost a lot of what made the first one great. Mickey Rourke as Marv will always be one of my favorite performances and he’s great in both films and honestly makes them worth it.
I’ve never actually seen either of the Judge Dredd films but I plan on checking those out soon. Also, yes, I refused to mention Spawn anymore than I had to.
What makes one great?
We’ve covered a lot of different films in this article and I skipped over quite a bit just so I could hit the big points in the history but we’ve mentioned really great and really bad versions of these properties. So what makes one great? Well I think that for a lot of people Comics and their characters mean different things to different people and that’s why these productions are difficult unless they’re taken with a serious attitude. The greatest danger that we face is the concept of people taking over these productions and either not caring about the source material or caring about it for the wrong reasons. This is what I think certain companies forget while they’re coming up with their stories. They focus so much on what will work with audiences that they forget why they’re doing this in the first place. I will admit, fans are the hardest people to please and I believe that as long as the characters are true and the changes that are made don’t change who they are then that adaptation can still be a good film. Every comic book film is going to take some liberties but it’s more about the characters and who they are than if the costume looks cool.
In closing, these films mean a lot to me and to a lot of other people. They’re what we typically start with and it’s why we love these characters. Everyone has their moment when they truly became a comic book fan and mine was the first Spider-Man film and because of that, Spider-Man will always have a special place in my heart. What was your moment?
New to comics? Great! I have way too much information about the subject so I decided to do a series of articles on it. Last time, we discussed how comics are for everyone to enjoy and today we’ll be discussing the differences of the two primary comic companies: DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Most people are either a Marvel or a DC fan. I absolutely love both, they’ve both done amazing things for the industry as a whole and comics would not be where they are without them. Naturally I won’t be able to go over every detail of the two companies but I can at least get the basics down in this one and then build from there in future segments. One of my first thoughts when starting this series was clearing up the who’s who of comic book characters and what company do they belong to. Why isn’t Batman a part of the Avengers? Why can’t Spider-Man join the Teen Titans? All of these questions and more will be answered soon enough.
In the mid 1930’s, comics weren’t anywhere near as big as they would become in the next five to ten years nor had anyone heard or thought of the concept of the superhero yet. Most of your comics were reprints of the comic strips you would find in the Sunday paper until a few smart businessmen, writers and artists started to publish their own material in the books. Now any comic fan or historian has their own choice of who did this first, was it Martin Goodman? Was it Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson or was it Jerry Siegal and Joe Shuster’s Superman that was the first? In all honesty it’s anyone’s guess. That period of time had many other things to worry about such as the end of the great depression or the oncoming war in Europe that no one really focused on comics yet…but they soon would.
In 1937, Detective Comics premiered under National Publications. Now, this is an important title to remember for two reasons:
It’s the comic where Batman got his start, 27 issues later.
It’s the reason that same company would be called “DC”
DC is unquestionably the first of the major comic companies and as such, we’ll be talking about them first.
The Teen Titans – Team
The Justice League – Team
Ra’s Al Ghul
The Suicide Squad – Team
The Injustice League – Team
Throughout it’s extensive history DC has had some major landmark moments such as creating the Superhero genre, introducing some of the 20th century’s most endearing characters, starting the silver age of comics,(Showcase #4) buying up multiple comic companies in the 60’s and 70’s, (Thus, doubling their roster with the likes of Captain Marvel/Shazam, Blue Beetle and The Question) and of course, having the first major superhero film and show.(Batman ’66) It has naturally had to change with the times over the years, as is to be expected but by doing that they also revolutionized the same industry that they helped to create. What I’m primarily referring to is the idea of Multiverse.(I’ll be going more into that in Part 4 or 5 of Comics 101.) The basic premise of the idea is that there are multiple earths/universes happening simultaneously, some with small differences (like Clark Kent not becoming Superman until his mid twenties) and some with massive changes (like Clark Kent becoming Ultraman, an evil superpowered dictator.) The main reason for this was to explain how there could be so many different versions of the same comic characters, like an older and younger Superman who are in the same universe but one of them is from a different earth…Which leads me to the main thing that separates DC from Marvel: Legacy Characters.
Legacy characters are a very important and key aspect to the infrastructure of DC comics. The main reasons for this is because almost every hero in DC has another hero before or after them. Whether it’s Nightwing, Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl or Aqualad they are the ones who will one day inherit what their mentors left behind. These characters have gone on to become some of DC’s biggest stars, Nightwing alone has gathered a huge following since he switched from Robin in 1984. Some could even say that some of these characters are more popular then their predecessors, prime example for this being Wally West being more popular as the Flash than Barry Allen. (Admittedly that last point could easily be contested but I’m just speaking in generalities based upon my generation’s love of Wally.)
DC Flourished throughout the years creating the first Superhero, the first superhero team,(The Justice Society of America) creating the first team of Teenagers,(The Teen Titans) making Batman the Dark Knight that he was meant to be,(Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams run in the 70’s), creating the first event comic,(Crisis On Infinite Earths) helping to make the 80’s one of the best decades for comics and of course, helping to make the 90’s almost unbearable to read. In 70 plus years, it’s been a great company that for better or for worse can’t and shouldn’t be forgotten or unread by any comic fan.
So why do the multiverse and legacy characters matter to DC but not to Marvel? Well the multiverse does matter to Marvel,(See 2015’s Secret Wars and the preceding Avengers and New Avengers runs by Jonathan Hickman) just not quite as much as it does to DC. As for the legacy characters, the thought process comes from the fact that Stan Lee didn’t really like Sidekicks. In his career, characters like Bucky Barnes and Rick Jones were really the only technical sidekicks he created. He always dealt more with the ideas of teams like X-Men, Fantastic Four and the Avengers.
Speaking of Marvel…let’s head on over to their side
Guardians Of The Galaxy(Team)
The Thunderbolts(Team of reformed villains so technically they’re anti heroes)
Masters Of Evil(Team)
Brotherhood of Evil Mutants(Team)
The Sinister Six(Team)
Marvel began back in the late 30’s as Timely Comics, creating characters like Namor and the first Human Torch and of course, Captain America. The main problem with the heroes of Marvel(and to some extent those of DC as well) was the fact that most of them began because of the second world war. So why have those heroes if there wasn’t a war? These were the questions that the companies would ask during the late 40’s and early 50’s. They took some characters and tried to adapt them into horror comics, which had horrendous consequences when Frederic Wertham tried to ban comics during the 50’s. It got bad enough that Marvel, which was currently called Atlas Comics, was about to go bankrupt and close the doors forever. Stan Lee, who was about to leave the company, was given free reign to write anything he wanted to and so he created a family of superheroes, the first family, the Fantastic Four and then Marvel became a global phenomenon. Character after character and story after story, Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Mantlo, Layton, Thomas, Aparo and the rest were building the company into something that would shape the the history of comics for the next 50 years.
Marvel has also had many great moments in their history such as bringing back Captain America,(Avengers #4) Creating the first Anti-Hero,(The Punisher) creating stories that feature real life events, (Amazing Spider-Man 98-100 where Peter tackles the growing problem of Drugs) creating the first main Graphic Novel,(The Death of Captain Marvel) utilizing the first cross media publication rights,(Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Transformers, ROM, Secret Wars and many others) helping to make the 80’s one of the greatest decades in comics and of course, helping to make the 90’s unbearable to read.
Overall, both of these companies have clearly given much to the lore and history of comics. For many fans, they are the only comics. I’ve loved both of them for very different reasons throughout the entirety of my life and I always will.
Next time on Comics 101 we get to talk about the films, how they got started, why certain characters can’t crossover and how they’ve affected the comic fandom as a whole. Did it help it or hurt it? Check back soon to find out.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that they want to get into comics but they have no idea how to or where to start. Well that’s where I come in. I like to consider myself an expert on the subject and would be happy to teach or guide you however I can. The comments section is open for a reason and you can always contact me on Facebook if anyone has any questions for me or my fellow writers. What I plan on doing in this series of article is going through the history, themes, stories and characters of comics. My hope is that instead of seeing 78 years and millions of issues to catch up on, you’ll find that comics are something that changes as much as the times around them. So let’s get down to it.
Comics are for all of us.
A few weeks ago, A friend of mine was asking questions about comics and he asked me a question that I hadn’t truly thought about : Why do you love Comics? It took me a while to answer him and I came up with 2 answers.
I have to say that what I truly enjoy about comics is the idea of a Hero. Someone who is willing to drop everything and use the abilities they have to help others. Sure, there are anti-heroes and villains out there that I enjoy reading but at the heart of it, Heroes are my favorite part of comics.
I love that there are comics for everyone, there’s a connection between everyone who reads that we are akin to the great world travelers but we, instead, have gone to other worlds and seen phenomenal things in our minds eye.
So how can others get in on this?
Well first and foremost, if you’re reading this then you can read comics. Congratulations! From the 3 year old learning words through an issue of Archie’s Digest to the physicist that can’t wait for the next issue of Avatarex by Grant Morrison, comics are truly a medium that’s open for everyone and let me go ahead and make something abundantly clear to all of our readers : No matter what we say or how much we write against something, never let it affect your thinking about a subject. Seriously, do you like a comic that I hate? That’s awesome, let’s talk about it like good, intelligent people. No hate spewing or arguments that can’t go beyond “Ugh, it’s stupid.” I enjoy friendly debates but I can’t stand it when people don’t know how to defend their points. So knowing that this subject is open to all readers then let’s get started.
In Recent years Comics and their many characters have taken on a new life, primarily on our film and television screens, and it’s a great time to get in on the stories. The question of where to start is a very broad one but when it really comes down to it, it’s up to you: The Reader. Who are your favorite characters? Which ones interest you? Are there certain creators or storylines you’ve heard of? These are the questions that everyone asks sooner or later and I was no different. Growing up in the late 90’s and early 00’s Marvel was at a cinematic Golden Age with The early X-Men and Spider-Man films being received fairly well by critics and fans alike but none of that really mattered to an 8 year old. I loved seeing the different characters interact and I watched shows like Justice League and X-Men : Evolution every chance I could and I craved more of these wild, ambitious stories. So I went to the library and picked out two books that would ultimately change my entire life and really be the first stepping stones to leading us here : Essential X-Men Vol. 2 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austinand Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, using these books I learned more about the X-Men and the Marvel universe as a whole. You have to begin with what is familiar to you and to what you enjoy. So when it comes to reading older stories the best thing to do is pick up a few of characters that you love and go from there. Not everything’s gonna be great but you never know until you read it.
So, in closing out this first segment, read what looks good. You just have to start somewhere, I’m gonna give you a few titles that are great for first timers and might give you a good starting point for some great characters. If you don’t like these then try out a few different ones. Like I said, Comics are for everyone.
Marvel Comics :
Hawkeye : My Life as A Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja.
This is a great opening arc of a fairly short run of comics that focuses on what Clint Barton does when he’s not with the Avengers. He’s still great and although his personal life is very different than it is in the films but it’s still pretty accessible for new readers.
Marvels By Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross.
This is a great book for literally anyone. The art in it is similar to a still life painting and the characterization is exceptional. Busiek makes you care for Phil Sheldon as you would any of the main Marvel characters and you get to see a different side of the story, The side of the civilians and their reactions to the many different strange and wondrous things that happen in the long history of the Marvel universe.
Marvel Masterworks : Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Here is where you’ll get a great start on Spider-Man and you get to read some stories by “The Man” himself. The first few issues in this Graphic Novel have some great villainous appearances from the likes of Doctor Octopus, The Lizard, Sandman, The Chameleon and many others.
DC Comics :
Superman : Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank
I’m a bit biased on this one because this is probably my second or third favorite comic story of all time. It’s a story split up into six different parts each focusing on a different aspect of Superman’s life. Starting with his time as Superboy and leading up to him finally saving Metropolis and changing the town for the better. It’s a good introduction of the characters surrounding Superman like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen and villains like Metallo and Parasite. The true power of this story comes from the characterization of Superman and Lex Luthor, Luthor will always be my favorite DC Villain and this story is one of the main reasons for that. He is the antithesis to Superman in every way possible and I think that’s why he works so well, even if he’s written in the light of someone trying to be a better person he still goes about it in a way that is completely different from the way Clark would handle it. This story is just an all around great introduction to every character featured in it.
Batman : Zero Year by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Going from one of my favorites to one of WiseSage’s favorites. Scott Snyder is clearly the greatest writer of modern comics, This will be viewed as blasphemy to many readers and I can understand that you may like other writers better but you can’t deny that Snyder is the King. This story is arguably his best, It’s a newer origin for Batman but it works so well because it doesn’t focus on the boy in the alley, it focuses on the man in the mansion. Instead of rehashing scene after scene of the pearls dropping he gets into the head of a man who has to overcome a terrible tragedy and become the hero that his city needs. I also love that it uses flashbacks to tell the origin instead of telling it chronologically, it works really well and makes it exciting and accessible to read.
New Teen Titans Vol. 1 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
My generation had Teen Titans on Cartoon Network and now a younger generation has Teen Titans Go! both are great in my opinion for vastly different reasons but that’s an article for another time. The stories in this book are a great start for anyone looking to read some great Teen Titans fun, It starts off by bringing the team together and then it was during a time where each issue had a different villain so you get a good summary of their rogues gallery throughout the series.