I really want to start reading comics but the whole layout of them confuses me. Could you explain it to me. Sorry for being really vague but I can’t explain it. Thanks in advance :)
I think I know just what you mean!
Transitioning from a normal novel into reading sequential art can be incredibly difficult, and intimidating. No one should feel bad for finding comics to be really daunting - the simple fact is, they are!
Don’t try to pick up a random comic and dive right in. Every book is different, and chances are you will just end up frustrating yourself and getting mad. Not sure how every book could be different? Check this out. THIS is a page from JHWIII’s run on Batwoman, while THIS is a page from Darwyn Cooke’s Watchmen prequel, Minutemen. A world of difference! I’ll give you a few minutes to soak in that incredible art, from two of the greatest artists and writers currently working.
It’s okay. Take two minutes. I understand.
Good? Okay. Good.
Now more than ever, comics are an explosion of style and expression. While frustrating, the current MASSIVE variation of artists currently working is one of the best things about the modern comics age. For me, looking at someone like Jill Thompson's work was a great way to ease in to more intimidating panel layouts, and more complicated books.
Okay. Now that I’ve done my art spiel, here’s the real trick to understanding comics as you read them. This book right here. It will absolutely change your nerdy little life, and will send you head-first down the rabbit hole.
(Aspiring writers and artists? You ALSO need this book!)
There is a copy of this book on my comics shelf that has been beat to shit from re-read after re-read. Even now, living and breathing comics, I still refer to it for my own education. It’s a godsend.
What else can I recommend? Take your time! If you’re trying to push through a comic and just pick up the story, you’re wasting the medium. Analyze each panel, chew it, digest it, really get into the pages. Sometimes I physically put my fingers on the page and trace the story from panel to panel. Never rush, take your time. Read a book twice, three times!
Don’t be hard on yourself. Some comics are just straight up confusing. The new DC Animal Man is a beautiful book and a fascinating character, but I had to give it up for confusion. Some artists and books try to do too much with the medium, and alienate the reader. if you get confused, don’t worry about it. Put the book down and walk away. If you come back and it’s still a hot mess? It might not be you!
Here are some examples of books that eased me in to comics, and that I still read today. Pick them up from your Local Comic Store, or follow the ComiXology links!
Stardust (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess)
- Yes, this is not a comic, but here’s the thing. If you can get the Charles Vess illustrated version, do it. Do it! Neil Gaiman is also an accomplished comics writer, and he’s a great stepping stone into comics. The layout of the story, and the accompanying illustrations are a great bridge between novels and comics. (amazon.com page)
Beasts of Burden (Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, Dark Horse comics)
- Yep, I’m nuts for Jill Thompson. Her watercolors are a constant inspiration to me, and her open, simple page layouts make for an incredibly satisfying, easy read. Beasts of Burden is currently in a collected trade, and there’s also a cross-over with Hellboy! Caution: These comics will make you laugh, smile, cry, and hug your pets until they claw their way to freedom. (amazon.com page)
Bone (Jeff Smith, Cartoon Books/Image comics)
- All cards on the table here, I have not read Bone. My study is full of Bone toys, comics, and calenders, and it’s all Marchingjaybird’s. Come to think of it, we have Bone playing cards as well. I am suggesting this series because although I have not read it, I KNOW it’s good. It’s fun, engaging, interesting, and most importantly? Incredibly easy to read. More than that, there is a HELL of a lot of it! Start at the beginning, and by the time you reach the end, you will be a pro. Jeff Smith has a current ongoing series, called RASL. (comixology.com page)
Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, DC comics)
- Okay. I am going to get some flack for this, and probably deservedly so. This might not be a good comic for anyone to start on, but the fact is, it’s what I started on. Watchmen has its faults. A lot of the subject material (Rape, homophobia, hate crimes, murder, child molestation, pretty much everything form every episode of Law & Order SVU ever) is incredibly hard to swallow, and it took me about six months to read the entire thing. But love it or hate it, Watchmen is the best example of how far you can push comics, and how far you can stretch the medium. There’s a reason it has so consistently topped the NYT’s Graphic Novel Bestseller list.
Watchmen won’t be an easy read, it isn’t for anyone, but the fact is - it’s an engaging read. It’s not just a comic, it’s letters, photos, newspaper clippings. It’s packed with supplemental material that will keep you focused and interested from cover to cover. Attempt this if you are brave. Love it or hate it, you will learn a lot from Watchmen. (comixology.com page)
Interested in something you can buy weekly? Find yourself a comic book store, go in, and browse! If something hooks you, sink your teeth in! Right now, I suggest Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, and Avenging Spider-man. Both are great introductions to loads of characters, and the panel layout is simple, interesting, and absolutely fantastic.
I think that’s all I can help you with! And I hope it does help. Comics are incredibly intimidating, but NEVER be afraid to sit down with a book and really take your time going from panel to panel!
(Note: If you meant the weekly/monthly single issue release of comics, and not the actual physical layout, send me another message and I will answer that one as well.)
The problem isn’t just that we have to get folks to buy [Captain Marvel]; it’s that we have to get retailers to order it. The failing of our distribution model is that our customer isn’t really the reader, our customer is whoever places the Diamond order at any store. So if there’s a perception that the book won’t sell, it gets under-ordered and it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here’s a thing that happens to every creator on Twitter on one Wednesday or another: an incredibly sweet reader who really wants to support you, writes to tell you that they tried to buy your book at their [local comic shop] and it was already sold out! It’s only noon, they say! The shop only opened at 10! Your book must’ve flown off the shelves!
And then the creator, not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, says, “Wow! Thanks for your support — better pre-order the next one!” and then they cry into their coffee. Because, friends, selling out by noon on a Wednesday is not good news. Heck, selling out by Thursday is not good news. That means your book was under-ordered — if it was ordered at all. If the consumer wants the product and we can’t get them the product, our system is broken.
I hate the pre-order thing. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Ten years ago, I was complaining about it on the [Warren Ellis forum] — I’m a shopper. I looooove to shop. I will spend money. But I am not going to buy a pair of shoes that I’m expected to order three months in advance and am not able to try on! And that’s what we’re asking of our readers. It’s the dumbest system. No wonder we have problems! Is there another industry that works like this?
And yet, here I am begging you: if you want to read this comic, please, please oh please, oh please: pre-order it. If you want to see more female-led titles from the mainstream publishers, pre-order this book. If you’re not familiar with how to pre-order, or you’re not sure why it’s so important, check in with me on Twitter @kellysue or on my blog at http://www.kellysue.com
— some time in the next couple weeks I’m going to do a step-by-step blog post. Maybe I’ll even do one of those Warren Ellis-style pre-order coupons.
Kelly Sue DeConnick on the dichotomous folly/urgency of pre-ordering comics, and her new “Captain Marvel” series, in an interview by Albert Ching at Newsarama.com. (via bowtiemoustache)
Can we get some serious reblogs on this, people? Not just for Kelly and her amazing creative team, but for the awareness of readers and retailers. Look, we’ve all seen the response to female characters lately. Readers out there of every gender WANT a change, and this is it. A practical, strong female character in a sensible costume. Carol Danvers is an amazing character, and now she has a costume and a look (AND A TITLE!) to match what’s on the inside.
Please spread this around. Show the comics industry that we’re more than just words. It’s easy to talk about what you want to see, but it’s another thing to actually deliver when the time comes to prove how passionate you are. I’m going to tag this with a bunch of people who are important to this message, and I hope can help get it around. All it takes is awareness to make a real change.
(In case you haven’t seen her new look, check it out here. Tell me that isn’t a world away from the likes of Starfire, or even Carol’s old gear.)
I see a lot of people complaining about Jeremy Renner’s archery in the trailers for The Avengers.
Fair enough. He’s not a professional archer. Perhaps whoever trained him should have worked a little harder. Perhaps not. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I am in no way attempting to school or scold the naysayers, please just let me suggest a few things that people might not be considering.
In Terms Of The Movie.
- It’s a big movie. There is a lot going on, and a lot that needed to be done. Jeremy Renner is at the height of his fame, and at the height of making Really A Lot Of Movies. If there wasn’t time for a proper amount of training (like you would expect from a movie where the archer is the focus, like A Robin Hood movie or The Hunger Games), it’s a shame, but I would rather sacrifice form than a more important aspect of the movie.
- We have seen, what, ten minutes of footage? At the very most? The Avengers is two hours, and fifteen minutes long. This fandom seems to have a real problem with judging the entire movie on what we’ve seen in the trailer. If the movie comes out, and Renner spends the whole thing handling a bow like an idiot? I will give you that. But lets just calm our tits until we’ve seen the whole thing.
- Be thankful he’s not using the fucking compound bow from Thor.
- I understand that there are a lot of people that are passionate about Archery, and more power to you. Therefore, I understand why this is being focused on more than other aspects of the movie. But please, consider a few other things. Steve Rogers, frozen in ice for over half a century. The Asgardians. Tony Stark’s…well. Everything. The Hulk running around in Bruce Banner’s pants. Scarlet Johansson doing kick-flips in wedge boots. A flying aircraft carrier. Unrealistic archery might just be the most goddamned realistic thing in this entire movie.
- The stunts. Hawkeye/Jeremy Renner is not going to spend the entire movie standing square in front of a target. There is buttsliding. There is Falling Out Of Things That Are In The Air. For example. If were you currently in this position, would you be worried about your archery form?
No. You wouldn’t. Here is an artistic impression of what I would be doing in the same situation.
Give the guy a break.
In Terms Of The Character.
Ah, Clint Barton. A Deathwish wrapped in a Hypcrite wrapped in a Man-Child wrapped in a Carnie. There’s a lot to the guy, most which probably won’t make it into the movie, but some of it may make you a little more forgiving of aforementioned Poor Archery Style.
- He is not clasically, or even really professionally, trained. A young Clint Barton ran away from an orphanage as a child, with his older brother, and joined the Carson Carnival of Travelling Wonders. Although he was originally trained with a sword (Bet THAT won’t make it into the movie!), he was soon trained to be proficient in archery by this guy.
Now I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t exactly scream Professional Form to me. I think it’s the buttflap.
While there is no way to say which of Clint’s backstories will make it into the film,
(Orphan runs away to carnival and learns to shoot arrows at Iron Man, ties up butler and then AVENGER or Handsome young blonde murders someone and gets thrown in jail, but not before conning his way into an Olympic archery team, only to be sprung by SHIELD and lives to avenge happily ever after)
or even ANY mention of his past at all, I’m having trouble seeing the part where he was professionally trained, by a coach, in the art of proper and professional archery form.
- His swag of trick arrows. Hawkeye is pretty famous for being able to do more than just stick-pointy-end-in-bad-guy. He has a plethora of trick arrows in his quiver that can and will be whipped out at any time to save the day. For example!
- Hawkeye isn’t even an original Avenger! The original lineup consisted of Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, The Wasp, and Ant Man. Yep, no Captain America, either. Hawkeye was brought in when Marvel decided there just wasn’t enough Bronze Age weaponry in their books. So instead of focusing on the faults (archery form, not as much screen time as others, lack of buttflap, etc) why don’t we just thank our lucky starts that Hawkeye’s actually going to be on film? I, for one, never thought it was going to happen!
- I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Hawkeye is more than just the way he holds a bow. If it’s Renner’s fault, if it’s the archery consultant’s fault, who cares. He’s a great character, he’s in the movie, and hopefully that will have the added bonus of getting more people into the character, and more people taking up archery.
- Apologies if I’ve offended anyone with this. I’m not trying to tell anyone they are wrong, or stupid, or that they can’t express their displeasure with something on the internet. That, after all, is what the internet was invented for.
(The Compound Bow panel is from Amazing Spiderman featuring Hawkeye, which I recommend everyone reads for a GREAT insight to Clint’s character, and why being an Avenger is so important to him.)