Comics / Spotlight / Knowledge and Scholarship

Comic books: A beginner's guide


By Gareth Atha
June 5, 2006 - 16:54

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Following on from my article on a parent's guide to collecting comics, here's an article aimed at those of you who are new to the world of collecting comics.

When I started collecting comics I knew only that I had read The Crow and loved the Daredevil movie and wanted to read those books. I also wanted to read other titles as well and didn't really know what was available other than the famous titles such as Spidey and Batman. I went oiff one day to my local shop and asked the guy behind the counter what titles he recommended. He gave me Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes. I bought them and off I went, loving every page I read. I later learned that all comics collectors seem to worship these titles as building blocks for a collection. These books are good. No. They're great, some of the best examples of comic book storytelling there is, but they may not necessarily be the right titles to start your collection off on. You need to find your own feet in this, like everything else. So, if you know you want to start collecting comics for good stories, try some of the more famous titles such as Batman, X-Men and the like, and then move onto the more obscure titles later. Don't worry about buying titles that you may read once, not be too keen on it and never read again. You can always trade them for other titles you want or sell them on eBay, and you'd be surprised what will grow on you as your tastes mature and become more refined.

In my oppinion, you are always better to buy your comics from a local store rather than over the internet. The reason for this is that generally, the stores will protect their comics better than online stores. You'll usually find that the comics in the store are already bagged whilst they are on the shelves. This is important as it protects the covers from damage while they are being moved around by staff/customers.

Having said this though, eBay is a great place to pick up that single issue you have been searching for to complete your collection. The people on eBay are most likely going to be collector's themselves that are selling some duplicates, so the comics you buy from them are likely to be in very good condition (although I advise you not to buy a copy of the book unless the seller has put a picture/scan of it in his item description).

Any comic retailer worth their salt will also sell the necessary accutrements for keeping your books in good condition, such as bags, boards and boxes. If you're buying a lot of items they may also give you a small discount, although this practice varies from shop to shop.

In times past, particularly the "silver age" of comics (from around 1950 to 1979) there used to be only one type of comics, those that told stories relating to people with super powers. The same is not true now, and you can get comics that cover stories from superheroes, film/game tie-ins (particularly Star Wars and Metal Gear Solid), slightly skewed, Tim Burton-esque comics (like Lenore and Gloom Cookie, both excellant titles), and many other types of stories in between. It also helps if you also know someone else who is into collecting comics as well, as you will have someone to discuss your hobby with (many people may not be as enthused as you about the new X-men title) and you also have someone to go to conventions with.

Conventions. Now these places can be a real treat for any comics collector. There aren't many in the UK, but in the US there are some really famous ones like the San Diego Comicon. Well known TV and Film stars are also known to frequent these (Elijah Wood is apparently a big fan). In the UK we tend to have Collector's Fairs, basically a gathering of collector's and traders who get together to discuss comics and buy/sell any that they have. These, like eBay can be great for picking up bargians or the single issue you are missing from a collection (as the size of your collection increases this will become increasingly common). Be warned though, many traders at the fairs charge premium prices.

So there you go, hopefully the advice here will be useful to you. One thing is for certain, you are starting out in a wonderful hobby that will bring you years of pleasure.

If you have any questions you can email me at gareth@comicbookbin.com and I will answer any questions/comments you have.


Last Updated: January 24, 2022 - 11:00

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