I was looking back at the first comic that ‘properly’ got me into comics only recently (for reasons I hope will become clear in the future!), and thinking about Gateway Comics in general.
I say ‘properly’ because from year dot I was reading comics like The Beano and The Dandy, so pinning down the actual first issue that got me into comics would be impossible, but I remember the first comic that got me into American Superhero comics, and it was both weird and completely appropriate.
I’ve mentioned it on here before, but it was a UK reprint of the second issues of both Fantastic Four and Iron Man, but they were the Heroes Reborn volumes. So already in my head I’ve got the old Stan Lee mantra that “Every comic is someone’s first”, but even so the second issues of Heroes Reborn titles is a pretty strange jumping on point.
Except it’s not really. Heroes Reborn, for all its many faults, shed itself of the decades of continuity and presented these iconic characters in a way that was easily accessible for new readers. Sure, they weren’t the best representations of these characters, but once I’d gotten into those issues, after a while it opened back up to Heroes Return and I was dropped into the Marvel Universe proper.
So picking up on Keiron Gillen’s tweet –
So… this leads to the obvious question: what books would YOU recommend to someone wanting to read comics? #GatewayComics
— Kieron Gillen (@kierongillen) May 13, 2016
– I started thinking about what comics I’d recommend to friends, family, or those just interested in knowing what the hell it is I see in Comic Books. Here’s my list of Gateway Comics
All Star Superman
I only read this recently but it’s a perfect encapsulation of the character, and a new comic reader will love it, but then years later when they’re familiar with the genre tropes and rich history of the universe (specifically the DC Universe) they’d get so much more out of it.
Like Heroes Reborn in a way, the Ultimate Universe was deliberately designed to be a great jumping on point, devoid of complex continuity. It fell away from that concept when it got its own complex contnuity (hello Ultimatum) but this series in its entirety is still fantastic and relatively stand alone.
A book I would happily give to my (as yet non-existent) children as their first comic, Ms. Marvel takes the trope of ‘normal kid gets super powers and has to juggle the ordinary with the extraordinary’ absolutely brilliantly. Looks gorgeous too.
Bit of an obvious one, but serves the double whammy of getting someone into western comics as well as introducing them to Manga tropes. Which leads me to
Full Metal Alchemist
Seriously one of my favourite comic books of all time, certainly my favourite manga. 27 volumes full of humour, heart, action and adventure. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Batman by Snyder and Capullo
Forget Year One. Forget the Dark Knight Returns. This run captures everything I love about Batman and does it in such a thorough fashion, encompassing everything I love about every version of Batman, and does it in a way that no real prior reading is needed.
Fantastic Four by Mark Waid and (among others) Mike Wieringo
It certainly helps that Waid is in my top three favourite writers and Wie
ringo is still the pinnacle of superhero art for me, but this run was stellar and the best possible version of these characters (to date). Hell I’d go so far as just recommending Fantastic Four Vol. 2 #60, because as stand-alone issues go, it has it all.
Another obvious one, but it’s only recommended in this fashion so much because it’s a great choice. Adult sci-fi adventure of the highest calibre.
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
I will forever recommend this as my go-to book for those who want nuanced, subtle, intelligent, fun comics. It’s not just a book about a talking duck, I swear it’s so much more.
This list could be truly endless. Sex Criminals. Ennis/Dillon’s Punisher. Waid/Samnee et al’s Daredevil. Rat Queens. Walking Dead. Whedon/Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men. Seconds. Nimona. Usagi Yojimbo.
There’s a reason why the list is endless though, and it’s a very simple one:
Every comic is truly a gateway comic.
Sure, some comics would be close to impossible to wrap your head around if it was your first time. Can you imagine giving someone an issue of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity as their first ever comic?! And yet for most people their first issue, like mine, wasn’t a Gateway Comic. You didn’t fall in love with comics because it was easy.
You fell in love with comics for the same reasons I did, and countless others did. Because each issue is a Gateway into another world. Whether you’re starting off on an adventure the same time as the characters or jumping in half way through a climactic fight scene, just hit the ground running!
Stop worrying about where to start and just start.
The above are fun recommendations, but really, truly, go into your local comic shop and pick up the first thing that catches your interest. Forget the issue number on the front and just dive right in.
You may be confused, you may be intrigued, you may be overwhelmed. That’s fine. You know what though?
I guarantee you’ll want more.