I haven’t been collecting comics all that long. I remember with great disdain how difficult it was to get in to collecting. I came from a small town, my friends didn’t collect them and, as always seems to be a problem, I am a woman. It was an uphill struggle. I wish there had been someone to help me.
Recently I realised that I was that someone. At least to a fan of this blog. They got in touch with me, asked how I do it… and here we are! I hope you can all find use for this in some way.
Here is my guide to collecting comics.
1. Locate your nearest store
This will either be easy or hard, depending on where you live. TV tells me every town in the US has a comic store. I don’t know how true that is, but I can tell you it’s not the case in the UK. But as a general rule on how to locate, it’s easy to find big branch stores.
In the UK, the big two are Travelling Man and Forbidden Planet, and both have their advantages. Forbidden Planet offers a price match, meaning that you sometimes get money off on comics. Travelling Man offers a loyalty card that you can collect points on, and which also entitles you to special offers. I recently got volume 1 of Rat Queens for only £6.50. Thank you, loyalty card. It’s worth checking them both out if you have that option. If you have neither close to you, then Waterstones and WHSmith both offer a selected section in their stores, so you can find something. And obviously if you have a hunt around, you can find independent comic stores. I don’t like them as much as larger stores, simply because they are often boys-only clubs and they have limited options. I’ll also never get over the time I bought a copy of Robyn Hood and something sticky had the back pages stuck together. You know. The back pages where they showcase the scantily clad women in suggestive poses as cover art. Not all places are like this, but where I’m from… yes, they are.
And finally, living in the 21st century, you have the option to go digital! Digital comics are on the up, and sometimes buying a paper copy entitles you to a free digital version. If you’re old school though, the internet is your friend. Find some sites to buy them from! Amazon is a great place to buy your graphic novels from, and eBay is a god-send when it comes to issues.
2. Pick your series
With the amount that is out there, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
I don’t want to presume that when I’m asked about comics, the asker means superheroes. It’s the usual response though. It’s never been easy to get in to DC or Marvel. DC’s New 52 is still relatively fresh, with many series only about 32 issues in. They’re easy to catch up on, and there’s new series starting all the time. Likewise with All New Marvel, they’ve relaunched and reintroduced a plethora of characters, with new series still lined up. October will mark the introduction of a new female Thor, which I have already written on.
You don’t even need a new series! Sometimes the older series are better. I am not a fan of the New 52 Wonder Woman story. But she is a character rich in history and interesting story-lines. I love the Wonder Woman: Odyssey arc, which is both a fun read and artistically gorgeous. Also, if you can get your hands on it, there’s Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman. What I’ve read is addictive, but I don’t own the full series. It’s a work in progress. With so much to catch up on, I don’t need to read the newer books.
I could tell you personally which series I collect, but as a general guide just pick a character you like. Maybe Batman, Supergirl, Avengers; pick one, and look for series with them. Alternatively, you can tell someone in store what you like, and ask for a recommendation. The great thing about comic store workers is that they work there because they’re passionate about this sort of thing. They know what they’re doing, and making a sale is no good if you’re not going to come back for more. They want you to like this stuff.
If there’s not a character you like, pick a writer or artist. I know if you’re new that this sounds useless to you, but it’s actually really useful. Writers and artists aren’t confined to companies. They transcend this imaginary divide and writer/draw things all across the comic world. Following them can help you learn a thing or two. Again, I could recommend some people to follow/avoid, but it’s really up to you.
Of course, not everything is DC and Marvel. These apply to Dark Horse, Archie, Zenescope and all kinds of Indie companies. Pick a series and roll with it.
3. Comics or graphic novels?
I’ve always been more of a graphic novel reader. It’s a curse. I like to binge and don’t like to wait a month for the next in the series. But Kelly has this ability to pick up monthly issues, and I applaud her for that.
Graphic novels are always months behind the single issues, but you get 5-6 issues in one. If you want to start reading a series that’s been going on for a while, reading graphic novels to catch up is one way to do it. Then you can start with the single issues if you prefer.
With all these new titles, I’ve picked up the habit of picking up the first issues of titles that piqued my interest. It’s how I know if I want to spend the money on it in the future. It’s sort of a sampler for me. Also if there’s a mini-series running (like Madame Frankenstein), I like to buy them separately.
One-shots are different. I have 30 of the DC Villain’s Month titles and a couple of one-shots that only come in comic form. You have to be aware of these things. But there is no need to stick to one format. If you have the patience to wait months for a graphic novel, go right ahead. If you prefer to set up a standing order at your local store for the issues, your dedication is valiant. You go right ahead. There is no wrong way to do this. I like to keep a spreadsheet of the series I want to buy. They’re colour-coded to company, so I know where to look, with the priority purchases bolded.
4. Obtain funds; purchase goods
This is the painful part, and there is no legal way to get out of it. Comics cost money, and you are going to have to pay. Budget accordingly. One friend of mine has a weekly £60 budget, but he has a full-time job. I’m a student. My budget is £20 a month. You may think that’s a lot of money, but it tallies up the more series you collect.
If you decide you want to start collecting merchandise too, then you may have to add more money to your budget. I’m really bad for collecting statues or vinyl figures. It’s a real problem. None of this is necessary to the comics, it’s just something I like. You want a cute t-shirt, you splash out and get it.
5. Organise your collection
I keep all my comics on a spreadsheet. Alphabetised with various headings. Below is an example:
Not shown is my columns for publication date, place of publishing and a checklist so I know if it’s on loan. I’m an organised person and I like to know these things. There’s no need for you to do this, but I like to. Really any kind of system will work. I also have a list on my phone so when I’m about, I know which ones I have before purchasing a new one. It’s an idea I stole from Kelly. It works for me. It’s worth getting comic protectors too. Those little plastic wallets are very useful.
Also not shown is my comment section. It’s where I keep information on the comic, like if it’s a variant cover. I also have a section where I keep tabs on where I’ve put the comic. It’s a lot easier than hunting through piles.
6. Find a geek support group
I will forever mention her, but I have a Kelly. She’s useful because she’s a real life friend who shops with me and we discuss our recent purchases, demand trades etc. I’m fortunate to have her. You may not have a friend to do that with. In which case, I recommend taking to Facebook and join a local comic group. I’m part of one, and I get all the comic gossip. They’re a lovely group, situated close to me. Just keep a look out for them. And if push comes to shove, start your own group and advertise in your store. It’s a great way to make new friends.
If you live in the north-east of England, might I recommend joining The Comic Club on Facebook. The man who runs it is really friendly, and all the comic news is announced there. Monthly solicitations, movie castings, local conventions… It’s great. You should join. I’ve enjoyed many debates and recommendations from the club members.
7. Follow some comic bloggers
You can follow me! I’m always posting something comic related. Whether it’s here, my twitter or on my tumblr account. Or you can follow Kelly on her twitter, tumblr or wordpress because she usually does too.
Also, follow the companies and stores you like. You get to know the news as it happens.
Some accounts I follow are interested in women and the industry, but I’d recommend them to anyone. See Paper Droids, Women Write About Comics, DC Women Kicking Ass and Comic Book Misogyny. I especially like the last one, as it provides both a critical view of the industry as well as a fan’s view. It’s a fun read and always enlightening.
Welcome to the community, sweetie. We’re small, but we’re always happy to help someone new. I really hope you find what you’re looking for. And please, let me know how you’re doing!
And so, dear readers, we reach the end of another post.
Let me ask you this: what series/creators would you recommend to a new reader? What do you wish you had known when you started reading comics? And where do you go to get the news?
Let me know your thoughts.