Why are comics so confusing?

This answer is gonna blow your mind. They aren’t any more confusing then the concept of watching a tv show or reading a novel was to you when you first started watching or reading them. Comics is just new to you. In fact you’re still confused when you start a new book or a new movie, you just don’t recognize it because you know you’re supposed to be a certain level of confused. Who’s the killer? Why did this book start in the woods? And for god sakes who framed Roger Rabbit?

Comics are new to you, so when you sit with them your mind is aware of the confusion. The only way to get past that is to READ.

But how? How do I read them?

When I was new to comics the biggest mistake I made was I paid less attention to the art and more attention to the words like they were an illustrated book. I was still confused by the end of a comic story arc but that’s because I didn’t try to read the art as well.

Often the art in the comic will tell you where you are, what you’re doing, and the words fit the scene. So like for example, you know how if you were watching a movie and it did that thing where it time lapses and night becomes day and the character that just said goodnight is now saying “good morning”? You’re going to get the same thing in comics. One panel dark, the next panel light and the character says “good morning”.  It’s possible the character might not say anything at all because comics do this really cool thing where they expect you to be smart. They expect you to understand that a dark panel and a light panel mean you’ve gone from night to day. So you really have to learn to read the art, but if you change locations you might see some sort of action change and/or a box of text that will say something like “Gotham City Bank” or the art itself might tell you. For example, in Mother Panic the art gets close up on the name of the museum that was being opened. It will also show a change of location by showing Violet in one scene but Mother Panic on her glider in the next and a new place we might not recognize in the next.

It takes time to learn how to read the art as part of the story but it’s not hard once you learn what you’re looking for. So yes, those first few times you sit down with a story you might have to really search the art, but after you start picking up stuff like “oh hey when Shade talks the narration is blue but when Megan talks the narration is pink” now you’ll know in the future that’s a technique that’s used and when you move to other comics that might do something similar you’ll pick it up like *snaps fingers* that.

Don’t be afraid to be confused.


What’s a story arc?

Comics come in issues and you will get parts of a story line (or story arc) in a certain amount of issues. Like Mother Panic has 3 issues per story arc, but Shade has 6 issues per story arc.

It means that in issue 1 we’re gonna be introduced to some new idea that the main character has to face and by the last issue we will have a conclusion on how our main character dealt with it or what happened to them as a result. There isn’t always a nice neat bow put on the end of a story arc. (Think of movies where they give you a conclusion and then set you up for a sequel).

Issue vs trade paperback?

Issues are pieces of the story that come out month to month. When the story arc ends for those issues they will then be brought out in a trade paperback that is more book form and allows you to have all the issues in one book.

Where should I shop?

If at all possible make sure you’re going to your local comic shop. Not only are they typically great people but the sales for comics are mostly figured by this number. Like Doom Patrol? Want it to keep going? Ask your local comic shop to order it for you and make sure you always have a copy.

What about Comixology?

These sales do count so it is a good alternative to a comic shop, but they count less when factoring if a comic will continue or not. So if possible definitely check out your local comic shop, if not definitely comixology. Or you could do what I do- since my comic shop is 2 hours a way I only go once a month to pick up my pull list (I’ll get to this) and in the meantime, I order them on comixology so I can read them as soon as they come out.

What is Comixology?

Comixology is a place where you can buy online, digital copies of comics. It is owned by Amazon so if you have an Amazon account you already have a comixology account! And there’s some pretty great perks too for new readers to buy their comics this way. For example, if you are unsure of what to read first they have this really neat “guided view” that will take you from panel to panel so you can’t help but read everything in order and it zooms up the art so you catch things you might have otherwise missed.

I want to go to a comic store but it’s so intimidating.

I hear that a lot and I felt that way too, but I promise 9 times out of 10 you’re gonna walk into a friendly shop, if not walk out and find another. Some can be over eager to help though so don’t be afraid to let them know that you know what you’re looking for. It helps to remember that when we know about something we like we love finding people to talk to about it. A lot of the people that work in comic shops feel the same way, they enjoy having the chance to get to talk about something they are passionate about, so don’t be afraid to ask questions!

My first comic book shop experience was great. I went in and said “I read a Free Comic Book Day issue of Umbrella Academy and I’d really like something similar” they started asking me questions about what I was into and they ended up partnering me up with some comics I absolutely fell in love with (and one I didn’t). If you don’t know where to look for something, ask. They’ll show you! After you’ve been a couple times you’ll feel like a pro. 🙂

How do I find a comic shop in my area?

Here you go:

Do you have any other questions that we didn’t cover here that you’d like to know more about? Ask us in the comments below! If we don’t know we will find the answer for you.

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