This week I have been kind of a bum while recovering from NYCC. I have been spending most evenings sitting in bed wearing my brand new Boba Fett bath robe (yes women, that is just as sexy as it sounds) reading comics, many of which are less than new. In fact some of these comics are older than I am and I really love reading them. There is something special about finding these older stories that I didn’t know existed, hunting down each of the issues and then reading them while taking in all the story has to offer.
The first trick is to find these old stories. Of course there are some classic stories that almost everyone knows about. Stories like Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns have moved themselves beyond the realm of comics and into popular culture as a whole. These stories are great, but they’re easy ones to find. I’m looking for are the ones that are buried; the ones that I have to know something to find. Many geeks love the obscure and discovering old stories certainly falls into that category.
How do I find these stories? Of course, the internet is a fantastic tool. There are tons of message boards and fan sites out there and they are full of helpful people who are willing to give their opinions. A Google search for favorite characters is another great place to start to start looking for lesser known stories about them. Surprisingly, Wikipedia sometimes has pretty impressive entries for characters, which can also be a great resource. There are also the guys and gals at local comic book stores. Almost all stores have patrons who have been reading comics for decades and they remember stories from before many of us were born. Sure some of these stories might be dated, but they go back to a time when superheroes were just getting to know their powers and they were unsure of themselves. These are coming of age stories that we can all relate to.
So once I’ve found a storyline that has piqued my interest, what do I do? The simplest answer is go read it. This however is not always just that easy. If I’m lucky then the story has been collected in some form, whether hardcover or trade paperback. Both Marvel and DC have great catalogs of their classic stories in the form of Marvel Masterworks and DC Archive Editions, respectively. I’ve found that Marvel has done a better job publishing their more recent stuff, especially with their Marvel Premiere hardcovers. They offer very nice looking hardcovers for the price, usually $20 to $35, of comparable trade paperbacks. Often these are on sale at local comic book stores or at conventions (I recently picked up eight of these books between a sale and NYCC).
Of course there is the “old fashion way” of reading the story, and that is to hunt down all the issues and then read them once they’re all assembled. This is probably the most rewarding method. There is very little that is as satisfying as finding that last issue I’ve been looking for to finish off a storyline or run that I’ve been trying to put together. I know that I spent quite a bit of time bragging when I finished off the entire 90’s X-Men series. The down side of this method is that some issues can be expensive. For example, last couple storylines from New Mutants require buying two first appearance issues (Cable and Deadpool), both of which can demand a pretty good price. Someone who is not a hardcore Cable or Deadpool fan might not find it worth spending that kind of money just to read the story. Asking a very good friend to borrow an issue or two may seem preferable, but it also has its drawbacks.
The final option is the ever expanding catalog of digital comics. More and more, publishers are releasing not only consecutive runs of a series, but also comics from a single story line. This is especially helpful when dealing with crossover stories. One quick search will bring up all the issues related to a single story, regardless of what series those issues belong to. Digital comics can also provide a solution to the price dilemma when buying stories by issue. For two dollars (one if the issue is on sale) a collector can get a digital copy of expensive issues. This method is by no means foolproof as there are still thousands of comics that don’t have digital counterparts, but it might be a helpful resource, especially with more popular single issues.
Now that you have finally obtained your prized storyline, you can have your reward. And really, make it a reward for yourself. Enjoy your comics however you want. If it’s a nice day outside, maybe get yourself a beer and sit outside. With winter fast approaching, maybe you’d prefer to find a warm blanket (or Boba Fett bathrobe) and a cup of coffee and sit on the couch. The point is to take some time for yourself, do whatever you want, relax and just take the story in. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it, but whatever happens enjoy the moment.