Intro to Comics

Ok, so you want to be a Whiskey Geek? Well, you have come to the right place. It’s easy to get started because all you need is an interest and willingness to learn about whiskey, and a curiosity for comics.  Here, we’ll give you an intro to comics. And please, have no fear. Getting started in comics doesn’t have to be intimidating. 

If you can check at least one of these boxes, then we guarantee that there is a comic book that you will absolutely fall in love with: 

  • you like comics
  • grew up watching cartoons
  • you enjoy the superhero movies
  • you enjoy video games
  • you like a good story
  • you enjoy good artwork
  • you can read

Everything You Need to Know to Dive into Comics

Here, we’ll walk you through:

Modern Comic Books Offer Storylines for Everyone

There are those out there that think that comics are all the same: a guy / girl in a cape / mask comes in and saves the day. But that is not all that comics are, especially now. The medium is as complex as the fiction section at any bookstore or like the whiskey aisle at your local liquor store. 

It can be a little overwhelming. But hey, that is why we are here. To help you get past the barrier of too many choices or questions like, “Where do I start?”  

With that in mind, let us share something with you that will help. Do you know who loves to talk about comic books, their stories, and why they love them (well yes, besides us at The Whiskey Geeks)? 

People who work at your local comic book shops. 

If you walk in and say, “I want to read something like Star Wars…but I don’t want a Star Wars comic. What do you recommend?” …They will absolutely be able to point you in the right direction (Tip: We have a whole section on how to pick comics books that give you all the same feels as other pop culture stories, like Harry Potter, below).

You want a superhero story but do not want it to be the run of the mill Superman or Avengers hero? Maybe you want something that will make you think and have it be a little grittier or written for an adult audience? Guess what? They will have a recommendation for that too. 

What we are saying is that, really, all you have to do is ask. 

Or, you can reach out to your favourite online site (like the one you are reading right now), and ask for a recommendation.  

The ability to enjoy comics is limited only by your ability to say what you like to read / watch. Action, espionage, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, western, horror…whatever it is, there is a comic for you. If you just want a recommendation and want to skip over the history and comic book publishers, click here. Just know that we have some links to great reads peppered throughout, so do so at your own peril (muwahahaha).

How the Comic Book Industry Works: Publishers and the Four Ages of Comics

Now that you know there is a great comic book waiting for you out there, we are going to go over some of the basics in the comic book industry.  

Have you wondered why Batman is not a member of the X-Men? 

Well, it is because Batman is a Detective Comics (DC) character, while the X-Men are a group of heroes owned by Marvel. 

Comic books are divided into different eras and published by different publishing houses.

Sure, sometimes these worlds might mix, but only when the respective studios have an agreed upon crossover event. But, 99% of the time, Marvel characters will stay in Marvel Universe, DC in DC, Image in Image, etc. 

There are also different eras of comics, broken up into four main ages: 

  1. The Golden Age (1938-1956), 
  2. Silver Age (1956-1970), 
  3. Bronze Age (1970-1985), 
  4. and Current (1985-current).

 A nice thing about the older stuff is you can generally find large compendiums with all the stories together in one place. So, if you want to read all the Silver Age comics of your favourite superhero, you can find those nicely packaged together in one book. 

Now, if you want to collect the individual comic books from that era…well get ready to spend because some of them are expensive.

The Modern Era of Comics

However, if you are new to comic books or looking to jump back in after a long time away, most of you are likely going to gravitate towards the newer books, that is to say, those in the “Modern Era” of comics. Why? Because they are often easier to find and feel current and you won’t find yourself thinking “why didn’t they just use their cell phone and Google it? Oh, right, because there is no Google or cell phones in 1972.” Or “hey, why are these stories just about white men?” 

If this is you, first things first…No matter which story you’re interested in, make sure that you start by grabbing issue #1. 

Why? 

Well, the Modern Era of comics can get complicated quickly, because so many characters are intertwined in different storylines and various ‘reboots.’ .  This is done because after a while, Spider Man has fought all his main enemies, and you need to reboot and tell different stories. But if all the bad guys are dead or in jail, where do you go? Or maybe the author and artists are moving on to a different project and the new writer has a different vision. So, what do you do? Well, you relaunch the title back at issue number 1.  That is why you have multiple Spider Man titles that may occur at the same time within the same Era. You have Spider Man, the Amazing Spider Man, the Spectacular Spider Man…well, you get the idea. 

But wait, this gets even more complicated. 

What if you have multiple timelines and titles that are happening concurrently, spread across multiple realities across the multiverse? What if things get so distorted that there are multiple Earths, all with their own versions of Spider Man running around. In one, he is Peter Parker, in another, he is Miles Morales, in yet another, it is Gwen Stacey as Spider Gwen, and they are all facing off against different versions of Kingpin, or Dr. Octopus. 

Well, then maybe you need to condense your comic universe and have a full-on reboot of all your titles. And this is what both Marvel and DC did in 2015. 

Sound complicated? Well, if you do not regularly keep up on all of this, it is. And this is another reason why jumping into a new title is not as simple as just going to grab an issue of Spider Man off the shelf of your local shop (or in the Covid times, calling them and asking for curbside pickup) or putting something in your cart on Amazon or Indigo. But have no fear, The Whiskey Geeks are here to help you navigate this multiverse to help you find a book that you will enjoy. 

So, when you make sure to start your comic book adventure at issue number 1, you guarantee that no matter what, at least you are starting at “a” beginning. It might not be “the” beginning, but it will at least be the beginning of this particular story arc.  Another good way to go is to grab a trade paperback (TPB), which collects all the stories from a story arc and puts them all together.  Just make sure the TPB you grab is #1 and starts with issue #1.

Second, we also suggest focusing on building variety into your reading. Sure, we have our favourites that we return to again and again, but some of the best reads we have ever had came through a recommendation and was outside of what we normally would have gravitated towards. 

I (Whiskey Geek #1) am a huge Star Wars and fantasy fan.  I know I will love anything that falls into this category. I also read a lot of Dungeons and Dragons books, Star Wars, Saga, Critical Role, etc. But I never read anything from smaller publishers or independent shops. However, when Whiskey Geek #2 swooped in with a recommendation for a horror book, I decided to give it a try and BAM! I loved it. It was outside of my go-to genre, so there was next to no chance I would have picked it up on my own, but, based on the recommendation of a trusted source, I gave it a whirl. 

And that is what we hope to be for you: A no pretense, no BS, reliable source of good recommendations. 

The Big Comic Book Publishers

Marvel

Chances are, even if you are not a huge superhero fan, you have seen multiple Marvel movies over the past decade. They are great, exceptionally well planned out, and draw from an immensely vast history of comic book stories. The conclusion of the last phase in Marvel movies with Avenger Endgame may have seemed like the end, but really they have only scratched the surface of the stories that have existed in the books for decades. There are so many amazing titles and story arcs here that it is a daunting task to try and capture this in an “intro” article. 

But, that’s what we said we would try and do, so I guess I’ve written myself into a bit of a corner here. 

The current Marvel comic universe consists of twelve (yes, TWELVE) realites.  So that means twelve versions of Iron Man, twelve Wolverines, twelve Captain Marvels. But the main Marvel Universe, the one in which the movies and most of the main comic titles take place is Earth 616. This is referred to as the Prime Universe and has a nice continuous timeline dating back all the way to 1939, with an uninterrupted march forward since the launch of Fantastic Four #1 in 1961.  Remember earlier when we mentioned Spider Gwen? Well she exists on Earth – 65. Occasionally, she will web sling over to Earth 616 for one reason or another, but her main ongoing comic run takes place in Earth-65.  While there are twelve alternate universes listed on Marvel.com, they admit that the number of universes that exist in the multiverse is endless, and really is limited only by the creative team’s imagination. But to keep things simple, the superheroes that exist in the movies that we all love, are on Earth 616…and so are we! 

There are  thirty-eight ongoing Marvel comic book series, six that will be released in 2021, twenty-three active limited series on the go, with another thirteen limited series set to be released in 2021. 

Now that is a lot of content to keep track of.  

Unless you are a full-time Marvel employee tasked with keeping track of all the various stories, or are incredibly lucky and bestowed with lots of money and free time, there is no way to read all of this content.  

And you probably would not enjoy doing it anyways. Since these titles and series are written with different demographics in mind, they’re not meant to appeal to everyone, all at once.  …I know they don’t all appeal to us. And that’s perfectly fine. 

Start by looking at what’s going on with your favourite superhero or red lightsaber wielding Sith lord and give it a go. Chances are, once you get into it, other stories will intertwine and branch out from the main story and draw you in. 

There are always crossover events that introduce new characters or new story arcs that will broaden your horizons. This is one of the great ways to discover new books.  There are also often teasers at the end of the book for other titles or a list of upcoming releases. Give them a look and hop online for more info to see if it is something you might enjoy.

Marvel Recommendations: 

We absolutely love The Mighty Thor as well as the current Venom story arc that has led to the King in Black crossover event.  

Detective Comics (DC) 

Home of possibly the most popular and well-known superheroes, DC also has a good number of current titles and alternate universes. With thirteen ongoing titles and twelve current limited series, DC is a little more approachable if you want to jump into a new book. Also, chances are you know what Batman or Wonder Woman are all about, so picking up one of those books may not be as daunting as one of the many super groups from Marvel. 

That being said, the DC multiverse is just as, if not more, complicated than that of Marvel. 

Currently, the main Earth where most of the stories take place is called Earth 0 (aka Prime Earth or New Earth). This was created out of the Flashpoint event back in 2011.  This event also created fifty-two alternate Earths, and since then DC has also added in the Dark Multiverse with the Dark Knights: Metal limited series, which all have an evil version of Batman who has been infused with some other superhero or villain. So that leaves you with Earth 0 – 52, and then the Dark Multiverse which have negative numbers and there are seven of those. This has not taken into account all of the limited one-shot stories that may take place in yet another alternate universe, but let’s leave those alone right now.

If you are looking to jump into the DC comic world, we suggest you grab something that is happening on Earth 0, in today’s Gotham City or Metropolis, so at least the mechanics of the world make sense. It will look and feel familiar, there won’t be a whole backstory that you need to understand to be able to enjoy what you picked up and you should be able to just start at issue one with very little trouble. 

DC recommendations

We are suckers for a good team up, and have enjoyed the Justice League over the years. It brings all of the main superheroes together and pits them against the best villains. Hard to go wrong with that if you are looking to jump in somewhere. Check out the New 52 Justice League. If you are looking for something more traditional, check out the Batman Court of Owl story arc.

The Best of Independent Comic Book Publishers

Beyond the big two publishers, there is a diverse and exciting world of smaller publishing houses that are releasing high-quality stories with mega impact. While there are literally hundreds of amazing publishers out there, the following are some of our favourites, and we highly-recommend you check them out:

Image Comics

While smaller than either Marvel or DC above, Image is putting out some of the best books on the market and some of our personal favourites. Image Comics was founded by some absolute legends in the comic book industry as a place where creator-owned properties could be published without giving up the copyrights to the properties.  

Among the seven founders are three of whom you may be familiar with, thanks to the more recent popularity of their work. See if you recognize any of their names or creations:  

  • Jim Lee, currently the Publisher and Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics. Lee penciled and co-wrote The Uncanny X-Men #1 in 1991 with Chris Claremont, which remains the best-selling comic book of all time. 
  • Todd McFarlane is best known for his work as the artist on The Amazing Spider-Man and as the creator, writer and artist on the superhero horror-fantasy series Spawn. McFarlane was also the artist to draw the first full appearances of the character Venom.
  • Robert Liefeld was a prominent writer and artist in the 1990s. He is known for co-creating the characters Cable and Deadpool.

With such a star-studded beginning, it should come as no surprise that Image Comics is publishing some of the best books on the market right now. Some of their titles include The Walking Dead, Saga, Spawn, Kick-Ass, Paper Girls, The Old Guard, Die, The Wicked + The Divine, Invincible, and many many more. Check out our “If you like this, try that” section below for a few Image Comics recommendations.

Image Comics is also racking up the comic awards for many of its titles so this is a great place to try and find your next great read. Also, without having to worry about multiple universes, it is a little easier to find something and jump in without having to worry about all the history that comes with certain more mainstream superhero titles.

Dark Horse

They used to publish all of the Star Wars comic books before it was purchased by Disney / Marvel, so all of the old Legends stuff was published by them. Some of their most popular and well known titles include:

  • The Witcher (of video game, novel, and now Netflix fame)
  • Hellboy
  • Sin City (a classic from the icon Frank Miller) 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Aliens (yes, the movie franchise)
  • Predator (yes, that Predator)

Vertigo

Interestingly, Vertigo owns the rights to a few classic DC characters and has therefore been able to publish them under their umbrella. These include Swamp Thing (read the Alan Moore run…trust us on this one), Madame Xanadu (of Arthurian legend fame), and John Constantine. The latter is the protagonist in the popular Vertigo series Hellblazer. But Vertigo goes well beyond these characters and has published some of the most interesting and popular comic book runs in recent memory. Chief among them are Preacher (by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, which is an absolutely fantastic read), Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (which is always at the top of every “Best comic book series ever” list), and Fables.  They have also published a couple fantastic standalone graphic novels in V for Vendetta and  A History of Violence.

Dynamite

Another publishing company with many familiar titles that range from James Bond and Game of Thrones, to The Boys, which is now a TV show and shows the darker side of superheroes. They also publish classic titles like Zoro, the Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet, Xena, and The Shadow, among others.

Boom!

Some titles to consider – Adventure Time and all the various Power Rangers stories.

Aftershock

One of our favourite lesser known titles, Dark Ark, is an alternate look at the great flood where an ark is built to save all of the monsters.

Archie

Yes, of all those small books that have been published since forever and found new popularity with the launch of the Riverdale series.

IDW

Any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans here? Good, me too! And this is where you will find the ongoing series as well as the collected past runs. They also publish Dr. Who, CSI, Dungeons and Dragons, G.I. Joe, Locke and Key, Magic the Gathering, Transformers, Star Trek, The X-Files…and many more. Basically, if you were born in the 1970s or 80s, you’re going to love what they publish. They are certainly one of our favourites!

And about 200 others…seriously. 

There are so many publishers. 

Best Comic Books to Start with by Genre

One of the best parts about loving comic books is getting to talk about how they remind you of other things that you have read, watched, or played.  

One of the easiest ways to get started in comics is to find books that are similar to other types of content you love, like romance novels, sci-fi thrillers, and fantasy stories, to name a few. 

Here, we connect popular books, shows, movies and video games to comic books that will hit you in the feels in a similar way:

If you like Stranger Things, read Paper Girls

Cover of Stranger Things and Paper Girls

Written by Brian K. Vaughn of Saga fame and published by Image Comics, Paper Girls follows four 12 year old paper delivery girls in the suburbs who get caught in the middle of a war between time travelling enemies. 

If you like Star Wars, read Saga

Speaking of Brian K. Vaughn and Saga, go and read it! Like, right now. It’s a guaranteed win for you. It is a space odyssey with all the familiar tropes of Star Wars but flipped on their heads as it examines themes of family, love, war, and choice, while the protagonists hurtle through space on a lightspeed capable tree house, attempting to escape enemies on all sides. 

If you like Lord of the Rings, read Critical Role: The Origins of Vox Machina

The comics build off the hit Twitch live stream show where a bunch of voice actors sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons! This comic book will introduce you to the characters from their first campaign that made this an absolute hit and, in our opinion, launched the renaissance of Dungeons and Dragons. If you’ve never heard of Critical Role, check it out. There are over 200 episodes for you to watch / listen to in podcast form, and they are publishing more comic books set in their world. 

Speaking of D&D, If you like playing Dungeons & Dragons, read Die.

Die starts with a group fo teenagers getting pulled into the fantasy game Jumanji style and reappearing two years later…one with a missing arm, and one of the teens never returned. Fast forward to them as adults, all with complicated lives since the mysterious event, and they once again get pulled back into the game to finish what they started. It is incredibly well written will have any D&D fan instantly hooked…just like we were!

If you like a strong female lead, read The Mighty Thor

This title sees Jane Foster become Thor and wield Mjolnir.  It is an absolutely amazing story culminating with the War of the Realms crossover event. It is written by Jason Aaron (who is crushing it) and illustrated by Russell Dauterman (also…absolutely crushing it). A must read.

If you like to play Call of Duty, read Marvel Knights Punisher

This trade paperback by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon, collects three different Punisher story arcs (Punisher 1-12 [2000], Punisher 1-5 [2001], and Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe) , and will give you the same adrenalin rush as winning a Plunder match in Call of Duty.

If you like monsters and horror movies, read Cry Havoc 

Cry Havoc by Simon Spurrier and Ryan Kelly sees a street performer in London England get bitten by a werewolf and she is thrust into a Blackwater style paramilitary group with other, for lack of a better term, mutants.  It is gritty and violent and not for the faint of heart. But it is awesome. Don’t leave this one on the coffee table if there are kids around. 

Freebie number 2…read The Walking Dead. At this point I don’t feel like I need to explain what The Walking Dead is all about. But some people may not know that it was a comic book before it was a TV show.

If you like Harry Potter, read Lumberjanes 

Here is the synopsis right from the publisher, Boom! Studios

At Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way!

Hogwarts style summer camp? Yes please!

If you like James Bond, read James Bond

But if it’s the whole one man against impossible odds to save the day that you’re looking for, try TMNT The Last Ronin, which pits the last surviving ninja turtle against the Foot Clan in a futuristic New York City as he tries to avenge his fallen brothers and friends. Yes, only one issue has been released so far. And it was that good that we are already recommending it.

If you are binge watching Bridgerton on Netflix, read Sleepless

The story follows Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia and her guardian the Sleepless Knight Cyrenic as she learns to navigate the dangerous waters of life at court and their growing feelings for one another. Things become even more difficult when an assassin threatens her life in the new king’s reign. Check out Sleepless from Image Comics.

If you like gunslinging Westerns or playing Red Dead Redemption, read Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex is a scarred gunslinging bounty hunter and has appeared in various story arcs since 1971. Specifically, we recommend you check out All Star Western Vol. 3, which sees Jonah Hex in 19th century Gotham City trying to solve a string of murdered prostitutes while working with Dr. Amadeus Arkham (yes, that Arkham of Batman fame). 

Want to introduce your kids to the wonderful world of comics, try Calvin and Hobbes

This is a long time Whiskey Geeks family favourite! The collected books bring the daily comic strips together and allow your young readers to binge read the adventures of Calvin and his stuffed (real!) tiger Hobbes. They are funny, wholesome, have good life lessons, and still hold up even though it was cancelled back in 1995. You can read about Calvin’s adventures as Stupendous Man, Spaceman Spiff, and a personal favourite, when he does battle with the “evil” babysitter Rosalyn.

If you are looking for something a bit more super hero themed, try Tiny Titans. It follows the lives of some of DC’s top sidekicks as they attend Sidekick Elementary. You may recognize some of their teachers as well!

Those Who Seek Are Guaranteed to Find a Comic Book Just for Them

Remember when we said at the very beginning that we guarantee that there is a comic book that you will like? With all these choices, it is just a matter of being able to articulate what it is that you enjoy reading / watching. 

We may not cover as many books as other places online, but that is not what we are going for. We are trying to bring you great recommendations for a book, and pair it with a great whiskey, so that you can sit down and enjoy the two together. We want to bring you an enjoyable experience. 

The articles we post will show you why we paired the whiskey and the book together, while our Youtube videos and/ podcasts will go more in depth on both as we have a little fun along the way. 

That is our quest. 

If you’ve enjoyed this article but didn’t find what you were looking for, why not send us an email at thewhiskeygeek@gmail.com or DM us on Instagram @thewhiskeygeeks and ask for a recommendation? We’ll even let you know a great whiskey to sip while you enjoy the read.  Because after all, scotch and stories were made for each other.