By Joe Strange
I think it’s pretty clear that I’m a big superhero fan, probably because of the amount of superhero and comic book stuff we feature here on Axby.
But there was a time when I didn’t really care about comic book movies or superheroes. My teenage years were standard enough, too old to publicly enjoy comic book cartoons and too young to be into the cool, gritty, violent stuff. Frankly I was at a point where I didn’t quite know what to like.
Ironman was released at a pretty big point in my life. It was the summer that I was leaving school to head to college, and having had a really mediocre school life, I intended to go to college with a bit of a blank slate. I saw Ironman on the day after my leaver’s ball, so it marked the end of one life, and the fresh start of another. It also marked the beginning of something else; the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and my realisation that I loved that sort of film.
Fast forward a few years to University. I moved in with some like minded individuals who just so happened to love superhero films as much as I did. Having people to experience these things with only made me want more of it, the world, the characters, anything. This, I think, is the point that I started the transition from film fan to comic book fan.
I’ve been gifted with two things; being alive in the age of Wikipedia and an inquisitive mind, and to someone with an urge to learn more about an entire world that was almost alien to them before, I couldn’t have asked for better tools.
It started with a free afternoon and a Google search for Ironman, from there I went from character to character, from super power to super power. I was lost in a world with houses of M, alternate realities, deaths, rebirths, wars both civil and secret… there was more history than I knew what to do with.
Frankly, it was overwhelming.
A friend of mine then suggested one collection in particular; Civil War. I had heard a bit about it, and I knew it was meant to be a big thing in the canon of the Marvel Universe. So I gave it a go, and I wasn’t disappointed; I was taken by surprise at the storytelling and the intricate character relationships that, somehow, weren’t alienating. I was treated to a glimpse of a universe that I could definitely get behind, and thanks to my extensive Googling earlier, I had some idea of what was going on.
But I still felt a bit out of place, there were all these characters, and I wanted to read more but I had no idea where to start. A big complaint I hear from people who like the idea of getting into DC or Marvel is that there’s just so much and no real place to start, sure both of the big two have recently had a bit of an upturn with DC’s new 52 and Marvel’s NOW! series, which allow readers to jump in a bit easier, but it’s still a daunting task.
My suggestion to these people is from personal experience; I picked a character that intrigued me, Hawkeye, and looked for his stories that would allow me an in to the Universe, and it worked. If you can find a character you like the look of, no matter how vague or mainstream they are, and read a few comics of their own then you’ll get a surprising understanding of the larger world. If they have their own mini series with an overarching storyline then even better, and if they have an anthology, well, you’ve hit catch up gold.
My journey through Hawkeye’s stories led me to an old Ironman comic, (Clint Barton’s first appearance) that also starred Black Widow, to a standalone mini series with shady government testing, and now I’m thoroughly enjoying Fractions Hawkeye series, which has opened me up to Kate Bishop, and the New Avengers.
Now, after casual intrigue about characters and their abilities, a few epic storylines such as Civil War and Avengers Vs Xmen (both are great examples of ensemble cast with multiple storylines) and checking out other parts of the universe through the films, television shows and learning from friends more knowledgeable than me, I’ve reached the point where my enthusiasm for the universe has passed my love of the films.
And that’s saying something since I’m writing this camped out for Guardians of the Galaxy.