When you buy a new computer, it always comes with an instruction manual. Easy start-up, general troubleshooting, frequently asked questions, etc. It makes the experience of owning this new device easier knowing when you have an issue, there is somewhere you can look to fix it. Overall user-friendly.
Now when it comes to comic books, that’s where it gets tricky. There is no manual to tell you what to do. There also is no right or wrong way to begin your journey into comics. So let’s start at the scariest part:
I’m at a comic shop… now what?
To a person with an interest in floppies, walking into a local comic shop gazing at the mountains of short boxes, thumbing through back issues, staring blankly at the wall of Wednesday's new issues… it's a lot. Colorful covers with characters you've never seen and naturally, the first thing going through your mind is, "What the hell did I get myself into?" Since comics don't have a flashing neon sign above it saying "NEW READER?? PICK ME!" you’re going to need a game plan. I would suggest going to the new issues and seeing what has come out that week. If you see an issue #1 on the stand and if it has a badass cover or a character you recognize… start there. But wait, before you buy, let me undo everything you previously knew about reading.
(My first random #1 I ever bought. It made me love Skottie Young forever.
No, you don’t have to start on the 1st issue.
The secret rule that all seasoned comic readers know is that you don't necessarily have to begin your reading on the first issue of the series. A fact that will blow new comic readers minds. Because from the moment we learn to read, we know that if a book comes in a series it's crucial to read them in order. You wouldn't walk into a library and pick up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in the series before you've read the previous four. But that is the case for comic books. I can think of many instances I've purchased an issue at number 20-something if the cover looked cool enough or I had heard good things about it. Plus, the first issues of comics are usually pricier in aftermarket costs, depending on the series. But that’s another story. Speaking of story…
You may not understand the whole story – but that’s okay.
The most crucial thing to remember about the accessibility of comics is that even though you don't know the entire back story, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy what you're reading. Say for example you haven't read Geoff Johns work on The Flash, it doesn't mean you still can't pick up whatever flagship Flash title that is coming out and like it. That's what makes all of us fans. It only takes one series, sometimes only one comic, to gain an interest in a character. Then going back and exploring their mythos. Which only leads to a larger universe of comics. Also, the thing to always remember is that no comic reader ever knows everything about EVERYTHING… and if they claim to, don’t talk to them.
(No, I haven’t read Geoff Johns’s Flash yet. Please don’t hate me)
The TLDR version
No, it would seem comics aren't all that friendly for new readers. But they are also not as scary as they seem. All it takes is a little elbow grease, determination, and opening your mind to a different way of reading. There’s no reason it should be this confusing, but nothing good ever came easy!
(This is a comic stand, where the magic happens.)
Weird Word Glossary:
Issue: 1 single comic
Title: This refers to the title of the books or the characters used in the comic. Can be many "Flash” titles coming out at one time.
Series: A collection of comics that are in a series/sequential order.
Floppies: another word for comic books. Because they flop over when you hold them. An older term, only used by dorks like me.
Short boxes: a comic box specially used to store comics. There are short boxes (fitting about 100-150 comics) and long boxes (fits about double that).
Wednesdays: New comic books come out every Wednesday. Why? Because they do, this will quickly become your favorite day of the week.
Back issues: referring to comics that are before the current one. Or any version of an “older” comics.