stubbleupdate: (Default)
[personal profile] stubbleupdate posting in [community profile] scans_daily
I had a big think about this in the summer, but recently, I've been thinking about how comic books attract new readers and how welcoming they are. There's an old saying about how "every comic is somebody's first" and comics have to have a go at making it possible for new readers to pick up any book, even if its midstream. There's a lot of advertised "jumping on points" and Marvel's .1 initiative has been a pretty uneven way of their characters, concepts and stories.

In superhero movies, there's always a desire to do an origin story as a way to make the story accessible to new readers. This always frustrates me, especially since Colleen Coover's told the definitive Spider-man story in one panel and six words and Batman's isn't much more than "My parents are deeeeead." We don't need to see James Bond start his military training and changing to HMSS to know that he's a badass, so why have we got to see Green Lantern get his ring? Why can't we just see him be a space cop?

DC's relaunch has made a big deal about being new reader friendly and has by and large jumped into stories. Apart from Supergirl, I'm not aware of any origins being retold, which is nice.

The story recap
i.e. what you missed last time. Lots of shows have it, like Breaking Bad, e.r.
Some of these feature headshots of the cast while others go farther and align these characters into groups.

This first one is from a pretty-good-actually FCBD issue of Avengers

Then some recaps that deal with the concept as well as the immediate story, plus some headshots

Ultimate recaps, including either the concept or the characters

And some straightforward old text recaps

The concept recap. Battlestar Galactica is a pretty good example of this. In 30 seconds it outlines most of the concept of the show and introduces you to some key information about characters, namely the 2 Cylons in the fleet. On its own, it doesn't tell you much about what's happened immediately before the episode, but it does give you a good feel for the series. The Incredible Hulk, series also had a good concept recap, as did Quantum Leap. Quantum Leap was a bloody good show; I should re-watch it again.

The best example of this in my comics is Chew, a recap page that reiterates the main idea of the series. It's very closely tied to a character recap, but them Tony Chu is Chew.

The character recap. The best example that I can think of this in TV is Neighbours. It's a show that's been on for over 6,000 episodes, so going back and starting from the beginning isn't really practical. Generations of viewers have been jumping on to it midstream for years and the opening credits, where characters are introduced in their familial groups does a decent job of introducing a large cast of characters to the viewer.

DC used to do a lot of recaps with their characters like this, with little boxes explaining who they were. Wally West's introduced him as "I'm Wally West and I'm the fastest man alive" and Batman's was something like "I made a promise on the grave of my parents that I would rid this city of the evil that took their lives. By day, I am Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist. At night, criminals, a cowardly and superstitious lot, call me... Batman." which gives you a fair bit of information about who's who.

This one isn't really even a recap page, just a page that begins the story and does its bit through exposition to set up who the character is. There's more of this as the story continues

The novel recap.
Do something fun, and give the readers a sense of the tone of the book as well as the concept and what they've missed.

Are comic books really less new-reader friendly than other media? I know that it doesn't take much to pick up a movie and watch it, and that sequels rarely do recaps (though the credits sequence in Incredible Hulk was pretty bloody good). What about for TV? Is it easier to jump into a TV series midstream (and not just soaps, but one with an ongoing narrative like The Shield or Fringe) than it is to jump into an ongoing comics series?

Date: 2011-11-05 11:40 pm (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
Dunno about anyone else, but I like starting a good novel midway into the action, and getting filled in as I go along. That way you've got a running start without having to follow the lead as Just Another Nobody leading up to them Actually Doing Something. Although starting from the beginning is valid, too.

Date: 2011-11-05 11:43 pm (UTC)
randyripoff: (Black Lightning)
From: [personal profile] randyripoff
Honestly, unless I was someone who'd never read a comic before in his or her life, I'd be going TL:DR with most of these.

I guess I'm a little more old school. Even though I frequently find them tremendously annoying, the in-story recaps that were a feature of the Bronze age worked best for me.

Regarding whether comics are less new-reader friendly, I think that ever since the trend of multi-issue stories became the norm, they have become less new-reader friendly. At the same time, I think that's changing in some respects, particularly with television. Look at TV shows like Lost or 24. When the hook for your show depends heavily on what's happened before, you're going to lose people who don't want to invest the time or energy in catching up. I know if I wanted to watch and enjoy those shows, I'd pretty much have to start at the beginning and watch the whole thing, rather than be able to pick it up mid-stream. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it can be daunting (of course, soap operas have done this for years, so it's entirely possible if someone finds the show appealing enough).

Date: 2011-11-05 11:49 pm (UTC)
salinea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] salinea
I started reading superhero comic book a year ago, and I'm still persuaded that one of the big reason I've read so much more Marvel during that time is because they do recap pages :D

But I think another big barrier is the sheer feeling of "sheesh, where do I even start!" it's pretty daunting. Without having someone who knows me well to rec me stuff, I don't think I had had ever started.

Date: 2011-11-06 01:00 am (UTC)
salinea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] salinea
You can get a fair bit out of Hickman's FF without reading the 570 issues before it, though it certainly does help. I would like to see what a new reader would make of it if they'd only read his run.
I've only read Hickman's run. Mostly it works, there's just a few things that are confusing (the whole city in which relative time passes much faster for exemple).
Galactus I think they outright tell us it's an alternate future one, so I didn't bat too much a lash at it.

Date: 2011-11-06 01:07 am (UTC)
salinea: Emma Frost, sitting comfortably (chill)
From: [personal profile] salinea
It just sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud.
Pretty much all comic book backstories do. That's what make them fun :p

In fact most comic book fans relish the sheer silliness and wonderfully bizarre-ness of comic book stories when they talk about them, and constantly do one-upmanship about them. I think it's a big part of the appeal.

Date: 2011-11-05 11:53 pm (UTC)
bewareofgeek: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bewareofgeek
For the record, the new Blue Beetle is also an origin tale of sorts.

I'm still not really happy about that.

Date: 2011-11-06 12:17 am (UTC)
nezchan: Navis at breakfast (Default)
From: [personal profile] nezchan
In a way, Animal Man is an origin tale. Maxine's origin.

Date: 2011-11-05 11:54 pm (UTC)
rocketlindy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rocketlindy
I love the collection of pages here. It makes me wish I had infinity dollars with which to buy comics.

I think it depends on what kind of media-consumer you are in general. I have a compulsion to start things at the beginning, or at least to start them at A beginning--with the start of a new season, or a new author, or a new artist, or a new lineup, or whatever. Unless it's something like a video game series where the sequel is universally regarded as superior, I'm going to want to start with the first iteration.

That's why I love the DCNU, even if I don't love every aspect of it. I tend to fall in-and-out of comics, mostly reading Vertigo trades and graphic novels from the likes of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, etc. while wishing I could more easily get into the mainstream comics world. So now I'm reading new comics every week, spending my money, and generally doing all the things DC intended new readers to do with the universe reboot.

Thinking about soaps (which makes me sad, since our family-favorites are all cancelled,) the reason I can follow them now is because I've spent pretty much my entire conscious life watching them with my mother/sometimes my sister. Since soap continuity never gets "rebooted" entirely, it's always possible for a character who's been gone for twenty years to show up, or a plot line from the early days of a series to be referenced (early days being forty years ago or so, depending on the series.) It's very difficult to just start watching, since there aren't any real "seasons" or well-defined arcs. Comics are less intimidating than soaps.

I guess it mostly depends on how heavily serialized a given story is, in whatever medium. While I think that starting at the beginning and working through til the end offers the best emotional payoff in most cases, with a show like Buffy or Supernatural or CSI or anything with a strong story-of-the-week element it's not that hard to start with the most acclaimed or most recommended episode, and jump around from there. You'll miss little details but get the gist of the setup and characters pretty quickly.

tl;dr I think comics are intimidating because some people see the sometimes 80 years of continuity and reboots and retconning and go "no thanks, rather just read a book."

Date: 2011-11-05 11:54 pm (UTC)
glimmung: (Default)
From: [personal profile] glimmung
God I forgot how much I loved Patsy Walker.

Date: 2011-11-05 11:58 pm (UTC)
valtyr: (Tony deeeer-unk)
From: [personal profile] valtyr
Incredible Herc had some pretty fun recap pages.

Tony is an Aries? I think that's as close as we've got to a canonical birthdate for him.

Date: 2011-11-06 12:36 am (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
I think there's this idea that comics are much harder to get into than they are.

Really, it isn't hard for a new person to just grab many books and hop in, but people get worried about all the continuity (which the newbie just ignores!) preventing that.

Date: 2011-11-06 01:38 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] jlbarnett
one of my first superhero books was Avengers Forever.

Date: 2011-11-06 02:17 am (UTC)
thatnickguy: Oreo-lovin' Martian (Default)
From: [personal profile] thatnickguy
Wow, really? I was a pretty well-knowledged comic nerd by the time I read Avengers Forever and even _I_ got lost by it sometimes.

Date: 2011-11-06 01:03 am (UTC)
mommy: Arshtat; Suikoden V (The same thing we do every night.)
From: [personal profile] mommy
I got into comics by picking a random Robin issue. I don't really remember what happened in it, but it got me reading more DC things. It's really no different than starting in the middle of a TV show season.

Date: 2011-11-06 01:40 am (UTC)
skalja: Ultimate Spider-Woman posing like a BAMF (spider-man: pete/mj purple)
From: [personal profile] skalja
The first page of the issue that got me into superhero comics is still my go-to example for how to do exposition:

Between the origin blurb and the simple device of the answering machine, even a reader entirely new to Spider-Man gets a good grasp of (a) who this character is, (b) recent happenings in his life and (c) his relationships with the two (three, counting Ben) most important people in his life (at least for the duration of this run). No recap page necessary.

(This is Amazing Spider-Man vol II #30, by JMS and John Romita Jr; the first issue of their run.)

Date: 2011-11-06 02:43 am (UTC)
glprime: (Default)
From: [personal profile] glprime
Hell to the yeah. This was my major return/jumping on point to comics too.

Date: 2011-11-06 02:33 am (UTC)
thatnickguy: Oreo-lovin' Martian (Default)
From: [personal profile] thatnickguy
To be honest, I think it's very easy to still get into long as it's with established, mainstream, household name characters. Someone could pick up pretty much any Spider-Man comic these days without getting lost because - while I might rail against Brand New Day and anything since - it's still essentially Spidey at its core.

From there, someone could catch up on the rest of the universe through crossovers or recommendations.

Look at the way I got into comics: The Death of Superman. I rail against events now, but back then, that's what got me back into comics. I iddn't have to know anything going in was Superman. Everyone knows Superman. Instead of just getting me issue #75, my parents got me the trade for Christmas. I got to see a lot of the DCU in that one trade, including the Justice League. After that, I started collecting Superman comics on a regular basis, through the Reign of the Supermen and beyond. Soon after, Zero Hour occured and I got to try out a LOT of other comics. Flash, Green Lantern, etc.

And I was pretty much hooked from there. A friend of mine got me into Marvel by introducing me to Venom and I wound up buying anything relating to symbiotes. This was around the time of Maximum Carnage. Which eventually led to the Clone Saga, which I bought for years.

And pretty much from there, I spread out more and more, trying new comics.

I think that's pretty much how it works for most (though not all) people. They'll try one thing that they're mostly familiar with and spread out from there. Or, if they know me, they'll read something recommended to them.

Date: 2011-11-06 03:29 am (UTC)
silverzeo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverzeo
Seeing SPider-Man Love Mary jane wants me to kick myself... and imaging a "Cyclops loves Jean Grey" comic...
jazzypom: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jazzypom
For instance, a lot of people are wanting to get into the Tony Stark/Steve Rogers pairing (due to the movies that have come out, and then the Avengers movie looking to be released next year), and they are coming over and asking for comic recs. There's wikipedia, fan wikis, the fact that they can torrent, or go and get trades, etc. The same thing for other 'more' established comics. Then, the comics nowadays are coming in with recaps, and what you don't understand, you can ask online with say, boards like bleeding cool or cbr.

I say this as someone who stopped reading comics back in 1994 (money, time, university), only to come back into the comics world shortly after Civil War, and basically getting around to get caught up. There were trades in my library, and a comic shop in my city, and wiki entries to catch up to. It really wasn't as hard to get into the second time around, the internet made it so easy. The recaps do make it easier to get into as well, even though I tend to read that on the second go around, after I read the story first.

Compared to about a decade and a half ago when I wanted to get into a comic, I just had to jump in. Even though the stories were more stand alone in those days, you still had characters refer to events (the editors would use an asterisk, and footnotes and refer to the issue), and because I couldn't get that back issue (growing up in the West Indies, comics came when they did - or didn't), you just got on with it.

But yeah, long story short, people who want to get into a comic now have it easy. The sexism and racism in the comics are a whole other story though.

Date: 2011-11-06 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] nemryn
Huh. I was thinking the six-word origin for Spider-Man would be 'With great power comes great responsibility'.

Date: 2011-11-07 05:40 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] donnblake
Spiderman's little summary is cute, but drastically too short. Leaving aside the question of whether the story deserves to be told of its own merits (in which case just reprint the original, I guess), it leaves out the actual core of Peter's motivation- it's not just that his uncle got shot, it's the fact that he was shot by the thug that Peter failed to stop, that Peter both blames himself and promises to honor his uncle's lessons by taking responsibility.

TL;DNR not definitive Spidey Story without "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility,"

Date: 2011-11-07 06:45 am (UTC)
proteus_lives: (Default)
From: [personal profile] proteus_lives
"TL;DNR not definitive Spidey Story without "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility,"


Date: 2011-11-07 06:44 am (UTC)
proteus_lives: (Default)
From: [personal profile] proteus_lives
I don't think it's that difficult to jump into a series, be it tv/movies/books.

Most of the time the tropes and flow are easy to spot and you can put the pieces together.

If not, then you've come across something worth starting from the beginning.

Date: 2011-11-07 12:38 pm (UTC)
eyz: (Blue Beetle)
From: [personal profile] eyz
I always liked these recap pages. Nice, simple enough in case you missed an issue or more.

My favorites were Fabian Nicieza's in Cable & Deadpool^^

Date: 2011-11-07 03:21 pm (UTC)
wizardru: Hellboy (Default)
From: [personal profile] wizardru
See, my feeling is that generally comics are uninviting UNLESS you're already sold on the concept of them to begin with. And I also agree that TL;DR applies to many of these. I think ones like the Hellcat intros and the ones Pak did for Incredible Hercules really were brilliant: they told you what you needed AND they were very entertaining. Info Dumps are BORING.

Generally, I like the intro as shown in the JMS first issue above. It's the classic marvel style: Banner box that includes a brief paragraph that's all you need to know in broad strokes: Children of the Atom protecting a world that fear them. Brilliant scientist and friends/family gain powers after desperate act, decide to use them for good of mankind. Kid gets super-powers, combats grief by using powers to help people. Scientist accidentally exposed to radiation during bomb test, gains super-powers when he gets angry (or originally, at night) and is hunted by government.

Marvel's characters used to drop bon-mots constantly that the editors would put footnotes in for...but that was when Marvel was producing anywhere from 8-24 titles a month, not like now. In the 60s to the 80s, it was conceivable that a fan could follow all or most of Marvel's output. Now, that's just not going to happen for most. You can't say 'see Marvel Two-in-One #20' with the same cavalier attitude. On the other hand, those issues ALWAYS gave you enough to follow along the story. I don't have to know all about the last time Havok encountered The LIving Collosus...I just need to know he's got an Egyptian motif and wants to capture Havok to drain his energy and he gets powerful if he does...and then Spidey and he can get to the punchings.

Perfect set up

Date: 2011-11-07 10:25 pm (UTC)
capt_satellite: (Default)
From: [personal profile] capt_satellite
The Sixth Season of NuWho has had a great tag for its BBC America and Australian broadcasts:

"When I was a little girl I had an imaginary friend, and when I grew up, he came back. He's called the Doctor. He comes from somewhere else. He's got a box called the TARDIS that's bigger on the inside and can travel anywhere in time and space. I ran away with him. And we've been running ever since."

See? Just a daft man in a box. Simple.

All split infinitives aside, you didn't used to know much to jump on to an episode of STAR TREK: TOS:

"Space....the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

or TNG:

"Space...the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Two sentences, and you're there.

Part of the fun of being a comic fan

Date: 2011-11-07 10:58 pm (UTC)
capt_satellite: (Default)
From: [personal profile] capt_satellite
When I was first reading comics, part of the fun was trying to puzzle out the back-story on these was a part of the fun, to get to know them better, as you would a friend. In the decades before the internet, the little editorial comments Marvel did referring to other comics were a enhance your enjoyment of the story, I would track down obscure issues om Marvel Team Up, which would lead me to other issues that build my involvement in the Marvel Universe. The "Guide to the Marvel Universe", and DC's "who's Who, were great fun....a nice little prize for those of us who had held on so long. Now, it's even easier...a few keystrokes, and it's virtually all there, if official and unofficial guides.

The worst thing, though, was getting hooked on a book in mid-storyline and having it cancelled and left hanging, or worse, tied up in some tacky guest appearance in another more stable book (see "Omega the Unknown" or "The Champions"). Just part of the game, though.


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