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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?
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