A Newbie’s Guide To Comic Books


At Boys’ Life, we’re big comic book fans. If you get the right ones, they’re a great source of art and entertaining stories.

Recently one of our readers asked, “I want to start reading comic books, but don’t know how to begin — can you help?”

This is a great question.  Many of you are already big comic book fans with your own favorite series or characters. But there are plenty of readers who have never had the pleasure of reading a good comic book. So I’m going to do my best to help you rookies understand all you need to know about comic books. There are literally thousands of comic books released every year, covering everything from superheroes to fantasy to horror to humor to sci-fi to manga to TV/movie adaptations. And there are dozens of publishing companies, all putting out their unique brand of comic books.

Sound overwhelming? Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

My guess is that most of you are interested primarily in superheroes. So, I’m going to focus on that topic because superheroes are the most popular genre of comic book, and there have been thousands of characters introduced over the years. Most of these characters come from two companies: Marvel and DC.

What’s the difference?

Marvel is best known for characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Daredevil. They also created baddies like Green Goblin, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Galactus, Thanos, Loki and Red Skull. You’ve likely grown familiar with some of these characters thanks to movies like Iron Man, The Avengers, X-Men … etc., that have come out in the last decade or so.

DC is famous for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, Black Canary and the Martian Manhunter, along with such superhero teams as the Justice League and the Teen Titans. And DC is responsible for villains like Lex Luthor, the Joker, Darkseid, Sinestro, the Riddler, Catwoman, Brainiac and the Penguin.

DC and Marvel are the top two comic book publishers in the world and they are constantly battling one another for geek supremacy. So, which is better? There’s no correct answer. It all depends on what sort of stories you like. To me, the biggest difference between the two are the characters.

DC’s characters are more god-like. They are generally all-powerful beings that have nearly unlimited powers and are often tasked with saving the universe. See Superman, Green Lantern and Aqua Man.

Marvel’s characters are, usually, more human-like. Often they used to be human and were transformed or given powers and abilities. See Spider-Man, Iron-Man and the X-Men.

But those generalizations aren’t always true. DC is also responsible for Batman: a completely human hero with no superpowers. And Marvel has Thor, an Asgardian god with nearly unlimited superpowers. So, ultimately, the best course of action is to try a few comic books from Marvel and DC an see which one you like better.

Also, both of these companies offer rating systems that grade each comic book’s appropriateness for different age groups. Each are similar, and very easy to understand.

Marvel Comics:
ALL AGES – Appropriate for all ages.
A – Appropriate for age 9 and up.
T+ TEENS AND UP – Appropriate for most readers 12 and up, parents are advised that they might want to read before or with younger children.
PARENTAL ADVISORY – 15 years and older. Similar to T+ but featuring more mature themes and/or more graphic imagery.
MAX: Explicit content.

DC Comics:
E – EVERYONE – Appropriate for readers of all ages. May contain cartoon violence and/or some comic mischief.
T – TEEN – Appropriate for readers age 12 and older. May contain mild violence, language and/or suggestive themes.
T+ – TEEN PLUS – Appropriate for readers age 15 and older. May contain moderate violence, mild profanity, graphic imagery and/or suggestive themes.
M – MATURE – Appropriate for readers age 17 and older. May contain intense violence, extensive profanity, nudity, sexual themes and other content suitable only for older readers.

So, pick out a few comic books that are both appropriate and appealing to you. Head out to your local comic book store, and browse the shelves. There are plenty of options, and there are comic books for just about all of us.

Already a comic book reader? What are you reading?

16 thoughts on “A Newbie’s Guide To Comic Books

  1. lms

    its horrible………………………………………………………LOL
    just kidding i didnt read ANY oF this but still its probally not that good

  2. Slapstick(I go by Slappy)

    Honestly, I cant decide. I have a few Marvel video games, but I also like DC a lot, so I guess I go 50-50.

    1. honey badger

      yes, big hero 6 is marvel. It was based off of an early superhero comic by Stan Lee. (the inventor of most MARVEL superhero characters) He is pictured as a side character in most MARVEL movies, and in Big Hero 6 he is Greg’s dad in a picture in Greg’s mansion

  3. Ridgetheninja

    One not-as-well-known is Archie comics. I am not sure about other series, but they have at least 5 series based off of video games (Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, Sonic Boom, Mega Man, and Mega Man X) I am a fan of the Sonic series. PS, I think of the MARVEL heroes as “Power” heroes, and DC heroes as “CLASSIC” heroes.

  4. aggie23

    I like the old spider-man’s and Avengers from the 1960’s. But the 90’s Batman’s with the No man’s land and contagion series were pretty cool

    1. rage face

      get new avengers outbreak and others from that series also spiderman learning to crawl is good marvel is the best but the best dc series is the origanal superman

  5. Superdude

    I see no reason why one has to be either a Marvel fan or a DC fan and not both. I admit that traditionally DC characters have typically been perfect and without problems like the article states and Marvel characters have traditionally been more human, but that’s more from the veiwpoint of the classic comics. I like to think that Superheroes both DC and Marvel have grown more human in recent years, but I will admit I’m probably more generally a Marvel fan first and a DC comics fan second, but don’t expect that to make me any bit less a Batman fan.


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