I’m reading 50 years’ worth of comic books, because apparently I’m crazy. And I would like to share that experience and discuss it here. But here’s some background first.
I have always considered myself a comic book fan, but for the longest time there was a major problem: I had not read a single comic book in my life. I had watched and, in many cases, rewatched most superhero movies, and I was familiar with a decent amount of comic book lore thanks to the Internet, but I had yet to dive into the comic book medium. That all changed in April 2013, when Marvel offered #1 issues of over 700 of its digital titles for free. At the time, I was already starting to feel like I was missing out on a lot, so I decided that that was as good a time as any to begin reading comics.
But… where to start? At first, I spent a long time doing research, trying to find the best jumping-in point. Of course, Marvel had just relaunched all of its current titles as part of the “Marvel NOW!” initiative, which hoped to attract new readers, so I could have just picked up Superior Spider-Man #1 or Uncanny Avengers #1 and started there. But I didn’t. Comic book history, I felt, was far too rich to simply skip over. Even recent arcs like House of M and Civil War had generated too much buzz during my adolescence for me to not want to read them.
The problem was, even if I were to limit myself to the best-ofs of the post-2000s era, it would still be too costly an endeavour. And that’s where Marvel Unlimited came in. It’s a subscription service that provides digital access to a wealth of Marvel comics—almost every issue ever published. With virtually the entirety of Marvel history available to me, my research turned from selective to comprehensive, at which point I thought, “what the hell,” and decided to read from the very beginning.
After thorough (and still ongoing) research, from sources like the wonderfully comprehensive Comics Back Issues and the Comic Book Resources Greatest Stories Every Told series among others, I came up with a list of essential and/or acclaimed storylines from Marvel’s history, from 1961’s Fantastic Four #1 to this day, arranged in chronological order, even including a rough estimate of in-universe time span. For organization purposes, I divided the Marvel list into chunks based on eras, like so:
- Year 1-4, the Marvel Silver Age (mostly comprising comics from 1961-1970)
- Year 4-8, the Marvel Bronze Age (1970-1984)
- Year 8-10, the Marvel Dark Age (1985-1996)
- Year 10-11, the Marvel Knights Era (1996-2004)
- Year 11-13, the Marvel Event Era (2004-2010)
- Year 13, the Marvel Heroic Age (2010-2013)
- Year 13-14, Marvel NOW! and Beyond (2013-)
DC Comics, on the other hand, is a different story. It doesn’t have a subscription service, so I could not afford to be nearly as comprehensive. Again, I could have jumped in after the last reboot (New 52) and started with the superbly-received Batman: The Court of Owls story arc, but I did not want to miss so much history. Thus I compiled another, much shorter list, this one for the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC universe, at first limited exclusively to the bare minimum essential Batman stories, but eventually branching out bit by bit to include other stories I discovered along the way (such as Green Arrow, after I got hooked on the Arrow TV series).
So why am I telling you all this? Well, after about a year of reading comics, I decided to introduce a new blog series called Journey into History (Journey into Mystery being a popular Marvel title in which Thor made his first appearance—yay for the pun!), in which I will chronicle my foray into the world of comics and share my thoughts and opinions, mostly in broad strokes, about all that I read. I will also include a more detailed list of the comics I read (and their specific order), in case anyone wants to read along. As a newbie reader basically binge-reading decades’ worth of comics, I’m in need of an outlet.
The first official post in this series will be up soon. I hope you’ll find this experiment as interesting and enjoyable as I have.