My college roommate, in a uncharacteristic burst of blogging, linked to my most recent post on comic recommendations and added a few of his own (four of which I almost added to my list but did not as I didn’t want to overwhelm! :-)) as well as some good tips in terms of how a new comic reader should approach the medium:
More so than in TV and movies, there are a lot of really terrible comic books. Even from star writers, output can be uneven in quality, and plot holes and weird, forced character development are fairly common. The forced pace of comic book publishing, and the whole insider-only, boys-only nature of how comics are produced, is often the culprit, leading to bad or crippled stories and shallow characters, especially with female characters. Superhero comics especially bring out the worst in the comic book industry.
One thing that’s often hard for beginners to grasp is that usually there is one ongoing “canonical” universe in comic books, but many stories (and most of the best ones) over the years have accumulated in “alternative” universes, where some details can vary. Don’t get hung up on the variations or contradictions. Continuity (comic-book-nerd speak for preserving and referencing years and years of backstory baggage) is severely overvalued in the comic book industry, and the best stories are often timeless and stand on their own two legs. There’s a reason why many of the books Ben and I both picked are often origin stories or stories set in “alternative” universes outside of the mainstream “canon” of comic books.
It’s worth your time to look around, cherry pick the best stories (which are often not the most marketed), and ignore the impulse to “read the whole story”. Quieter, smaller stories are almost always worth more time than the huge, universe-wide, pack-every-reference-you-can-think-of comic book stories that seem to be the trend these days in superhero comics.
In summary, seek out the gems as best as you can, and skip the oceans of bad stuff.
All very true – I’m extremely proud, not only of getting the shout-out, but to see a guy I helped bring into comics doing the same :-).