This is the story how a fine young man with a promising future ahead got corrupted by the filthy trash that is comic books. Ladies and Gentleman, that young man is no one else but I.
How could that happen? Let's recapitulate the steps that led to this disastrous turn of events, shall we?
It started about a year ago. My girlfriend found this article in some magazine about graphic novels. That seemed interesting. Could graphic novels actually be a sophisticated form of literature? Sure, the graphics did not seem to be much more refined than what I knew from my old Mickey Mouse issues. But I suspected that at least the stories might be able to meet my requirements concerning quality and depth. Still didn't actually buy a book though. But they went on my Amazon wishlist.
Then came my 31st birthday and my girlfriend surprised me with three graphic novels, Maus, Barefoot Gen and Pyongyang. That was an unexpected and amazing gift. And it led to more graphic novels being bought, for example Laika, Gaza and Persepolis.
But that was just the groundwork. During the summer of 2011 we went to Bonn and visited the local comic book store. We were looking for more graphic novels, even bought Black Hole, but also couldn't resist another bargain: Green Lantern: Rebirth for only 5 Euro. The Green Lantern movie was in theaters during that time, so I knew it's a superhero comic book. But that's about it. I didn't expect too much from it, but when flicking through it I was blown away by the graphics. That was not what I knew from Mickey Mouse magazines.
Yet I still had no idea about anything to do with comic books. I had no idea that Green Lantern: Rebirth was actually a paperback collecting six comic books in one. In my world it could very well have been the case that all comic books have 100+ pages. I had no idea, which characters belong to which publisher and which universe. I couldn't imagine, that Batman and Superman shared the same universe. These two just didn't seem to be compatible. I was rather surprised to see them both show up on some pages of Green Lantern.
So although I realized that comic books have evolved into an impressive art form, I still didn't know how and what to read, if anything. Green Lantern: Rebirth was a great story but still very convoluted. How could I find out what I should read next. Was there a successor to Rebirth? When did Rebirth happen? Remember I still didn't even know, that Rebirth was actually a trade paperback. And where can I even buy comic books? Due to this lack of understanding, reading comic books was still out of question.
It was rather by chance that I got around to superhero comic books again. Someday in September 2011 I stumbled upon a tweet that linked to a story decrying the depiction of woman, especially Starfire and Voodoo, in the number one issues of DCs relaunch. Wait. What relaunch? So I learned that the publisher of Batman and Superman just reset its complete line of comic books. If there ever was a time to start reading comic books it would be now. My girlfriend agreed enthusiastically (cool eh?).
Looking at the New 52 site at DC comics we were overwhelmed by all those different titles. That site isn't online anymore but it had the cover images of all 52 number ones listed, ordered by groups like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Justice League. Most of it was completely unknown territory. Some of it was outright confusing. Why are there so many Batman titles? Why Batman, Batman: The Dark Knight and Batman and Robin? Are they all supposed to happen simultaneously? Does he just leave Robin at home in two of these titles? I knew Batgirl from the TV series and the films but Batwoman? Now that's just ridiculous. Why are there multiple superhero teams? There was a Justice League and a Legion of Super-Heroes. Isn't that redundant? I had no idea that the Legion actually takes place in the future.
We soon decided not to take any of the classical superhero titles like Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. Instead we wanted to have have a look at some of the minor characters that we knew nothing about. Red Hood and the Outlaws, Frankenstein, Mister Terrific, Static Shock, Voodoo, to name a few. And we were interested in team-ups like Birds of Prey, the three Justice Leagues, Legion of Super-Heroes and Legion Lost. Having the classical superheroes appearing in Justice League even served at a good excuse to not buy their individual titles.
The only obstacle left was where to get them. Our first idea were newsstands at railway stations. Most of them have vast collection of magazines, even obscure and English ones. Surely, if anywhere, we'd find comic books there. Of course we didn't. They just had random German translations of Batman comics of which I again had no idea how they'd fit into the greater Batman mythology.
So we went on searching the internet for special comic book stores. But even then it was only the third shop where we got lucky. Getting American comic books in Berlin was a lot harder than I imagined. The shop that finally fulfilled our wishes was Grober Unfug. Only there did I finally learn, that comic books are actually much slimmer than what I knew from the Green Lantern: Rebirth paperback.
That was already the end of September and it was the time when my girlfriend would visit the Grober Unfug almost daily (usually during her lunch break as the shop isn't far from her workplace). We didn't yet know when new comic books would be released and she found new ones almost everytime she was there.
While flipping through the comic books we noticed some other books that didn't initially interest us. While Batwoman seemed like just another Batgirl at first the art in it was just too amazing to not pick up. The same for Stormwatch. Although we went for the team-books, that one was not at all on our radar. But it had a space station on the first page. I was sold. Unexpectedly even Aquaman made in into our soon-to-come pull list.
By now we already arrived at the #10 issues of the New 52. We got our own pull box at Grober Unfug and we're visiting them almost every Thursday now. Three of our initial titles have already been cancelled, other miniseries and ongoings have been added. Not just from DC but also from Image, Boom, Vertigo and Aspen. Our comic book collection has grown steadily. So much indeed that we recently had to buy the second storage box. All that in just one year.