…Hope You Survive the Experience #1

[Editor’s Note]The newest addition to the Nexus family: Brendan Campbell is the comic book newbie and he’s inviting us each week to join him in looking through the comic book industry today with a fresh set of eyes and discover how wonderful or difficult it might be starting into comics today and how new reader-friendly today’s comics really are. Welcome aboard, Brendan, hope you survive the experience!

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Where do I begin? Do I go the honest route and let you all in on the origin of my birth into the comic world? Of course that’ll be the case, as this column is more a look into my recent experiences upon entering said world, learning about its vast history, booming present, and looking forward to its bright future; yet I can’t help but imagine a created origin would come across better for me, especially in the company of those who have lived and breathed this stuff for years.

Why you ask? Well, saying I inherited thousands of first edition comics from some relative, only to read through them, fall in love, and sell them for a small fortune that now supports my ever-increasing weekly purchases would be more…worthy, I believe is the word I’m looking for, in the eyes of those who have been here a while. Because, even though I’ve just taken a seat at the table, I know the actual story that brought me to this place will cause those sitting around me to cringe, shake their heads in shame and basically write me off as any kind of source of knowledge on any comic level.

But the truth must be told, mainly because this column isn’t directed at those who have been here a while, who all have a vast knowledge of who-is-who, and can answer things like “Why is one of Peter Parker’s clones twice as big as him, with a full Sabertooth-vibe going on?” or those who can tell if a book is worthwhile just by the names on the cover.

No, those people aren’t my target audience, though they may find humour in my stories, and my journey into learning the tricks of the trade. Hell, they may even have a few flashbacks of their own, because at one point or another, they were just like me…a comic rookie. That’s right, we all had to start somewhere, and this column is almost like a blog, yet with some sort of structure, and no little updates saying things like “Brendan is upset…” or “Brendan can’t wait to eat dinner. Taco night!” It’s a place where you can follow my journey into this community, my learning of the different aspects of it, or just hear me talk on about all the comic related things I find overwhelming, or interesting.

It’s a beginner’s guide to entering the comic-verse, written by a complete beginner with zero experience, a thirst to buy everything, and a wallet that wants nothing to do with what it’ll take to quench that thirst. My complete and utter disregard for all things sacred takes us back to how I became involved with comics in the first place, and for that, I take us back to May 1st, 2009, that’s right:

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Yes, I’m one of those guys. I’m one of the ones who was brought in by outside means, and while a lot of those hardcore readers despise any and all aspects of X-Men Origins: Wolverine you must admit that it did nothing to hurt the comic industry, and if anything, I’m proof that it only helped bring in a fresh wave of new readers.

So what did I like about it? Well I thought the movie was an enjoyable summer action flick, and I’m a fan of the actors involved and overall walked out satisfied. Yet something stuck with me, and that something was Deadpool.

Once again, yes, I’m one of those guys. Deadpool, I’m aware, has become quite a big name in the Marvel universe since Origins, even though I’m aware they completely destroyed his character at the end of the film. While Ryan Reynolds was funny as the character, and from what I’ve read of Deadpool since he’ll do a fine job in the upcoming spinoff movie, it wasn’t he who attracted me to the charater; it was me.

Deadpool has a quick wit about him, and that’s the kind of humour I enjoy and find myself having when it comes to cracking jokes. So after seeing the movie, and reading up a bit on him, I thought, hey, aside from the being an assassin, having cancer which was cured by extraordinary treatments that now cause him to be indestructible, being a weapons expert, wearing a costume, knowing all types of martial arts, and pretty much being schizophrenic; Deadpool is pretty much me in comic book character form!

That was my logic at the time, and so I picked up Deadpool: Secret Invasion in trade paperback form, read through it and thought it was fantastic. How could I have not been into comics before? They’re funny, great art, they have solid ongoing stories to tell…where’s the downside?! I quickly purchased Deadpool Classic: Volume 1 and 2 from Amazon, as well as Cable & Deadpool: Volume 1 because Deadpool seemed to be my go to guy.

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While I was searching through those comics on Amazon, I quickly found out just how much there was out there, and how many stories had been being told over the years. It’s one of those things where I’d heard from friends that there was a civil-war going on with superheroes, and while I threw out the odd question, “Oh yeah, who fought who? Spider-man and so and so? Cool.” I never really gave it a second thought. Now that I’m involved more hands on, I find that I can’t get enough, and I’m slowly treading backwards into the history to find the right place to catch up with various characters that peak my interest.

This is where I started to see the downside, and while it hasn’t fully hit me yet, and isn’t truly a downside it’s something that we’re all bound to notice upon entering such a vast world of entertainment. That downside is just how much variety there is out there, and just how much history is involved with that variety.

“Brendan, how is a lot of variety, with such a deep history to explain all the ins and outs a bad thing?” you may ask. Well, let me tell you that I’ve got this thing that I believe we all have on some level, and that thing is OCD. This isn’t the type of OCD where I have to wash my hands thirty times a day, or lock my door four times before I leave the house (how do you know you didn’t actually unlock it that final time? Ooo, that’ll keep someone who has that OCD awake tonight) no, mine is a type where I can’t come into something partway through.

This isn’t just the case with comics, let’s say I’m watching a show like House or something, and I miss an episode or two, some people would just shrug it off and pick up at the newest show. What could you have really missed in that two episode stint if it isn’t the end of the season? Not much. And while that’s true, I’ll stop watching the show entirely until I catch up. Hell, in some cases I’ll wait the year it takes for it to come out on DVD or Blu-ray before I catch up…that’s pretty bad. You can just imagine how this may be for an industry that has about three quarters of a century’s worth of backlog to get through.

Sure, there’s Wikipedia, a fast, easy way to catch up on just about every comic book you can think of – but where’s the fun in that? On the plus side, I’m not crazy enough to jump back into the Golden Age of comics, even though I’m not sure when exactly that began or ended, I just know it was when things were a bit more clean cut I believe.

I’ve found myself having to choose paths, find a starting point, and decide which characters and stories I’m going to follow. Another downside is with so much variety, choices must be made. Comics are expensive, and while I’d love to follow things on all levels, that’s just not possible until my luck changes with the lottery.

In the coming weeks, and beyond, more stories will come that will talk about aspects of this world that newcomers may be facing, just as I am, and that veterans may remember from when they first started out. How certain stories or artists are viewed from a newcomers eyes over someone who’s seen one too many bad (or good) books from said person come their way. Just as there’s so much to read out there, there’s so much to talk about right here when referring to this topic that we can all relate with; especially from a rookie’s perspective trying to learn the ropes. This first column was a bit longer than I expected it may be, but was an introductory to precisely how and why I first bought a comic, sat down, enjoyed it and craved more.

Hopefully I’ll be welcomed into this new world of addicts, artists and storytellers with open arms. My name is Brendan Campbell, I’m Canadian (so is Deadpool; see, if that mercenary stuff wasn’t there we’d be twins!) and I’m a comicoholic.

Until next time…hope I survive the experience.

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