“I wanna start *blank* from the beginning!” By Shawn Spurlock
There are essentially two types of people driving vehicles in your average parking lot. There are S.H.I.E.L.D. people and there are Hydra people. This is also true of the many customers that venture through the door on any given day. Comic shop customers generally fall into the categories of ‘Nerd’ and ‘Civilian’. We love you all, and much like the aforementioned drivers you’re fairly easy to spot based on how you behave when being confronted with an alarming variety of very brightly colored objects.
Of course, the easiest way to spot a civilian is the conversation starting with, “I really love ___________, and I want to start reading it from the very beginning!” “I’ve seen all of the _________movies!” “Tom Holland constitutes my entire Bucket List!” What joy! What a boon! An enthusiastic human ready to fall down the rabbit hole that is comics! It’s truly a glorious day for the empire!
Except the answer is, in most cases no, you sure don’t want to start from the very beginning.
For you see, these funny books were originally just temporary amusements. For children- pre-internet, pre-smart phone, pre-microwave, pre-Pop-Tarts, even pre-television children. My seven-year-old can equate String Theory as evidenced in the geometry of Bloons TD 6 gameplay. He currently shuns comic books as if they’re a healthy snack. He’s all about the anime, rendering him virtually bi-lingual, but with the knowledge of many words for nonexistent things. Kids got all kinds of different in the last 75 or so years.
Try picking up that recent facsimile edition of Detective #27. You’ll quickly realize that it was written for urchins for whom the big summer tent-pole blockbuster entertainment was a hoop and a stick.
So anyway, a civilian walks through the door and asks to read the Avengers…from the beginning. This is a potentially lucrative request for a shopkeeper. That is a whole lot of issues, no matter what format one would seek. Yet even as the Looney Tunes drooling begins, I do not lead them to the massive collection of paper for which they asked. One of the secrets of being a comic guy (which must always be considered sparingly, lest one become the Simpsons Comic Guy), is that the customer is in fact, not always right. Sometimes we know that they only think they know what they want.
For instance, if you’re a newly minted Nerd having recently graduated from Civilian, you might now be aware that Thanos did not actually ever want to help the universe out by eliminating half of it. Nope. The goal of Thanos was originally to be Death’s main squeeze. Imagine the reaction of the average MCU fan when they saw this scene in Avengers Infinity War…
There is a very distinct difference between “I want to see everything that came before!” and ” I want more of what I just saw!” For instance, if you just loved the Batman vs. Superman movie, you might not enjoy a story from 1939 in which Superman jumps from tenement building to shanty, gleefully beating up landlords. Not that that wouldn’t be mildly amusing, considering what rent is now.
I realize that this is mostly just more content for the converted, but I also know that many of you have civilians in your life that are casting about blindly trying to get on the nerd wagon before the wheels fall off. Let’s use television as an example. Television was when you had to watch what somebody else picked. Let’s imagine Civilian #1 says, ” I love when they make short musical shows like when that Miley Cyrus girl got on that big sphere of destruction! I want to see the entire video catalog of that saucy minx!” After which you promptly give them the entire Hannah Montana catalog on DVDs. Do you think they shall be pleased? Anyway, if you can’t see the analogy by now, you’re either not trying or you’ve been licking too many sledge hammers.
Fun fact! This whole thing started out as what was supposed to be a fun experiment. Get every actual copy of any Avengers #14 (my favorite old Marvel book that I still have lying around) and compare the differences. What fun! What a hoot! I’ll be the Indy of thrills! The Jane Goodall of pulp! I shall use science and numbers to arrive at a viable hypothesis! I’ll start by counting the words in the #14 published in 1965! A fun revisiting that lasted…3 pages. I stopped counting when I had 449 words by the end of page 3. The 2018 issue of Avengers #14 had 294 words, and that included a text piece in the beginning that used new words to tell you about old words they used in the previous 13 issues. Yeah, I bailed on my favorite Marvel comic. Couldn’t take it anymore, and I dearly love that comic.
If it broke me, imagine what it would do to somebody that only knows Marvel from the movies, but really wants to read every story from the beginning like a true fan, perhaps to prove something to the all-seeing eyes of Stan “a spirit now” Lee. He not only sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows what you’ve been reading, and he’s really proud of Avengers #14. If you feel the need to please your replacement ghost dad, please do so.
However, using the magic of math, I can safely say that the answer is who cares if you get to engage with anything from the very beginning? If you want to read about a sixteen-year-old kid gathering the world’s most powerful super-team together with his short-wave radio set, that’s a fine option and I’ll put you on that road for the low, low cost of $15.99. I would advise you however that you don’t remember your fist steps, first birthday, first spoken word, or first chicken nugget, so relax. It’s not like anybody’s even there for the beginning of their own story.