Comics have a reputation for being intimidating. Part of that is the experience of walking into a comic shop—how many times have we heard stories about people who were interested in trying something new, only to be shot down and ridiculed for not knowing there was more than one Green Lantern or that Nick Fury used to be a salt-and-pepper white dude before he was Samuel L. Jackson? But many comic shops have worked to correct this, and the internet (whether ordering physical copies or reading digital copies) has made obtaining comics completely accessible without stepping foot into a comic shop.
Then too there are objections that certain comics, and in particular mainstream comics, have a tendency to alienate a portion of their potential readership—mostly people who are not the target demographic of white male age 18-24. This is something that we try to address regularly in our podcast episodes, and is an enormous and complex topic that cannot properly be addressed in an article of this scope.
The hardest thing for me, though, has always been the question: Where the fuck do you even start? For a new reader, it can be way easier and less intimidating to pick up a new series, rather than trying to figure out what to even pick up from the last 52 years of several different storylines and incarnations and creative teams for Spider-Man. It’s overwhelming unless you have someone who is willing to guide you through it—as long as that person knows what you like and what will interest you, and is completely familiar with all of those things. So we spend a lot of time talking about “a good jumping-on point.”
Judge Dredd Megazine (not a misspelling) #350, available in comic shops this Wednesday, July 16th, is being called “a good jumping-on point.” But what does that mean, exactly? It’s a tough line to walk; can a book appeal to lifelong fans AND be accessible to new readers?
It depends on what kind of novice you are, exactly. Do you know the Dredd universe? Did you watch one or both of the movies (if you haven’t, that’s ok)? If you understand the basic premise (dystopic future world, criminal chaos, Judges are a position that serves as policeman, judge, jury, and executioner), jumping on at the Megazine #350 will be easy as pie. Everything else that’s happened in the past is alluded to in the dialogue in ways that fills new readers in exactly as much as they need to be filled in to understand what’s going on now—it’s not a huge universe recap, but it’s easy to follow the new stories.
When I was younger, it seemed easier to pick up new comics. I’m still not sure if that was more about the comics or more about my mindset, but Megazine #350 reminds me of that—but for adults. I remember picking up random issues of Archie or Scrooge McDuck on family road trips with no regard to continuity and enjoying the hell out of them. They weren’t the serialized issues I read now, each one contained a relatively self-contained story or two featuring different characters, peppered with articles or one-page vignettes. That can be somewhat limiting, since it’s not nearly enough space to accomplish much from a narrative standpoint. The Dredd Megazine, however, has all of those things on steroid. It’s packed with 132 pages of varied content, presumably intending to appeal to a wide potential readership. There are 4 new stories beginning in this issue, all within the universe of Mega-City One but within widely varied locales. They examine different aspects of the universe, following a sarcastic and somewhat abrasive Marshall Metta Lawson as she takes a new job in a podunk nowhere called Badrock in one story and exploring the historical ramifications of a 1950’s space program in another. It includes several creator interviews, including one with Trevor Hairsine that incidentally gives a lot of background and context for Dredd. There are also some hilarious one-shot vignettes following two characters, Harke and Burr, in their bizarre exploits running an antique shop, reanimating mummies, and meeting hamster vampires.
If you are someone or you know someone who has been intimidated by the sheer volume of publications in the 2000AD universe, but is interested in getting started, this is how to do it. When people say “a good jumping on point,” this is EXACTLY what they mean.
The Judge Dredd Megazine is published by 2000AD and this issue will be available Wednesday, July 16, 2014.