Why Writers Need To Remember New Readers


"Every comic is someone's first." – a quote attributed to Stan Lee.

I heard that when I was still in my teens and it stuck with me through everything I write. Increasing your audience is the number one thing writers want to do regardless of medium. If someone can't read or watch your story and understand what's going on, they won't come back.

I caught a series on Syfy, back when it was Scifi, called the Dresden Files with Paul Blackthorne who is now on Arrow. I enjoyed the series but it didn't last long. I found out it was based on a series of novels. I went to the store… back when there were still book stores… and picked up the novel Proven Guilty. I tried reading it, started fresh multiple times… but there was just so much story that I wasn't explained well that I got lost and gave up each time.

A year back a friend of mine, who is a huge Dresden Files fan, talked me into try the series again and I started at the first book. Turns out Proven Guilty was book eight and I just got to it this weekend, finishing it last night. The book was very enjoyable, the best in the series so far. But I can easily see why it was unmanageable for me as my entrance into the world. The book referenced all seven previous books at one point or another and some in very important ways. Heck, I might have been lost on some of the references if I hadn't been reading all the previous books in the last twelve months.

We're in luck in that in this age of digital and streaming, it's easier to find things like the first Dresden Files novel Storm Front and start at the beginning or binge watch the Walking Dead from season one through current in a week like my brother just did… he's so into it now he's going to build his own Lucille… I worry about him at times.

But it's more difficult with comics. Reboots aren't always true reboots. Crisis on Infinite Earths was, but the New 52 restarted some titles and character while leaving others intact. I used to collect most of Marvel and DC. That's part of the reason I get tapped to do the Comic Book Histories here is because I read most of those histories when they came out. And with that knowledge, I still find a lot of the comics from the big two inaccessible. The bigger and more convoluted the history of a character… the more long time fans like it, but the odds of new fans coming on board are slim.

Event driven publishing has been going on for far too long and it makes it hard for new readers to get excited when they're asked to buy a bunch of different books just to understand what's going on in the one they wanted. Folks who go see the Marvel film or watch the DC television shows may have never read a comic in their life… and if they get the urge to from the viewing… will they really know what's going on if they read the latest issue of the Flash or Captain America? We have the largest audience for these characters ever, but are publishers doing everything they can to tap into it?

Both companies have multiple titles for their most popular characters. I think it would be a good idea to make one of those series more self-contained, away from the big events and convoluted continuity. A true entry point for anyone who wants to read about Spider-Man or Wonder Woman for the first time. A set of books that retailers know they can sell to a new customer that will entertain them and hopefully bring them back to the shop again.

Because, it's important to remember that every comic is someone's first.

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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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