Guest Post: Siona Larsen

Here at The Book Wars we are constantly on the look out for great content and people who produce great content. One our readers, Siona, is a great fan of comics and so I have invited her to share her views and passion for various comics here. Give her a warm welcome!

Siona and friend
(Siona with Kelly Sue DeConnick at Geek Girl Con ’13)

Siona Larsen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, sister, dog and cat. She spends her days reading (books and comics), writing and playing video games. One day she hopes to work in the comic book industry (either as a writer or an editor) and/or be a published artist. Until then she will enjoy having an opinion about the things she loves and telling the internet about it through the power of freedom of speech.

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Getting into comics as a reader can be hard. Multiple titles of the same theme of heroes, separate realities and out of continuity short series litter the walls of comic book stores across the country. Some characters feature in multiple titles while others don’t appear on covers at all, begging the question: where do you start?

For women this can be especially hard. The majority of the comic book fans (at least the ones found in and running comic stores) are male, many of them having grown up in the age when comic geeks were not cool. They had no helping hand in their conquest of the genre and instead were cruelly picked on by the outsiders for their hobby. This, in turn, has given some a superiority complex about this fad, telling anybody that asks for help that if they can’t do it on their own they don’t deserve to be a fan.

Lots of women have turned to internet comic shops to get their fix so they don’t have to deal with fandom gatekeepers trying to keep them down. Others pick up a trade copy (a graphic novel style book that collects multiple comic issues) every so often from their local book store.

Here’s the thing about how comic book numbers work though: only pre-orders count for sales. It’s a bit like how Hollywood measures how well a movie did by the opening weekend numbers. For comics, each store pre-orders a certain set number of each comic, purchases those from the distributers and attempts to sell them all. Publishers count the number of issues bought by the comic store, a judgment often decided by how many customers have pre-ordered through that store, plus a certain amount of stock to put on the shelves.

That is the number that matters and if us comic fans aren’t actively encouraging other people to purchase these comics and, in turn, enticing them to sign on to pre-order, then our favorite comics lose numbers and publishers pull the plug.

So that’s what I’m going to do: I am encouraging you to check out some of these comics that I feel are good entry ways into the fandoms I enjoy. All in hopes of getting you not just to stop at the window and comment at how nice it looks inside, but to usher you through the door and bring success to my favorite comics.

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(Marvel’s All New X-Men ‘Yesterday’s X-Men’ by Brian Michael Bendis)

I started my comic life as a strong X-Men fan. My dad bought me the trade copy of The Dark Phoenix Saga and I loved it. Looking back, it’s awfully campy but it introduced almost all of my current favorite characters: Jean Grey aka The Phoenix, Emma Frost, Dazzler and Kitty. Never before had I seen girl power in comics; it had always looked like a boy thing to me.

It would take several more years before I started purchasing comics, though. My first couple of purchases were at comic book conventions and were some older X-Men comics as well, most of them including my favorite X-Men, Gambit. When my sister purchased the first trade copy of Marjorie Liu’s run of X-23, that’s when I started following comics. The first to join my pull list were X-23 and Astonishing X-Men both by Liu and both of which, sadly, are now over.

This brings me to my first recommendation though: All New X-Men.

The premise is that post Avengers Vs. X-Men (a summer event that wasn’t very spectacular but that has created some strong fallout) Hank McCoy, aka Beast, decided to go back in time to pick up the original five X-Men so they could snap some sense into present day Scott Summers. Why? Because Scott was going crazy and then he went Dark Phoenix, killed Professor Xavier and then started this almost pseudo-Brotherhood group of X-Men.

None of which is entirely necessary knowledge for you to follow along Jean, young Cyclops, young Beast, young Iceman and young Angel as they struggle learning about the future. These are teenagers coping not only with mutant powers but with what the world becomes, in a big part because of them! The only present day adult really on their side is Kitty Pryde, who is working as their leader and mentor. Currently the All New X-Men have a new costume design, have added team member X-23, and are finishing up a crossover with Guardians of the Galaxy titled ‘The Trial of Jean Grey.’

I don’t know what the direction will be when this crossover is over, but expect the first post crossover comic book to come out in April. While you’re waiting for that jumping on point to come around, maybe check out the trade copy “Yesterday’s X-Men” collecting issues #1-5.

Want some X-Men now? Well, March 5th was the release date of the all new Wolverine and the X-Men. New writer, new artist and starting over with number one. It sounds, however, that it’ll be keeping in line with what Jason Aaron did with his run on WatX.

Which I loved. A couple years back Schism happened, where Scott and Wolverine parted ways having different ideas of what was needed for the mutant race. Of the two, Wolverine was the one that decided to reopen a school for mutants, naming it the Jean Grey Academy. Kitty Pryde joined him as headmistress as well as Beast, Iceman and several other well-loved characters. This place was Hogwarts for mutants: the bathroom could turn into a danger room, the grounds was a living creature, and these little blue Nightcrawler looking creatures named Bamfs caused mischief.

The real story, however, focused on the kids. And this new run promises to continue to do so. Quentin Quire, an omega level psychic who found out he will be the new Phoenix host in the future, is a troubled kid that used to have dreams of being a villain so he’d never be forgotten. He started his tenure at the school only after Wolverine managed to convince Captain America to let Quentin out of custody. Now he’s struggling with the fact that he just graduated and will become an assistant teacher at the school he says he hates. Others to share the limelight with him are Evan, a clone of Apocalypse and Idie, a WoC currently dating Quentin while dealing with her own ball of guilt.

On the Avengers side of things I am not too familiar. But there is one comic I cannot recommend enough: Captain Marvel.

Carol Danvers was a pilot and a writer for a woman’s magazine. She was created in the 70’s at the height of the feminist movement to be a feminist icon. She finds out that this guy she sort of likes is an alien warrior named Mar-Vell who took on the mantel of Captain Marvel as a hero of earth. During some early events, a wishing machine exploded and copied Mar-Vell’s powers to Carol. She became Ms. Marvel. (These origin details are cleverly explored during a time travel arc at the very beginning of Captain Marvel.)

During the events of Avengers vs X-Men, Mar-Vell died, so the opening of Carol’s Captain Marvel has her in a new costume but with Captain America trying to convince her to take Mar-Vell’s old title. She struggles with this idea for a while before finally agreeing and then things get really good (as if her kicking butt wasn’t good enough). If you can pick up the trade copies of these earliest issues, I suggest you do.

However this month Captain Marvel is about to start over at a #1. Carol has a highly vocal and loving fanbase called the Carol Corps but apparently the numbers on the last issues hasn’t reflected it. The Marvel editors decided to start over at #1 because first issues sell the best. This time Carol will be heading out into space and quite possibly finding love, says writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.

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(Marvel’s Ms. Marvel #1 by G. W. Wilson)

Back on Earth we have a teenage Muslim girl taking on the mantle of Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan is a normal girl with ordinary teenage girl struggles… and then she gets super powers. Since she always looked up to Carol Danvers she decides to take on the name Ms. Marvel. Number one came out last month and issue two is releasing March. I suggest grabbing the first digitally at somewhere like comixology.com to get ready for the release date of the second. I still haven’t gotten my first issue because I forgot to pre-order and Marvel sold out.

I’m not kidding. Every single published copy of Ms. Marvel sold out. Hopefully they do a reprint and my comic book store remembers to put one in my pull box.

Remember what I said about pre-ordering? It doesn’t just help determine how many the comic stores are going to buy but also how many the publisher will make. Sometimes they vastly underestimate how many people are going to buy and in this case they did. After all, it’s a number one and a simple place for various types of comic newbies to jump on board. With all the hype surrounding its release, I’m sure there were several people that walked into comic stores off the streets and purchased a copy straight from the shelf.

I’m wondering how many people walked into a comic store, found they were all out and walked out without purchasing anything, eventually deciding it wasn’t that important anyways.

It’s that sort of thinking that loses readers, drops the numbers and leads to an eventual cancelling of a comic.

So if you find a comic book that you love: pre-order, pre-order, pre-order. Please.