Most of the people I know started getting into comics when they were children. They’d go to the local comic shop and pick up the latest issues of whatever it was they were reading. I’m guessing largely superhero comics. I was interested in them too.

There was one hitch to this, my parents wouldn’t allow me to read comics. As much as I enjoyed them when I could get a hold of the odd comic book here and there. I wasn’t really allowed to read them. That’s something that I do find a bit funny as I had read Hamlet by the time that I was 9.

So, any exposure to comics was infrequent and some times behind my parents back.

When I was in middle school I was introduced to the world of Elfquest. It’s a comic I still enjoy to this day (even if there are no new volumes being produced). A friend that I had when I was in middle school would bring the volumes to school and I would read them overnight before giving them back. I had to do it all very hush-hush as it went against what my parents wanted. The one time that my mom did see it, she was not happy about it and told me that I couldn’t have it back until I gave it back to my classmate the next day.

It wasn’t until I was old enough to buy things for myself (i.e. have a job) that I would really start getting into comics. It all started with Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez. That comic was twisted and wrong and full of gallows humor. I loved it. After I finished reading through Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, I had picked up Squee. Squee is the partner book to JTHM as it featured Johnny’s young next door neighbor, Todd.

I started largely with the darker, more Goth comics. I’d pick them up when I could and read them all. Shortly after that I would start getting in to more superhero comics. Reading Batman, X-men… but also reading books like Sandman and Hellblazer.

And while I am reading them, I have never felt quite competent to fully engage in conversations about most American comics. I think that’s because I started into them later in my life, so I’m not as aware of a lot of the foibles of each publisher.

That’s something that I might be more interested in learning, but I think that I might stick with what I know best… manga.

I’ll still continue to read American comics as there are quite a few I like… and some I need to finish as soon as I can remember the last volume I read (like Preacher and Hellblazer). I might even pick up some that I’ve never read before.

I’ll admit, though, that manga is my comfort zone. Since a lot of the manga I’ve been reading is newer series, as they’ve come out (with the exception of MPD Psycho, Vagabond, Princess Knight and Blackjack)… I don’t feel like I would be lost in a discussion on the shinigami in Bleach or the relationships in Nana, Loveless or Gravitation.

Hopefully one of these days I’ll feel comfortable enough to hold a more in-depth conversation on comics. All I need to do is to read more of them. Besides, comics are an interesting way to look at what’s happening in modern society (as it is another way for art to reflect life).

Jhonen Vasquez:
Serena Valentino:
Neil Gaiman: