This weekend MCM Comic Con comes to Belfast, but for many of us we wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to comic culture. belfastvibe reporter Seamus Duffy is on the case.

“Comics? Those picture books geeky 12 year old guys look at? Why would Belfast want that?” I’m glad you asked.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to the 3rd highest grossing film of all time, opened in Europe last week and is already breaking records. Meanwhile, Batman V Superman, a conversation that was once reserved to hushed tones for fear of being discovered talking about men in tights play fighting, has entered the public lexicon and is being openly debated thanks to a recent teaser for the film of the same name next year.

Has it happened, are comics finally cool? Am I finally cool?

While the answer to the latter is most assuredly no, the former is definitely true. Comics are officially in! But with almost a century of published stories to catch up on, getting into comics can seem a bit daunting.

Fear not true believers! Throw on your finest cape, grab your batarang and join your friendly neighbourhood idiot for a whirlwind guide to comics:

shutterstock_882235511. The Big Two
Marvel and DC are the giants of the comic industry and have been since the so called “Silver age of comics” of the 60s. To generalize, DC characters are what the average person imagines when they hear the word superhero.
Larger than life characters with incredible powers that use their gifts to protect mankind and do good (think Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash). On the other hand, Marvel heroes are real people dealing with real situations that happen to have super powers.
These powers are often considered more of a burden than a gift, often obtained in a horrific accident, Marvel heroes are often viewed as dangerous freaks by most of the public (think Spider-man, Hulk, X-men).
The two share a friendly rivalry that can turn heated among fans…
I know families that been torn apart from someone saying Wolverine could beat Batman (I don’t really, but I like to imagine that it’s happened).

INBV-Boom Comic shutterstock2. The Rest
Superheroes aren’t your thing?
What if I told you there were comics that don’t include superheroes?
*Shudder gasp* that’s right, there a lot of smaller publishers (Vertigo, IDW, Dark Horse etc) that produce a wide range of stories in all genres.
Personal highlights include Y: The Last Man (a disease wipes out all the males on the planet except one man, a really great read) and The Walking Dead (It was made into a TV show recently, you may have heard of it).

shutterstock_1133400163. Comics in Belfast
Comic Book Guys (Spires), an independent shop in Belfast who specialise in rare older comics but also sell the latest issues, collectibles and have even had in store signings. Forbidden Planet (Anne Street) have an extensive collection of graphic novels, current issues, toys and clothes.
While Atomic Collectables (North Street) is the perfect place to hunt through old comics and other memorabilia.
Belfast (well Holywood) has also produced a comic book super star who has written on books like Punisher and Judge Dredd and is also known for creating the critically acclaimed series “Preacher” (highly recommended)

shutterstock_2049846824. Comic books, trade paperbacks, graphic novels… what’s the difference?
Comic books are short, ongoing monthly issues involved in a serialized story.
A trade paperback is a collection of 5 or 6 of these monthly issues usually forming a complete story that was told over the single comic books.
Finally, a graphic novel is generally a larger standalone single story bound into a soft or hardback book.

5. Where should I start?
Well first of all you need to decide if you want a superhero story, a zombie apocalypse or a detective in a bat suit. True, there is 75 years’ worth of material on the Marvel DC side but luckily both companies are currently in the process of rebooting/reshaping their universe and titles, representing a perfect jumping on point for new readers.

Finally, this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, a yearly event where comic shops around the world give away free issues from all companies. Both Forbidden Planet and Comic Book Guys will be taking part and it’s a great day to get involved at your local store.

With over 40 movies and 10 TV shows (and that’s just from Marvel and DC), a perfect jumping on point event, shops around Belfast to dig into the old stories, comic-con and free comic book day, there is no better time to get into comics.

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