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Catching Up

Comic books just aren't as popular as they used to be. And time is the biggest problem.

Think of the initial issues of comic books that introduced the biggest comic book character: Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, Amazing Fantasy #15, The Fantastic Four #1. Those issues made it easy to fall in love with a comic book superhero. The stories were simple and straightforward. There was no backstory to get in the way.

Look at those same characters today. Batman, Superman and The Human Torch have died. Marvel cancelled The Fantastic Four comic in order to spite a movie company. Spider-Man has endured so many iterations, the character is no longer recognizable. It's a mess.

They've made it almost impossible to start reading comics in the year 2015. Comic book aficionados don't make it easy either. If somebody mentions how much they like the TV series The Flash, a comic book oldtimer will inevitably come along and mention how much they liked Jay Garrick from the Golden Age or how Barry Allen died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths back in the '80s.

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Golden Age? Crisis on Infinite Earths? Anyone trying to start reading comic today will surrender to the miles of cruft that has built up around our favorite superheroes.

Try to discuss Robin and you'll immediately thrown into an argument about which Robin is the real one. If you're just starting, you probably know of only one of them.

So what is a beginner supposed to do? On the DC Comics side, there is a simple answer -- and it's free.

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The DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2015 is a digital comic available on DC's website. It uses the Comixology digital publication engine to display the pages, so it is a good introduction to that technology. Just put the free publication in your cart and in minutes, you'll be catching up on the last 30 years of all the major DC comic books and graphic novels.

This 143-page catalog is not only filled with cover art from a wide variety of issues published in the last 30 years, but also contains a feature every comic book starter vitally needs -- a "Suggested Reading Order" of available issues. Now you don't have to rely on a Comic Book Guy who is interested only in unloading his stash of leftover comics.

The Chronology goes back only to the mid-1980s, a natural beginning for DC Comics because of the tremendous popularity of The Watchmen, The Dark Knight and Crisis on Infinite Earths series. In the interim, DC has published 75-year anniversary issues featuring some of their biggest characters, so samples of the best from the Golden and Silver ages is included as well.

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Best of all, these comics are available for purchase in digital form, meaning there won't be a premium to pay a collector.

Give it a look. Even if you don't need it for yourself, it will give you ideas for what to get a friend or loved-one for the holidays who has fallen in love with Arrow, The Flash or Supergirl.

(Although there's no similar book on the Marvel side, people wanting to catch up on Marvel's characters should check out the episodes of Marvel 101 on YouTube by clicking here.)

-- André Hinds ("Evermore") is the audio producer of the ElectricSistaHood podcast and writes weekly about comic books

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Born at a very young age with no foreknowledge of the event.