UPDATE: Let no one ever question the Hivemind's dedication to nerditry. I appreciate all the suggestions and I'll try to hunt those down.
I've been a nerd for all my life, but there's one area in which I fear I'm lacking: teh comicz. I know a lot about the DC and Marvel Universes, I know about Dark Horse and Vertigo, and I've read a handful of things, but I really don't know where to begin with mainstream comics or if it's even worth trying.
I'm into just about anything — both classic characters and new guys. Also, since I don't really know the history I can't get all butthurt (is that an offensive phrase? Apologies if it is; I'll find a different one) if they're doing silly things to the canon. And hey, since I'm a literature guy, I'm all about fucking with the canon.
Here's the other constraint: I don't currently have the money to buy single issues (unless I can find them cheap at Half Price) or a device good enough to read comics on (and I'd still have to pay for some of that stuff). So I'd be looking at catching up on old storylines in trades that I can pick up cheap at Half Price or check out from the Library. Any suggestions?