Monday, August 31, 2009

What comic books and candy have in common (more than you'd think)

Comic books have got a lot of competition these days. Many things compete for my (little) expendable income: going to the movies, going to the arcade, photography supplies, yummy burgers. None of these things are necessities in life. Entertainment is a luxury, something I must constantly remind myself in preparation for the zombie apocalypse. I currently work two (very personally rewarding) part time jobs, and still don't work full time. Yet I spend hundreds of dollars a year buying comic books, bags and boards, short boxes, long boxes, trade paperbacks, graphic novels, toys, and other clever tie-ins, such as Batarang shaped belt buckles. If any of you fat cat CEO's of various comic book companies are reading this, don't get too excited; I'm not your blindly loyal customer, no sir. This is a passion of the highest of priorities; but it is not a necessity. And I intend to keep it that way.

I'm relatively new to the comic book fan base. I've been reading comics on a semi-regular basis for nine years, and weekly basis for the last five years. This is newbie status compared to the average age of comic book fans! But in that time, buying and reading comics has never been a habit. (Okay, maybe at the height of my X-Men phase. But really, who can read 15 X-Men titles and not get a little burnt out?) It has been a want. A need that I try to fulfill as often as possible. But it is not like air. I will repeat again just to be dramatic: I don't need comics like I need air. Who really, truly appreciates every breathe they take? Okay, maybe the ones you frantically gulp in shortly after having survived a harrowing experience, but certainly not the ones you take while lazily sitting in front of your computer / television / other glowing form of entertainment. No, I dread the day when I walk into a comic book store and don't feel excited about what I'm reading, worried about how many books I'll "have to" buy. To keep my love of comics burning hot, I've got a few ground rules for reading:


1. Don't be a completist! 

Okay, so you've purchased the first 456 issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Guess what? It sucks right now! Don't feel obligated to buy it just because you have a full run. Because guess what buddy, someday, when are bitter about all of the money you've been throwing away on a joyless experience, and give up reading comics (which you will if you throw away money out of habit), when you sell back your mint condition full run, you'll still only get $.05 a pop on the books that sucked. Everything is mass produced now, there's no such thing as "rare"! People will only pay what it is worth based on the quality of the content, not the availability. (Well, maybe other guys like you will pay more. But they'll feel like a shmuck later, I guarantee it!) Besides, if you're in it for the love of reading, you won't be thinking about selling it later. So why buy it unless you love it? 

2. If you aren't reading it, don't buy it!

This goes right along with being a completist. And trust me, we've all been there. You've been loving a book for years, it's been a fantastic run. Then, it starts to suck. Hard. New writers, new artists, new directions. You just don't like it. But you still buy it, hoping it will get better. DON'T!!!!! I would go by the three book minimum. If you continue buying a title, and you have more than three issues stacked up that you haven't read, then you should probably stop buying it. (Hello stack of 52! Hello Countdown!) If it's not a priority to read, then you are throwing your money away. And you are also sending the message to publishers that you approve of and enjoy the direction this series has taken. Support the art you love, don't settle for mediocrity in hopes that it'll get better. You can talk to other fans / read blogs like mine to keep up on what is good!

3. Don't judge a book by its cover.

Covers are crap these days. Most of the time the cover art work is solicited months ahead, with the artist being given no indication whatsoever of the plot line. I'd love to see these requests. "Give me....Wolverine, claws, spittle, aaaaaand a motorcycle. What's this for? Oh, Moon Knight 26. Or Runaways 39"

Really though, I mean this in both a superficial and genuine way. Just because you've never liked a "superhero" comic doesn't mean there aren't any out there that you may enjoy. And that goes for "indy" titles too! Take recommendations from people! What's the worst that can happen, you become more informed? If someone likes a book enough to let you borrow it, or even buy you a copy, it's worth giving a chance. Genre is just something vendors use to organize the vast quantities of products available, not a way for you to easily ignore the wonderful possibilities that may be offered to you in a different style of storytelling.

4. Follow writers / artists!!!!

Okay, this is one that i really resisted for years. I went into my local comic book store every week, and I went straight to the Marvel section for my weekly dose of obligatory x-books. Those were some fun years, but it had to end. If you want to follow your favorite characters, that's fine! But be prepared to one day have your favorite characters raped in crappy book after crappy book. Because when creative teams change, these things happen! Instead of following say, Hal Jordan, how bout you follow Geoff Johns? He will never disappoint you the way Green Lantern will when they give that book to a second rate writer. No sir. Follow this rule and you will up your enjoyment of comics exponentially! Fun factor will quadruple!

5. Treat comic books like candy.


I bet you thought I forgot about that analogy! If you treat reading comics like the luxury that it is, you won't run the risk of taking it for granted. Make it a treat to look forward to, not the main course! Comics should enrich your life, not provide you with sustenance.



Well that was relatively painless! I haven't the slightest idea who will read this blog, but I hope to showcase a passion for comic books that will be contagious and encourage readers to pick up new books, start reading things they would have never considered, and also document my own explorations of the medium. I'll even write posts for readers that may never have picked up a comic book in their whole life! Getting them to read this blog first may be a challenge, but let's take it one post at a time. Thanks for stopping by for your daily does of:

2 comments:

  1. Good call on all 5. I do have a minor disagreement though. I personally have found that cover art has improved drastically from the 90s. Yes we are seeing the return of foils in Marvel's ultimate lineup (I blame Jeph Loeb) but by and large covers have improved drastically. Marvel has realized (and DC to a lesser degree) that cover art can be appreciated as its own category rather then as a description of the issue's contents. I've found that the coolest covers are usually iconic and represent the story's ideas rather then the precise narration. Artistic merit and good graphical composition is also a plus as well.

    This doesn't refute your point that covers aren't representative of the book's quality though. In fact this is probably why Marvel is emphasizing great cover-art: hopefully the cover will draw you to flip through some pages even though the writing may be crap.

    If you're interested in doing a highlight on cover art, I'd be more then happy to contribute.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I will definitely be showing appreciation for cover artwork in the future; who hasn't picked up a book because of a rad cover, only to discover an awesome new series?

    I think the risk of avoiding a book because of what's implied on the cover is far more troublesome than the cover being a misrepresentation; many a fans will miss out on a good thing because they don't see what they think they'll like.

    P.S. - New Firefox sucks! I can't seem to post comments from that browser, and have to use Safari.

    ReplyDelete