Sunday, December 6, 2009

Why I gave up comics

It's been over a year and a half since I actively collected and read comic books. Oh, sure, I actually bought a couple of items, plus some freebies, during Free Comic Book Day back in May, but that's been it. After more than 40 years of reading comics, I had decided that I had to step away. There were a number of factors involved.

1) Too many "events". To borrow a line from 3rd Bass' "Pop Goes the Weasel" (1991), comic books have become too much of a "complex structure like a pyramid". Marvel & DC, for example, build everything in their core lines around a specific "event", expecting the faithful readers will shell out the extra dough for every crossover chapter to the storyline, even if it means buying a book they ordinarily wouldn't be caught dead reading. I know. I made that mistake when DC first issued Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985-6. Of course, back then, the books were cheaper than they are now, so it was easy to get roped in. In today's economy, not so much, unless you're willing to max out your Visa card.

2) Overpriced comics. The average DC or Marvel monthly now sells for either $3 or $4, depending on which book it is. Archie Comics is trailing behind at $2.50 per issue, which realistically should be the industry standard, not the exception. IDW (Idea & Design Works) skews toward $4 or $5, and always has, largely because of licensing fees that the publisher has to pay.

3) Stupid editorial ideas. Take for example what Marvel did with Spider-Man. Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada decided that after 20+ years of marriage, the web-head wasn't meant to be that way, so he had Peter (Spider-Man) Parker's marriage to Mary Jane Watson, an event unto itself in the late 80's, erased via a deal with Marvel's figurehead representation of the Devil. That's just one of the lame ideas that Marvel, formerly nicknamed "The House of Ideas", foisted upon the readers. Another one was clearly meant for shock value. The Rawhide Kid, a Western hero who'd been around since the Silver Age, was depicted as being gay in a poorly received miniseries. What Quesada is looking for, besides a few extra dollars at the checkout counter, is media attention. Let's not even get started with all the historical shuffling DC has done with someone like Hawkman. You think Rubik's Cube is challenging? Trying to make sense of "retroactive continuity" (retcon) would actually require a college degree and a private investigator's license.

4) It's not fun anymore. This actually ties into #2. I just can't shell out $3-4 per book on a weekly/monthly basis anymore. It got to the point where I finally said to myself, enough is enough. If they could roll back prices like Walmart and bring the standard cover price back to the levels they were 15-20 years ago, maybe I'm still in the game. I've had people try to tell me that I will get back into it. No, I won't. Not at this stage. It may be that the only time I actually indulge myself will in fact be at Free Comic Book Day, if at all. Coming up on 20 months and counting.

I will still check out comics-related blogs, mostly because that's where the fun is now, and read the solicitations of coming releases on the 'net, just in case there's something that might pique my curiosity, and that doesn't happen very often. I realize that comics has become big business, and as such, the bottom line at the corporate level is the motivating factor behind a lot of the "events" that are on the racks now. I can remember when I spent 12 cents for 1 book, and if it was a continued story, I couldn't get the next issue if the local distributor didn't deliver it to the corner store. That was the breaks of the game then. Today, I'd rather swim against the tide and hold on to the memories I have of simpler continuities and done-in-one stories.

2 comments:

FlyCoJoe said...

I didn't read any mentions of non-superhero comics in your post, other than Archie being the low-price leader in the market.

Might I suggest that your dissatisfaction with comics stems from editors changing your status quo as a reader? If you don't like the break-up of Peter & Mary Jane's marriage, if you're tired of trying to figure out Hawkman continuity, etc., why not find satisfaction in other areas of comics?

The fact is, the comics market is more vibrant and dynamic than ever and it may be that the "comfort food" comics you enjoyed for 40 years not taste a bit flat... or too spicy for you.

So I'd urge you to branch out a bit. There's far more to comics than just super-heroes, after all.

I recommend visiting a well-diversified comic book specialty store and getting some recommendations from informed staff there.

As the founder of Free Comic Book Day and the president of ComicsPRO, I truly believe there are engaging and entertaining comics and graphic novels for *anyone* who loves to read.

You only have to look in new and diferent areas to find something great for yourself!

Best!

Joe Field
http://flyingcolorscomics.com

hobbyfan said...

FlycoJoe:

Thanks for writing. You're absolutely right. The status quo has been changing for readers for quite a while. I cited "One More Day" and the Hawkman mess as examples of well-intentioned personnel in editorial (well, except maybe for Quesada) trying to make things easier for newer readers to understand, but at the same time alienating older readers. I get to an extent what DC wanted to do with Hawkman. I didn't get Quesdada's idea of terminating Peter & Mary Jane's marriage (which, thankfully, still exists in the daily strip after they experimented with "Brand New Day" there earlier this year).

For me, it's a matter of economics forcing a sacrifice. I've read and/or collected comics on and off over 40+ years. I have to operate on a self-imposed budget, and I had to choose between comics & sports cards. The way I see it now, once a year (FCBD) makes the most amount of sense if I feel the need to indulge in comics again. Thanks again.