04.23.2009

The Decision to Quit Comics

For the past few days, I’ve been haunted by the same thought over and over.  Should I quit buying comics?

It all started when I was in a used bookstore on Saturday.  This was one of those rare occasions when the children were with a babysitter and I could really take my time looking through the selection.  As I took in all the various science fiction novels, I found myself wishing I had more time to read books.  As it stands right now, the only books I really make time for are the occasional TV/movie tie-in, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who.  When I was younger I used to read a much wider range of science fiction novels.  Unfortunately, my free time has really diminished as I’ve gotten older and I’ve been forced to be very selective with that time.  I started to wonder – in order to have more free time to read novels, what would I need to change about my life?

I’ve got several hobbies, each competing for my free time.  Activities such as reading comic books, role-playing, reading a few novels, surfing the web, and blogging are what I focus on mostly.  That is, of course, outside the time I spend with my wife, two children, doing my share of the housework, and at my job.  In order to make more time for novel reading, I would need to cut back on another existing hobby.  On Saturday, comics seemed like they might be a good choice to cut back on.  After all, I’ve been complaining quite a bit about comics for a few years.  I’ve got concerns with the price of single issues, as well as the direction DC has been following.  Hmmm… that many concerns are worth thinking about.

If I were to quit buying new comics, I’d still hold onto my old comics.  Anytime I got a hankerin’ for comics, I could just bust-out some back issues.  Also, I’ve got tons of comics I’ve bought that I haven’t gotten the chance to read yet.  Between reading novels and back issues, I wouldn’t be lacking for reading material for the rest of my life.

Would quitting new comics really give me enough time back?  To be frank, blogging is what eats up the majority of my free time nowadays.  While I enjoy it tremendously, it really is a time-sink.  I love y’all, but if I quit blogging I’d get back a bunch of free time.  Now the question is, would I have to give up both new comics and blogging in order to make time for more frequent novel reading?

Could I quit new comics if I wanted to?  I’ve done it before, but obviously got dragged back in.  Also, there are certain characters I don’t really want to lose touch with.  For example, I’m really anxious to see what happens to Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm) during Blackest Night.  So there are certain challenges for me with quitting.

Also, I really enjoy blogging.  I like putting my thoughts down in pixels and sharing them with the world.  I’ve made some new friends through blogging and I’ve reconnected with some old ones.  I like my little corner of the blogosphere and would really miss it.

After great consideration, I’ve resolved to continue buying new comics and blogging for now.  I’m just going to cut further back on the number of comics I get, so I’m only buying titles that I’m totally jazzed about.  I’m also going to work on ways to streamline my blogging, so it doesn’t take as much time.  I gotta say though, the idea of walking away from it all is pretty tempting.  I’m sure I’ll be considering this again in the future.

By the way, that noise you hear is my wife cursing.  I’m sure she started reading this blog entry and was over-the-moon happy about the prospect of me no longer buying comics. More than likely, she’d already formulated plans to redecorate my home office by the third paragraph.  Sorry dear.

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30 Responses to “The Decision to Quit Comics”

  1. Ed Says:

    It’s funny you should blog about this when just last week I was thinking the same thing. I picked up a months worth of comics and found that it was only, maybe, 10 comics and my total was $25. I’ve cut down drastically in the past month since Marvel started some titles at $3.99. I refuse to pay that amount for a comic. I had already dropped a bunch of DC titles in the past year or so since they have mostly turned to crap. There are a couple of titles I am getting now that are a mini-series so when those are done, that will reduce my pull. I remember a time, probably about 2 or 3 years ago, when my months worth of comics was a pretty large stack and close to $100.
    After I saw this stack and realized how much I had reduced my subscription I was thinking that it may not be very long before I stop buying comics completely. I can tell you, though, that I sure do save a lot of money now. But, the first thought that came to my mind when I realized that soon I may not be collecting comics was not about money but about the fact that, mainly, it’s not as fun as it used to be. I remember a time when DC was rocking and visiting the comic book store to pickup my comics was exciting, and fun, and magical. I don’t feel that way any longer.
    So, yeah, I may be quitting comics.
    *I just realized this was a long rant. Sorry. Probably should have saved it for The Unique Geek listserv.

  2. Shag Says:

    No apologies necessary. I’m feeling very similar to you. It’s just not as fun anymore.

    Thanks for the really thought-out comment!

    Shag

  3. Siskoid Says:

    I know exactly how you feel.

    For me, the balance is struck by way of symbiosis. Everything I do is potentially dumped into the blog. To keep it going, I simply HAVE to read, watch, play the stuff I know is piling up even as I’m writing about it. It’s incentive. And it’s justification for having bought all those comics, books, games, dvds. It’s research!

    At the same time, they’re all competing with one another, so I have to find ways to blog more effectively. Shorter posts, which must still prove entertaining, but not a whole week’s worth of short posts, because some of it needs to have meet on its bones. Blogspot’s post-dating option is great for writing a bunch of posts together on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and not having to think about it for the rest of the week. It’s a puzzle.

    Mitigating factor: I don’t have any kids. However, I make up for it by usually posting twice a day and having a number of projects on the go at the same time.

  4. Erika Says:

    This is unbelievably timely. I have been thinking a lot lately about the price of my comics habit, both in terms of my money and my time. I don’t buy nearly as much as I would if I didn’t have kids to feed and clothe, but even $15 a week adds up. And let’s be honest: A lot of stuff just isn’t that good. My problem is that, in order to catch up on the stuff that IS good, I’d have to invest in some trades. More $$$. Like you, I’m trying to step back from buying certain books out of habit and focusing on good writers and artists.

    I think the most valuable thing about reading comics, aside from the thrill of a good story, is the sense of community and the shared experience. Comics are a part of who I am, but it’s OK to be picky … and to downsize significantly.

    I would miss the heck out of your blog, but as a fellow working parent, I’d understand if you gave it up.

  5. 44 Says:

    I have to say i am nearly in shock. First that Shag would contemplate bailing on comix. Next that this is a very common theme. I suppose that #2 should not suprise me in this economy, but it does.
    However Shag giving up on comix really suprised me mostly because of the new blog, Firestorm Fan…you can’t give up comix if you have a blog about a comic character, can you?

  6. Ned Stacey Says:

    As a comic bookstore owner, I must weigh in on this discussion because quite frankly it could put me out of business, or be a factor in as to why comic bookstores are quickly closing up across the country.
    To quit comics because you have new interests, fine. Everyone grows into new things and our interests change. To quit comics because of a price increase, not a valid argument. That is economy 101, and items go up in price. To reduce your purchases to comics that are really good would be the wise choice here. Don’t stick with story lines going nowhere or shoddy artist. Be selective because there is a lot out there to choose from. If you are paying $8.99 for a pound for steak, you don’t just grab the one on top. You look through the stack for the best one. Which leads me to DC/Marvel Mentality. Why stick with just these two publishers. Check out some of the other smaller publishers who may be putting out some great product. Let’s list a few really good titles right now, NOT published by the big two…
    Kick-Ass
    Hexed
    Locke & Key
    Stephen King’s Dark Tower (Yes Marvel, but not the norm)
    The Stand (ditto)
    Walking Dead
    Umbrella Academy
    No Hero
    Boys
    Try some new titles. The Cosmic Cat has on its shelves over 250 different titles. Don’t just walk into your comic bookstore and grab your file. Take a close look at the comics racks. And stop just looking for the Marvel and DC logos. Sit down and read a book in the store. Read all 250 titles for all I care. I know that if you do read all 250 titles, you will have a bunch of new favorites.
    Lastly, Google “comic store closings”, “comic bookstore out of business”, etc and you may be shocked at some of the stores closing up.
    If you do decide to quit comics, do not be disappointed when you pass the empty storefront of your favorite comic bookstore.

  7. Ned Stacey Says:

    By the way, the Cosmic Cat is NOT going out of business because I saw the light years ago and my customers in Norway will keep me slinging paper for years to come.

  8. Erika Says:

    I’m still coming to get my stack this week, Ned. :-)

  9. Ed Says:

    Actually, the economy has not driven me away from comics.
    The comic book industry has driven me away from comics. I believe the decline of my comic book cutback was when I sold my entire collection almost three years ago but it was when most of the comics I was buying (not entirely DC and not entirely Marvel) were just not as entertaining as they used to be that put that last nail in the coffin, even though I was trying new titles. For as long as I can remember, since shopping in your store Ned, I have always browsed the shelves after picking up my stash to see if there was anything else, other than DC or Marvel, that looked interesting.
    However, thinking deeper about this, there could be some factors in my decision, as you mentioned. It could be that I have gotten older, or turned my attention to other interest, maybe also to save money, or it could be that the comic book industry (excluding film) has exited its prime years. Maybe it has hit a phase where comics are just not as good as they used to be. Have we seen this in history? You comic book experts would know that answer.
    Believe it or not, most of the comics I have purchased in the past two years have been TPB, most of which have been titles of what I consider the good years, the range from 1995 to 2004. However, I have found the recent TPB of Fables, Walking Dead and Invincible to be outstanding and I will continue to buy those.
    Could that be it? Ned, you would be the expert in this area. Could it be that the incline of TPD publication has dropped the sales of monthly titles? I know it has for me. That could be a very interesting statistic to see.
    I do feel for the comic book stores though; especially now that a lot of the monthly titles have jumped to $3.99. I’m afraid I may not be the only case where people will refuse to buy a $3.99 monthly title. What sucks about this is that it’s not the publisher that will suffer but the middle-man, the comic book stores, that would suffer from this. That is why I have stated over at The Unique Geek listserv when we had this discussion about $3.99 titles that we all, including the comic book store, should start an online petition or something, some type of movement, that would raise our voice at these companies for raising the price at the worst time when the economy and the consumer is suffering.

  10. 44 Says:

    Ned,

    I appreciate most of your initial post, however i have to disagree with you on this specific point: “To quit comics because of a price increase, not a valid argument. That is economy 101, and items go up in price.” Actually to quit comics because of a price increase IS in fact Economics 101. Supply and demand. The demand diminishes with the price increase, essentially a call by the end consumer that you have priced this item out of my demand price range. The market will bear general price increases, but this seems like a rather dramatic increase. If it is still 22 pages of story rife with ads, no premium reason for a premium price, the consumer will decline to purchase, thus causing demand to lessen and supply to increase.

  11. Choco Taco Says:

    In my opinion, there’s no valid economic reason that comic books should be $3.99, though. A 33.33% price increase? Come on!

    When Marvel posted their numbers for 2008, didn’t they post huge profit margins for their publishing division? This price increase isn’t market-driven at all. It’s just an attempt to milk fans for as much money as possible, which is a valid business practice, but it’s equally valid for me, a fan, to refuse to buy their product.

    I do agree with what Ned said about being more selective about your purchases, though. Cut some of the drek from your pull list, and I bet you’ll find that you’re saving a little bit of money and time each month.

  12. Cary Says:

    I have been shying away from monthly comics, but not as an economic or lifestyle decision. I’d rather collect them as TPBs. I prefer having the entire story arc in one volume, and the TPB form is easier to store- no longboxes needed, just line up the bookshelf. I’ve been going back and recollecting my favorites for a while now; Lucifer, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, and I’ve forgone the monthly of Exterminators and Ex Machina in favor of the TPBs.

  13. Siskoid Says:

    Sorry Ned, while I’m totally onboard with the idea that there are lots of excellent comics published by companies other than the big two, Kick-Ass IS published by Marvel. And is not an excellent comic.

    There. I’ve said it.

  14. Scraps Says:

    What Siskoid said (the first time): it’s all about streamlining your processes and getting your varying interests to play nice with one another, channeling them into the same outputs to both justify and benefit one another.

  15. N Stacey Says:

    Yes Kick Ass is an Icon title which is a Marvel offshoot. My bad. I had wanted to mention some of the great Vertigo titles too, an offshoot of DC Comics. So maybe there is something to be said about creator owned comics and not the run of the mill superheroes.

  16. N Stacey Says:

    The good news for comic bookstores is if a customer continues to spend the same amount of money each week, due to the discount larger stores receive, stores will still have the same amount of profit. What those stores have to do is make sure they keep up with their inventory. Purchase what sells, and have a sell out of a title in a couple of weeks. What customers need to do is let their local comic store know a couple of months in advance that they plan on dropping a title or at least pick up what is currently in their hold file, then cancel a title. That will be greatly appreciated.

  17. Shag Says:

    Wow! What great comments! I’m out of town for business right now, so I haven’t checked my e-mail since 6:30am. I had no idea my post had sparked so much fantastic discussion. Thank you for all your well thought out responses.

    Okay, let me try and address some of the points brought up…

    Siskoid – Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve actually started writing as many posts over the weekend as possible (and scheduling them in advance) to free up the weekdays. By the way, you are a posting MACHINE! :)

    Erika – Thanks for the moral support. The sense of community is one of the major factors that has kept me in comics all these years. I’m not going anywhere right now, but I’ll continue to think about quitting as an option.

    44 – I can always review the back issues of Firestorm that I already own for that blog. And your Economics 101 comments… that’s why you’re my own personal financial advisor. You actually learned something in college from your Finance degree! ;)

    Ned –
    (1) You make some very valid points about supporting local comic books stores and independent publishers. Local comic stores are the backbone of the comic industry. Without them, there is no comic industry. I get a small handful of non-Marvel, non-DC, but it’s not a tremendous amount.
    (2) I do have new interests (my kids) that make comics feel less urgent to me. Additionally, I’m REALLY suffering from Event Fatigue. The constant crossovers and never-ending-stories from DC and Marvel are wearing me out. I don’t get the same sense of satisfaction from comics that I used to.
    (4) I do feel the $3.99 price point is enough to take notice of economically. Raising prices 33% is painful.
    (5) Worth mentioning, while independent publishers are certainly an option, many of them are also at a higher price point (understandably since they have lower print runs). So going independent isn’t likely to save you money.
    (6) I’m very happy to hear the Cosmic Cat isn’t going anywhere. Love that store!

    Ed – TPB have definitely had an impact on the monthly titles. The current business model for Marvel and DC is broken (monthly issues/TPBs). Both publishers know that, but neither can figure out how to dig themselves out of the hole they are in. I think a movement would be interesting, however, I have no idea where to start. How do you form a movement that comes across as rational and not just fanboys griping?

    Choco Taco – You’re right. Cutting some from the list is the best plan for right now. And yes, Marvel is the worst offender about the price increase.

    Cary – TPBs certainly have their appeal. However, I’m not very patient and I don’t like waiting for the trade (sometimes it comes out a year later, after the initial hardcover release). But they sure are nice to read! Much nicer than the monthly issues.

    Scraps – Thanks. I think that’s the route I’m going to go for now.

    Again, thanks so much for all the comments. This has been a really great discussion!

  18. Shag Says:

    Ned – I absolutely agree. Comic book store customers need to understand that retailers order about two months in advance. So if you drop a title, the courteous thing to do is to pick up the comics for two months (so the comic store doesn’t get stuck with those issues).

  19. N Stacey Says:

    As far as independent prices. Surprisingly many are priced at $2.99 with thicker cover stock and more pages with actual story, mainly due to less interest in advertising I assume. Sorry to say though, I would guess without running a report on my work computer, that over 50% of the small press publishers have ceased publishing in the past year. And that is not due to Diamond Distributors not carrying their product due to low publishing runs.

  20. rob! Says:

    Shag-

    I think I could give up comics before I could give up blogging. :)

    I understand the temptation though–I spent $10 today for 3 measly comics, 2 of which went immediately in the recycling bin after I read them because they were weak. So I paid something like $7 for about 10 minutes worth of lame entertainment. I have lots of weeks like that–something’s gotta give!

    But please don’t stop blogging!

  21. Siskoid Says:

    Blogging machine… I’m not sure that’s a virtue.

    TPBs… Maybe it’s because I grew up on French-language bande dessinée (Tintin, Asterix, etc. usually the gateway drug for French Canadians), but I’ve long been a supporter of a necessary business model change for American comics. Direct to “graphic novel”/”direct to trade”, with the potential for Manga-type anthologies/magazines to strip some stories, new characters, etc.

    The cost of a monthly has put it pretty much in the price range of people who would and could buy trades anyway.

  22. Stuart Renton Says:

    I’ve never bought comics, but I buy a fair amount of graphic novels. I think I spent about 1000 pounds in the first year just trying to pick up all the books people said were great, but I realized, like you, JUST how expensive it is as a hobby.

    So I majorly cut back, and I think it’s wise for you to do the same.

    Accordingly, I was spending far more time updating my column and my various websites than I was actually writing any novels. In fact, I barely wrote a single word last year, so I’ve scrapped nearly everything to concentrate on writing again.

    I think we’ll miss you, but you COULD just post here once or twice a week and we’ll still come by and visit!

  23. Todd H Elliott Says:

    I’m going to stick with not buying comics and mooching from people who don’t want them anymore. Thanks Ed!

  24. Jared Says:

    I gave up on single-issues years ago. Somewhat perversely, I lack both the patience to wait for a storyline to evolve (and resolve) and the time to hit the comic shop with decent frequency.

    I also got really irked with the publishers – tired of buying one comic only to learn I needed six crossovers from different titles to make any sense from it.

    The graphic novel boom has saved my skin. Better length, better value, and fewer nasty marketing-induced surprises. I’m also more willing to experiment with graphics as I’m getting a full storyline, and just a one-issue taste.

  25. Kelson Says:

    I’ve thought about just walking away. Probably not from comics entirely, but I’m considering waiting for trades on new series I start reading, and I’m down to just one DC title — and it’s in the middle of a relaunch.

    I have decided to stop reading books that I don’t like.

    No more crossovers just to keep up (with the exception of finishing Legion of Three Worlds). I’m only picking them up if they look interesting.

    And if I haven’t read a series in 5 months or longer, and I don’t feel particularly inclined to…it’s time to stop buying it.

    The real question for me is: will The Flash post-Rebirth be a book that I still want to read? If not, that’s going to free up a whole lot of time that I’d otherwise spend on comics blogging, forums, etc.

  26. Byron Law Says:

    I’m actually giving my collection away (one comic book at a time). If you are interested, it’s all at http://www.comicbookgiveaway.com

  27. KidFury Says:

    The way I see it if you stopped now then Daddy’s collection will be worth something to someone, someday. If you never stop, it becomes that obsession your children talk about in therapy. :-)

  28. Superman2k38 Says:

    Hi, folks. I found this blog cause I’m in the same boat. Last night I made a decision to quit. For a number of reasons really. Cost, space, general disatisfaction…and Star Trek. Heh. What? Yeah, I said it. After watching the new franchise reboot twice this weekend, I discovered a new found excitement and it had nothing to do with comics. I felt so great coming out of the theatre and excited for the future and realized comics for me have been a major bummer and buzzkill for quite a few years now. Old favorites being killed off, dark/cynical mega events tearing apart things I know and love…is there really any true bright light anywhere from either big guns. Not really. Cap’s dead, Osborne rules the Marvel U, Dark Avengers, Dark X-Men, Blackest Night, Batman’s dead, Crisis fatigue, old DC favorites as evil Zombie ring-bearers…it’s just too much. Darkness, darkness, darkness. And now we have Star Trek…old friends brought back to new life…new sense of optimism and possibilities. I’ll spend my money on that.

  29. Ellie Says:

    Please don’t stop blogging! I really enjoy this blog and I read it every day:)

  30. Shag Says:

    Ellie – Thanks for the comment. I’m not quitting right now, but I am cutting back.

    Thanks for reading!

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