It's not as cut and dry a question as one might think. Do you buy a comic based on the writer, artist or publisher? Is it the genre, such as crime fiction or cosmic super-heroes? Do reviews or friends influence your purchases or do you buy certain books out of obligation, such as to "not break up a run"?
I asked these questions and more to a handful of other comic book bloggers over the past week and they've been kind enough to share their thoughts with me. I will be spotlighting each of the five bloggers every day this week, starting with Comics Should Be Good!'s Greg Hatcher.
Today, Greg Hatcher, from Comic Book Resources' Comics Should Be Good!, shares his reasons for buying the comics he does. Each blogger responded to my question differently and Greg has chosen to simply answer the list of questions I sent which expanded on the types of answers I was looking for.
Why Do I Buy Certain Comic Books?
by Greg Hatcher
Is it the writer?
Most of the time. I have guys whose work I enjoy and I follow their stuff. Some of it involves WHAT they're working on; I much prefer Greg Rucka when he's doing street-level crime books than a title like Adventures of Superman. Although I did find quite a few things to like about his Superman, too.
Almost never. I love comics art and I work as an illustrator and art instructor, the visual element is very important to me.... but it doesn't sell the book.
The visual element is very important to me.... but it doesn't sell the book.I have been reading comics for over forty years and I can count the times I bought a book for the art on one hand. In fact, two fingers...one was the Wonder Woman graphic novel "Amazonia", and the other wasn't even a comic; it was the Frank Frazetta book club editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books.
Sometimes bad art puts me off a story. But even then it would have to be really, REALLY bad. About half of Steve Englehart's work on The Avengers had rushed, crappy art, but I am still very fond of that work.
Nah, not really.
The Genre (space, super hero, crime, street level, etc)?
I like genre stuff, period; books, comics, B-movies, whatever. So I'd have to say yes. I like superheroes and I like westerns and I like street-level crime stories. When a book finds a way to COMBINE those things into a sort of mashup like the new Lone Ranger from Matthews and Cariello, I think I've died and gone to heaven. Especially if the art's good too.
What I really like, though, is capital-A Adventure - something with that sort of "let's-go!" swashbuckling rock and roll vibe.
And lately when a major publisher does hit that vibe there's a kind of snark, almost a mean-spiritedness underneath it, like in the first volume of The Ultimates.It's a hard thing to put into words. The visceral excitement you get from movies like the new Iron Man or the Bond books by Ian Fleming or television like Burn Notice. It's serious but it's also fun, fast and loud.
I think that's the kind of excitement that comics can do really well, but you don't see it as much in recent years, not from the major publishers. You have to go looking for it. And lately when a major publisher does hit that vibe there's a kind of snark, almost a mean-spiritedness underneath it, like in the first volume of The Ultimates. When old fogeys (like me) grump about modern superhero comics, it's the innocence component of that hell-for-leather excitement we miss, I suspect. I have a strong hunch that's why so many critics swooned over New Frontier and All-Star Superman, because those books are doing it.
Is it something to do with the first comic book you bought as a child? For example, I love Spider-Man. It was the first comic book I ever read and I still want to buy it even when I dislike the stories or current direction, like JMS's run or the current BND direction.
If I don't at least know what Batman is up to, I feel like I've lost touch with comics.I'm always going to be a Bat guy on some level. I always have to LOOK. If I don't at least know what Batman is up to, I feel like I've lost touch with comics.
I also buy reprint volumes of stuff I know is crap just because I remember it fondly from my youth. No one is ever going to be putting Marvel's Godzilla or DC's solo Robin adventures on any best-of lists, but I adored those strips and I snapped up those reprint books the day they came out.
Do you ever feel like you are buying a book out of obligation? For instance, to a certain publisher, creator or because you don't want to "break up a run" or other reasons unrelated to the actual content or quality of the comic?
Never to the character, if that's what you mean. I love Batman but I won't buy a book just because Batman's in it. I have bought a lot of small-press indie stuff at gouger's prices because I wanted to support the guys doing it.
I love Batman but I won't buy a book just because Batman's in it.It's embarrassing, the number of badly-done $2 'zines we have around this house. But they're done by great guys who've been nice to my students, even done them sketches and stuff, so I feel like I should reciprocate.
Also, if someone sends a review copy of something I really, really like, I'll go buy it anyway, because I want to see it do well, and I feel absurdly guilty about them losing a sale because they sent me one for free. I've done that with several of the BOOM! Studio books they've sent us. Potter's Field, Cover Girl, Hunter's Moon.
Do reviews or friends or message boards ever cause you to buy a book you'd regularly avoid?
I pay attention to what my colleagues on the blog are into. Greg Burgas has got me to try a couple of things like Fallen Angel, though really, I think I'm about seventy degrees off most of what my partners on the blog like.... they are all WAY more into Grant Morrison's work than I am.
Sometimes I think my function is to be the guy that's obligated to suggest Grant Morrison's not all THAT. If you are reading Comics Should Be Good! and ALL of us agree on something? It's a good book, guaranteed. I think we all liked Potter's Field and All-Star Superman. I think those are the only unanimous thumbs-up reviews.
Similarly, what makes you not buy a comic?
I want ONE story in THIS book, here in my hand.If I have such a low opinion of the creator as a human being that it colors what I think of his work, I avoid it. There are guys in comics that have behaved so badly that I won't give them money. I won't name names but I bet you can think of a list of possibles pretty quickly if you've been a fan for a while.
Apart from that? I'll LOOK at most anything once, I try not to be a snob about only liking one thing; but spending money on it has become a much more considered decision. It's reached the point where a lot of times I won't buy a book just because of price. I do a lot less sampling than I used to. The thing that puts me off most is the idea of 'needing to get caught up.' This is why I have been slowly pruning Marvel and DC superhero books from my reserve list. I want ONE story in THIS book, here in my hand.
If you need Wikipedia to decipher the comic book in your hand, it's probably not worth bothering with.I don't want to have to try and find the other interstitial bits of it scattered across some sort of line-wide promotion. Some of our readers do their catching up via Wikipedia, but I think if you need Wikipedia to decipher the comic book in your hand, it's probably not worth bothering with. Certainly, that kills any sense of swashbucking excitement the book may have had if you're constantly having to look up things in an index to figure it out.
I want the book to be exciting enough and clear enough that if I do trip over something and need to decipher it from context, that a) there's enough there for me to do that and b) the story's worth the trouble. Last time that happened for me was Cover Girl from BOOM. I came into that one in the middle and was a little confused but it was still FUN. Enough fun that I broke my rule and went and got the previous issues to catch up.
I can justify a used 200-page trade for $7 a lot easier than a 22-page story for $3 or $4.Comics are getting too expensive to be casual reading any more, though. Most of my sampling these days is done via used trade paperbacks on Amazon, because those are great deals. I can justify a used 200-page trade for $7 a lot easier than a 22-page story for $3 or $4.