Today's guest blogger is Eric Rupe, from The Comic Catalog, and he chose to answer my question in the interview style format that I originally sent along as helper questions for the guest bloggers, similar to how Greg Hatcher answered the question in his guest post.
Why Do I Buy Certain Comic Books?
by Eric Rupe
Is it the writer?
Almost always, but there have been a few books recently that I have tried out based on concept alone; notably Captain Britain, Birds of Prey and Eternals, but the results have been mixed so I may shy away from doing it in the future. I love reading so the writer is the biggest draw for me. I just enjoy a great story and most artists don't "tell" great stories with their art but there are a couple that do. For example, J. G. Jones on Final Crisis.
A good writer draws you into the story and makes you care about the characters they are writing about and that is the main draw for me as a reader.A good writer draws you into the story and makes you care about the characters they are writing about and that is the main draw for me as a reader. Since that is the job of the writer that is the main factor when I decide to buy a book, no matter if I like the characters or not.
It is also the closest thing I have to a true quality control method. Yes, not everything put out by a specific writer will be good but it is the best way to ensure that I will enjoy a book when I buy it.
Even though comics are a highly visual medium, the art is probably the last thing I worry about when buying. I find most art inoffensive and can find something to appreciate from most art and artists so it isn't a big concern.
That said, I am a huge John Romita Jr. fanboy and will buy just about anything he does. Same goes for Mark Bagley. Him and JRJR also have a nostalgic factor involved since they were some of my favorite artists back when I was only reading Spider-Man books. J. H. Williams III is another artist whose work I am starting to love enough to check out on a book I might otherwise skip. Art can stop me from buying a book, though, but that rarely happens.
When I was a Marvel Zombie it mattered, but not that much anymore. I tend to stick with Marvel and DC books though because I like to be an informed buyer and it is hard to get the kind of information I want about indy books in order to make a decision about buying and whether or not I should buy them. That said, if a writer I read does a book for an indy publisher I will buy it if my LCS has it.
The Genre (space, super hero, crime, street level, etc)?
If a book doesn't fall under the broad category of "Superheroes", then I don't tend to buy it.I read comics for superheroes. Aside from the occasional movie, like The Dark Knight, or TV show, like JLU, it's hard to find good superhero stories, so I have to get them from comics. If a book doesn't fall under the broad category of "Superheroes", then I don't tend to buy it. I do dabble with Vertigo books, like Fables or House of Mystery, but I don't stray too far from superhero books. It also has to do with the fact that if I want a good spy, crime or space story I can go elsewhere but that is not to say I can't find those kinds of stories, and good ones at that, in comic form.
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.
I quit reading comics for a while* and was brought back into comics because of the Ultimate books, so I am always trying to read at least one book from that line and try to follow it on the internet. Given the chance I will buy any Ultimate book but I would never buy a book simply because of a nostalgia or other such reasons since I buy comics on a budget and can't afford to do so. If I could I would but that just isn't case at this time.
Do reviews or friends or message boards ever cause you to buy a book you'd regularly avoid?
I tend to be pretty stubborn when it comes to books that I refuse to buy, but the opinions of people I trust can get me to look at a book I may have missed or passed over.I tend to be pretty stubborn when it comes to books that I refuse to buy, but the opinions of people I trust can get me to look at a book I may have missed or passed over. For example, Kirk's reviews of Atomic Robo convinced me to get the trade and I will try any other Atomic Robo series that come out.
Similarly, what makes you not buy a book?
Jeph Loeb, Jeph Loeb, Jeph Loeb, Jeph Loeb, Jeph Loeb, Jeph Loeb.
There are also a few other creators whose work I avoid, like Howard Chaykin (when he is drawing anyway) and Greg Land (at least recently, as I enjoy some of his older work such as Phoenix Endsong).
I also tend to avoid Alex Ross projects since his Golden and Silver Age fetishes seems like fanboy whining to me, which I hate. That and I don't like his covers, but I have never read anything where he did the interiors. There are some writers that I find hit or miss, like Mark Guggenheim or Peter Milligan, and will only pick up their work in trade form if I hear good things about it.
I will also avoid certain writers on certain books. I am enjoying Ed Brubraker's Captain America but if he isn't working on a book that involves crime, spy or noir themes I won't pick it up. His Uncanny X-Men has been okay, but it is not up to his standards, so I won't get it.
In addition, even though I enjoy a lot of Bendis's writing I am going to pass on any standard superhero books he works on in the future like New and Might Avengers.
Certain status quo changes are another reason why I will pass on a book. I think that the OMD/BND status quo changes for Spider-Man are some of the dumbest ideas in recent comic history and, no matter how much I love Spider-Man, I am not going to pick up Amazing Spider-Man any time soon.
I also tend to avoid the X-Men franchise and rarely read their books unless someone like Morrison or Whedon is working on one. I will also get the occasional Wolverine arc if I like the creative team.
Of course, none of those rules are set in stone. JRJR is working on the Ultimate Captain America Annual with Loeb and the BND arc "New Ways to Die" with Slott so I'll probably pick both of those up at some point. I also read X-Factor, since it is removed enough from the other X-books, and got Messiah Complex even though I don't follow the X-Men.
Basically, to get back to the subject, why do you by the books you buy?
If I am not entertained by a book on some level then I am not going to keep reading.Entertainment, escapism, or an intellectual challenge. Yes, I realize how much of a smug elitist that last part sounds, but why else would I read a Grant Morrison comic? If I am not entertained by a book on some level then I am not going to keep reading.
It could be the story or it could be the characters but there needs to be something about the book that is interesting or entertaining enough to get me to read it. At the end of the day every book I buy on a regular basis has something that appeals to me. Whether it is simply entertaining(Millar's Ultimates), has some sort of escapist value(Ultimate Spider-Man), elicits an emotional response(JMS's Silver Surfer: Requiem and Tomasi's respective Final Crisis: Requiem), draws me into its world(Fables) or just challenges me as a reader(Grant Morrison's works).
*For those interested I quit during "The Final Chapter" story arc in the Spider-Man books before the '99 reboot. Marvel was teasing the return of Baby May in the books but when it turned out to be Aunt May I was incredibly pissed and quit reading comics all together since they were the only books I was reading at the time.