Saturday, August 9, 2008

Evie Nagy from Awesomed By Comics on Why She Buys Certain Comic Books

This post marks the final follow-up guest post answering the question, Why Do You Buy Certain Comics?, and features an answer from a blogger I recently stumbled upon, Evie Nagy, after reading her blog, Awesomed By Comics.

Tomorrow, I'll post my own reasons as to why I buy the books I do and I'll be featuring some reader comments and excerpts, gathered from the numerous comments on the series of guest posts, too.

In a follow up to last week's series of guest posts, Evie Nagy, blogger from Awesomed By Comics, answers my question on why she buys the books she does. You can follow Evie on Twitter, too.

Why Do I Buy Certain Comic Books?
by Evie Nagy

Even a few weeks before Kirk asked bloggers and readers to share why they buy the comics they do, I had been thinking a lot about the subject, watching my stack get consistently taller and more expensive each week. Why is it so hard to be selective, standing in front of those pretty rectangles on the shelf? Can I come up with a system, a list of criteria, pin “Previews” pages to a dart board, something? Then Douglas Wolk forwarded me a post from Kip Manley’s blog Long Story Short Pier, in the middle of which Kip tells this anecdote about a former blogger whose site was gone but not forgotten:

“He wrote a brief squib in his long-lost blog, about something a friend of his said, when asked why he bought all those comics every month. Are they really that good? Are they any good at all?

Well, yes, they are any good at all, his friend said to this interlocutor. (Friend of a friend of a guy I’ve read on the internet whose blog I’m citing has gone the way of all √¶ther.) But are they that good? See, and he hemmed and hawed a minute, as anybody would who’s spending that much money every month on ephemerally exciting attempts to maintain the iconicity, the brand equity that makes superheroes viable in the marketplace. And then he said, it’s like, you know, all this stuff is happening, right? I mean, sure, in comic books, yeah, but it’s happening there, and this is how I keep up. It’s like I’m reading the news, you know? Is the news that good?”

Now, I imagine if you’re a weekly buyer of mainstream superhero comics like me, that explanation might trigger an instantly defensive followed by slightly pathetic reaction. Of course I buy a good number of titles because of my love for a character or loyalty to a writer or excitement about a particular story arc (rarely, sadly, is art a primary consideration for me - see this post for an oblivious explanation). Like when I finish this post, I’m going to Forbidden Planet for a much-anticipated purely pleasure-motivated Echo/Mary Jane Terry Mooreathon. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read certain mainstream universe titles even if they aren't that "good" for the sake of, to make it sound a little more noble, active citizenship in the comics-reading community.

I realized that if I could get, for example, Amazing Spider-Man via RSS feed, I probably would, such is my engagement with that book’s content. The set up, dialog and exposition of the current Brand New Day run is frankly one big sack of eye rolls for me. A lot of the jokes are a couple of decades out of date, or cringingly self-referential, or lack the subtlety and absurdity that defines my particular sense of humor. Some members of the “brain trust” are better than others, and there have been some moderately interesting twists, sure - I know plenty of people like Spider-Man right now for a variety of reasons, and I’m not saying it’s objectively bad, but in general it’s just not my bag. But do I buy it? Yes, every freaking week. Why? Because I want to know what happens—it’s Spider-Man, for pete’s (ha) sake, right? He’s a major character in the MU, what he does matters, he’s a current event. I want to be informed.

I feel obligated to keep up whether I’m truly enjoying myself or not.  
I would never consume any other kind of entertainment with this mindset—I’ll shelve a novel that isn’t doing anything for me, I only go to movies that look truly good, I’m more than happy to be the clueless outsider in office “Gossip Girl” discussions. I make my living as an editor at a music magazine, and I still haven’t heard the song at the top of our chart this week because I’d rather listen to my favorite album from three years ago for the 80th time. But superhero comics, they’re just different. They don’t have just one beginning or end; they aren’t defined by finite seasons; you can’t dance to them at your wedding (although you can take your guests to see Iron Man for your reception, as I did, but that’s a stand-alone movie). They are such an endless world unto themselves that I feel obligated to keep up whether I’m truly enjoying myself or not.

Is that misguided? Well, yeah, totally. But it’s also what makes comics reading much more than the sum of its parts. Sure, I should probably be spending my Amazing Spider-Man time and money on reading, like, the actual news. Or on going back to read trade collections of must-read comics from past years that I missed. And sometimes I evaluate my priorities and make the right choice - I decided early on not to read any of Countdown, for example. But I can’t pretend that I buy Mighty Avengers for all the same reasons I buy Ex-Machina (especially right now - did you know Elektra was a Skrull?).

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Tyler said...

I completely agree 100% with you. never before has anyone put into words how i felt, but you just did!

The Dangster said...

I'm a bit peculiar on what I want in a comic book. God forbid, I'm not asking you to agree with my choices, but it's just how I buy comics.

Which Brand? (DC, Marvel, ...other?)
I have a love of DC. I made my decision years ago with what I want in my comics. Indeed I was a Spider-Man and X-Man fan as a kid, but it all came down to one thing: Batman. Any company with Batman is my company. What's frustrating for me is the whole mutant metaphor for racism. Indeed, it was prevalent in 60s when racism was big and I truly appreciate the impact these comics had on teaching children tolerance. But sometimes I can't reading every other panel reading "Die mutie scum!" I like a world where heroes are treated as saviors and not criminals. Is it unrealistic? Probably, but I want the story to go forward and I like the world DC is in. There's a sense of seniority that I like in DC, the prestige of characters lasting this long truly draws me into DC. I will read Marvel on cases that I will read below. Independent comics and comics not apart of the big 2, won't usually draw me in. It has to get a buzz or famous creators to get me going. Atomic Robo had me going because of the positive reviews and the fact I actually met Matt Wegener who signed all my issues and signed a poster for me wishing me well after getting my wisdom teeth out. So that was an extreme case of someone going all out for me. All in all, I'm a conformist. If comic books were drinks, I'd pick up a glass of reliable Coke (DC) over Pepsi (Marvel) or Coffee (Vertigo, a DC imprint I know) , Mr. Pip (Dark Horse), and Jolt (image). I'm used to DC, and thick and thin, I'll atleast keep buying a Batman title. DC is best with getting issues out on time and their previews and website give me enough information on future purchases. Marvel just has a picture of the next cover which is not enough for me.

So, this really sells me. Art gives so much that words can't. Of course I'll buy an Alex Ross or Jim Lee title. I generally like something clean. Frank Miller kills me. I know, people love him, but it's like (in his own words), a "wrecking ball". It kills me and I wretch from within when I see Alex Sanchez's art. This man got cushy jobs for Joker's Asylum (he did the Joker story!) and JSA classified (He did my favorite character: Dr. Mid-Nite and screwed it up so badly). Ryan Benjamin was terrible in the already awful Resurrection of R'as Al Ghul storyline. I need beautiful art. Cross hatching is cool, if you don't make a human face into a tic-tac-toe factory. Honestly, so many artists impress me, that it doesn't really matter. I will however admit, Marvel has a stable of better artists. To have an image to pop in your head is well over the worth of the cover price. If it's a good story an iconic moment must be backed up. I think the age of the artist has something to do with it as well. I can't look at John Byrne, Dan Jurgans (dear god get him off Booster Gold!!! Or atleast get a different inker/colorist), George Perez, they're past their prime, but its good they're getting work. Jerry Ordway and especially Kevin Maguire had kept up and I can honestly say I love their work. What's up with Ed Benes? I read the commentary for Tornado's Path. Meltzer requested Benes...then told him to draw more realistic. What the hell?!! Also, sometimes I buy things solely on the cover. The unfair part of me liking certain artists? I like Scott Wegener because... well, you know. And I'm a Dustin Nguyen fan because he's Vietnamese.

People need one good story to have me hooked. Geoff Johns has proven to deliver the goods to what I want. I like the nostalgia and I like how he makes old characters cool again. He returned the dignity and total badassness to characters such as Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Toyman, Bizarro, and countless others. Gail Simone has said the most interesting stories are the ones not explored, and she likes Green Lantern for exploring some parts not seen for readers (you know what I mean, let's not get into the Secret Origin rehashing, we've been seeing over and over). Also Gail is vastly underrrated. Her work with Villains United brought it out of the Crisis tie-ins. She brings humor and action to the stories that go (dare I say) better than how Chuck Dixon does. Bringing Catman his dignity was a terrific feat. Generally writers will surprise me. All I need is proof of something good they've done and I'm up for it. I cringe when I read "from the writer of "Lost" or "Heroes". I can't deal with television writers, my experience is that they're immature or their style doesn't fit. Same goes for writers like Brad Meltzer and Kevin Smith, talented in their fields, not comics. I do read Mark Miller because his work is high profile and I read Jeph Loeb do to his ties to DC and the fact he does things Johns does (well not as good nowadays, I'll forgive him, I'm sympathetic towards his son) How dare Superman/Batman get this review.) And how dare Ray Tate get into war with Gail Simone on that site. To be honest in terms of writing I rely on my next point

I rely heavily on 2 sources for buying comics. My comic book shop has people who give me tips and opinions on what's good and what's good to buy. I also rely on various comic book review sites. I stopped going on because of how distasteful their Sam Loeb memorial issue review was, and the war between Ray Tate and Gail Simone (he said she was on her knees to the will of Infinite Crisis tie-ins, funny because for a man, he's pretty uptight on female characters). I rely on Wizard for peeks into comics, Weekly Crisis, Newsarama, and some other various sites for tips. Anything that supports Blue Beetle is good in my book. I can't look at everything, but thank god I have all these sources to keep me posted

It's important for me to like a character. So with DC, I enjoy it's catologue and I pick up titles to see the characters I love. I recently got into Manhunter and it's Blue Beetle appearance made me jump for joy. With JSA Classified, I got great issues with Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite, it's a shame that title got canceled but some characters need spotlights. I got into Green Lantern on the mere basis that in issue 9, Batman made an appearance. It got me hooked. Crossovers are effective if done right. The reason why I can't bare to pick up JLA, the title which should be a flagship title and ambassador to new readers has a crappy line up (damn you Meltzer!). Any character from JLA Detroit spells trouble. Also Red Arrow, his character in every comic, he comes off as an inexperienced asshole, if you don't make him likable how can I like him? He's constantly the one in the background saying something stupid or judgmental, hypocritical considering his drug issues. I don't like reading stories with Black Mask. No one is going to like a character who goes to war with Joker over Gotham. Only a handful love him over Joker. I like sarcastic characters, funny characters, fallible characters, and strong characters; reluctant heroes are sooo predictable.

Major Storyline
Infinite Crisis was terrible but I was lured by the fact that I was promised seeing all the DC characters show up and having their moments. See, while many giant crossovers have me lining up for purchase, I don't go for tie ins unless they're good enough. Infinite Crisis I bought no tie-ins. Nothing for the Resurrection of Ra's, or RIP (detective comics doesnt count, I always buy Dini sans Countdown). However with great storylines like Sinestro Corps, I happily bought any tie ins that looked good or had the character I was interested in. To be honest I NEVER take tie ins seriously. Some people get upset that they actually don't add to the story or anything. I never take the label at face value. I know it's just way to make more money. But I will buy Rogues Revenge because I like the artist and writer. See, I can't say "damn that sucked merely on the basis that it was advertised as a tie in," to me that's just falling for a trap. I just go with what looks good and worth the cover price.

So these are what basically make up why I buy certain comics.

Kip Manley said...

Just a quick post to let you know Jason Craft has posted the original text I was pointing at through the dim and misty murk of memory. —As ever, the original is clearer and more concise than my own attempts at verbification.

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