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.
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 æther.) 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?).