I had originally asked Ryan to guest post for the first wave of guest posts, but he was unable to participate due to personal commitments. Thankfully, some time cleared up in his schedule and he was able to share with us why he buys the books he does and I was more than happy to feature him in my follow up answers.
I know some people are afraid of the Newsarama forums and fanboy connotations associated with the posters there, but the reviewer sub-forum is a bastion of comic book review goodness and the only place you can find Ryan's, as well as other reviewers, comic book reviews. It's well worth checking out and I typically post some of my reveiws there every week.
I'll be spotlighting one more guest post tomorrow and then posting my own thoughts on the weekend, along with some excerpts from reader comments, to wrap up this series of posts. I've had several offers to do guest posts on different subjects already and you can look forward to seeing those in the coming weeks. I'll be posting some guidelines for guest posts in the coming days, as well, but, for now, feel free to contact me with any propositions for guest posts (or to request a guest post from me, if you'd like).
Hit the jump for Ryan's answer on why he buys the books he does!
Why Do I Buy Certain Comic Books?
by Ryan, "the Iowan", Schrodt
Asking me to explain why I buy the comics I do is a lot like asking me about what my favorite movie is - I can give you a long list, but chances are, it's going to change if you ask me again later and its fairly unlikely you’ll get the same answer twice. With that in mind, I’ll try my best to cover a variety of possible answers here.
I’m a compulsive completist at heart, so there are a large number of books that I can’t imagine not picking up, even if I’m not happy about the current direction.Like a large number of comic book readers, I’ll admit that I’m a compulsive completist at heart, so there are a large number of books that I can’t imagine not picking up, even if I’m not happy about the current direction. The two main Batman titles are a great example of that. I had stopped reading comics for about 10 years (when I discovered women and sports, mostly), but when I returned to comics during my senior year of college, I immediately clung to Batman and Detective Comics. They were two of my favorites as a kid and my love of the character quite often trumps the direction of the book. There are very few books like this, but once I’m hooked this deep, I find myself dropping $3 every month on the title, even if there are dozens of reasons not to.
I’m not one to follow writers religiously, but I’m always willing to give my favorites a shot, even if I’m not sold on the premise of the book or the characters that they are writing. In most cases, I find myself really enjoying the books and stick with them long term (a great example of this is Geoff Johns’s Justice Society of America or Garth Ennis’s The Boys). That doesn’t mean I’m going to stick with the book just because I really like the writer’s previous works. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Ennis fan, but I still dropped Streets of Glory after the first few issues.
I’m less likely to pick up a book simply because of the artist, though its not entirely unheard of.I’m less likely to pick up a book simply because of the artist, though its not entirely unheard of. I am, however, much more likely to drop a book if I only like the artwork (I’m a huge Jamal Igle fan, but I couldn’t get into the story enough to justify picking up Superman’s Reign no matter how good Igle’s issues looked). On the flipside, if I hate the art, I’m quick to drop a book, even if the writing is good (I’ve given up on many a book in the last few years because of Howard Chaykin’s constipated facial expressions).
As I mentioned above with the Batman books, I was a veracious comics reader as a child and, in some respects, that does affect my current buying habits. My favorite books outside of the Bat-titles as a kid were the X-Men books. While I don’t obsessively pick up each issue of each X-title, I am much more forgiving than I am with other books. If I drop Superman because I don’t like one creator’s vision, I’m unlikely to ever come back unless there is something truly spectacular in the solicitations. If I drop Uncanny X-Men because I’m unhappy with the direction, I’m probably going to come back when the creative team changes or when a new storyline starts. I can’t seem to break away from the characters for too long.
I’m not crazy about “Big Event” books, but I know that, [as a reviewer], there is a certain expectation that I pick up books like Secret Invasion and Final Crisis.As a reviewer, I do occasionally find myself picking up books and sticking with them simply for the sake of writing reviews. I’m not crazy about “Big Event” books, but I know that there is a certain expectation that I pick up books like Secret Invasion and Final Crisis. I rarely regret picking these up, but I’m hesitant to drop them if things go sour because it’s a buzz book that my readers are going to expect me to review (which is why it took me months to drop Countdown when I was ready to after the first few issues).
In the last year or so, I’ve found myself picking up more and more books on the recommendations of others. As I’ve begun immersing myself more in various online discussion communities, I’ve begun to find certain reviewers and posters whose judgments I trust implicitly. If they recommend a book to me that I’d otherwise have looked it up, I’ll do my best to hunt down a copy. On the flipside, there are also reviewers whose taste I simply abhor and there have been a fair number of books I’ve avoided because of their glowing reviews.
Like most readers, I find myself drawn mostly to mainstream titles, which means lots of superheroes, science fiction, and licensed properties.Like most readers, I find myself drawn mostly to mainstream titles, which means lots of superheroes, science fiction, and licensed properties. My biggest problem with picking up new titles isn’t that I’m not open to them; it’s that they are rarely available to me each week at my shop. My town only has one LCS and the owner takes few risks on ordering new titles. I can always find a copy of Jeph Loeb’s new books to flip through, but if I want to check out a new Jonathan Hickman title, I’ve got to order it online. That’s caused me to be a bit more hesitant on picking up new “under the radar” titles, as I can rarely preview the book first. That’s where word-of-mouth recommendations and internet buzz really come in handy. Without those, I’d never have checked out some of my absolute favorite books and creators, such as Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series, anything by Josh Howard, and the supremely satisfying Elephantmen by Richard Starkings and Moritat.
That is one of the main reasons why I love going to conventions—there is always something new to try that I’d otherwise never have heard of. I may never have a chance to pick some of these books again, so I’ll grab just about anything if it catches my eye and holds my interest for more than a few seconds. It’s a crap shoot, as I’ll never know if I’m picking up the next Athena Voltaire or if I just paid $5 for hamster bedding.
In the end, I just try to approach all comics with an open mind (and, often, with an open wallet). There’s not tried-and-true method to my purchases, but there are patterns. Then again, you could ask me tomorrow and I might tell you that I’ve decided only to pick up books that are either written by Ed Brubaker or feature talking gorillas (neither of which are half-bad ideas when you think about it).