Monday, October 25, 2010

All The Best Comics Have Daddy Issues #3

Babies cost money. Lots of money. Time and money. Patience and time. Wait, am I quoting a song now? Anyway, I knew coming into fatherhood that I would need to restructure the entire family budget. There would be nappies to buy and food to store. Would comics really make it onto this budget? Hit the jump to see how I struggle with my wife to get a little four colour amusement into my weekly allowance.

Choosing A Money Pit – Comics or Kids

Let’s look at my previous comic buying habits, as they stood pre-baby, hell even pre-marriage, and it might give us some context.

I’ve been reading comics for just a few years now, you know, I have a standing order. I’m used to living in a world where comics come in every week and I’m a purchaser of this creative capitalist enterprise.

I used to have a rough standing order of about a dozen comics per month. It’s nothing massive by any stretch of the imagination. I had room to wiggle with minis coming out or the odd title I wanted to try out. I also manage to pick up the odd title in trade only and try to make it so I can do this as soon as the trade hits.

My budget for each month is set at $60 but routinely blows out to $80 (don’t tell the wife). We both have/had good jobs. It’s not taking money from anywhere else in the budget. I think it’s reasonable and yet still completely enjoyable. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t smoke, and since becoming a boring married person I rarely go out on the bottle either. Life is simple, life is fun, life allows me my stories.

But then a baby started to grow and I knew I had to be an adult about it. I could not justify $80 a month when so many other things needed to be purchased; cots, bassinets, prams, not to mention the daily money pits babies are. I knew I had to reevaluate my stance on the monthly budget. I had to set a very strict number, plan three months ahead with previews, and then grossly stick to it. There’s be no fancying anything on the racks, I’d go to the counter, ask for my order, pay, and leave. It’s sad, because I love a good browse on the racks, but the temptation would be too strong. I would have to do my browsing online, three months in advance, and hope I didn’t miss anything.

I took out my pull list, which of course I update pretty regularly. There were certain things that would have to stay. I will say, in my wife’s defence, she never once told me I had to drop anything. This was all my decision. I had to make some sacrifice, I knew this, but I also had to still get what I loved. I had to still be a productive member of The Weekly Crisis as well. So I looked through my list and defined what had to stay. Daredevil, obviously. Fantastic Four or American Vampire…damn, it was going to be hard. I’m generally pretty selective anyway so to take it down further was madness.

I let my list stew for a few months, I knew I had a 9 month deadline, give or take, so there was plenty of room for procrastination. I put it off, I thought about it while trying not to think about it. It was a terrible time inside my conflicted mind. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do but then another factor all but made up my mind. My wife and I, a month before the baby was due, found a home we wanted to buy. We went through the processes, got lucky, and bought into a lifetime debt of closer to half a million dollars than I would have liked to think about. Money was suddenly a commodity that would be fought over with teeth and nails, if necessary. Finally, I manned up and made the new list for the new regime.

I won’t go into what went and what stayed, a true gentleman never tells, but I will say I made my cuts and I was brutal. I made my peace with the new world to come but then out in the distance, like a white knight at the eleventh hour, a stay of execution was ordered from two sources.

A man contacted me about writing article for his new comic news website, Gestalt Mash. He said he liked my work and hoped I could contribute a few things. He also said he’d pay me for the privilege. It was an interesting offer and now I’ve slowly seeded some work his way. It’s different stuff, articles I probably wouldn’t have written for this site.

Then Tim Callahan, a reviewer and comic writer I greatly respect, announced, via his podcast The Splash Page, that he would be vacating the review team on CBR. I had a quick chat with him and asked if the opening was going to be filled and if so how and when? He said he’d put in a good word for me and bingo bango, within the month I had the job.

Now, this is important because CBR pay for each of their reviews. I more than make my money back for having to buy the comic in the first place, and then I turn a profit. It was a glorious day for me, but it was better for my pull list. All terminations were quickly rescinded and nothing was lost from my stack. In fact, a few extra things were added.

I haven’t exactly set out to spend every dime I make from writing about comics, that would be silly, but I have made sure my weekly stack is lush and has plenty for me to both review and enjoy. The surplus will just go into savings, that’s the smart and adult thing to do and if memory serves becoming an adult was a major factor for all this hullabaloo in the first place.

So, here I am, a nice and full weekly stack coming in steadily. Some extra cash coming my way and I write about what I love. I know I am not the normal case. I know I am lucky or blessed, hell, maybe even talented (probably lucky). I know it doesn’t always go this way and that’s why I want to celebrate the one time it has. I can’t take this for granted, not in the slightest. I appreciate every week I get to read comics.

The lesson I took from this was a) I made the cuts, I had my list down, I can man up when necessary, and b) all my persistence and hard work writing gonzo here for a year has paid off. Someone noticed and they respected what I have done. That’s kind of nice, in both ways I feel like more of an adult. And I feel like I’ve learned some lessons I can pass onto my son, and his future weekly stack.


Comics are not a commodity that is necessary but if you want to enjoy life it might just be the one thing you want. It’s important to find that life balance. Have you ever had to give anything up to make room for comics in your budget? Have you ever had to make any cuts in your budget as other priorities force their way into your wallet? Please, let me know in the comments, I love to hear your story.

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Logan said...

I hear you Ryan, I recently did the same thing because of college. I had to budget and cut my comic pull list by half. Luckily I have been making some extra side money so I can still read most of what I want but I really get where you're coming from.

Travis said...

Well said young sir. Congrats on the wee one. Wishes for health and happiness to you and yours: as well as continued wisdom!

Anonymous said...

That's what public libraries are for. Depending on the sate/country you can even order trade paperbacks from other libraries to yours for free. It's also a great way to get books you haven't heard of or are out of print.

Alternatively, see if your friends have similar interests in comics. Instead of buying $60 of comics, just have 3 people buy $20 worth of comics and share afterwords.

Kirk Warren said...

@Anon 3 - Did this when I first started. My brother used to buy all the DC stuff and Id buy Marvel when we were younger and read each others. Well, not like we bought everything. He was Batman and random other characters while I was Spider-Man and X-Men.

Logan said...

@Anon3 Actually I used to work at a public library and ended up exhausting the systems supply of trades. It's a great idea especially when you're getting into comics. The bad thing about it is that not only do you have to wait for the trade to come out, you also have to wait for your library or library system/network to get the trade. The thing about friends is a good idea.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I have already sampled most of the good comic trades in my library system. I also prefer reading floppies each month, call me old school.

But as for utilising friends, not a bad idea. Although I find earning money for my efforts also helps subsidise things, ahahahaha....ahem, sorry.

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