Comics History

So, I’ve been following along the Comics History videos at SFDebris. To be honest, when he started them I didn’t think I’d find them that interesting and actually expected that I’d end up skipping them, but so far I’m finding them quite enjoyable, as he goes into the personal and business relationships and decisions that have made comics the way they are. And watching them has gotten me thinking about my own history with comics, starting from when I was a kid and leading up to now, and so what I want to do in this post is outline that history to lead up to one of the big annoyances I personally have with comics today.

As a child, like most children my age, I liked superheroes, but didn’t really have a lot of comic books. I had some Western ones that my father had, and some Disney ones or comic strip ones, but I didn’t have a lot of the Marvel or DC superhero books. Then, one day, my mother was at one of her friend’s house who was getting rid of a collection of her son’s old comic books. Knowing that I pretty much read anything I could get my hands on, she bought a couple of boxes of them, which I sorted through, kept the ones I wanted, and gave away the ones I didn’t.

What I mostly had and kept were Marvel comics: X-Men, Spider-man, Avengers, Defenders, Alpha Flight, and so on. There were some DC books — Legion of Superheroes, Blue Devil, Teen Titans and Crisis were the ones I most read and liked — but ultimately it ended up as mostly Marvel. From this, my favourite character ended up being Wolverine, but I also liked Cyclops, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, and Shadowcat of the X-Men, Puck, Vindicator and Sasquatch of Alpha Flight, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor of the Avengers, most of the Defenders, Magik, Karma and Mirage of the New Mutants, and of course Spider-man and the Hulk.

After this, I started using my allowance to buy comics from the local drugstore. Here I mostly bought Transformers and X-Men. This went on for a while, and to be honest I can’t remember when I really stopped. I remember that I still shopped in comic stores when I moved away for university to a city that actually had them, but I don’t think I was buying as regularly as I was before. Eventually, I just stopped buying.

At some point, in a local mall near work there opened another little comic store, and at around the same time I’d been watching Teen Titans and playing City of Heroes. When I wandered in there, they had comics of those series, and so I started buying again. But the big problem that I have with comics reared its ugly head there, which is that comic stories are too split up for me to really enjoy them. Remember, I started with a massive set of complete stories to read through, but regular comics are short stories spread out over months. As I discovered when I started watching TV shows on DVD, I don’t like long waits between installments; I much prefer just being able to read and enjoy the story. The Teen Titans works were complete stories, so they worked, but the other ones just weren’t as enjoyable as they should have been, at least not until I re-read them.

That being said, I think it was at this point that I started reading and enjoying Deadpool.

At any rate, the owner of the store decided to close the storefront, but still had the contacts and so was still willing to sell comics to regular customers, delivering them to them every so often. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind holding mine for a number of months and then deliver them all one shot, so I’d pay him and then rush home to read a whole bunch of them at one shot. This worked out quite well for both of us, as I only got big bursts of comics and so enjoyed them more, and while he had to take a little bit of a risk that I wouldn’t pay him, I always did, and ended up often buying more than my regular subscriptions (that’s how I got almost all of Civil War), for example. Alas, at some point he decided to go back into a regular job, transferred his contacts to someone else who wasn’t willing to take the risk and well, that was that.

So I went back to maybe buying some graphic novels or collections every so often, but then right before Christmas in 2012 I decided that I’d try subscriptions. Trying to get to a regular shop for comics wasn’t all that easy for me, and this way I could have the subscriptions for the books I wanted and dump the books in a drawer — literally — to read in a burst when I got enough. Of course I started with Marvel but I did look at one point for what DC had to over, but didn’t find anything that appealing, so I never started anything with them.

Anyway, here’s where the annoyance starts. I started with “Age of Apocalypse” (I had parts of the original run), Wolverine, Wolverine and the X-Men, Deadpool and Uncanny X-Men (which featured Cyclops, Magik and Emma Frost, three of my favourite characters). Soon after, Age of Apocalypse ended, and so I switched it to “X-Men”, the all-female X-Men book. I didn’t care much for it despite it containing a number of good characters, so I let that expire. Then Marvel killed Wolverine, and so I moved Wolverine and the X-Men to SHIELD (which I enjoy) and picked up Darth Vader and Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler again ended soon after, but was switched to Inferno. Deadpool moved to Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars. So, here’s what I have now:

Darth Vader
Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars
Inferno
S.H.I.E.L.D.
Uncanny X-Men

Of these, Deadpool is rumoured to be cancelled in some way (it ended), possibly because of the Deadpool movie, and Uncanny X-Men is changing to remove most of the characters I liked. And I don’t know that Inferno will turn into when its run ends (right now, though, I’m really liking Domino). So I’m likely to be moving those to something else, which means that at the end of this all I’ll have no books left of what I started with. And while looking back it doesn’t seem to be as often as I thought, I do recall some titles switching around a lot because they ended. Marvel is actually really good at this, as if a series ends they usually move it to something else, and in general they let you change a subscription any time you want (with unfortunately a ramp-up time before you get the new series), but I always have a hard time keeping up with what’s going on, and so only notice when they change that, hey, that book’s ended and I need to find something else. Secret Wars is also being really annoying with this because some of the reworks sound interesting to me, but I don’t want to have to try to find them in comic stores and don’t want to have to subscribe and maybe miss part of them and really don’t want to have to spend a lot of time trying to keep up with what’s going on and what’s changing.

I can’t help but think that things wouldn’t be as bad if I was still dealing with that person again, who would slide me preview mags of what was upcoming so I could just tell him what I wanted that was new, or what I wanted to switch to. I also have to note that while the changing books were annoying, it’s really the overall destructiveness of Secret Wars and the fight with Fox that’s really grinding my Gears at the moment. I’d just drop all of this and get collections and graphic novels, but for what you get from them they often aren’t worth the price (although I enjoyed reading AvX, Schism, and House of M that way). I want to get them but I don’t want to have to continually research to see what’s going on to know what I should be doing with them. I want to buy subscriptions, not manage them.

It shouldn’t be this complicated, but sadly it probably will be.

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