As a man who has read comic books longer than I can remember I’ve always had the same problem; too many comics, not enough money. In this economy it can be hard to buy all the comics you actually want to read. I mean there several titles for every character/team. I myself have a budget cap each month that I try to stick too. Sometimes I go a little over, sometimes a little under.
With over half of the film blockbusters that come out now-a-days being based on comic books it’s hard not getting excited to read the material they’re based on. I know walking into a comic book store can be an overwhelming experience for some people who are not “in the game” but if you want to keep up with the titles you sort of enjoy but can’t afford to collect here a few rules that may help.
RULE #1- KNOW WHAT WRITERS YOU LIKE
Just like some people have favorite novel writers like John Grisham or Stephen King, you can follow whom you like. In 2004, Geoff Johns came onto Green Lantern and has made it DC’s biggest selling title ever since. When Johns was on Teen Titans I loved it, but once he left I dropped the book. Johns is currently writing Aquaman, which I have never read until now and I love it.
These days it’s almost better to follow a writer you like, such as Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, or Ed Brubaker because you can be 90% sure your money will be well spent based on the fact that you like the writers previous work. The only problem with this is a writer can take over a book on issue #225 and some readers feel like they need to get the first 224 issues just to understand what’s going on. In some cases this is true, but when a new writer jumps onto a title they try to keep it fresh for people who follow them and not the title. After collecting comics for 20 odd years I’m almost to this point.
RULE #2- THE PUBLIC LIBRARY IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
The other week I was watching Daredevil the director’s cut, which is way better than the theatrical version, and I decided I wanted to read more abut Daredevil. I had never really been a fan, but now I feel like at this point in my life he’s a character I can like/relate too. So I jumped online, got a list of what order Daredevil graphic novels should be read (you can find these for any character/title, trust me), and then I went to my local library’s website and reserved a bunch of Daredevil graphic novel’s starting with the first one on my list they had.
Public libraries have EVERYTHING today FOR FREE!! You can get CD’s, movies, TV series, audio books, and of course graphic novels. Every few weeks I jump on the library’s site and type in my favorite writers names, or characters I like. And when there is something I haven’t read I reserve it. Depending on how big your library is will determine their selection, and in a big city like Austin,TX that has several branches I can get quite a lot. I just have to wait for it. The library doesn’t have every Daredevil graphic novel, but enough for me to know the major events.
RULE #3- LEARN TO SKIM READ
If you want to keep up with a comic but can’t afford to buy it skim reading is my best advice. When I go to the comic book store I grab my pull list from the employee at the front and then I head back to the comics to see what I didn’t grab. I no longer collect Superman, but I want to see what’s going on. I flip through it, kind of get an idea of what is going on based on pictures, and if I see Lois and Clark/Superman talking I’ll quickly read the conversation. Not a lot of important info is said during action scenes, so know what relationships are important. But my key rule for this method is no matter how many comics I skim through I always walk out having bought something.
Once a month, I like to go to a book store chain that I know carries comic book issues. They don’t have them all, mainly DC and Marvel, but enough to where I can sit and read an issue somewhat quickly, and know what is going on. It’s not pretty, but beggers can’t be choosers.
RULE #4- THE BUDDY SYSTEM
When I was younger, my brother and I lived under one roof, and we both collected comic books. We would read each other’s comics and years later, whenever we text or got together, he would fill me in on Spider-man and Hulk while I filled him in on X-Men and Superman.
Now my brother and I live thousands of miles away and I want him to move to Austin so we can go back to the buddy system. He would collect certain books, and so would I, and the ones we both enjoyed we would swap. So if we both bought 12 comic books a month that’s really 24 comic books that we get to read a month. If only I could find someone in Austin I could trust, but like swimming, you have to be able to trust you buddy with you comic books, and your life.
RULE #5- KNOW WHEN TO LET GO OF A TITLE
The hardest part of being comic book collector in today’s world is staying faithful to a title. X-Men has been the one title that I’ve collected longer than any other. The most recent storyline of X-Men I bought the first two issues of and then dropped it because I wasn’t going to spend $3 a month for another four months on a story I didn’t like. I’ve dropped and picked up a lot of comic in my life. There are a dozen X-Men titles, but I’ve narrowed it down to two or three that I stick with. A person has to utilize the first four rules in order to make sure they’re not wasting their money.
I like Superman, but I hate the way the New 52 has gone with him. So I grabbed the first issues of Superman and Action Comics and haven’t bought another in months. Maybe one day I’ll pick it back up again, but until then my money should be spent on what I enjoy reading, not what I buy just out of habit.
I often think about going to my Emergency Comic Plan. It’s something I thought of just in case I had to stop collecting comics for economic purposes. I would no longer go to the comic book store, but instead wait for a graphic novel to come to the library, or I might skim through it at the bookstore. If I like it I would buy it. In this case I might only buy one graphic novel a month, which is about $20. But then I would be giving up the best part about collecting comics; the comic book store.
I like going to comic book store each week not only because I’m excited to read the next issue of Aquaman, but to see what else is happening in comics. I get to see what’s hot and what new t-shirts and action figures are being made. I get to talk about comics with other people, and maybe find out about a local convention or celebrity that may be coming to town. It’s the comic book culture that keeps me wanting to collect issues every week as opposed to just going to graphic novels. It’s one of the few things in this world I can say I truly love, but if I ever have to give it up there are ways to keep the love alive. One of the best pieces of advice I feel like I ever got was from Q in a James Bond movie, “always have an escape plan.” Which I took as “always have a plan B, for everything.”