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What Influences Your Comic Book Buying

by Denny Haynes

 

[Editorís note:  Throughout Dennyís column youíll references to many webpages.  They are footnoted after the column for you to explore.. Enjoy J]

 

I first began reading comics in 1982.  One of my dadís friends was moving back to the states and needed to get rid of some things to lower their weight cost.   One of the items he left behind was a huge box full of comics that he gave to me.  It was pretty cool as it had a wide range of Marvel and DC titles.  I soon chose my favorites, Spider-Man and Daredevil.  I loved those two titles.  The comics that captivated my six-year-old mind and the selection of titles within the box influenced my reading choices.

When I moved to Fort Knox in the summer of 1984, my parents let me pick up a comic of my choosing.  I hadnít made any new friends yet and wanted to find something to occupy some time.  The first comic I ever bought was The All New All Different Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #107; I always did like Spidey best.  From there I picked up all of his titles: Amazing, Web, Marvel Tales, and of course Spider-Man in 1990.  A new Spidey comic would come out every week, giving me something to look forward to.  This was my treat.  Some kids got ice cream, but I got a comic book, and I devoured each new issue when I got home.  When the Fall of the Mutants story came out, I remember trying to convince my mom to buy it for me.  My mom told me no.  She said that I read Spider-Man and that I wasnít allowed to start buying everything that caught my fancy.  You might think itís mean, but it makes sense, otherwise youíll have a child wanting to buy every comic he sees and that could become very expensive.  I was getting at least one comic a week and prices were starting to go up.  My parents from 1984-1990 influenced my comic buying.

In 1991, we no longer lived on the military base, my father died, and I was beginning to buy my comics from an actual comic store.  I saw X-Force and X-Men #1 and convinced my mom to buy me those two comics.  Thus began my purchasing of the X-titles, which increased my reading from 5 titles to 8.  As we all know, a year later seven hot artists left Marvel to form their own upstart company.  As I was a big fan of Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, and Whilce Portacio, I had to go check out their creator owned titles, probably my first exposure to that term.  My mom was cool about it and supported my love for comic books.  She always said, ďHe could be into other things like drugs.Ē   Wizard was also beginning to get hot at this time and they hyped a lot of Imageís books as well as other Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse titles I never read.  So my comic purchases slowly grew to a $75 a week habit.  I was reading Marvel, Image, Valiant, Ultraverse and DC titles.   Wizard Magazine influenced my comic purchases by what they spotlighted and said were hot.  I was a part of the speculator mentality, and it influenced my purchases.  Can you say ďmultiple copies?Ē I knew you could.

Once I went to college I had to start cutting back, which wasnít too hard.  Once you stop buying multiple copies, Valiant, Ultraverse, and everything Liefeld put out (the man released more books than Marvel and DC combined) you start saving money.  I started being more selective in my purchases although they mainly were from Marvel, DC, and Image.  I was apprehensive of picking up new books as I was burned by the speculator era.  I was still influenced by Wizard as they were my source of what was going on in the industry, the lingering memories of the speculator era, and mainly being poor.

In April of this year I got a job in a government agency, which was experiencing a downtime that lasted four months.  I had access to the Internet and started looking for comic related sites.  A friend at the comic store told me about Warren Ellisí column at CBR .1  I started reading CIA as well as Master of the Obvious by Steven Grant.  This led me to start reading some comics I had never looked at before like Hellblazer, 100 Bullets, and Whiteout.  Ellis was saying some great things and was telling people to go out and read comics that they have never read, to question your purchases, and speaking about the industry in general.  He recommended other trades to read, which was a foreign idea as I only bought the serials/original issues, and Internet sites to visit.  

One site Warren recommended was Jinxworld. 2  I was interested in Bendisí works and found his board, which had some pretty cool people on it.  I didnít agree with everything they said, mainly about societal issues, but they were talking about some good comics, I soon learned.  I got on eBay, checked comic stores on the East Coast, and went to conventions to start tracking down books I was told were really good or had thought of buying.  Ironically my first purchase wasnít a comic but two novels by Derek Raymond recommended by Warren Ellis.  In regards to comics, I bought a ton of stuff.  The list includes:

-Grant Morrisonís Invisibles Vol. I-III, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Arkham Asylum

-Alan Mooreís From Hell & Swamp Thing

-Neil Gaimanís Sandman

-Will Eisnerís Graphic Novels

-Chris Wareís Acme Novelty Library 4                      

-Brian Michael Bendisí Fortune & Glory

-Carla Speed-McNeilís Finder 3

-Ed Brubakerís Deadenders

- Judd Winickís 5 Barry Ween

There are numerous other titles that Iím looking into right now like The Waiting Place 6, Optic Nerve 7, and Berlin 8 at Comicopia 9 in Boston.  My ďfriendsĒ on the Bendis Board 10, Warren Ellis 11, and his forum 12 are influencing my purchases.

Whatís the point of this column?  Well it is posing to you, the reader, a question.  What is influencing your purchases?  I think most everyone is influenced by internal and external reasons.  Internal reasons include love for reading, love of art, wanting something quick and fun to read, a collector mentality, obsession to get the run, addiction to the format, and being immersed in the storyline.  External reasons include comic magazines, retailers, the Internet, creators, and friends.

Whatever influences you, you should make sure that you are getting the whole picture and not just parts of it.  As you can see from my history I got pieces to the puzzle over an eighteen-year period. I never gave independent titles a look.  At first I never even knew they existed as they were not getting to the newsstands like Marvel and DC and later when I started seeing them I felt they didnít have the same quality.  They were, after all, black and white comics, published on cheaper paper, and where were the enhanced covers?  

Obviously, titles such as Cerebus, Love & Rockets 13, and Stray Bullets have proven that black and white independent books can be as good if not better than mainstream titles.  Ultimately, it is up to you to go out and find books that you enjoy, whether they are by the major companies Marvel 14/DC 15/Image 16, smaller companies Fantagraphics 17/Oni Press 18/Drawn & Quarterly 19, or an individualís company such as Lightspeed Press 20/Aardvark Vanaheim/Abstract Studios 21.  

The thing is, you can not rely on one source to show you everything comics have to offer.

Wizard influences people to possess the speculator mentality, hypes projects mainly by Marvel, DC, and Image while mentioning some independent titles but barely hitting the tip of the iceberg.   Letís not even mention that CGC crap they are pushing.

The Comic Journal hypes independent titles and gives little attention to the mainstream comics, but do mainstream comics need that attention considering Wizard spotlights them.

Warren Ellis influences people with his message of wanting to see a growth of other genres and changing formats from serials to trade paperbacks and original graphic novels.  He wants to see the comic industry look more like the book industry.   Warren wants to go away from the on-going series and more towards mini-series/original graphic novels and speaks out against super-hero books.  Is this wrong?  No, itís his opinion.  I like his ideas, but is he giving the whole picture?  I donít think so, but thatís not his job.  I think Warren is trying to get comic readers to think outside of the current model.

Retailers influence people by recommending titles for numerous reasons.   They enjoy the title and know it is good, want to get it out of the store, carry it, or want to make money.  Unfortunately, many comic retailers donít carry some great titles because of a lack of funds, exposure, or interest or an unwillingness to take a chance on a new title due to the distribution system or state of the market.  

Friends influence other friends in the purchasing of comics.  There is a chance that they may have more pieces to the puzzle or be willing to try comics you would not.  On the other hand, they may be influenced by the same outside sources that you are, have just as limited an exposure to what is out there as you do, or close minded.  

Your own unwillingness to give a new comic a shot can be keeping you from a title you would love.  Whatever is influencing you, make sure you are at least getting all the information available to you so that you can pick up comics you want to read and will enjoy for a long time.

But Thatís Just My Opinion.

Special thanks to Alysha, Cth, and LWK/Princess for the inspiration, Shawn Baldwin for proofreading, Jason Pritchett for those hard to find links, and Chris Ryall for some great advice and input, look for his Worst Column Ever at Comic Book Galaxy.  I am married to an amazing woman and serve an awesome God!  Thanks for the opportunity Andrew.  

[Editorís note:]

As promised, here are the links for Dennyís column.. Drop by these sites and check them out!  Tell em Denny sent you..

1          http://www.comicbookresources.com

2          http://www.jinxworld.com

3          http://www.lightspeedpress.com

4          http://www.fantagraphics.com/artist/acme/acme.html

5          http://www.pedroandme.com

6          http://www,seanmckeever.com/comics/thewaitingplace

7          http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/cgi-bin/dq2.cgi?head=artists&menu=tomine&content=tomine

8          http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/cgi-bin/dq2.cgi?head=artists&menu=lutes&content=lutes

9          http://www.the-master-list.com/maa-m.shtml#Boston

10       http://www.wfcomics.com/boards/bendis

11       http://www.warrenellis.com/

12       http://www.delphi.com/ellis/start/

13       http://www.fantagraphics.com/artist/lr/losbros/losbros.html

14       http://www.marvelcomics.com/

15       http://www.dccomics.com/

16       http://www.imagecomics.com/

17       http://www.fantagraphics.com/

18       http://www.onipress.com/

19       http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/

20       http://www.lightspeedpress.com/

21       http://www.strangersinparadise.com/

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