Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Man Out of Time

Doug: I've said from time-to-time around these parts that I was out of comic buying during my high school and very early college years. Preoccupations, didn't think girls thought it was cool, finances -- I suppose there were many reasons (excuses) why. When, in the spring of my freshman year of college (1985) I discovered comic shops while with some friends who collected, my mind just exploded and I was hooked right back into it. Trouble was, there was so much catching up to do! On the ride back to campus, and for literally days after I just dogged my friends for information to get myself back up to speed. And I can tell you -- from 1980-85, there had been a lot of change! From the goings-on in my favorite books to the arrivals and departures of creators, it was a different landscape.

So I'm out of comics again, so to speak -- I've bought literally only a handful of books (i.e. 5 or less) in the past five years. My excuse now is that Bendis and the mega-events drove me away -- my story and I'm sticking to it (unless of course you want to get me going on price)! So I wonder -- can you imagine getting someone who'd been out of the hobby since, say 2004, "caught up"?? Where would you begin? And what's more -- what are the improvements and "deprovements" since then?

Also, if you have a similar story about being out and getting back in, or your take on being out right now, go ahead and share. Thanks!

EDIT: Wow -- talk about a weird experience. About three hours after I typed this, I saw a post over on the Avengers Assemble message boards that perfectly dovetailed with my questions. You can check it out


Chris said...

I've just got out. Except for a temporary lapse when the Clone Saga and Image took over, I've been collecting solidly since 84 (and I'd got my 1st comic in '76).

Due to rising costs of the books, I'd become a (more-or-less) Marvel zombie but it's the $3.99 and the poliferation of books which has turned me off. What I loved about the Marvel universe was the continuity and interaction between books. These days, continuity doesn't count for much but, more importantly for me, I just can't keep up with what's going on with the characters. It was bad enough when Spidey was in in 4 books a month - now Iron Man, Cap etc are all in at least that! Enoughs enough!!

"The Heroic Age" has turned out to be a great jumping off point for me. Time to spend my money filling in those bronze age gaps!

Inkstained Wretch said...

I started collecting in about '81 and did it steadily through the decade. I gave up after the Death of Superman storyline.

There were a couple of reasons, but mostly it came down to boredom with the story lines and the fact that I was in college and developed other interests.

Other than watching the Bruce Timm animated shows, I went about two decades without even thinking about comics.

I got back in earlier this year when I visited my father and, on a whim, checked out my old stash in the attic. To my horror some of them had been damaged in the intervening years, so I took the whole collection to my home. I've been having nostalgic fun re-reading some at home after work. (My girlfriend thinks it is cute in a nerdy sort of way.)

Since them I've taken to dropping by comic stores to check out the discount bins for Bronze Age stuff. I've also picked up a few of TPBs like the Marvel Essentials and a handful of the new comics as well, like the Jeff Loeb Hulk.

I just cannot get into the new stuff though. Sometimes I think it is because I am not impressed with the art or story-telling. Other times I think it is because I am completely, completely lost regarding what they have done with the familiar characters: Who is the Flash now? Is Magneto leading the X-Men? What's the deal with Wonder Woman?

The stunningly high prices don't help, nor do the endless universe-wide cross-over stories (Sorry, I'm not going to buy 15 titles a month).

Or it may simply be that I'm older now and my interest is purely nostalgic. Yeah its probably the last one.

One other thing: As I look back, I recell that I bought most of my comics from spinner racks at 7-11s and drug stores. Today they are gone, replaced by specialty stores. Comics should be an impulse buy, not something you have to go out of your way to purchase. I stopped buying in part because it was a hassle to find the stores. I think the industry lost its soul when it gave up the spinner racks. It certainly lost a new generation or two of fans. Heck, I might still be buying comics today if I could have gotten them while picking up a case of soda at the CVS.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't bother. I read through most of Secret Invasion and couldn't finish Dark Reign or any of the Cap-is-Dead-Oh-No-It-Was-Just-Something-I-Ate stuff. Bad art and too much "Look Ma, I made a major change to a big character, ain't I cool?" stuff.

If you want to read newish stuff, I recommend some of the self-contained (or at least mostly self-contained) books like Fables and Invincible.

Fables is the best I've read since Sandman.

Edo Bosnar said...

Funny, 1985 (& 1986 when I graduated from HS) was about the time that I started to drop out of the whole comics scene, for reasons similar to yours, plus my family made a big out-of-state move that led me to dump my original collection (cue in pangs of regret). I followed comics sporadically until about 1991, when a genuinely definitive almost 15-year break ensued (mainly due to a rather permanent move to Europe).
Got sucked back in about 5 years ago when I started looking for Krazy Kat collections at a local comic shop. But even now, I don't follow any series regularly; the only "floppies" I occasionally buy are old Bronze Age back issues. Otherwise, I pretty much only buy trade collections, essentials, etc.
Like Eric, for "newer" stuff I would recommend self-contained, easy to follow stuff. One thing I was really delighted to discover was DC's Elseworlds books, which often showcase some outstanding writers and artists with really enjoyable stories that don't require encyclopedic knowledge of the 20-30 years of continuity to be enjoyed. On the Marvel side, I absolutely loved that Nextwave mini-series from a few years back.

J.A. Morris said...

I collected from 1980 until early 1995. I stopped collecting because I was fed up with all the (increasingly bad)multi-part crossover "event" stories. And 1995 brought us the Spider-clone mess,the X-men 'Age of Apocalypse" silliness, followed shortly thereafter by 'Onslaught'. Looking back now,I can say the disillusionment began with 'Secret Wars II'. The first 'Secret Wars' wasn't great,but it had it's moments.
But it's sequel? Badly written, poorly drawn & inked, with shameless/obvious pandering to '80s pop culture(Beyonder's "Michael Jackson" outfit).
Then we got 'Mutant Massacre','Fall of the Mutants','Inferno','Acts Of Vengeance',etc. All overhyped, all promising sweeping changes(A few morlocks and Doug Ramsey are dead? Nooooo!) and not really delivering. Trying to top the Dark Phoenix story and failing every time.
But I kept buying, because there would be an occasional good story,and once you start collecting, it becomes addictive. The other reason I didn't quit was because I thought,"what if I quit and it gets good again?".
At least quitting in '95 spared me from spending a penny on 'Secret Invasion' and the other recent crossovers.
My wife's a big Whedon fan, so I ended up reading her copies of 'Astonishing X-men',first "new" series I followed in a long time. It was okay, if you get past a bunch of padding, not enough to make me collect again, and it seemed to happen separately from the rest of Marvel continuity.

Andrew Wahl said...

Over the past couple years, I find myself buying fewer new comics each month, and it makes me sad. The massive crossover events have made both the Marvel and DC universes almost impenetrable, and the lack of real change — instead of the illusion of change — makes the whole thing seem moot. Many of today's comics read like exercises in keeping intellectual properties fresh, not stories featuring characters I love.

The jump to a $3.99 cover price was a tipping point for me. It was the first time in my 30-plus years of buying and collecting new comics that a price change did that. Sadly, most of today's comics just don't deliver enough entertainment bang for that many dollars. (There are exceptions for me, most notably Terry Moore's Echo and Jeff Smith's RASL.)

The only other time I came close to becoming totally disenfranchised by modern comics was in the mid-'90s, when a combination of weak Image-era stories and new family obligations combined to make me buy fewer comics. A renewed emphasis on story — by new writers like Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar — sucked me back in. But even those writers are failing to consistently deliver books I enjoy these days.

I don't want to be stuck in the Bronze Age, but there's just not much out there that's appealing to me today.


Sean Strange said...

I can top your story; I stopped buying comics in the mid 80’s, and have just gotten back into reading them after a 25 year hiatus! I have no idea what’s been going on in comics since, but there are so many great titles that I’m still discovering from the bronze and silver ages that I don’t much care. From the few I’ve looked at, modern comics just don’t do it for me.

On a side note, has anyone considered the possibility that, especially with the internet, our culture is in a recycle and cannibalism mode now that is in some way a prelude to its complete collapse? What happens to artists when intellectual property rights are no longer enforcable? Maybe 2012 really is the end of this age? Just some happy thoughts for you all to ponder. :)

Anonymous said...

YOu probably know me for my complaining and Bendis-bashing on the AA boards, but i'm still reading 3 titles so far, Avengers Academy (pretty good) and two i would recommend.... Secret Avengers and Thanos Imperative (or Guardians of the Galaxy, Abnett and Lanning really have done well with GofG, I HIGHLY recommend it, and i hope it continues after Thanos Imperative.) Other than that, i just can't bring myself to waste $3 or $4 bucks for crap.


La Belle Esplanade said...

I quit in high school, around '83. Read Swamp Thing in college but have only nibbled since then. There isn't much story in the new books and I can't tell what's going on in any given issue since it's mostly pictures rather than a mix of text and illustration. The new books are slicker but that has more to do with printing processes and paper. The stories just don't add up or hold my attention.

The special trip to the comic shop, usually bad service, and high prices keep me away from the medium as much as skimpy story telling. I wouldn't bring a kid to a comic shop where they are playing foul-mouthed DVDs and guffawing behind the counter while ignoring customers.

The S&M costumes, innuendo, and gore in the books themselves are another turnoff. It isn't shocking when it turns up every issue, just another reason not to buy or pass along to the next generation. I give gifts of Essentials and Showcase instead and warn away from the new stuff.

Ram said...

I stopped when colorists started using photoshop blends. For some reason they think its cool that people's skin seems as its glowing in every sort of light condition.
It's like the graphic aspect of the art doesn't matter that much. The only thing that seems important is that the drawings look more realistic. I rather have the offset dots that give the art a simpler look but a way stronger style.
Also I never gotten used to great covers with crapy art inside, I feel like I'm getting ripped of.
I only buy comics when they are done by an artist I really like, but I really miss having a subscription to a book. Which I just can't do it if they change the artist every 3 issues and you might get stuck with something horrible!
The last thing i liked is Avengers prime drawn by Alan davis.

Fred W. Hill said...

I collected comics pretty regularly from 1973 through 1984, maybe at least 20 titles a month -- a lot more during the latter years, when I had more money! But then, I just gradually lost interest. I'd come home with a bag full of comics, and I found them increasingly boring or ridiculous or so convoluted I couldn't figure out what was going on, particularly when it was part of a multi-series epic and I wasn't inclined to get all those other titles. For a few years I didn't really buy much of anything new, although I did start collecting Gaiman's Sandman series about halfway through its run, as well as Moore's From Hell and Too Much Coffee Man when it was still a comic! Since then, I mostly get whatever collections intrigue me, such as the Fables or Morrison's Doom Patrol.
Sometimes I waste away the time on the web looking up what some of old favorite characters have been up to and am occasionally unnerved -- particularly upon reading that Gwen had twins with Norman Osborne! Well, maybe in the current debauched Marvel Universe, but certainly not the Gwen I became familiar with (mostly through Silver Age reprints) back in the '70s! It's a bit perplexing to figure out why I should still care about any of these characters, but yeah, many were ingrained in my head when I was an impressionable lad (no, no, not a LoSH character!).
Maybe I'll eventually break down and check out Brubaker's run on Captain America as I've read many positive reviews of it. I'm more interested in creators who have a good take on the characters they're writing and whose stories are not routinely being screwed up by being forced to tie in with epic company wide cross-overs that don't really add up to good stories. Yeah, the occasional cross-over, even the Avengers/Defenders clash was fun back in the day, but too much of it gets nauseating.

Anonymous said...

I guess I must be the odd man out because new comics have never been better. Something must be going around, because I see a lot of bitching about new comics, prices, story quality, etc. I think if you get rid of the completionist aspect of the hobby and pick and choose what to buy, you'll be happier. If that means you don't get every single minutiae of the story, so what?
Captain America is a fantastic book and Ed Brubaker has incorporated a lot of the Silver/Bronze Age elements into the book with great results. (Agents of) Atlas is another one that would fit right with the tastes of aging collectors like me (I'm 40 and have been reading/collecting comics since I was 6 years old in 1976).
It was guys like Brubaker and Bendis and Fraction and Peter David who re-energized my love for new comics. The bad thing with the past is that there is only so much of it, eventually you're gonna read it all. Some people are happy with that and that's fine, but complaining about new comics when you haven't even read one since 1985 strikes me as an excuse to bitch for no apparent reason.
I also liked Secret Invasion too so I guess that puts me even more in the minority.
Prices, yeah, 3.99 is too much, especially in relation to other forms of entertainment and I'll grant you that, but everything is too expensive these days.
I wish the spinner rack came back to the 7-11 just like everyone else, but it's just not gonna happen. When you come up with reasons to not like something before you even try it out, it says more about the person than it does about the comics.

david_b said...

I'm a few years older than most of you here.. I collected fanatically from '73 to '75, mainly Spidey, Avengers, and FF. I stopped just before the Gwen Stacey Clone storyline (thankfully..). Veered off to Space:1999 and Star Wars for a few years, then I started again in college ('81-'86).

Being in the dorms, I dated many a babe and kept my comics penchant separate. I collected the New Teen Titans (mainly the Perez back issues by that time), some Avengers and FF, again mainly back issues.. By the '80s, the new comics just didn't hold my attention as much as I had wanted them to. The Secret War merchandise was nice, but Marvel Universe was SO focused on XMen and Punisher by that time, it just didnt' do anything for me.

I just found vintage Silver Age stuff MUCH more to my liking ~ Why spend $$ on 3-4 new comics when I can buy a single Silver Age for the same price..?

Rip Jagger said...

I'm out and have been for three years or so. I left the Big Two because of the endless events and decompressed storytelling. I hung with the Avengers longest, but then I saw they weren't the team I grew up on, not even in essence, so I just stopped cold.

I lingered in actual comic books with Phantom, Nexus, and some few others, but have now given those up too.

I get trade reprints of classic series, especially Conan and Kull stuff from Dark Horse and the Gold Key material like Turok, Magnus, and Solar, but that's it for comics for the most part.

I've gotten into some of the vintage comic strip reprints like Prince Valiant and Popeye too, using some of the money I'd have wasted on comics.

It's a better life I lead now, a much better life indeed.

Rip Off

Doug said...

Great conversation, everyone! Thanks for the impassioned responses!!

I'll say one thing for Brian Bendis, whose name has surfaced both positively and negatively in this forum. I thought his work on Ultimate Spider-Man was quite good (through the first 50+ issues; I've not read much past that). I haven't read much of his other work, so my main opinion of his writing is unfortunately linked to what he has done on New Avengers, which in my opinion was deplorable. Not only is his style quite annoying in regard to dialogue, but I like many have really grown to hate (strong word) the decompression. When Karen and I do our reviews, we regularly comment to each other how many words there are in a book, how long it took to read, etc.

I just want to enjoy a book for longer than 3 minutes -- and with the prices as they are, feel like I got something out of my money.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting that you mention Ultimate Spider-Man. The pacing seemed a lot better in the earlier issues. Likewise with Alias and Powers. It's almost like someone told him to pick it up....

Karen said...

Wow- like Doug said, it's amazing to see all the responses to this post. Obviously, Doug was onto something!

While I still buy some new books, I have many of the same complaints as the rest of you. I had been mostly out of comics from about 1987 til around 2001 or so. I would occasionally buy some books in those intervening years, but most of the time I couldn't figure out what was going on. What really got me back was when I picked up Geoff Johns' Justice Society. Those stories were well written, and I didn't need to know who everyone was or all of their history to understand what was happening. From there I dipped back into Marvel and things took off, at least for awhile.

Now however I've shrunken my purchases down to about 8 titles. The books I enjoy most right now are Atlas, Thanos Imperative, Hulk, and Walking Dead. I would love to have a good Avengers title again. I'm giving Secret Avengers a shot, but so far it doesn't feel much like the team of old.


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