Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You Are Young and Life is Long and There is Time to Kill Today

Doug: Welcome to another inside look at what goes on in the BAB editorial room. These can be some all-day affairs, with multiple topics sliding across the table. We recently had a prolonged discussion, and we hope it serves as fodder for your thoughts and recollections concerning comic book reading. So without further ado, let's trip back to a time late last week...

Doug: We are traveling tonight and tomorrow, but Sunday some time I'll be able to get back into the Marvels post. Just let me know whenever it's my turn. Thanks for setting that up. I have some time today to look for art. I already entered the image of the Goblin on Gwen's windowsill, holding her body.Karen: Thanks for getting the art for the Marvels piece. I'll get to it again this weekend but I think we're nearly done. I read your remarks last night, and you were so right -I read this book quite differently this time around.  The art was the same -spectacular -but the story hit me more deeply, and perhaps more sourly? I don't know. I suppose I reflect on life a lot more now than ever. I guess I can connect with "old" Phil more than I ever could before!

Doug: I actually had about 10 minutes to scout some art, so it's in. Nice image of Luke Cage, the Kree-Skrull War splash, a pic of Spidey fighting the Goblin, and the full-pager of Capt. Stacy's death. Seems to cover all the bases.

Looking ahead, have you had much time to plow into Darwyn Cooke's massive book (The New Frontier)? I've read up to when Hal becomes GL. It's weird. I like it, but I'm thinking if I'd read it as a monthly I would not have liked it as much. For those steeped in DC lore, they would probably have loved it. But the DC lore I got in a panel or two of Perez's History of the DC Universe was a better-sized helping for me. I'm speaking of the Challengers, Slam Bradley, etc. here.

I need to finish the book and watch the cartoon again.

Karen: I haven't done more than skim through the book. I did read the whole thing years ago -when I got a copy from the library, and had a lot of time on my hands. It truly is massive. I always wonder about that difference in experience, getting something as a monthly versus reading it in large chunks (or all the way through). I recall reading Watchmen as it came out and never feeling all that thrilled by it -it seemed more exploitative than anything -but perhaps taken as a whole work it comes across differently. I did just order the blu-ray of New Frontier and it should be here this weekend. I loved it when we first saw it, but my husband didn't care for it at all, so we never bought it. But I got it for less than $20.

Doug: Inspiration - do you want to do a partner Open Forum on reading installments vs. reading tpbs/hardcovers? When "that's all we had" we were stuck on a 30- or 60-day cycle. Now -- piece of cake to gather as many as 25 issues together in one volume.

Karen: Hmm, that might have some legs. I don't have a ton of memories to pull on, but maybe we can put something together. I'm sure the readers would have something to say about it.

Doug: One general thought that comes to mind: the in-story recap of the previous issue. At a 30-day interval, necessary. In a tpb, drives me nuts. The Wolverine mini-series by Claremont and Miller is egregious in this regard. I think Claremont cut/pasted the same lines to begin each issue!

I think my read of "Winter Soldier" was greatly affected by the large graphic novel format. In installments, I'd have lost the build-up of suspense over a several week period. But sitting on the couch, I just kept reading. And reading. And...
So there are some thoughts.

Karen: So the basic argument might be something like the difference in the joys of anticipation versus the pleasure of deeply immersing oneself in a work? I think as I get older, the latter is better for me, as it gets more difficult to keep in mind all the details of things I read or (in the same category) serialized TV shows. Perhaps this is also why 'binge' TV watching is so popular? Who can remember what they read in a comic or saw on a TV show a month before?

Doug: I don't even know -- do modern comics have letters pages? I suppose with the Internet that would be a waste of time, since by Wednesday evenings blogs and websites would be rife with feedback anyway. But most of us have knocked the fact that many of our tbp and hardcover collections do not contain either the letters pages or the Bullpen Bulletins. For many of us, those really anchor the reading experience. So from that standpoint, seeking out the original comic books would be better.

But we are, after all, discussing reading at the time. So, if I was still reading new comics today, I think I would have been one of those who would have by now switched to the trades for my pleasure. But I wonder, as a child, what my memory was like -- I don't really recall digging out the previous month's issue to refresh my memory as to what happened, the various subplots, etc. So maybe this whole line of thinking is something I'm coming to as someone who is almost 50 (14 months away!).

Karen: As a young kid, I did read my comics several times -but I think they were also just more important to me, and I didn't have the concerns of work, and life in general, taking up so much of my time, so the events in the books were always fresh. I'm not sure I'd want to give up that sense of anticipation. but then we're talking about the 70s versus today's instant gratification culture. I'm sure I would be an entirely different person if born into today's world! But knowing I could see what was happening to the characters every month, or having to wait a year to get it collected -that might be really tough! That doesn't really apply to me now though, as I don't keep up on current books.

Doug: OK gang - there you have it. So what do you make of all or any of our thoughts above? 


Anonymous said...

I live about 20 miles from my nearest specialist comics shop so it's easier now to just download a tpb collection of 5 or 6 issues rather than try to get every one over a 6 month period. In the '70s imported Marvel comics weren't that easy to find in the UK (in my experience anyway) so I'd buy a comic and really enjoy it and then be totally unable to find the follow-up issue - a tpb would have been very handy as would a specialist comics shop. Doug, modern comics don't have letters pages (or not the ones I've read anyway) but it's not just comics - a few months ago I bought a copy of 'National Geographic' and was amazed to see it had no letters. I've been reading NG on and off since the early '80s and there's always been a letters page - it was usually the first thing I turned to. Bah, humbug :(

Doug said...

Colin, that was my strong assumption regarding the letters pages. Serves up another page on which the publisher can sell an advertisement.

You also raise an excellent point concerning distribution woes, faced by many of us from time-to-time. And consider how that felt when you missed an issue in a bi-monthly title!


Edo Bosnar said...

I suppose there's something to be said for waiting the requisite month or two between issues, as I can say from the experience of binge-reading 5, 6 or more issues of certain titles in one sitting in a tpb or Essentials volume often left me feeling a bit burned out or soured on certain titles. However, I still vividly recall the possibility of missing an issue due to spotty distribution, so I definitely prefer the instant gratification of having everything together in a nice collected volume.
Otherwise, like Karen, I re-read my comics, quite a lot in fact. And often, in the case of multi-part stories, I either re-read the preceding issues before reading the latest one, or read the new one and then go back and read everything all over again in the same day. I specifically recall doing this with X-men, esp. during the Hellfire/Dark Phoenix arc, and also Project Pegasus in Marvel 2-in-1.

Redartz said...

Quite an impressive bit of interplay there; interesting to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process you two go through.

As for the topic at hand, Karen hits it on the head regarding time availability and mental distractions as an adult (of course, some might debate my classification as such..). In my youth there would be days in which I'd sit with a pile of back issues and read a lengthy series at one go; the Kree/Skrull War being one such occasion. That luxury is pretty infrequent now. As for modern readers, with the array of technological attractions available , few would likely expend the effort to sit for hours reading . If they did, it probably would involve TPB's, rather than monthly issues.

Regarding new books today, as Colin says, letters pages are scarce. However there are still some published. Amazing Spider-Man still has one, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as well. Why some comics do and others don't is a good question...

Doug said...

Redartz --

I can definitely relate to the distractions, usually of the self-inflicted nature. I scored a super deal on the first two volumes of the Adam Strange Archives via eBay (used copies, but like new) and received them yesterday. I had great intentions of reading the first story or two -- recall a few weeks ago when we discussed characters we liked but know next-to-nothing about? Adam Strange was my nominee. But the Cubs game, a little work for school, and watching a DVRed episode of a program with my wife all conspired to push the reading to another day. I would say that happens often whenever I am feeling like reading comics.

So all that being said, I guess it doesn't support either the periodical or collected formats, does it? Oh, well...


Garett said...

In some cases, the collected works have made me appreciate a series more. I read New Teen Titans in 1980 and monthly as they came out. I sold my collection in the late '80s, and over the years had opportunities to buy individual issues of Titans back again, but didn't. Somehow the individual issues didn't appeal anymore--maybe it was the fading ink! But when I plunged in and bought the big Titans omnibus a couple years ago, and read the stories straight through from #1, it became a huge favorite of mine again. Perhaps there's an accumulation that happens when you read a bundle of a creator's work, and the impact hits you more. I binged on Mad Men the same way, and Breaking Bad.

I agree with Doug about Winter Soldier. With many modern comic series, you need to read the tpb to stay interested, as there isn't enough story in a single issue to tide you over till next month.

The Howard the Duck omnibus was a joy to read straight through. I watched the recent return of Mad Men for this final season, and couldn't remember what was happening at last season's finale. But I'm watching it week-to-week now, and they do the recap at the beginning of each show- like the comics used to do- so it primes you for the episode.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I tend to like binge reading these days too...once the story grabs you, it's nice to just keep going.

I used to like the letters pages too (and looking through some of those vintage ads in my old comics brings back memories); I don't follow any current books, but I used to read Fables and Walking Dead, and they both have letters fact Walking Dead had 3 or 4 pages of letters (some of which were emails) in every issue.

Mike Wilson

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike W.: "...some of which were e-mails?" You mean there's actually people younger than, say, 60, who send letters by normal mail?

Redartz said...

Mike W.- those old ads do make leafing through a yellowing 32 pager a lot of fun. Ditto for the letters pages and the Bullpen Bulletins. I'm currently working my way through the second Fantastic Four Onmibus. No ads, but reading the letters pages is a treat, as is the monthly checklists (which at that point were still included in the letters page). And, actually, this Omnibus does include some Marvel house ads in the back, as well as a bunch of Marvel reprint covers from Collectors Item Classics and Marvel's Greatest.

William said...

During the waning days of my going to the comic store and buying "new" comics every week, I got into the habit of letting several issues of a title build up before I'd read them. (At least 3 to 6 months worth). After a few years of doing this, I realized that I didn't really care for what they are passing off as "comics" these days (which is putting it mildly). I started to find myself not wanting to read the 6 or 7 issues of whatever it was I had saved up. I actually got to the point of dreading it like a chore.

"Oh, What horrible ret-con nightmare are they going to inflict on Spider-Man (or whoever) this time to ruin my childhood?"

It just wasn't any fun anymore, and I found myself more and more reading back issues and collected volumes of the classic stuff that I actually did enjoy. Then one day I decided to finally stop buying new comics all together, and concentrate on just reading stories from the Silver and Bronze Age, and I fell in love with comics all over again. There's even a ton of stuff I never read at all when I was growing up. So, a lot of it is completely new to me.

Now, I pretty much strictly buy trades and hardcovers of classic Marvel and DC, and I also have all the Marvel comic collection volumes on DVD, so I could read several comics a day for 10 years and not have to read anything twice.

Anonymous said...

@Edo: Yes, apparently some people still use snail mail!

@Redartz: I loved those checklists too, especially the ones that gave a teaser of what was in the issue.

@William: I pretty much just read older stuff now too. There's tons of stuff I missed the first time around, so I'm finally trying to catch up!

Mike Wilson

Dr. Oyola said...

When it comes to Bronze Age comics (and I mean comics up to let's say '87) I always go for individual issues if they are affordable (and to me that means I refuse to play more than $5 for any single comic, including shipping, no matter what it is). I don't care too much about condition as long as the cover is intact and I can read it.

If it is something I just can't afford, like the first 100 issues of FF, I go the omnibus route - or a nice trade of things like the Dark Phoenix Saga.

For current comics, I am still getting my superhero stuff monthly - but there is some independent stuff I wait for trades for - like SAGA and Sex Criminals (both Image), but other independent ones I want to makes sure stick around (like Bitch Planet), I buy monthly.

One day the price of individual comics will go beyond $5 and my budget thing will kick in for those as well, and I will be forced to get them all in trades.

Reading comics on the computer or even tablet is a travesty. I do it when I have to, but prefer not to.

Dr. Oyola said...

Oh and speaking of letters pages! I assumed that most, if not all of the letters printed in the few remaining letters pages these days arrive via email.

I am not that interested in current letters pages - but I LOVE them in old comics, they really give a sense of reader response at the time - though you have to remember that 1) Editors chose the letters and 2) it was not uncommon for the writers, artists and editors to write their own letters under assumed names for all sorts of ridiculousness

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