I’ve been blogging (sporadically at times) about comics for over 10 years now. A lot has changed in that time, such as the proliferation of the comic book movie, and so have my comic book habits. As I discussed when I praised libraries, I get a large part of my comic-book fix from borrowing collected editions, mainly due to the increase in the price of comic books (grumpy old man alert: when I started reading and collecting, comic books cost 30 pence). However, I still buy comic books on a weekly basis, as well as certain trade collections, but with certain parameters that influence the decision.
First is price. When you are in a long-term relationship, own a house and have two cats, money is a factor. I can no longer justify the regular fix of superhero comic books when the standard price for an ongoing series is $3.99, equivalent to £3.00 in proper money. Despite being owned by Disney, Marvel publishes almost all its comics at this price, which I find quite staggering. The more cost-effective way to buy superhero comic books is the trade paperback edition (although even there, the prices can seem too close to buying the individual issues), and both Marvel and DC tend to collect nearly everything they publish, so it doesn’t make economic sense to buy the monthly books. This is a shame, as I feel disconnected from the superhero universes I grew up with, but the various news sites keep me updated so it’s not as if I don’t have some idea of what’s going on. Also, waiting for the trade can make for a more satisfying read – is there anyone who thought that Sandman: Overture was going to come out on a monthly schedule for its six issues? It will be a while before I can read the story, but I’m going to enjoy it more in one sitting than waiting for the news of when the next issue is even solicited. That’s not a slight on Neil Gaiman or JH Williams – I love their work and I’m more than happy to wait for it; I’m just being realistic.
The second factor is creator-owned versus franchise maintenance. If I’m going to spend my money on a comic book, I would rather it support something new instead of propping up the old companies that don’t innovate and tend to recycle everything. I’ll still buy the occasional trade collection of good work-for-hire material (for example, the recent reboot of Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shavey was an excellent comic book, even if it is just keeping the trademark alive), but I prefer to give my money to people who are creating their own properties. It’s a small distinction, but it allows me to believe that I have a clear conscience.
The third factor is the creative team involved. Writers and artists who have created consistently entertaining work and with whom I feel some connection deserve to be rewarded (or so I believe) and if it’s creator-owned material, I can feel even better about it. Despite not enjoying Mark Millar’s writing as much as I used to, I bought Starlight because Gorlan Parlov is a fantastic artist whom I’m happy to pay to see his work. A small list of these creators would include Warren Ellis, Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Grant Morrison, Stan Sakai, Fred Van Lente, Jeff Parker, Brian K Vaughan, but I’m always open to new people who consistently produce good work.
With these factors in mind, I thought I’d list the comics I’m buying on a monthly basis and the reasoning for the book.
Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw (Image)
Kurt Busiek doing creator-owned work (I also get Astro City in trade collections since the move to Vertigo) – sign me up. This is a very enjoyable fantasy book, and I’m looking forward to where he’ll go with it.
I really enjoyed Jay Faerber’s Near Death, which only made 11 issues, and had previously enjoyed Dynamo 5, so I was looking forward to him doing a sci-fi western. So far, I have not been disappointed with this very good book.
Fables (DC Vertigo)
I’ve been getting this since the beginning in monthly format so I’m not going to stop when the end is in sight.
Fade Out and Velvet (Image)
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips – need I say more? Criminal, Incognito, Fatale before it, and these books maintain his high quality.
Lazarus (Image) and Stumptown (Oni Press)
Greg Rucka is a great writer – he has shown that he does good crime before, which Stumptown maintains, but Lazarus is a fantastic book with amazing world-building and a righteous anger behind it that fuels the work.
Resurrectionists (Dark Horse)
Fred Van Lente proved himself to me on Incredible Hercules and The Comic Book History of Comics, and I get Archer & Armstrong in trades, so I thought I’d try his new creator-owned book.
After Y: The Last Man, Runaways and Ex Machina, I was always going to get a Brian K Vaughan book, especially a creator-owned space opera. This book deserves all the credit it gets and I can’t wait for the trade paperbacks.
Supreme Blue Rose and Trees (Image)
I’m a huge fan of Warren Ellis, so these are not a surprise (although I’ll wait for the trade on Blackcross). Trees was interesting and different, and I’m looking forward to Injection with Declan Shavey. Supreme Blue Rose, despite being work-for-hire, feels like nothing else around at the moment and I’ve been enjoying it very much.
Usagi Yojimbo (Dark Horse)
Because Stan Sakai is fantastic and Usagi Yojimbo is brilliant. The only comic book I buy in both monthly and collected formats.
Chew, Invincible, The Fuse, Umbral, C.O.W.L., Zero, Black Science (Image)
That’s a lot of Image books, isn’t it? Image helps the process with their introductory price for the first volumes of new series, so it makes it easier for me to support creator-owned books.
Multiversity (DC), Annihilator (Legendary), Quantum & Woody (Valiant), Flash Gordon (Dynamite), Sandman: Overture (DC Vertigo)
Grant Morrison comic books are an automatic, Jeff Parker earned a place on the list through Agents of Atlas, and I was a huge fan of the original Quantum & Woody, so I’m looking forward to Priest returning to those characters. [EDIT: forgot to add Ragnarok by Walt Simonson at IDW – Simonson is one of the greats]
This list looks very different from an equivalent list from 10 years ago, but that’s part of the charm of comic books – there’s always something new and different. Here’s to the next 10 years.