5 Nov 2009

Thought Ballon: Tough Decisons Again

By Matt C

In August last year I went through my pull-list and gave it a bit of a prune due to various financial reasons and life-changing events occurring around that time. I think it's about time once again to have a closer look at what I’m picking up on a monthly basis as the cost of raising a child is hitting my wallet hard and there’s a threat of redundancy hanging over my head. Comics are still what I spend a large chunk of my disposable income on, but now a lot more of the books I’m picking up are priced at $3.99 I’m finding the pennies aren’t stretching as far as they used to.

Last year I aimed to whittle it down to 25 ongoing titles (I managed 26) so I’m going to attempt to hit that figure again, maybe even less if it's possible. As before, I’ll start with the Top 10, the one’s that I simply refuse to part with at this moment:

1. Scalped
2. Criminal
3. Captain America
4. Incredible Hercules
5. Detective Comics
6. Green Lantern
7. Invincible Iron Man
8. The Unwritten
9. Doktor Sleepless
10. Thor

Six titles that were in the Top 10 last year, two that have risen from the teens and two new titles to my pull-list. Out of all of them Thor has the potential to plummet down the list (or even come off it completely) due to the incoming new – untested - creative team. We’ll wait and see how that goes. Titles from last year’s Top 10 that are completely off the list: Nova, Action Comics and Fell. Nova is a recent decision, Action Comics because it was only great with Geoff Johns and Gary Frank onboard, Fell because who knows if we’ll ever see that again!

Onto the next 10, the ones I’d prefer not to lose but push comes to shove there may be some casualties:

11. Wolverine: Weapon X
12. Chew
13. Resurrection
14. Sweet Tooth
15. Fantastic Four
16. Guardians OF The Galaxy
17. Proof
18. Batman & Robin
19. Irredeemable
20. Adventure Comics

Out of those, I’m not 100% sold on FF yet, Guardians has the potential to go the same way as Nova, and I’m always waiting for Morrison to go bonkers on Batman & Robin and completely ruin all his good work so far. In fact, there’s a possibility that any of them could head in a direction I’m not too keen on, so if do this kind of article again in the future, the 'teens' will probably look a whole lot different than they do today.

Now the final “five”, the one’s that just may have to get the chop:

21. Agents Of Atlas
22. Jersey Gods
23. Elephantmen
24. Ultimate Avengers
25. Godland
26. Ex Machina

Agents Of Atlas: I’ll see out the current X-Men crossover, but it seems it’s being relegated to back-up feature status for the near future, and in all honesty I’m not sure I’ll stick around if another ongoing appears on the shelf; I like it, but it seems destined to fail unfortunately. Jersey Gods I enjoy, but the excitement of the initial couple of issues hasn’t quite been sustained; I’ll wait until the end of the current story arc before making my decision. Elephantmen hasn’t really ticked the boxes for me on a regular basis since it returned after the excellent War Toys mini – Boo’s covers are just about the only thing keeping me going with it at the moment. Ultimate Avengers – Carlos Pacheco’s art is the real draw for me, but the book's not exciting in the same way Ultimates was, so I probably won’t get past the first arc. Godland – I was under the impression that this was reaching it’s conclusion, but as that no longer seems to be the case I might jump off at the end of the arc; again, I like it, but not as much as I used to. Ex Machina – it’s been disappointing me for a while, nowhere near as classy as Y The Last Man, just waiting for it to conclude really now I’ve come so far with it.

I have managed to jettison a few titles recently alongside the aforementioned Nova. Secret Warriors has been pretty good, but while I’ve liked all the Fury stuff, I haven’t really found the new team that engaging. On top of that I’ve found that I’ve been distancing myself more and more from all the Dark Reign malarkey over the last few months. Conan The Cimmerian: in all honestly I still enjoy this, but I’ve got so much Conan material kicking around my flat waiting to be read (the original Howard stories, the old Marvel series) that I just don’t feel as though I need to add to it at the moment; maybe I’ll pick up the collected editions down the line. Daredevil, a long-standing Top 10-er, is off the list because I’m not interested in where Andy Diggle is taking the character. Incredible Hulk was showing promise, but it was just one title too many and had to go.

So now we’re left with the various mini series I’m picking up:

Crossed (brilliant, but almost over)
Hercules: Kives Of Kush (fun, but I could easily live without these Hercules minis from Radical)
Kick-Ass (one issue to go - will it arrive before the movie??)
The Last Resort (fun zombie series, with Darwyn Cooke covers!)
The Marvels Project (Brubaker and Epting on form, will see this through to the conclusion)
Mouse Guard (nothing on the shelves currently, but I expect a new mini is due soon, so I’ll definitely be getting that)
Secret History (looks like this is almost done, finally!)
Stuff Of Legend (this is great, I will continue with it no matter how erratic the schedule)
Superman: Secret Origins (my fave Superman creators, no chance of dropping this)
The Torch (a real surprise, hoping it sustains the quality over the course of its run)
The Unknown (Boom!’s best series, I’ll pick it up in whatever form it takes - mini, ongoing, whatever)
War Heroes (life’s too short, I’m knocking this on the head!)

That would take my overall pull-list to 37, but taking into account the books I’m planning to drop, that’s about 32 or 33 – a manageable amount I think. There are obviously other titles that could end up on the list (waiting to see what happens with The Anchor and Die Hard: Year One, plus I've got my eye on Stumptown) and I’m probably omitting something glaringly obvious from the current list. There’ll be other minis too, coming and going, and potentially a new series on the horizon I don’t know I’m going to fall in love with yet. And, of course, there could be further causalities from the current list if I need to be more ruthless.

There’s probably between 15 and 20 books that I wouldn’t like to be without, so if the worst comes to the worst I could strip the pull-list down a lot more. But that’s only in an unavoidable situation – I’m still mad for comic books and I have no intention of ever kicking the habit! This exercise is purely to force me to look into my spending habits to ensure that my limited funds are put to use in the most effective fashion. I managed to drop Uncanny X-Men earlier this year after picking it up religiously for almost 20 years and I don’t find myself missing it. Sometimes you just need to brave enough to make those hard decisions!!

As always, I reserve the right to completely change my mind on all the above – you never know, next time Nova may be back in the Top 10!


Anonymous said...

I believe Agents of Atlas is becoming a backup feature in Incredible Hercules. If im correct you wont have to get a new ongoing series at all :D.

Also, where is Ultimate Spiderman on this list? :P (I like it, it may not be your thing)

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that I like 8 books in your Top 10 but only 2 in your Top 11 to 20! It's also interesting to note that your proposed cuts will bring your pull list down to 32 or 33, which I always thought of as quite a high number! I'm currently on circa 40 titles, which is the highest I've ever been, but a good ten of them at least aren't exactly on a monthly basis... Plus, I don't count titles like Fell and Mouse Guard until they actually launch again. Once they do, they go back on the pull list. The only comment I'd add is, if you're still enjoying Conan, keep it on the list, even if you have unread Marvel stuff to hand. The likes of you and I should be supporting the monthly comic format when everyone else is switching to reprint compilations. Otherwise the format will eventually go the way of vinyl (still around, but expensive and difficult to buy). - Rob N

Matt Clark said...

I'd like to think it's blatantly obvious from my piece that I do support the monthly comic format!!

As for Conan, it was getting to a stage where I was leaving it to last to read, and I even managed to miss an issue without realising it until after I'd finished the following issue! I like it, but not quite enough for it to justify a continued position on my pull-list.

As for Ultimate Spider-Man, it was the only Bendis title I was really enjoying for a while, but I've been aggravated with Bendis' writing so many times now that I tend to steer clear of anything with his name on.

Justin Giampaoli said...

Hi Matt,

A very timely article... I'm in the same boat with two kids, working for a non-profit museum, and the price hike to $3.99.

Do you factor in trade-waiting into this equation? For example, I dropped Ex Machina around issue 35, deciding that it was close enough to the end that I'd just wait for the Hardcover Deluxe Editions.

Another option I've found that works for me is to put things on a "quarter or dollar bin list." There are certain titles I'm interested in reading, but would only do so at a deep discount. They're not good enough to pay full price for. If you have an LCS with frequent sales, it might work. I recently put X-Force, X-Factor, The Punisher, etc. on that list. You have to wait and be patient, but eventually you pick up a run.

Bottom line, I have to LOVE something to keep supporting it at full price.


Matt Clark said...

A pick up Northalanders in trades - I wasn't that taken with the debut issue but after hearing people rave about it I picked up the first trade and loved it. Bought the second volume the other week - I really ought to write something positive about it sometime on this blog because the I only really mentioned issue #1 and I was totally wrong with my first impressions.

There's stuff I may look out for in bargain bins in the future (Conan, Secret Warriors, Hulk etc) but I don't feel any great urgency to read them now.

You do have to really start asking yourself "Is this really worth $3.99?" on a regular basis, because even though some books are good, not all of them are that good.

Justin Giampaoli said...

Northlanders definitely builds with time; it took me to issue 5 to really be hooked, but I really trust Brian Wood as a storyteller. Wait until you get up to issue 17!

Exactly. I love reading comics and wish I could read everything. But with a finite budget, you really have to be choosy with the selections and pare it down to the essential.

This will make me sound like an old nostalgiac fuddy duddy, but I remember being a kid when books were .75 cents or $1 and you could literally buy everything that came out in a week with just a $20 bill. That was a nice feeling.

Matt Clark said...

When we were kids we could actually afford comics. Kids these days, would they pay $3.99 for something that would take up to 20 minutes of their time? Would we pay $3.99 for something that will only occupy them for that long??

Justin Giampaoli said...

Yeah, they've certainly increased at a disproportional rate to other forms of entertainment, inflation, average wages, etc. I read an article somewhere that explained (with much math and many graphs) that if movies had increased at the same clip as comic books, an individual movie ticket today would be around $50.

Anywho, the question of what will work for kids today is an interesting one... and I'll give you a little preview of what's to come on 13 Minutes. I lined up a 15year old girl I met to do reviews!

My cousin is a high school English teacher and she's one of his brightest students, I met her while guest lecturing recently. Should be *really* revealing (I hope!). Stay tuned...

Anonymous said...

Quote Justin: This will make me sound like an old nostalgiac fuddy duddy, but I remember being a kid when books were .75 cents or $1 Unquote

You think that's bad? I remember when they were 15 cents! Or 5p in proper English money. I could buy seven titles a week back then if I didn't spend any of my money on sweets. My first ever purchases were Teen Titans 34 and the Phantom Stranger 8 for 10p, because I liked the covers (check 'em out and you'll see what I mean – if you saw them, you just had to buy them). After I read them I kept going back for more. - Rob N

Matt Clark said...

Quote: I lined up a 15year old girl I met to do reviews!

That will certainly be interesting. If the medium is to survive it needs to cultivate a younger audience. I saw a statistic several years ago (and who knows who accurate it really was) that suggested the average age of the comic book reader was 39. 39!!! I'd like to think it's come down a bit since then!

Justin Giampaoli said...

Yup, that's the conundrum... not only is the readership that age, but I'd be curious to see the average creator age as well... it seems to be 30-somethings writing for 30-somethings, catering to the existing audience, not cultivating a new one.

Justin B. said...

Glad to see Unwritten and Sweet Tooth made it into your top 25. My monthly comics have been scaled waaaaaayyyy back from a year ago, and most of those I only get monthly through DCBS at a discount as it is, but for Unwritten and Sweet Tooth I still make my way to my LCS for because they are that good, and titles I would like to see continue past their first year.

On the topic of new readers, hopefully as us 20- and 30-somethings start having kids we will raise the next generation of comics readers. The third book I still get from my LCS is the Boom! Muppet comic, because my kids love it and we have a great time reading it together. That and a lot of the DC Kids line are great comics that kids and adults can both enjoy. Oh yeah! The second volume of Amulet came out recently as well and that's another one my kids have loved.

Matt Clark said...

Good to hear from you Justin as you inspired this feature in the first place!

My son's going to be growing up in a comics-heavy environment, so my fingers are crossed that he doesn't rebel against it all!!