The Plight of the Comic Book Loyalist
(originally posted September 2010 on www.GuerrillaGeek.com)
It’s an age-old tale, Batman and Robin are fighting the Joker and Harvey again, when, in the midst of an unknown-sized arc, a new character is introduced. Whether an unexpected turn of events, an odd plot twist, or perhaps some event involving another hero or villain which needs its own back story and explanation, the need for an entirely new spin-off is created. This cycle will repeat over and over again forming webs of stories that take the reader further and further into the worlds they know and love… and help them dig deeper into their pocket books.
The “event” is no great mystery to loyal purchasers of comic books. For readers of old and those merely joining the ranks of us proud geeks in the recent months and years, we all have had to grow accustomed to this standard of the industry. While one could argue that these events often produce more quality books than wastes of pages, you can’t deny that ultimately you end up being forced to spend more money. With price increases becoming a regular occurrence, I am forced to wonder if some of the industry’s biggest names and most powerful publishers have their loyal fans’ best interests at heart. No one can dispute the state of the global economy, nor can anyone claim to expect any company of any sort to ignore the chance to make a profit in these hard times. Still, when the caliber of stories, and more so, the pertinence of the spin-off stories to the main story line begins to wane, I can’t help but begin to grow frustrated.
Take Marvel’s Dark Reign event of 2009 for example. As a long-time fan of all variety of story pertaining to the Avengers, I naturally have a tendency to pick up any book with “Avengers” in the title. During this event, that meant that I had a New Avengers book, as well as a Mighty Avengers, Young Avengers, and the Dark Avengers book to pick up… sometimes all in one week. Once the stories crossed over enough that many of these characters were appearing in each others books on a regular basis, the repetition over each series began to cause me to lose interest. Once you add in the other four or five series that were based on individual Avengers, my disappointment grew larger and began to take on a more hostile tone. Growing up, my comic book reading and collecting was made possible by the trips to the grocery that my mom would take me on each week. As such, I usually found it difficult to really stay with any series as religiously as I would have liked to, and I fell into that category of fans that sat in the store and read… but never bought. As such, it wasn’t until later in life that I got to experience this frustration of feeling the need to purchase all the books subtitled with the event name despite their quality.
So the question becomes this: while these spin-offs and events do provide some tremendously enjoyable reading occasionally, as well as the opportunity for new talent to shine… are they a good thing? My frustration eventually led to my discontinuing purchasing or even reading all of these event books. I give in occasionally and stop in with Brightest Day or the Age of Heroes to see how my favorite characters fare, but more often than not I am just reminded of my disappointment. The desire to read all of the stories that come from an event becomes an unquenchable thirst with the increase in cover price like we saw last summer (with rumors of another hike coming) and the amount of titles. And yet the spin-offs keep coming.
Am I the only one feeling as if they are being backed into a corner by industry I have given so much to over the years? My choices have become to ignore the biggest events in comics and find new favorite characters, pirate my comics (which I refuse to do despite the ease with which one could do so), or go broke buying books. Perhaps if some of these publishers would consider the one-time loyal fan like myself and tone down the sheer quantity of books so that I could still manage to purchase what I want and stay abreast of the happenings… we wouldn’t have to see a price hike every two years! Lets not even get started on the other aspects of these companies that are designed purely to draw in the loyalist fan who wants nothing more than to see their beloved Green Lantern on the big screen…
What’s a geek to do!?