Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Welcome to my Darwinian Comicbook Nightmare-Hellscape

Or the ten comics I would bring with me to a desert Island

What would you do if you were about to be exiled to a desert island and you were only allowed to bring 10 comic books? What would they be and why would you choose them? What if the island is on fire and populated with mutant dinosaurs? What if the dinosaurs are radioactive?

It’s arbitrary and silly: create a scenario, choose a category, set an arbitrary limit on the number of choices, and force people to choose their favourites.1 But if taken seriously it offers a framework for assessing what you value most, and if enforced creates a Darwinian atmosphere of pitting your chosen favourites against one another and everything else. It’s Thunderdome meets contrived-reality-television-show-premise. It’s the Hunger Games and Secret Wars. And it’s how I purchase comics.

Comic books are expensive these days (at $4-5 [Can] per comic with page counts under 30 they are also, in a dollars-per-content sense, pretty awful value when compared to most other forms of entertainment). As a graduate student living on a student stipend, TA wages, and the forbearance of a significant other with a real-person-job money is perpetually tight. In the interest of being more responsible with my earnings I have been forced to reassess how I purchase comics.

In a basic sense, this means “buy fewer comics”. But I love comics, and responsibility is no fun. So I have devised a twofold strategy to maximize my comic experience for value and enjoyment:

The first part of my plan is to buy more trade paperback collections from independent-er-ish sources (Image, Icon, Vertigo, IDW, etc). Part of this is simple economics: in a dollars-per-content sense trades are a better investment. When buying trades you essentially get ~six comics for the cost of 4 or less monthly books. Another reason for buying collections is a growing interest in comics outside of the superhero genre as they tend to be more literary and seldom fall into the cycle of cyclic recycling so prevalent in cape comics. I’m also keen to spend a larger portion of my money on creator owned works (going from ~30% my budget to ~70% my budget) since it gives me the warm/fuzzies and supports the people who make the books I love. Trades also have the added benefit of collecting larger parts of story to read all at once, which is appreciated in the more complex and compressed story telling in independent comics (seriously, compare the first issue of Bendis’ Avengers with Carey’s The Unwritten for content… ).

The second aspect of my plan is to be super-selective about which superhero comics I do read. I got into comics as an adult due to a synergy of nostalgic love of superhero characters and an appreciation of the quality of writing in many modern comics and so I’m not willing to go cold turkey on my Marvel/DC fix (despite some despicable behavior from both companies). Harnessing the Awesome Power of Maths, I have determined that 10 ongoing titles is the limit of my budget. So I get to read 10, and only 10, titles published by either Marvel or DC as well as one trade paperback a week of my choosing.

This blog then, is me working through the process of deciding which 10 superhero titles I think are the 10 worthiest of reading.2 I’ll discuss why I love certain books, and outline the changes I make to my top ten as I go: which titles am I tying out, which titles am I dropping, and my rationale for both. I’m finding it kind of an interesting process, and maybe some other persons on the internet-net-net-net3 might as well. (I also, as this writing sample displays, need some practice writing).

I’m also planning on writing some abstract style (>250 words) reviews of the various trades and graphic novels I have been reading lately as well as exploring the hypothesis that creater-owned-er-ish comics are better than big two superhero comics. I may also write about other comic related things.

Welcome to my Darwinian Comicbook Nightmare-Hellscape. Hello.

1: I am Canadian, and believe that words should be spelled propourly. Deal with it.
2: “Worthiest” according to my own alchemical (and probably terrible) taste. There are many good and even great comics out there that I am not currently reading. I don’t mean to insult books not on my list, or their creators. This is about what 10 comics I like best (which are published by Marvel and DC).
3: I am not under any particular illusion that anyone is reading this.4
4: This calls into question the sanity of writing footnotes.

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