Friday, July 27, 2007

My Comics Buying Habits

Brainfreeze did a really nice post on what she looks for in buying comics, so I thought I'd blog about what causes me to cough up my cash to my local comics shop. I like this conclusion of hers:
"The kids would be, I think, far better customers than I am. Too bad I'm the one with the money. :)"
I've got a few years on her, both in age and in how long I've been buying comics, but I lose points for that near decade I was boycotting in protest over Supergirl's death in that first Crisis.

I'm now 54, started reading comics when I was 7. I read them at the dentist's office and my parents subsidized my hobby briefly until my allowance allowed me to purchase them on my own. I started with DC and stuck with DC. In the '70s, I went a bit nuts, having more discretionary funds, and added in lots of titles, including a few Marvels: Killraven, Man-Thing, and Howard the Duck. Ah, Howard!

When I started buying comics again in the mid-'90s, I started up slowly. I had been up to 35 titles a month and it took years, but I guess I've gotten back up there. I'm a mainstream comics reader and mostly, still am, but there are differences now.

Back in the pre-Crisis days, I bought and read all the Batman and Superman titles, along with team books (JLA, LSH) and those featuring JLA characters (Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Hawkman, Wonder Woman). I read Swamp Thing and the horror books, House of Mystery and House of Secrets. I read Deadman and The Phantom Stranger. I was a DC addict. Teen Titans, Supergirl, and Lois Lane (and yes, I got Jimmy Olson, too, but never saved those) were favs. I bought short-run titles like Groo, Ragman, and a host of others I've long forgotten, having sold most of my collection due to space issues in the mid-'90s.

These days, I don't buy the Superman and Batman books, except for Supergirl and Nightwing. And Birds of Prey, which is borderline in that regard, I think. I do buy a lot of DC books, though, as you can see in the sidebar. I mostly ignore Marvel, except for Wolverine, which I'm tiring of (I preferred him out of costume) and books that aren't part of the regular Marvel realm (Criminal and Anita Blake).

Unlike Brainfreeze, I will buy non-DC and non-Marvel books, but not many. I include Wildstorm and Vertigo with DC, of course. I have tried and enjoyed books from other, smaller companies that have appealed to me: Hero by Night from Image, Buffy Season 8 from Dark Horse, Sheena from DDP, Witchblade from Top Cow, Lone Ranger and Painkiller Jane from Dynamite.

I don't buy comics for the writers or artists. I buy them for the characters. If I don't like what's being done with a character I like, I might drop the book, only to pick it up again if a new team takes over, but I will stick with a book longer than a lot of people, judging by their comments on their blogs, to give the creative team a fair chance. Sometimes, I'm about to drop a book when a new writer is announced, so I stick it out til then, ie Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

I buy far more than I can keep up with, reading-wise. I've got stacks of comics that include issues I bought up to 5 years ago. At one point, in an effort to make up for lost time, I bought a lot of graphic novels/collections of non-DC titles. Books like Shi, Ghost, and Astro City. I look forward to reading them someday, along with the backlog of Modesty Blaise collections.

I've become a buyer of action figures, so DC Direct has me hooked but good. In fact, the company gets a lot of my money, but I know I'm not the buyer they're targeting. Sure, they want female readers. YOUNG female readers, similar to the need for young male readers because the goal is to entice new readers and grow the readership. We older folks are few and we'll die off at some point or lose interest. In fact, I'm sure the majority of comics readers move on to other things and drop comics as they age.

I'm fairly confident that I'll never be in the desired demographic, but I'm here and I'm buying and reading. I dropped Flash soon after Bart took over because he bored me, but the title is back on my pull list now that Wally's back. I have favorite characters and I'll give any book with them a chance. I'll read pretty much anything Roy Harper is in. Any of the original Teen Titans has my loyalty. Giving up Outsiders now that Bats is taking over, while Nightwing is still there, is a tough call for me, but Dick has his own title and with Roy gone, my interest waned.

One would think I'm someone the comics publishers would want to encourage -- an enthusiastic reader who gushes over favorite characters and stories in full fan mode, talking about them as if they're real, getting immersed in the books. And I let people know what I like, via this blog. Of course, I let them know what I don't like, which isn't so desirable.

While a great cover might get me to pick up a book, a bad one won't stop me from buying a book I want. I put my reading list together according to what I've been reading and enjoying. Anything new usually comes from my having read about it in Wizard or Comic Shop News, or a review on a blog I trust. I'm more likely to put up with mediocre, even poor art, than bad writing, unless the art is so awful it makes my eyes hurt. I don't notice or care about 2/3 of what most folks rant about in cover art. I don't care how big Power Girl's boobs are. I'm not thrilled when they're poorly drawn, but that won't stop me from buying the book. If I have a choice of covers, I'll get the one I like more.

The best marketing tool that worked on me was the printing of the entire first issue of Wolverine in Wizard. He wasn't in costume, the story was moody and intriguing, and I got hooked. I had to read what came next. It was a daring ploy and for me, it worked. I added the book to my pull list and only recently dropped it. They lost me with the whole Civil War event. And I prefer Logan out of costume. I am sticking with Wolverine Origins for now, though.

Does a marketing tool like excerpting in a publication like Wizard work enough to be worth the expense? Beats me. It won't reach the new reader, though it will be seen by someone already into the hobby who buys Wizard or picks up CSN at his or her comics shop. But the new reader, the person out there who has yet to be enticed into our fold, is a lot harder to reach these days. Too much competition for his or her money, time, and attention.

I'm not typical. I know that. But like Brainfreeze, I have the money and the interest. I'm also willing to try new things. All I'm missing is the time to read 'em all!

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