The last time I was in a comic book shop was May 2012. I visited Midtown Comics on Broadway in New York City (pictured above). A couple of days before, I had made a stop at Forbidden Planet, also in Manhattan. I didn't buy a single comic book at either of these fine stores. Oh sure, I bought comic book related stuff: an OMAC action figure, t-shirts (Nick Fury and The Silver Surfer), a DC Showcase Presents SEA DEVILS volume, a book about Stan Lee, another book about Lee and Kirby's run on FANTASTIC FOUR, an issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS, a new DOC SAVAGE novel and pulp double reprint volumes of DOC SAVAGE and THE SHADOW. I definitely got my hard-earned money's worth plus some great memories to last a lifetime.
Back before I was married (ten years and counting now I'm happy to report) and bought a house (or two), I was at the comic book shop every Wednesday dropping more money than I should have on that week's new releases. That came to a halt many years ago and the only "new" comics I acquired were gained in trades with other collectors or plucked out of the boxes at Half-Price Books. When both DC's New 52 titles and Marvel's NOW reboot launched in 2011, our store carried a few of those titles on our newsstand. I decided to give them a try. After all, I got a 30% employee discount. I bought and read the first years' worth of several New 52 titles and a handful of Marvel NOW books and I was underwhelmed by nearly everything I read. And so once again, I decided to quit buying new comics completely.
The other day, I had reason to stop in at Rogue's Gallery comic book shop in Round Rock. After taking care of business, I decided to look around the store and see what was new in the world of comics. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles they had on display on their walls. Comics from Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and other publishers I was unfamiliar with covered the display racks. Where to start even looking? Do I buy a favorite character, work by a favorite writer/artist team or the latest multi-issue cross-over "event" series which will "change forever" the respective comic book universe (DC or Marvel) until the next such event is published a few years down the road?
Well, I've always liked Thor so I went to where the THOR comic books were. I found several titles (one called THORS which made me wonder, how many Thors are there?) while the main THOR comic featured a female version of the God (Goddess) of Thunder. I don't want to read that version of the character and besides, I know it's yet another superficial, cosmetic change that was done to get an immediate spike in sales and it's destined to not last long.
I like Captain America so I went to where the Cap titles were. The Falcon is now Captain America. Nothing against the character, in fact I like the Falcon and think he's always been a pretty cool character. But I don't want him to be Captain America. I want to read about Captain America and the Falcon. Pass. Oh, and this is another gimmick that won't last long.
The Avengers have always been one of my absolute favorite super hero teams. There are at least half a dozen Avengers titles on the stands now. Which one do you pick? All of them? How about none.
Another factor to consider is the price of an individual monthly comic book these days. $4.99 for something that I can read in about five minutes? No thanks. And it's only one part of a six-part (at minimum) story arc that will eventually be collected into a trade paperback. "Wait for the trade" is something many fans do these days.
On the plus side, I will say that there is a ton of great vintage material (from many different publishers) available these days and this is the material that I'm most interested in. Tons of great Golden, Silver and Bronze age comics are being reprinted and it's a second Golden Age for fans of that material like myself.
I imagined for a moment that I'm Joe Average, a guy who recently went to see AVENGERS: THE AGE OF ULTRON and really enjoyed it. I decide I'd like to read an Avengers comic book. I go into the local comic book shop and I'm dumbfounded. There are multiple Avengers comics, many of which feature characters and line-ups that are not in either of the AVENGERS films. There's a long and convoluted back story, there are books that are in continuity and some that are not. Where to begin?
Well I hope Joe Average finds a knowledgeable, friendly and patient comic book shop sales clerk to help him get started. If so, it's possible that Joe can find something he likes. But if that help is not forthcoming, he's going to turn around and walk out the door without purchasing anything.
That's my point. Comic books today are not reader friendly. I consider myself very knowledgeable about comic books and their history but I have absolutely no idea about what's going on with Marvel and DC these days. And frankly, I have no desire to invest the time and money that's necessary to bring me up to speed. That train has long since left the station for me.
Instead, I take great pleasure in digging through my many long boxes of comics and finding books I haven't read yet or books I want to re-read again and again. I do buy the occasional hardcover or trade paperback reprint of vintage, classic material and I get a kick out of seeing stuff I've either never seen or material I'm familiar with in a nice, more-or-less permanent edition.
I don't want this to sound like I have anything against Rogue's Gallery. The gentleman I spoke to was kind and friendly. They have a clean, well-lit and well-stocked store and they're obviously doing good business. They're in business to make money and they do that by selling comic books (and other things like statues, action figures and RPG material). No beef there and if I was inclined to get back into comics, I'd make some of my first purchases there.
But I have no desire to get back into new comic books now or for the foreseeable future. If you buy and read the new stuff, good for you. I hope you enjoy it. Me? I'll get my kicks from the old stuff.
And there's plenty of that out there.