A post from my old Marvel blog concerning how long fans will continue to buy a title that they no longer like.
December 16, 2008 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General
There’s a new blogging crew over at Newsarama, and yesterday one of them, Russ Burlingame, posted a topic that I thought was worth throwing out to the readership here as well (since we always seem to get a good response to audience participation around these parts). And since I don’t simply want to copy what Russ asked, I’m going to add my own follow-up query.
Russ’s question was: if there’s a series you’re buying that you really like, and then something changes to make it not so good anymore (new writer or artist, status quo change, whatever), what is the amount of time you give it to get back on form before you drop it? In other words, how long will the momentum of purchasing a series carry you forwards after you’ve stopped really loving the book?
And my follow-up: once you’ve dropped a once-beloved title, what does it take to get you to pick up an issue again?
I can remember, back in the day when I was buying the books off the stands, this was a little bit easier to navigate. I used to have a paper route, and that left me financially solvent enough to where I could buy pretty much everything (and did.) But that was during a period when the cover price was fifty cents, which made it a whole world easier. As a result, I would buy books that I really wasn’t all that crazy about because, hey, they were comics and they were cheap and they were there—why not
But in the early 1980s, my family moved, and the paper route went away—and without that source of steady income (atop the fact that the direct sales market was just beginning to expand, with all kinds of new books originating from new independent publishers), I reached a point where I couldn’t afford everything I was buying. But the interesting thing to me was, once I’d made that mental decision to trim my buy-list, once I’d flipped that mental switch, tons of titles just fell off completely, cold turkey. In fact, I’m not sure that even a single Marvel title survived this purge. Even FANTASTIC FOUR, most beloved of Marvel titles, failed to make the cut (though I returned about a year later after seeing the closing page of FF #267 in which Sue Richards miscarries her second child.) And eventually, I came back to at least all of the perennials, and filled in the blanks after the fact (in many cases from the cast-off books that littered the shelves in Bob Budiansky’s office, which he would allow his intern to pick over at the end of the year.)
So, there’s the topic of the day: how long will you hold out, and what will make you come back?
10 thoughts on “Blah Blah Blog – How Long Will You Hold Out?”
In my case, early in my collecting, which really began when I was 10 years old in 1972, there were my “must buys”, mainly the Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man and Avengers, and otherwise whatever struck my fancy of the choices available on the racks and that I had enough money to get, which varied considerably from month to month. By about 1974, there were maybe about 10 titles I was getting regularly every month (or bi-monthly, as with Captain Marvel) and I usually remained loyal to even after a key change in artist or writer, such as after Jim Starlin left Captain Marvel — however much I preferred Starlin’s art & writing to that of his successors on the title, I kept on collecting. Throughout the ’70s, once I started collecting a title regularly, unless it was cancelled, it was rare that I just quit collecting it, even if I continued to do so more out of habit than actual enjoyment. By the early ’80s, however, as a young adult, at some point I realized I had whole stacks of comics I hadn’t even read yet and that many of them weren’t really worth the time reading and didn’t really have any great desire to read. I quit collecting many titles I’d been getting for many years, sticking only with those I most enjoyed but only as long as I still enjoyed reading them. I loved Simonson’s run on Thor and continued getting it for a few months after his final issue, but the magic just wasn’t there for me anymore and I dropped it.
I mostly stopped collecting altogether by the late ’80s, although when I came across Gaiman’s Sandman, around it’s 40th issue, I commenced collecting that for the remainder of its run, but that was pretty much the last of either Marvel or DC series I collected in floppy format. In the late ’90s, I came across Too Much Coffee Man comics and Moore’s From Hell series and loved those enough to get those through the remainder of their runs. So far, I haven’t felt compelled to to start collecting any of the series I dropped long ago, although I’ve occasionally gotten collections of series that I like or read positive reviews of, such as Fables, Robinson’s Starman or various series by Grant Morrison.
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I am, I guess, a “completist”; if I’m collecting something, I have to have it all, a trait that has cost me a small fortune over the decades.
From 1972 onwards I bought every comic that I could afford, but in 1982 I sold half my collection to fund a hi-fi purchase and never went back to collecting those titles that I’d sold.
However, I stuck with the X-Men (in all its various iterations) and, as my financial position steadily improved, bought more and more comics on a regular basis. By the mid-nineties I was buying probably thirty-plus titles a month, but reading less than half of them because of family and work commitments.
And then my local comic dealer was arrested for murder and imprisoned for life!
The fact that I’d now have to travel quite a distance if I wanted to keep up my collecting – and not having the time to do so – meant that thirty-odd years of comic collecting came to a crashing halt!
I went a few years without ever reading a comic, but a chance encounter with a shelf full of remaindered hard-back Marvel and DC collections in The Works (British discount book store) started me off again. Before you could cry “Shazam”, I was discovering the dubious pleasure of buying trade paperbacks on-line which, in turn, led to a costly fascination with Omnibus editions and Epic Collections.
Finally, my younger self was never really a collector of The Fantastic Four, but I have been buying the Epic Collections and, for the most part, really enjoying them. However, I have concluded that if I’d been buying the title on a regular basis back in the day, the early nineties FF comics would have seen even my completist gene admit defeat and say “enough is enough!”
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When I was younger I’d never give up. After all, if a comic could get worse, it would eventually get better, and I wouldn’t want to have a gap in my collection, right? For example, after Len Wein left JLA there was a long slump, but then came Steve Englehart followed by Gerry Conway.
At some point in my twenties I realized some comics were never going to improve — I think Thor, right after the Celestial story arc, became one of the first. Of course, it did pick up when Simonson came on board, but I never regretted the stretch I didn’t buy.
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No, I’m wrong. When Denny O’Neil took over the JLA, I skimmed through the first of is campy efforts and didn’t pick up the book again for several years.
I was a kid in 1968 when Marvel gave Dr Strange, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner etc all their own books, and I remember buying all the first issues but few or none of the later ones. I think it was partly a matter of not having the money, but also some characters didn’t seem as good any more. I stayed with Sub-Mariner the longest, till around issue #12.
On the other hand Fantastic Four was always my favourite Marvel series, and I stuck with that right to the end. The last Marvel comics I ever bought as a kid were FF #116, Avengers #93, and Where Monsters Dwell #16, all on the same day. And then I didn’t stop by choice, but because Marvel books disappeared from the shops here in Liverpool, England. The places where I used to buy them just didn’t keep them any more. I’ve often wondered what was going on with the UK distributors. Was it just a coincidence that that final bunch of comics were from the month when Marvel books went double-sized?
Funny, I thought Archie Goodwin’s run on Iron Man was outstanding — probably the best of Stan’s replacements on the various books. But that’s what makes horse races
From what I remember there was a national docks strike so no American comics made it over here to the UK for about 6 months. Most comics from that period seem to be more expensive on Ebay because of no UK distribution.
I reward what I consider to be good quality with purchases. If a company thinks it’s OK to put out subpar product, not giving fans their best possible (open for debate), then they dont dserve any loyalty from me.
That’s an outlook developed over time. But even as a kid, I responded more to what excited me. I’d suffer through some bad art if there was light @ the end of the tunnel. But if not, I’d move on.
Younger eyes might be more forgivable. Then again, also of narrow taste. It took me decades to aporeciate Kirby. It also took some years to realize other art heroes’ work hadnt aged well. I look for fundamentals in art. In story, I need believability in dialog & emotional resonance.
When Neal Adams took over from Murphy Anderson on the Silver Age Spectre I was horrified they’d replaced an artist I liked with such a bad artist. Rereading the issues a few years later, I reluctantly concluded the problem was my taste, not Adams’ art.
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