Making Time For Comics

marvelbdcard2010aAs I get older I find it harder and harder to allot the time necessary to read my weekly stack of comics. I bring this up because, just about the time this posts to the website, I’ll be celebrating exactly forty-four years of on this big blue marble we call planet Earth. And as I get into (gulp!) “middle age,” how I spend my time becomes something I think about a lot, most likely because the clock of existence seems to be ticking a little louder when your reach the big four-four. In fact, that “ticking” is more like a sort of an incessant hammering at this point. And as anyone with a wife and kids can attest, justifying hobbies and “trivial” activities gets much more difficult when “real life” starts to take priority. Truth be told, it’s pretty tough to just flop down on the couch and spend a Saturday reading comics when you have a couple of kids gesticulating wildly nearby, demanding that they be entertained by dear old dad.

I wouldn’t change my family situation for the world, but the life I’ve chosen does tend to increasingly impinge on the ability to get through my books each week. And as for the backlog of graphic novels on my shelves, I’m thinking the kids will probably have to start college before I can really start to tackle that stuff. Reading comics takes concentration to really get the most out of it and concentrating in my house is no easy task. There’s little league, swimming lessons, dog walking, trips to the grocery store, family gatherings, etc. to contend with. Did I mention that along with gesticulating come endless questions and that pesky need to be fed five or six times over the course of a day?  And of course, there’s that whole career thing. Chasing one’s professional dreams takes up fair amount of time, as well. Wouldn’t change a thing, but damn it, I’ve got comics to read. So what’s a dedicated father/working man to do when life gets in the way of what should be simple comic reading pleasure?

I think in the old days dads would go out for a pack of smokes and then return (or not) some days later. That’s how the men of thing-cigarthe previous generation got their “me time.” Not sure if comic reading was part of that particular equation, but it doesn’t really matter, as it’s not an option for me. I’m apparently of a more enlightened generation and dedication to family is to be worn as a badge of honor, even if it means that I have to forego seeing what Daredevil is up to in this month’s installment. Parenthood is nothing if not sacrifice.

This inability to immerse myself in less “important” pursuits is nothing new come to think of it. There’s a part of me that remembers what it was like to fully immerse in a videogame and play it out fully to the end. Unfortunately, some time around the time I got married ten years ago, I started hearing a little voice when I’d play—“Hey, you have fatherly/husbandly duties to attend to…and this is a waste of time.” The very same thing happens to me when I read comics. The voice inside tells me that my time could be better used some other way. Simply put, there’s always something “more important” that I should be doing. This is my cross to bear. I chose this path, I know, but again, I’ve got comics to read. So many comics.

6996615252_281d88c93d_zIt’s funny how aging forces one to confront the concept of time and the ever-shrinking amount of it that I have. Ironically, despite the limited amount of time that I’m allotted each week to actually reading comics, I haven’t let time constraints stop me from buying comics, both digital and printed. And as a result, I find myself watching my unread pile of comics grow…and grow…and grow. I freely admit that I have too many comics and not enough time to read them. The collector inside me doesn’t care about that; the collector inside me just wants books, more books. It’s an illness really. I’m fully aware of that. So what’s an encumbered comic collector with only a modicum of free time to do? Do I bag up the unread books, stash them in a box and save them for a rainy day that may never come? Do I speed-read through them just for the sake of checking them off my list? I like to savor my comics, so cruising through them at breakneck speed doesn’t seem like much fun, even if it shrinks the dreaded pile of unreads. And while I’m partial to binge viewings of TV shows when I get behind, that doesn’t quite work for me when it comes to comics. That perfect little experience of reading a single issue is something unique; I don’t really want to stray from that. So many comics, so little time.

This doesn’t take into account all the books from the past that I want to catch up on, as well. Amazon’s “Buy It Now” button was designed for impulsive people like me, and I’ve been pressing it with reckless abandon for more years than I care to remember. The result is a beautiful shelf of graphic novels, only half of which I’ve actually read. With so little time, one has to wonder if my copy of the West Coast Avengers omnibus is destined to become just another unchecked box on the great comic life list. I’m getting the sense that my comic book inbox will never be empty and I’ll never reach that place where all my unreads are moved to the read pile. Damn piles. My fear is that I’ll start looking at my comics as a chore, something that I’ve fallen behind on and need to get a handle on. Comics as a chore? Something about that doesn’t feel quite right.imgres

In the grand scheme of things, none of this is a real “problem” when you come right down to it. I get that. People have really crap to deal with and here I am waxing existential about whether or not to read my Incredible Hulk books. But as I begin my forty-fifth year on the planet, I can’t help thinking about the finite hours we’re all given and the choices we make about how to spend those hours. Ultimately, I think the answer to my problem is probably one of quality over quantity. And perhaps some behavior modification is in order. We tend to like our comfortable patterns, but if I can’t read the books I buy in a week, then maybe it’s time to shorten my pull list, though it pains me to do so.

I believe it was The Steve Miller Band who said, “Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.” I’m almost halfway through my fifth decade and those words have never rung so true. But maybe that’s a negative way to look at it. Perhaps it’s better to think about the words of that school-skipping icon Ferris Bueller, who said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” So with that spirit in mind, maybe I just need to slow things down a bit. Maybe I need to give myself the free pass (a “day off” if you will) and allow myself to read the books I’ve already got. But first, I’m thinking I might go out for a pack of smokes…


Gabe Roth is feeling a bit more mortal than usual today. And he’s  @gaberoth on Twitter.

Comments

  1. IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

    Well happy b-day Gabe. I have a similar problem with a stack of library books on my nightstand (2 hardbacks, 5 Walking Deads, 2 JL, 3 Iron Mans, 2 Supermans, and assorted “So You Want to Work in Comics? Here’s How!” paperbacks). My advice is to set a goal; not buying any new books until you finally finish that dreaded pile. But I noticed you like to take your time and not just speed-read to get through the pile. Maybe you could ask your family, since it’s your birthday, for some alone time to read you’re comics and it would mean the world if they can survive the night without you. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish to say, but if you’re always being such a good father/husband and you’re family knows you love comics (but not as much as them) maybe they’d understand. Just my two cents, whatever happens Good Luck and don’t let your age get you down. Like a wise man once said, “you’re as young as you feel”.

  2. I’ve got a similar “problem” with similar reasons. Life, family, kids…it takes up time and that’s a good thing. I’ve kinda come to peace with the fact that despite the ease of getting weekly comics digitally, i still don’t have much time to read them. I might not be a single issue reader anymore. I do miss being all in, but at some point its priorities.

    I do most of my reading now in odd places, Lunchbreaks, bathroom (don’t laugh!) or really late at night in bed. To further add to the problem, i’m spending a lot more of my rare free time making comics..drawing, writing etc. so its a tough place to be. There are trades, and runs i really want to read and I think i’m going to focus on that more going forward, than trying to keep up with the weekly stuff. Its just too much at times.

  3. Gerry Lopez Gerry Lopez says:

    I just turned 40. I have a 4 year old and a 4 month old. My time is so limited I could only really skim this article, but I know I can relate to it. Anyway, I’m switching to digital for a few reasons. 1. I don’t the time to go to the store every week. 2. I figure this way, I buy as I read and avoid having stacks of books that I’ll probably never get to (I’m looking at you Mind MGMT 3-10.) 3. My old man eyes can’t do it anymore. I need to zoom in on the tablet to read those tiny words.

  4. daningotham daningotham says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one with this problem. Actually you are worse than me. I don’t own any comics I haven’t read. But I do find myself speed reading through my comics when I get them. I have been trying to schedule 1 hour per night for reading for me. For one thing it’s a great way to wind down after the day, much more so than watching tv. But I don’t have any kids to worry about. Just a wife, 1 dog and 2 cats. So this might not be possible for some people. And I am always trying to cut down my pull list and start to get more into trades. Then I can order them when I want to read them, not because I have to because they are coming out this week or whatever. But it’s very hard to let go though. Here is a good article about how to try and cut your pull list down…….

    http://www.comicvine.com/articles/how-to-deal-with-cutting-your-pull-list/1100-146347/

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      By the way I am 37 years old since we are all telling our age. ;-)

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Thanks for the link @daningotham, I’m thinking of trimming down my pull-list (it’s currently sifting between 10-13 titles) and money’s getting tighter (when isn’t it?).

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I hear ya. I’m trying to get mine down to 10-13. At my peak a couple of months ago I was up to 41 titles. I’m down to 18 now though. But it’s not easy that is for sure. Every time I drop one, a little piece of me dies……

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      My problem is quite a few of my titles don’t have a steady schedule (Saga, Nowhere Men, Ghostbusters is bi-monthly I think) so I’m buying all these other titles in the odd months to kill the waiting time. I try to keep my budget at $20 per month (I figure my mom spends at least that in cigarettes every month, why can’t I do the same for comics?). So now I’ve got 10-13 I’m collecting, a few I’m dropping or are canceled and I want to replace them but I don’t know if I can justify it. For the last several months I thought I had 8 series, 8 series I’m buying usually every month and then I realize the number is closer to 13 and I’m thinking “I don’t know what I’m doing, am I being irresponsible?”. Believe it or not, for a while I collected 1-2 series and that was it. I’m not sure how I got so deep in buying so many titles.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Also, I’ve got to ask: how did you collect 41 books every month? Obviously you couldn’t sustain that, but what titles were you buying that you had to have more to fill the need; Marvel? Image? I’m guessing DC only made a small percentage of those titles. How did you cope with less reading material then you’re used to? Sorry, what I mean is “Teach me, sensei” :) .

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I get almost all DC issues. The Batman family of books I will never drop. And my goal is to just get those 12-13 Bat Family issues every month and get everything else in trade format. I do read Marvel and Image in trade format though. But it’s hard to let something go and wait up to a year for the trade to come out. That is the hardest thing for me. Reading all the interviews and previews online and then I can’t read it for a year. My budget is about $100.00 a month. Right now I’m down to spending about $50.00 on actual issues and $50.00 on trades. I want to get that down to about $30.00 on issues and $70.00 on trades though. I like reading the trade format more so than the actual issues. Then I can read the whole story arc at one time. Plus I can buy whatever trades I want when I want to read them. Whereas the issues I have to buy when they come out as they might sell out otherwise. And trades are great for traveling. I know digital is the best way to read when traveling but I’m an old fashioned paper guy.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Right right, that all makes sense. I can’t fathom having $100 a month to spend on comics, it must be nice. I don’t usually trade wait, in fact the only series I’m willing to buy in TPB are Atomic Robo and Peter Panzerfaust (either I’m really behind on it or I know the issues will sell out too fast to buy anyway). If I wait for something to come out in trade I usually forget about it, the only things I’m dying to read at my library that I can think of are Aquaman and Wonder Woman. Everything else is “Maybe, whatever”. I’d like to up my DC reading but I also like alot of stuff that isn’t DC which takes my dollars. I’m kinda looking forward to Villain’s Month, it’ll make it so easy to decide which and how many DC books I want to buy; Favorite Villain+ Good creative team= buy. And I agree about the paper thing, that’s how I prefer my comics as well.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      Yeah, I’m excited for villains month as well. Should be fun.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      Also if money is an issue and you want to get more comics for your money I would recommend these sites, it’s where I get all of my comics/trades…..

      http://www.dcbservice.com
      http://www.instocktrades.com

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Cool, thanks for the links. I don’t know how to work the first website but I’ll probably use the second one soon.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      On the first one just go to ‘My Account’. If you don’t have one you can create one for free. Then click on ‘Preorders’. That will show you a list of publishers. Click on the publisher and then it will show you all the comics that are available. Take note you are ordering them 2 months in advance before they come out. Right now it’s for August issues. Click ‘Add’ next to the issues that you want. Once you are done click ‘Checkout’. The cool thing is you don’t have to pay right away. Usually you will get charged the 14th of the following month for your order. And you have about 1 month to edit your order before they close it. I think the cutoff for August orders is in 2 days, the 26th. Then they will open up September ordering probably the first week of July. Then you will be able to edit that order until the end of July. I love the fact you can edit your order up to the end of the month as I change my mind a lot. And you can’t really beat 40% off on all titles. Sometimes they have specials and issues are 50% off. And there is no sales tax. Shipping is always a flat rate of $6.95 no matter how many issues you buy. I think I figured out if you place a monthly order of $25.00 or more it’s cheaper than going to the comic shop, even with the shipping.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      Oh, when you check out it will ask you if you want the issues to come bagged and boarded. And they give different options of board styles. I usually do the cheapest which cost an extra 12 cents an issue. Again, cheaper than buying your own bags and boards. I mentioned before the shipping cost. I do once a month shipping so it’s $6.95 for all the issues for that month. I think you can do weekly shipping too but of course you will pay a lot more in shipping cost.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      If you have anymore questions just click on the ‘Ordering’ tab on the side of the screen then click on ‘How to Order’.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Damn, that’s some good savings. Do they take Paypal? I don’t have a credit card. I’ll probably look for older stuff that I need like Atomic Robo or Sandman Mystery Theater. I really liked the discount on the second website, SMT TPBs were only $10, which would save me alot of digging through back issue bins. Frankenstien by Jeff Lemire has been on my buy list for awhile now. In fact I think I’ll just buy stuff that’s older or really popular, the smaller stuff I’ll just go to the LCS so it doesn’t get cancelled. How long do you usually wait for the trades to arrive? When you order them 2 months in advance, do they ship them out pretty quick?

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      Oh, go ahead and ignore my last post. You just answered a bunch of my questions already.

  5. koryrosh koryrosh says:

    34 with an 8 month old and glad to know I’m not alone in this problem. Even now, I can hear my daughter whine in the background, making me ask – what the heck am I doing here??

  6. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    I think I’ll stay single for the rest of my life. This sounds awful.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      @Wheelhands, that’s my plan as well. But don’t knock these guy’s lives, if they got the strength to be husbands and fathers then they’ve got my respect. It’s not what I want for my life, but then I’m selfish; I imagine on their worst day these guys don’t regret the choices they made because the good days make it worth while.

    • WheelHands WheelHands says:

      It was a joke.

    • IthoSapien IthoSapien says:

      My bad, misread that first post.

  7. 33 & getting married at the end of the year, so any spare money goes towards the wedding. Luckily my stack of stuff isn’t too big but I do find my pull list chopping & changing quite often. I do try to limit my monthly budget but boy is it tough!

  8. If I ain’t poopin’, I ain’t readin’ comics.

    • ilovecomics says:

      Ya if the ifanboys dont have time to read comics while taking dumps then they have too much fiber in their diet. You guys need to get constipated pronto.

      In all seriousness i read half my comics while taking shits. What else would i do.

  9. miamorespuro miamorespuro says:

    I’m 23 and have a 2 year old and a 7 month old. Two jobs. I always try and and find an hour or two to read or play video games. It’s getting harder and harder though. I think what I’m gonna have to do is cut on the comics I really don’t read consecutively and just get the ones I’m really interested in. It’s hard and I have feeling like I’m missing out on some great stories. But I’ll just make some great stories with my kids.

  10. TA TA says:

    Great article.

    I’m similarly occupied with a family and job, so I only read what I really enjoy. If the books starts piling up, I make cuts.

    I also read at night, usually before bed.

  11. zoobatz says:

    Will turn 44 this year. Married, two kids, 11 and 8. You had the answer i went with, quality over quantity. With limited time it needs to be worth it. I read all of the Mignolaverse, The Walking Dead, and a few others. Time moves quickly now, my kids will both be adults in 10 years. Plenty of time to ramp up the pull list then.

  12. Apotheosize Apotheosize says:

    imagine the time saved if you cut back on the internet.

  13. midwinter midwinter says:

    I just took a look at my order and I’m averaging 43 comics a month. That’s scary. I do read them and absolutely enjoy reading them. For me, the problem is that the various Marvel double shippings have begun to build up the list. I couldn’t do without my weekly dash to my comic shop after work on a Wednesday. Being 44, with a family that includes a one-year old, comics are one of the few “me” activities I have. It’s video games that have been cut (sadly).

    It’s not help cutting my list… it’s actually stopping myself from buying even more that I can do with. Blimey, that sounds like addiction.

    • daningotham daningotham says:

      I feel your pain trust me. It is an addiction and your not alone.

    • It could be worse. I was busy enough I didn’t have an activity of my own. Some people are better than I am, but during those times it is easy to get stressed and even a little resentful. I think my wife is happy I go to the LCS each week. Its cheaper than xanax.

  14. I buy around 60-65 new comics each month. My pull list at my LCS has around 85 titles on it right now, but not all of them ship on a regular basis. Thank god for the 25% off discount I get (is that common in other cities?) as that keeps my cost at around $200 a month, which is the budget I try to stay within.

    I eventually read everything I buy, but I am always, always behind. Sometimes it’s as bad as over 100 comics in my “to be read” box or as few as 5-10, but I am always trying to catch up it feels like.

    I love listening to the iFanboy podcasts, but I’m usually 2-4 episodes behind since I like to read the books before listening if they’re talking about books on my pull list. This usually keeps me out of the conversation, since by the time I’ve read the latest issue of Batman or Hawkeye and would like to comment on it, everyone else has already moved on from that discussion.

    I don’t plan to cut back-in fact since I buy Previews monthly it seems I’m always adding new titles to my pull list. I can admit that my problem is not having to have every book with a certain character in it, or every issue of a certain title, but the fear that I might miss out on something really great that I should be reading too. Almost like it’s my duty to be reading all the best books that I can.

    • If you can afford it and it is something you love to do, why cut back? We all need something to take the edge off the stresses of life. I wish I ALWAYS had something my “to read” title.

    • ilovecomics says:

      I get 30% off through mycomicshop.com and mile high comics gives people 35% off.. both when you order through previews. I Prefer to pay the extra 5% to the former because they have a larger back issue selection (with free shipping) and they also have a better website.

  15. Full time work, full time school, one kid, and about a twenty comic pull list. I’ve never felt that I didn’t have time to read my stack before the next batch of comics comes in.

  16. I can totally relate to this article. Just today I flopped down on the couch to read the latest issue of Indestructible Hulk and in ran my 3 year old son jumping on me just missing my solar plexus. I never made it past the recap page.

  17. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    Zeitgeist fanboy perfect.Great article!!!

  18. player1 player1 says:

    I stop for a while.

    I change what I’m reading.

    I concentrate on just a few titles, or just a couple characters, or just one kind of comics, or just hard-to-find stuff, or just old reprints of one character, or not buying comics or something.

    I just make that my “new” way of collecting comics and then report on that experience.

    “I’ll just read Thirties newspaper strips for a while…”

    “I’ll only read solo hero books featuring characters not on any team for a while…”

    “I’ll only read comic books that I bought last year for a while…”

    Whatever makes it feel “new” and “manageable” for a while.

    This summer it’s Superman, with a little Batman and maybe some recent stuff that I heard was really great.

    I love the public library.

  19. hanson724 hanson724 says:

    I’ll be 39 next month and I’m married with a 6 yr old son and 5 yr old daughter. I pull 30-35 comics a month and I always find time to read them which is usually late at night. The only problem I have is I can’t read them when I want to (immediately) and have to wait til after they go to bed. I guess that just makes the experience sweeter. I’ve thought about switching alot to trades but I hate waiting and half the fun of reading comics for me is the conversation and I can’t have that if I’m waiting 6-12 months for something to come out.