Being Halfway Out Of The Game

So, I moved again. This time I moved from Worcester back to Chicago. Do not worry about my back. I hired gypsies to carry my belongings and their backs are as sturdy as the granite that constitutes my new home/tower.  They complained about those long boxes and composed several rousing fiddle songs about carrying “Comics Across The Allegheny”, but they got the job done.  I have arrived back in the Midwest with an intact back, improved core stability, and late arriving but supremely hot water.Moving Truck

A cross-country move is a huge hassle. You have to wrap up all sorts of business in the place you are leaving and set up duplicate business in the place you are going to. Then there is the packing. There is day after day of tedious packing and thinking about your possessions.  I stared at those long boxes that I dragged across the country and wondered why I keep doing it. Last time I moved I waxed poetically about my devotion to paper, well I think that part of me died from drinking Worcester water.

The move kept me from reading comics for a couple weeks. I had no idea what the buzz was in the comic community. I didn’t read any rumors about what creators are quitting their books.  No doomsday predictions or handwringing.  In addition, I found it really liberating. As if a weight I did not realize existed was lifted off my mind.

I think this move and the change in my attitude is just a continuation of a shift that has been going on in my mind the last year or so.  It just so happened that the move might have been the final nail in the coffin. I do not really have any interest in buying paper single issues superhero comics. I had a stack of comics that had built up over a month and I actually dreaded having to make time to read them. I had screwed up. I needed a severe cut to my reading list and I needed less paper.

Bad PitcherSince the baseball playoffs are rolling along, I am going to drop a baseball reference to help explain what has happened to my single issue fixation. One measure of a pitcher’s ability is how often he can get a hitter to swing and miss. A good pitcher needs have a level of deception high enough to get a hitter to swing at a pitch that he won’t actually touch.  A bad pitcher is incapable of that level of deception. The batters are never truly fooled. They are simply biding their time for a pitch they can really hit.  Eventually that bad pitcher is going to fall apart. Right now, majority of super hero comics are bad pitchers. They are not surprising me or keeping me on my toes. I feel like I know exactly what is coming, which is not fun.  Right now, the industry and fandom seem to like the pitchers tipping their pitches as much as possible.

Now this is not about how you should feel. If you still feel like the books are dealing out the goods, stick with it. Every reader is on his or her own path through comics. You just have to make sure that you are in control and that you are having fun. There is no correct pull list or perfect online order. Just know that if you stick around for a while you are going to have ebbs and flows. Right now, the capes are in a valley for me.

I looked at my weekly habit and realized I was buying a whole lot of books that were mediocre for me.  It can be hard to recognize that when you are in the middle of the weekly grind.  New books keep coming out before you had time to fully digest the last set of books you read.  You start doing a podcast and suddenly you have to keep up with the Joneses.  It is easy to be caught up in a hype cycle and loose track of some basic principles. The whole machine can lead to weird magical thinking on the part of fans.

For instance, look at the New 52 from DC Comics. Many people I know decided to throw down on all of the relaunched books. I thought about it as well. In reflection was crazy of me to think about getting all 52. I have not really enjoyed any books I have read by J.T. Krul, so to think that now I would magically start enjoying them now does not make a lot of sense.  I do not think it was Green Arrow’s continuity that was causing me not to enjoy the previous stories.  I sampled a bunch of the New 52 and to no great surprise the artists and writers that I liked before put out the books that I liked now. There was no magic elixir in the relaunches that granted magic creative powers to those working on the books.

Maybe I know too much about the details of superhero comics? As I have said before I have read hundreds of Justice League books, so it is going to be tough to create the feeling of reading one for the first time…for me. For a whole lot of people out there the newest issue of Justice League might actually be their first Justice League issue. If they loved it, that would be awesome. We need all the new blood we can handle.

If any new blood ends up running across this column at some point please do not see it as cranky old reader spewing his cynicism all over the web. I am just a dude who loves comics (in all forms) and has realized it might be time to switch up how I am approaching my favorite media.  There will be no more purchasing the mediocre or dull books hoping that it will pick up the pace. My money is the only vote I have in comics and I have been spreading it around too easy.  I don’t need to buy anything the day it comes out. I do not even need to buy it the month it comes out.  In this case, it might be true that less is more. Reward those that are deserving.

I have always approached this column as an avenue to telling people how I really feel about comics. I want to talk about the real things that enthuse me, not just relaunches and shuffling deck chairs. I do not advocate that everyone take a month long break from comics or that it is pointless to buy paper comics. This is a confession. I have spent so much time advocating that people only buy what they love and it turns out that I was not even following my own advice.


Tom Katers found his microphone inside a winter boot.


  1. The first paragraph of this article is incredible. I read it three times. Hilarious.

  2. I remember the moment when I was buying the weekly Trinity series and I realized I’m not enjoying this, why am I buying it?
    From that moment I only bought what I really loved.

  3. As a lifetime resident of Massachusetts I am sorry to see your stay here be so brief Tom.
    Although having lived in Worcester for four years I can understand your desire to escape.
    Come back and visit sometime.

  4. I’ve come to a similar realization via the new 52, but in a different way. I’m going the new 52 all digitally. So, no longer “must” I get all of my books on Wednesday lest I risk a paper chase to find a copy of some issue that turned out to be hot. Nope…with digital, it’s always there and I can read it when I feel like it. Or I can do something else because I don’t have to worry about a sell out. So…the only things of the new 52 that I’ve read are the things where I feel compelled by the hotness of the creative team or compelled by the buzz the comic is getting. So, Snyder’s Batman is a “download it on Wednesday”, but most other things I can read some other time. Thus, it’s on the publisher and the creators to step it up.

    And, the cool thing is that I’m reading the comic material that I want to read. Old back issues that I never could find time for before are getting read. OGNs are getting read. Digital is very liberating.

  5. I’ve been out of collecting weekly paper comics for six years. I had an epiphany six years ago, buying my stack, that I really didn’t care enough to purchase things on a weekly basis anymore. The store owner of my least favorite local shop kept answering the phone and leaving me to wait and after about 10-20 minutes of standing there waiting (strangely enough my mother and kid sister were with me) I dropped my stack and left.

    Now, partially because of the new 52, partially because my girlfriend told me I should support the industry I love (I buy hardbound graphic novels, I responded, but how could I resist?), I find myself collecting 5 or 6 titles. And I have to say, it’s left me less than jazzed. I just don’t think superheros in comic book form are the direction this medium ought to be heading. There just doesn’t seem to be as much that’s new or refreshing, which isn’t to say new or refreshing isn’t possible, but as a generic catch-phrase-call-to-arms, I vote for less old superheros, more new stories.

    I’ll give this resurged collectionism three more months and see how I feel then.

  6. Moves are definitely the bane of the comic collectors existence. I’ve moved five times over the past 3 years and moving 20 box of comics solidified my opinion on the superiority of digital comics. Fuck paper, it’s heavy

  7. Im in a similar place, and have been quite bored with recent superhero comics. The new 52 wore me out. I love the idea of them, but they’ve been turning into CBS sitcoms for me. Homogenized, formulaic,house styled stories. Experimentation and innovation is tough to find. The fans demand and support stuff that falls along a very narrow creative baseline, so we get a lot of varieties of vanilla instead of fresh and exciting things.

    Digital has been liberating for me as well. I no longer feel the Wednesday rush..and have taken a few weeks off from new stuff. Lots more ogn’ s and collections and in think that’s where I’m trending towards.

  8. I pretty much came to the same realization when my twins were born almost a year ago. Now that I have even less time to read anything (including comics), my pull list is down to less than 10 titles a month (mostly creator-owned) and even those seem like a chore to read sometimes. I’m tempted to stop buying single issues altogether but have this nagging sense of guilt about supporting my local comic shop (only 5 mins from my house) so continue to go in once a month to pick up my books. I’m completely out of the loop with “what’s happening” in the Marvel and DC superhero books (FF and JL Dark being the only ones I’m still reading) and am completely fine with it. There’s plenty of trades out there should I ever feel the need to read more superhero stories.

  9. I remember these exact same feelings a couple of years ago when I moved. Oh the guilt I felt as the movers struggled with those much so that I even helped out despite how much we were paying them! While I don’t know how much I’ve cut back my monthly reading (if I did at all), but I’m certainly less precious about holding on to it all. Having looked at those boxes and realised what a small proportion I had ever gone back to I knew that all I was doing was hoarding paper, so if I can sell the odd thing along and buy some more weekly comics or collections or whatever, then why not? It’s not quite what Tom’s getting at possibly, but I feel like I’ve been in a similar kinda place.

  10. I guess I’m in the minority here but I just cannot ever see myself switching to digital. When I pay money for a comic book I just want to feel like I own something and with digital I just cannot see having that feeling. I get my comics shipped monthly so the need to have them each week is just not there. If this medium ever switches to digital only then I for one will stop reading anything new, part of the experience for me is actually feeling the comic book in my hands.

  11. Did those gypsies give you a good rate?

    I definitely agree with the idea that less is more. If reading a stack of comics feels like a chore I’m doing it wrong and that happened last month. There’s actually a lot of stuff I’m really into right now but I’d still like to keep trimming my pull list.

    I’m not particularly attached to the paper. I don’t bag and board and when I move again I’ll probably ditch a good half of my single issues. That said, I won’t be switching to digital any time soon for a few reasons: I’m not ready to invest in a tablet, it changes the reading experience, and I enjoy going to my local shop each week (which is also very close to my house).

    As usual, good article Tom.

    • lol. I just noticed this article includes the tags “Forced Baseball Analogies” and “Jeff Suppan.” Why does iFanboy not use the Forced Baseball Analogies tag more often!?

  12. First of all, let me just say that Tom has a fantastic podcast that brings me much joy. I listened to every episode and treasure each one. If you aren’t listening, you aren’t living life. Remember when Mork from Ork talked about sucking the marrow out of life in Dead Poets Society – listening to Tom’s podcast is what he was talking about.

    Second of all, Tom Tom Tom, why so serious? If Keven Costner movies have taught me anything about baseball, its that when your baseball team is in a slump, then you need to keep your gills a secret and go north to find dry land. Comics are great fun right now. Have you tried Dark Horse’s Star Wars books or their Gold Key mini-series (Dr. Solar, Mighty Sampson)? What about web comics like Sinfest? How about Bazooka Joe – I hear they do comics? I know you aren’t a super duper marvel fan, but Moon Knight is offering something different. Maybe old reprints of the Tomb of Dracula?

    Anyone else have any good suggestions for Tom?

  13. You finally have hot water? All right Tom, good on ya!!!!!

    Should have hired sherpas instead, they would have carried your possessions AND you. And no singing. Unless that’s why you hired the gypsies. Then good job.

  14. As someone who has to move 30 longboxes this weekend from one storage unit to another I have reached this decision as well. Plus now I have at least a quarter of those issues in trades or HC’s so why am I holding onto the old floppies? I love them but sometimes enough is enough.
    Fun read as always Tom.

  15. What about the awesome wood shelving, bookcases you were nice enough to share pics of?Did those go along,too?
    must of been a mission

  16. I must echo the sentiments of others in saying this a great article that really speaks to how I feel about my own comic buying habits at present.

    Maybe it’s too early to say but I wonder if the new 52 HAS contributed to a change in the comics landscape, just not the one DC might have been hoping for. The huge weight of titles, particularly superhero ones, seems to have brought forth the feeling that the genre has over saturated the market. Not that we didn’t know this already, however, it’s just people seem to have had enough. More and more, quality not quantity and exciting creative teams with fresh ideas are winning out over tired and worn character tropes in bloated and continuity heavy universes.

  17. Moving is the great liberator. I’ve experienced a similar epiphany myself….

  18. I love comics, but am very aggressive about what I buy – got an action figure habit to support too ya know. I didn’t go in all the way in on the new 52 for the same reason as Tom – I’ve never liked some of the creators, so why would I start now? No, I don’t care about the shock of the Joker cutting off his face.

    I stick to what I like and try what I hear good things about. I will admit that I am finishing Fear Itself though – I feel so dirty…….

  19. Just about to drop all of my DC, most everything else, and just concentrate on Marvel. A very select corner of just one Marvel universe, at that.

    Because that’s what I find myself reading, and enjoying. So that’s what I’ll be buying.