Comics and Memories


Like many of us, life has been so busy recently that I often find myself being unable to pick up my comics on time, or, worse, not really spending the time with them that $2.99-$3.99 really deserves. I usually pick mine up over the weekend, and spend the rest of the following week trying to read a few issues a night–rarely, it seems, am I able to read all of my books in a single sitting and really enjoy them.  Stupid life, with it's getting in the way of things! I mean–I'm, like, two podcasts behind! This is insanity!

I haven't been to my store in two weeks, so I find myself with precious little to say regarding current stories, which made me think, as I was on my spin bike at the gym (yup, this is what I think about when I go to spinning class, and yes, I go to spinning class–I live in LA, of course I go to spinning class!), "What is it about comics that…well, is what I think about?"

Like, really, when you think about the comics coming out on Wednesday, what is it that we're after? Of course, we are all following favorite characters and keeping up with current stories and enjoying the work of creators that we really enjoy…which is great, this is all what we are doing from week to week, but surely, there is more to that, right?  If all we were doing when we went to the comic store was staying caught up with this stuff, we'd just read the books and throw them in the trash.  But we keep them. We keep these comics. Why?

When I think about why I read comics, invariably I end up comparing them to the comics that got me reading comics in the first place. I think about classic stories and characters that spurred my imagination and made me happy.  "Made me happy"–that really is the core of all this, isn't it?  Anyway, that seems fair enough, right? I read comics because they remind me of all the great stories that I've read in the past. Then I asked my brain to kindly provide me some examples.

And then I realized, huffing and puffing on the bike, that I didn't really have that many specific ones. So, I waited until I was falling asleep and a few came up, but they didn't really seem to make sense…so I am thinking about them now.

What's interesting is that it's often less individual stories that come to mind (though there are obviously a few), I often remember "senses" of books, like, the overall feeling of a book, especially if it's a long run, like Bendis and Maleev on Daredevil.  When I got back into comics, they were toward the beginning of that run, and though I do remember some stories, I really just end up thinking about the overall look and tone of the book–the great thing about that team is that they were working so well together that they defined…energy? The reality? The world…I dunno–I remember Daredevil the way I remember times in my life…sometimes it's faces and situations, but other times, it's just a sense of the way things were, you know?  Sure, sure–lots of details to come to mind as I dig, especially once Matt was hanging out with Milla, but overall, I just remember Daredevil looking over Hell's Kitchen, the city humming below his feet. It takes me a bit of time to sink into the world for other stories come up, like the whole drama of when his identity was blown, or that crazy fantasy sequence where ends up with Elektra and I'm like, "Awesome!" and then, "Oh, right, dream."

I think I remember the stories more vividly in trades. Take, for example, Identity Crisis. I remember that story very well–I remember some moments so clearly, like when Tim Drake finds his father dying, when Ralph Dibny finds his wife dying and he's so torn he can barely keep his shape.  I probably remember that stuff more clearly partly because they were such emotionally charged scenes, of course, but also because I read the entire arc all at once, in a trade. It gives my brain a solid beginning, middle and end to encapsulate the entire story into, so when I remember one aspect of the story, the brain is like, "Oh, yeah, I remember that–it happened right before this and after that and lead up to that thing over there."  When I think about stories that I collected in single issues, that doesn't always happen–there are gaps, definite gaps, like I am swinging from one key issue to the next. I will go through my old books with some chagrin when I look at a cover and realize, "I have no idea what happened in that book."  Usually, if I am really worried about Alzheimer's, I will remember events once I glance at the first few pages, but still–when I was a kid I seemed to remember every single page of a specific comic, not just the story.

As I collect single issue comics, I wonder now if, in addition to reading them as they come out, might it not be a good idea to read an entire 12 issue block every so often, just to see what I think of a story?  Do you guys do that? I always imagine myself, years and years later, when I can barely lift one of my long boxes, that I will go though my many single issues and read them, in order, to re-live the stories again.  So far, though, I haven't really done that, except, honestly, for the website or when there's a delayed event like Final Crisis where literally I would read 2-3 issues before the current issue just to see if I could get back into the story.

This might be a silly worry, but we're all friends here, so why not–I wonder if, possibly, my frantic reading of comics week to week (usually the case) might be "squeezing out" some of my fonder memories of comics to make room for the vast amount of comic book information that I gobble up each week. Like, I don't know about you, but I read way more comics than I used to, of varying makes and of varying degrees of quality…but I gotta tell ya, with all the chaos of Blackest Night and everything else…I'm not remembering a whole bunch of stuff, and, maybe more worrisome, the stories are impacting me as much as the ones I keep in my memories, you know?  And, of course, that's not fair, to an extent–the true value of the story may not come out until a few years have passed, but at this rate, who knows what I will remember? There has been so much going on with the many events and many books of similar titles and character makeup that it can be hard to remember if a story happened in New Avengers or Secret Invasion or Siege or whatever, you know? 

But maybe that's the deal with growing older with comics? Like intimate encounters, you tend to remember the early ones pretty well and you definitely never forget the really good ones.  Like, for me, I will never forget Batman: The Killing Joke.  I got it when it came out and, like many of us, it made a huge–huge–impact on me.  I grew up a little when Barbara was paralyzed. Something changed with me when the camera pulled back and it was just Batman and The Joker laughing in the dark.  It was a big deal.  I am not sure, honestly, if a book that I read now can ever make that kind of impact on me.  Maybe I read comics each week because I hope that one will.  That chance of magic that people talk about when they remember baseball cards, you know? Same thing with comics, we hope.  

And I don't mean to come off as grumpy and lame, saying that no memorable books are being made these days. Though people made fun of the cover, I thought New Avengers #26, The Ballad of Clint Barton and Wanda, was otherworldly in its awesomeness.  I have dug that issue out to re-read it so many times that I actually just keep it in my "current books" shelf in case I need to check it out again.  Nothing much happens in that story, oddly enough, but for whatever reason, just how the characters were together, what they talked about, and Maleev's truly haunting art…it was a big deal in my imagination station.

But, in the end, what's more important?  Being able to cherish a book in your memory or the ongoing enjoyment of new stories and characters in the present moment?  A silly question–one does not have to be more important, I suppose.

Could I stop reading comics right now and be happy with all the books I have read? I guess I would have to be. What is the value of experiencing a piece of art? The moment you encounter it or the impact its memory makes on you as the years go by? I would guess it depends on the person and depends on the art.  For me, I really do treasure the stories that I encountered years ago, for they helped me realized that comics are important to me.  But I also treasure getting a chance to see the creators of today do their best to tell stories that may not impact me as profoundly, but may to someone else.  I guess being open to that kind of impact is what is important, no matter what kind artwork it is. We have been so lucky the past few years, we have experienced some really great work–we know we have–I am really very curious to see which ones we will remember, which ones will have made an impact on us, a decade or so from now.  

We'll return to this in March of 2020, I guess!


Thanks for reading. I promise to pick up my books and bring the column back down to Earth a bit next week!


Mike Romo is an actor and writer in Los Angeles. You can follow him on twitter, send him email, or actually talk to him at WonderCon next month!


  1. Excellent and heartfelt as always.

    I’m about three podcasts behind myself. I feel like they’re going to come for my ID badge any minute.

  2. Thanks, pal. We really need to catch up on the podcasts, cuz, uhm, you know.

  3. Oh, I know, all right. I think about it every day.

  4. mikeromo just spews gold. I wish I was half as articulate. I can barely complete a coherent thought on screen.

  5. Excellent piece, as always, Mike. I think about this alot too, y’know? i mean, I think back to how I read comics as a kid… savoring each issue, studying the art, trying to draw the art. The dialogue I remember is almost always the dialogue I read as a youth — which is why a large number of "claremont-isms" still find their way into my head upon occasion.

    I had a box full of comics. Many of them had their covers torn off. It wasn’t about amassing a pristine collection. It was about stacks of enjoyment, the wild abandon of newsprint fantasy. 

    Later, it became about the collection. Bags and boards. Alphabetization. Even, at one point, a database.

    Now, I don’t bother with the collection. I just read for pleasure. But… I consume much more than ever, and I don’t re-rad things. I don’t flip idly through books that I read a month prior. I’ve traded one tradition for another, and this one is more expensive and involves consuming a lot more new information. And I wonder if some stories are losing impact.

    Kitty Pryde returned this week. A lot of folks loved it. That gave me pause because I had zipped through the book at lunch, and thought it was all right but nothing special. But maybe it was how I was reading it.

    I totally agree with you on the points about graphic novels. The "novel" read does sit with me in a different way. It forces me to spend a lot of time with the characters, with the art. It’s not the same as re-reading the same pages over and over, but it does force a deeper relationship with the story. 

    Huh. Now I am wondering if I need to change my habits. I *do* still get a certain joy from that Wednesday ritual, though. Watching the lists. Grabbing the books. Checking Twitter and iFanboy to see what others are saying about what I’ve read. Taken holistically, that’s a ritual that I’ve come to value quite a bit, but… maybe I’m not savoring the stories as much because of it? 

    Yeesh. I didn’t expect to write all of that. Thanks, Mike, for making me think. 😉

  6. @mikeromo   Congrats sir!  THis is my favorite article youve written in a couple of months.  I know the feelings you describe well, and I often think that maybe I should trim the fat, not because I dont enjoy what I read, but just to concentrate more on what I LOVE.  Thanks again!

  7. great comments, guys–glad that my ramblings were of some use!! thanks for the great comments–it’s a trippy thing to ponder, this whole passion. relieved and pleased you liked it. 

  8. @mikeromo-I think part of the reason for not remembering storylines/ arc’s is that they have gotten more complex. I’m definitely with you on the fact that often times I too need a quick refresher(we’re about the same age) to recap where an event or story is at. Green Lantern Corps is my personal challenge in that I can never recall what happened like two issues before & I find myself rereading the previous two months just to get back in the flow of the book.

    Another possible reason is all the distractions available now as compared to back then. In our youth, maybe we had cable, VHS tapes maybe a video game console. Nowadays, our love for comics has to compete with Ipods, do-it-all cell phones, the odd DVD/bluray purchase, computers,social networking,and of course WORK. As adults we find that time is a scarce commodity and we probably drift back to a simpler time when we were able to immerse ourselves in our favorite character, title or creators and enjoyed the escape much more.

  9. How many podcasts do you listen to, now, Mike?


  10. Mike Romo you write fantastic articles!

  11. ditto!!!!-that ROM article was also a personal favorite

  12. HeyHuey I think about this as well. My new promise to myself has been that everything I read monthly, once an arc is done I reread like it was a trade. This has led me to drop some books and really appreciate others so much more. For example; Adam legend of the blue marvel was a damn good story! As was secret warriors (which i wasn’t loving in monthlies) also xforce was dropped. This really strikes a happy medium of getting my “fix” and really absorbing stories

  13. I’m crazy behind on my reading. I have stacks and stacks of comics I need to get to. Sometimes, there just isn’t time in life to read comics. It’s sad but true.

     So why do I buy comics? Comics are something i am definitely passionate about. I have been reading comics since i was 3 years old. I am now 31. That’s a LONG time to do something. I’m sure I will never stop.

    No matter how bad things get in real life, comics are where i escape to. I can forget my own problems for a while while I focus on Peter Parker’s problems. I can let my own family drama slip away as I read about the family adventures of the Fantastic Four. I can think about all the people I’ve loved in my life who are no longer with us, then pick up a Sandman issue featuring Death and honestly believe they are in a better place. When i get too aggravated about living in a world where good men are held down, the people in the right rarely win, and the forces of evil triumph over the good, I can pick up a comic, and spend a little time in a world where the opposite is true.

    Comics are my escape, my comfort and my security blanket. I love comics. Always have, always will.  

  14. Great article, Mike. Very thoughtful indeed. This may seem weird, but I mostly buy comics with the express purpose of reading them later. Sure, I’ll read them through after I’ve first bought them, just to see what happens. After I’ve collected for a few months, I’ll sit down and read four or six issues of a title straight through. It’s like getting a trade early.

    For example: Sure, I remember liking RED ROBIN as I was reading it the first time, but I can’t remember details of how the story flowed from month to month. Soon, I’ll sit down with the first 10 issues and just read them straight through.

    Again, well done, Mike.