How to Stop Worrying and Love Comics

There have been three major relationships in my life. In reverse order of length they are as follows. I have been with my wife for seven years. Brett Favre was the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers for seventeen years. I have been reading comics for twenty five years. Two of the three have been completely under my control. One of them is based on patience and pity. One of them I completely understand, and that would be comics.

Comics and I have had our ups and downs. They are constantly hanging around my apartment. They never help with moving. On the other hand, they have never left me. My long boxes never took it personally when I acted a bit ashamed of them. When I would neglect them for a couple months, they didn’t find another kid to hang out with. It has been a relationship that has grown up as I have grown up.

After two and a half decades of reading comics I feel I can impart wisdom on how to keep your fandom alive and fun. Below is a six point plan I like to call What Would Tom Do With His Comics? (As for relationships with actual people, I only have two tips. First, cut back on your throwing up from drinking situations. Secondly, always apologize. Doesn’t matter for what, or why, just apologize. You are worse then you think you are.)


That’s right, you are reading wrong. I often hear the complaint from comic book fans that it only takes ten minutes to read a comic. The truth is that the amount of time it takes to read a comic is totally up to the reader. The immediate urge is to race to get to the end of the comic. We want to skip to the cliffhanger. We want a clue to the resolution. SLOW DOWN!

Enjoy the comic that you have in your hands. That book started as a blank page, and team of creative people imagineered the hell out of it. As a kid I always treated comic books like journalism. They were a conduit to whatever The Flash was doing. I didn’t really think of the work and skill it takes to make a comic. Really look at the art, don’t just fly by it as you are reading the dialogue. Don’t treat them like an elaborate solicitation for a future book.


Do you have shelves of books that you purchased and haven’t gotten to yet? You got a problem, and not a shopping addiction problem. Your hobby is turning into a term of indentured servitude towards items that should be entertainment.

I have been there. Long box after Long box of old books I haven’t read yet. A couple years ago I just stopped buying things I knew I wasn’t going to read for awhile. Suddenly, I was happier. This goes hand in hand with the SLOW DOWN! The point of these things is to entertain you, not to become a paper albatross around your neck.


Listen to yourself when it comes to what you like and don’t like. I have tried multiple times to get into Bendis’ Avengers books. It never, ever works. After two issues I jump out. Keep in mind that I love Powers, I dug his indie crime books, and I like portions of his Daredevil run. His Avengers doesn’t do anything for me. Finally, I listened to myself and stopped trying and stopped worrying about it. His style on that book wasn’t for me, and that is ok.

There is no comic book that everyone agrees is perfect. No writer is universally acclaimed. No artist is loved by all. There are going to be books that everyone loves…except you. Get over it. Stop spinning your tires and butting your head against the wall. You are just wasting energy and time. There will be a book that you DO love, now go find it.


We are in the age of First! The internet weights speed of response quite highly, and thoughtfulness as a distant second. The feeling you have about a book 2 minutes after you finish it is probably not the feeling you are going to have a day later, a month later, or a year later. Some stories take time to get a grip on you. Not everything has to be a WOW! moment for a book to be effective or to have a lasting effect on you. Keep your mind limber and thinking about what you have read. Fight the urge to use hyperbole. Don't let your first feelings about a book be the only feelings you will ever have. For instance, I hate The Sentry: Fallen Sun even more now then I did when I first read it.


This is critically important. When your fandom battery needs a recharge, a convention can do the trick. You are surrounded by the materials that you love. There are tons of people at a convention who like the same stuff as you. The people that actually create the books that you read are within yards of you.

It is important not to just go and buy a bunch of books, jam them in your bag, and go home. Go meet the creators. Find a creator whose work you like and thank them for what they do. It turns out that comic books aren’t created by robots, they are created by people who like to know that their work is enjoyed. It is the location where comic books really feel alive.


Are you one of those people who refuse to read Maus because you are sick of everyone talking about how good it is? Get over yourself.  Are you so precious that you can’t take time to read the cornerstones of the medium? Go to a library if you don’t want to pay for it.

I am not guaranteeing that you will love all of the classics. Some people don’t love Watchmen. I am sure there are those that think The Dark Knight Returns is extremely dated and not relevant. A lot of people do love them though. To many fans and creators they are an inspiration. To have a truly lasting relationship with an art form, you need to look at where it’s been. Experience first hand what has pushed the medium to where it is now. You might even find yourself understanding the books of today a little bit better.

In conclusion, I love comics. I love comics as much now as I did when I was six. Not in the same way, but with the same passion. New comics day is still exciting for me, and I think it is because of the points outlined above. Al lof of us grew up with fandom but we don’t all have to grow out of fandom.


Tom Katers works hard, and he plays hard.



  1. Good advice.  Agree with slowing down when reading comics begins feeling like a chore (driven by some OCD-ish compulsion).  In more extreme cases, it may be better to just take a break from them all together.  After your palate cleansing moment of zen, you’ll probably return to the stack (like a moth to the flame).

  2. Good ponits Tom

  3. I cannot wait to NYCC for all the reasons you enumaated. It’s actually more exciting to to me to be able to meet all of my Internet comic fan friends than the creators. Though I would enjoy hugging Paul Cornell and Geoff Johns on account of their boundless enthusiasm for the medium they love

  4. All good points, yes, but, how does Liquid Lord feel about these issues?  Shouldn’t he be weighing in?  I’m quite sure that he’s had a bad relationship or two in his time. 

  5. Amen!

    No cons in Eastern Canada though 🙁

  6. Well said!

  7. Tom, very thoughtful. Only until recently have a i started slowing down in my reading; i blame university deadlines for trying to finish all my required readings. there are book out there that require you to stop and take a look. Johns and Manapul’s new The Flash series comes to find with there being so much going on in the art that you really need to slow down, which is ironic, to read The Flash.

    and there is no better way to understand comics then reading the classics. its in these books you’ll learn the language of today’s work.

  8. @jumpingJupiter

     I know it’s a trek, but Fan expo in Toronto can be worth it. I only have to travel a couple hours to get there, but it’s a blast.

  9. I guess, MoniBolis was being sarcastic.

  10. I have followed all your points except I haven’t been to a Convention yet (well a true one anyway). I went to a make shift convention in my state of Kentucky with a few retailers and local talent. The highlight was meeting Robert Kirkman. Wizard World Con is coming to Cincinnati sometime in the near future and I plan to go to that. Sometime I’ll bite the bullet and spend the cash and fly to a Con.

  11. Good job Tom. Your Friday articles really make my morning. Keep it up.

  12. When it comes to slowing down, one trick I’ve used to keep myself from flipping the pages like I set the book in front of a box fan is reading with a magnifying glass. It’s a crutch that replaces self control, but it nonetheless forces me to focus on the individual panel while also drawing my eye to things I might not have otherwise noticed.

  13. Interesting article.  A lot of these points apply to many, many other things in life.  I’m certainly guilty of reading too fast and hyperbole, but I think I’ve been getting better.

    I think "Listen to Yourself" may be the best suggestion on the list. It’s okay to dislike something everyone else loves or to love something everyone else hates.  If everyone could come to terms with that, the world would be a much less irritating place.

  14. @stuclach: I am guilty of read too fast at times myself. One of the things I like to do is go back over a book after I read it and just absorb the art and reread. I dissect each panel, this way I feel I slow down and get more bang for my buck.

  15. @JesTr: That’s one of the funnest things ever!

    @Jim: Are you serious? A magnifying glass? That’s awesome.

  16. @JesTr: If you can stand driving all the way up to Columbus, the Mid-Ohio-Con is smaller than a Wizard World con and less flashy, but still has some good guests.

  17. @wendyd: I almost went this year with some friends of mine but something came up. Until the Cincy con announcement, the closest cons araround were Mid-Ohio-Con, Summit City, and GenCon.

  18. Perfect timing for me Tom. I’ve been feeling down about comics lately. I’m gonna give your suggestions a try.

  19. Really nice article.  Good points.

    I’m of the set that thinks DKR is outdated and irrelevant.  😉

    And yah I don’t buy many comics compared to most here.  Only the good ones.  (Except Thor & CA right now.  I just want to know what happens)

  20. @JesTr – I’ve been rereading whole arcs lately. It has me consider (yet again) switching to trades.

  21. I might add a suggestion too. If you like to read a lot of stuff but are getting burnt on  comic books. Drop 15% of your titles and replace them with back issues.

    Say you’re sick of the several avengers books, drop them and fish out old ones from the bins. it can be a lot of fun!

  22. Here here. Now how do i get my parents to stop bitching at me about it?

  23. @JJ: Good point! My friend is going back and buying up all the Uncanny X-Men he can find, he wants the entire run. I like to get issues of stuff I read as a kid.

    @stuclach: I’m an issue and a trade reader, depending on the book. When I get an iPad and the day they start releasing hard and digital copies the same day, I may switch to trades.

  24. I get burnt out on ongoing series and superheroics every once in a while, best antidote? Go read the wealth of interesting and unique OGNs and collected minis.  There’s a ton of great comics out there even if you’re sick of what Marvel and DC are doing.

  25. Uhm… about the "SLOW DOWN!"…

    This is only a good advice most of the time. There ARE books, created by masters of the medium, that "direct" your reading speed through panel size, organisiation of the panels, amount of text and so on and so on.


    Whith those books, just go with the pacing it was made to be read!


    There are other books, that have a big problem witth that. I totally hate it to see a greatly choreographed fight scene that feels dynamic and explosive and awesome, but is SOO DETAILED and BEAUTIFUL that you have to decide: "Do I break with the pacing and let the whole beauty of each panel sink in, or do I just go with the pacing this scene was meant to be read?".  Of course you can just revisit that fight scene, but it still feels wrong to just go with the flow and ignore the beauty on the way.


  26. Good article. Listen to yourself. So important and a pitfall of a lot of users here. Check the comments section on the individual books and you will see stuff like "I’m buying this but don’t know why" and "I’m afraid to drop the book cuz it might get good."

    I’ve cut my monthly books significantly and I am enjoying my books more than ever (except for last week . . .) and a huge part of that is because I’ve slowed down and relish the fewer books I have a week. I’m a fast reader and while it serves me well in school, I’m not reading comics for a research project or final exam.

  27. Slow down is great advice that I can only follow if I love the art as much as the words on a particular book.  For instance, Invincible takes me the entire 20+ minute bus ride from the LCS to read, because Ryan Ottley makes me want to stop and savor so many moments and expressions and uncomfortably-hot-as-he-ages-but-is-still-WAY-too-young! Oliver in this latest issue…the first issue of Red Hood Lost Days took me that long as well, because Pablo Raimondi is another favorite artist, and panels like the fight scenes where the panel shapes were explosively jutting out of the frame, or the self-conscious anguish of Talia’s face as she’s told "He’ll never love you" are the kinds of pages that remind you why you spend this kind of money every week.  Mauro Cascioli is another whose every panel makes me slow down and absorb it rapturously–I believe the muscles he draws probably more than any other artist’s.

    But there are some artists whose work only serves the story rather than standing out as breathtaking in its own right, and that’s fine, but it takes me probably half as long to read those.  And then there are those few artists you can’t stand, but you want to read the story anyway, so you do your best to glean the action beats while focussing on the text.  Like "watching" a TV show while you fold your laundry.

  28. Great article…….thats the way i been feeling  these last few weeks.

  29. Listen to myself…can’t argue with that. I alway read slow to take it all in..especially if your spending the money you have to now a days. Back log definitely an issue. Good stuff.

  30. Great article, especially with "Slow Down". On the other hand, while I think that advice is the best overall, I find that SOME books really can be read in five minutes, no problem. Sometimes the storytelling just IS that wordless and decompressed, and not all the artists on such a book have styles that are worth staring at for longer than 30 seconds, tops. It IS good advice, but sometimes I think the complaint that comics read too fast is valid.

    With something really dense, though, like Fraction’s Casanova or Morrison’s Batman, I find myself spending 30 minutes plus on every issue. Issues like those are the highlight of my comics-reading life, because I love flipping back and forth to previous pages and rereading them to get my brain around all the new information. I’ll read page 3-5, then go back to something I remember on page 2, then flip back to pages 5-6, then something in the dialogue on page 6 will make me go back and reexamine something on pages 1 and 2. It’s an awesome experience, and it pains me to hear other readers just dismiss certain issues with an "It was incomprehensible and confusing". If you open yourself up to the enjoyment of spending some time with comics like that, they become VERY enjoyable.

    Also, I didn’t know you were married, Mr. Katers. I…would not have expected that. 😉

  31. Thanks Tom , I realized I didn’t enjoy Blackest Night as much as I should have because I raced through each issue(including GL and GLC).So, I’m diving right back and taking my sweet ass time with that

  32. When I slow down, I become jealous of Manapul’s art.

  33. Damn, this was a great column. Nice reminders about why this is supposed to be fun without coming down too hard on the way net fandom seems to express itself. Well done. 

  34. this is great advice. Slowing down especially.Thats a total Yoda "no-duh" kinda revelation.  I tried it with some books from my stack. It made for a much richer experience to just soak in each panel and enjoy it instead of trying to rush through.  

    I went back and read a series that I thought i hated. Now i kinda like it, because i took more time with it.  

  35. im going to slow down and really re-read sentry:fallen sun. maybe it will induce a stroke and put me out my misery.

  36. Point #1 is something I have to remind myself of every once in a while. I love comics so I always want to read more, which sometimes means I rush through books. Taking my time and appreciating every page of a great book always recharges the batteries. The biggest key for me when Im in a rut is trying out new series. A fresh new series or a new direction in a series Ive been reading for a while always brings me back in.  

  37. This was fantastic advice.  Thanks.

  38. re: Slowing Down – I also find it rather comforting to not worry about being current on exact day-and-date continuity, or being the first person to review a particular book, or worry about piling up five years of New Avengers, and not reading them. I know I’ll eventually read them all (I’m working my way through that pile right now).

    My first introduction to truly passionate comic book love came from having access to several runs of Marvel Silver Age titles for one brief summer, when I was 11 and the comics were about five years old to then-current stuff. I’m reliving that moment in time by reading the Marvel stuff I’ve been piling up for the last five years or are now buying in trades or getting from the library. It’s like I’m eleven all over again. Ever heard of the Metonic Cycle?

    Good article and some great responses. Cheers.

  39. re: Backlog – I also find it somewhat comforting to display trades and hide floppies. And I usually read the library’s trade while my stuff sits on the shelf or in the closet. When I really want to feel like I’m starting over again, I’ll pull out my "starter’ collection of Flash Gordon and old Tarzan or the first few comics Grandma bought me for Christmas that first year or my oldest longbox or try this, my newest favorite strategy.

    Keep an empty half-box. Take a few recent titles and gather some fairly short runs, like a single story arc or so of each. It helps to pick books from the "corners" of the big universes, or creator-owned titles, or something that isn’t tied into all of the day-and-date events of being a super-current up-to-the-minute in-the-know fanaddict nerdboy. Place, say, a few issues of Spider-Woman, S.W.O.R.D., Black Widow and Spirit in the halfbox. Hide all of your other floppies, and pointedly ignore all of those TPBs & HCs waiting for attention. Pretend, just for a day or a week, that you know nothing else about comic books, except for that MAD paperback or Pogo book lying on the floor. Read just those few comics. Leave your computer off and don’t check any comics apps or websites for a day. Put up the hammock in the back yard and just read that Peanuts book or Hagar the Horrible collection. Then, when the weekend is over, you can go back to that frenetic pace of reading Green Lantern synopses of books you’ll never read.


  40. Can I get an Amen?

  41. Amen!