Re-Reading: It’s Been a While.

If you’re like me, and the power of my ego is such that I’m almost certain you are, you’ve got all sorts of comic books. You buy them, and they pile up, and get flipped through, maybe get read once, and get put on a shelf, with hundreds of others like it. You loved them all at one time enough to purchase them, but let’s face it, when you start doing the math it would take you several months of solid, uninterrupted reading to go back and read all the stuff you’ve purchased. Again, if you’re like me, that’s not bloody likely.

In my rather unique situation, I’m sort of duty bound to keep reading new things. From the many single issues I pick up in a week, to the trades I try to keep up on, to the comps from publishers and new creators looking for attention, to the monstrous folder of PDF comics we get sent, there is always something new to read, and the tide never stops. Let us also not forget the rest of life, the shady, unfamiliar areas that have nothing to do with comics. I’m talking about the DVR (thank all that is holy for summer repeats!), the endless queue from Netflix, the actual unread books with no pictures which I really do love, despite my negligence towards them. I’m not even mentioning the prose books on the shelf, the life-defining collections of words which I so enjoyed and hope to explore again someday. Then, after all that media, there is actual real life that really should be attended. I have a wife, and a dog, and I like to go out on a bike ride from time to time. Now that I’m thinking about it, it would be nice to pack up the car and go on a road trip. None of these things are mandatory, but dammit, I love a good story. Honestly, where does one even find the time?

Fuck me, I don’t even have kids. How you people cope, I’ll never understand.

But what was the point of going and buying all those nice Alan Moore collections, and definitive Editions of whatever your favorite series was 5 years ago when you don’t ever have the time to stop and read them more than the once? Occasionally, I get lucky, and we’ll be doing a video show that requires me to go back and re-read something I wouldn’t have otherwise found time for, like when I recently read through all of the Marvel Knights Inhumans, which was a joy. Or last year (or was it the year before?) when I read Preacher again. But then, I’m doing it because I have to, and there’s usually a deadline, which does affect the experience slightly. Still, it has forced to re-experience my shelves a little more than I might have otherwise.

But what about the joy of reading, just for the hell of it?

Lately, I did a bunch of reading of books I didn’t want to do. Stuff was sent by a publisher, and lots of other people liked it, and it was well done enough, but it wasn’t really for me. Before that, I read about 20 or so issues of Secret Six, which again wasn’t really for me. After all that, I ignored my unending stack, and just picked up Powers The Definitive Hardcover Volume One, and just read it. I got the second volume for my birthday, way back in February (seriously, where in the hell does the time go, and when did I gain so much weight? I’m how old? Again, fuck me.) Shortly after getting the second volume, which is gorgeous, I tracked down the out-of-print first volume and bought a new copy for a fair price. (Bendis says they’re going back to print soon, but if you’re holding your breath for that one, you’re a moron.)

Anyway, the book which I spent so much effort actually getting my hands on, was quickly shelved and mostly forgotten. But when I put all the other stuff aside and just spent a couple days reading comic book work that’s incredibly important to me, which I have consistently pledged to love, despite not having read it for the better part of a decade, all was right in the world. It didn’t even take that long. Since it’s been so long, it was almost like reading it again for the first time (You know, like Cats!). Simultaneously, it was fascinating to see the roots of Brian Bendis after all the success he’s had. It’d definitely the same guy, but his style’s been adapted a bit from working at Marvel. The best part was just that I enjoyed it. And I have another one ready to go!

But before that, I decided to shift gears and finally get to another favorite series of the past, Queen & Country. I’ve had volumes 1-3 of the Definitive Editions for a while, and just hadn’t managed to find the time. But deciding to make time gave me one of my most enjoyable comic reading experiences in a while. In the endless grind of content, I do find myself reading to get it out of the way rather than reading for enjoyment. The moment I started with Queen & Country, I was transported back to the first time. I didn’t want to put it down. If I only had a few minutes to read while I ate lunch, I couldn’t stop, and putting it down to get on with life was exceedingly difficult. I’ve made it through two volumes, and it’s even better than I remember. I’m really enjoying the different artists, people whose names I didn’t know back then, but am completely familiar with now, as many have gone on to more notoriety. Even more than that, I was reassured that my warm, fuzzy feelings for Greg Rucka’s greatest comics was not mere nostalgia, but entirely earned.

Nitpick: The lettering is a consistent problem in the book. The balloon tails are constantly pointing all over the place. They’re supposed to come from the mouths! Always! Can we take up a collection to re-letter the book?


Last night, it was very late. I count late by how many hours of sleep I’ll get if I go to sleep right then. Anything less than seven hours, I’m going to pay for. If that number falls before six hours, it’s very late. At about six and a half hours, I finished the above-mentioned volume two, and considered what to do next. Sleep? Nah, Queen & Country had me too jazzed. But there was no rush. Sure I had the third volume, but I didn’t want to finish that too soon. It was too good. But wait! I finally managed to crack open the first Starman Omnibus. That came out a year ago. I didn’t make it very far, but I did get started, which pretty much justifies the purchase of the third volume, out later this month, right?

The downside of going back and reading great comics is that current comics had better be pretty damn good to get you excited enough to care. But it’s a small price to pay. Certainly smaller than the hundreds of dollars spent on unread books lining the walls of my apartment.

Here’s my advice. If you’re ever feeling down on comics, buying stacks of increasingly expensive books every week, and you’re feeling a little bit bored, go find something you loved at one point, that you haven’t looked at, put the new books aside, and just remember the things you love in comics.

Comments

  1. Great article. I’ve been thinking of doing some re-reading lately, but as you said, it can be very difficult on top of everything else.

  2. Excellent perspective, Josh.  I haven’t been a comics fan long enough to have lifelong favorites, but even in the three or so years I’ve been reading, I’ve had time for my perspective to change and develop.  I ended up rereading the first 3 trades of ‘Scalped’ right before #4 came out and enjoyed it even more than I did at first — seeing all the various pieces come together.  And because of the discussion about Batwoman earlier this week, I went to instocktrades (sponsor plug!) and ordered the trades of ’52’ (which *cough cough* cafe at the bookstore, they were expensive and I was underemployed at the time *cough cough*).  I’m really looking forward to getting those, and at least rereading the Montoya & Kane storyline before Rucka’s ‘Detective’ run starts.

  3. I typically take one of my trades with me on my train ride to work every morning.  I’m a firm believer in reading trades over and over.  But like everyone else, my trade shelf gets heavier and heavier, and hopefully my wife will let me put her prose books somewhere else so that my significantly more important comics can have more space, but the whole time I never let myself forget that all those books should be read again.

    Next on my list of re-reads: Pride of Baghdad, Arkham Asylum,  and a metric shit ton of Essentials and Showcases.

    I love comics.

  4. Didn’t know Starman Vol. 3 was coming out soon.  Great news!

  5. I’ve re-read Watchmen and the first two Transmetropolitan trades so much….but they are so fun every time I read them!

    The Zero Hour trade I got…..havent re-read all that much…

  6. There are so many books and comicbooks I still haven’t read, it seems a waste of time to reread. Maybe short comedy issues but that’s it. I can’t remember people’s names even if I haven’t seen them for just two years, and it’s awkward but I can remember things I saw or read 10 or more years ago.

    I rewatched Mask of the Phantasm maybe a year ago, and in the middle of it I realized I watched it 10 or more years ago. It makes it no longer fun for me. I sometimes read the same book in different languages, but rarely. I did that with Harry Potter while waiting for the next books. If I read books I quickly remember the bulk of the plot – I don’t remember the nuances but if I read further I might remember them, or if I think about what was between the x y and z that I remember, it might pop up.

    I don’t know if you have a "don’t feel like it" problem that I have resulting in semi-read books/comicbooks and giant book stacks, but I cured it by going outside on the big sofa-swing thingy (don’t know its name) and I sit or lie down and swing and read. I bring maybe ten books with me – some comicbooks some books, and a computer (I have several wall plugs in there) and I read roughly from when I wake up to when it gets dark. Sometimes I play a little DOS or Linux game on the computer to make sure I won’t be worn down. Also I decided to go to my local library each month and pick up 5 short books (I can finish a lot more in a month) and read my stack in between so I’ll get rid of them, since my stack doesn’t really interest me enough, and it seems to work. Also a breeze and several cats might help sometimes. I sometimes take my record player and play songs when I read or play the computer (yes, I have a record player… ). As long as it’s quiet and nobody bothers you it’s great.

  7. Forgot to say: sometimes I remember the bulk of the plot if I just glance at the cover or remember the book’s/comicbook’s name. I’l lwait for senility. I just did it with Daddy-Long-Legs…

  8. I hate it when I finish something and realize I’ll have to read it again to truly enjoy it. I don’t even have that big of a pull list, but it is hard to keep up on rereading. I don’t know how you iFanboys do it.

  9. I haven’t gone back to reread any of my old comics until just about a month ago, so now I’m rereading all the issues that I have that weren’t stolen :(.

    Right now, I’m rereading ll my Grant Morrison issues of Batman, and I found it much more enjoyable this time around. His insanly strange issues are definably best read back to back, since after a month passes, you’re wondering what the hell is going on in the latest issue, since you most likely forgot what happened in the last one.

     It’s funny you mentioned Powers, I used to follow that book like it was no ones business, until, however, the deadly delays started occuring. I still bought the issues, but I wouldn’t read them because I completely forgot what had happened. I ment to go reread the previous issues, but that never happened, and I let a bunch of unread Powers issues pile up in my box. Maybe now is the time to jump on that…

     

    And I agree about non-comic books. Reading comics completely kills my energy to read anything else. I’ve been two chapters away from finishing Chuck Palahniuk’s new book for about two weeks now. I’m immensly enjoying the book, it’s just that I have no energy to read it!

  10. Yep, hard to find time to reread anything.  Sure I enjoy books when I read them, and the thrill was so good, I feel like rereading them, but time is short enough as is, plus I’m a slow reader.  It seems the better the book or comic the slower I want to read to savor? it more.  Does this happen to you?  Oddly though, I have reread a few comics, and have in the back of my mind some that I’d like to revisit, but presently just haven’t gotten around to it.  I have reread Joe Matt’s graphic compilation Peep Show (Kitchen Sink Press), which are short one-page stories. Rather self contained so you don’t need any background.  I probably should reread his comic run too, as they are such a quick read. The same can be true for Chester Brown, and Seth’s Palookaville.  Have you read Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville?  It’s about a whole town that loves comics of all types.  Great read.  But yep, so little time.

  11. this is the entire subject of my podcast, It Came from the Longbox at thinktwiceradio.com and itunes.

  12. I’m cracking down on my own whiny bullshit right now.

    "I don’t have time! I don’t have time to enjoy the things I enjoy." What are you, a farmer? You can read a good trade in a sitting, you dainty buttercup. All you have to do is sit.

    Of course, it’s not actually that simple, but I think we could all benefit from giving ourselves permission to relax about things. The Netflix don’t have to be back any time soon. The DVR has plenty of drive space. The books aren’t going anywhere.

    I have a pile of back issues just waiting for me to dive into them right now. I’ve been looking forward to it so much, I’m almost afraid to start, because then the anticipation will be over.

  13. So very, very true Josh.  With the constant wave of new books and trades there are even times when a little voice in the back of my head has the audacity to ask, "What’s the point of all those longboxes full of comics?" I finally read the first Starman omnibus last week and it really was like meeting an old friend.  I read it right from issue 0, the only post Zero Hour new title I bought, and reading the gorgeous HC with the James Robinson background writing really took me back.  I also sold my Queen and Country single issues to buy the defintitives as I feel it’s easier to read trades from my shelf than to root around those boxes – and it worked!! I ploughed through those editions in no time at all.  Part of me is thinking of concentrating on getting a lot of those great books in collected format as a way to encourage more of this rereading malarkey.  However, for now I’m going back to the Dylan Dog Case files that I’m half way through – now that thing is time consuming!!

  14. I’ve been toying with the idea of going through my 30-ish long boxes and organizing which to keep (re: reread at some point) and which to donate/sell/trash. What’s holding me back (aside from the 30-ish long boxes) is the thought of trying to decide what I want to keep. There are a lot of great series from the recent past – American Century, Nextwave, Ennis’ Rifle Brigade – that I’d love to take the time to reread, but I’ve got a to-read pile literally about 10 feet tall that just intimidates the hell out of me, screaming at me, guilting me into reading one of them instead of JLA/Avengers or New Frontier or Preacher for a third or fourth time.

    Don’t even get me started on other media – I’ve got 50+ flicks on the Netflix queue, close to 40 hours of unwatched movies on the DVR, and my recent addiction – my ‘imported’ Battlestar Galactica DVD set of the entire series (up to 4.5, I think). It’s to the point where there are times I need to force myself to shut everything off and pick up a bunch of that week’s comics to read, almost to where it’s not enjoyable, even the titles I normally love. That being said, once I get warmed up, I’ll read 6 or 7 comics without a break and love every minute of it, but whether it’s due to too many comics every week or neglecting comics for something else, it has been taking me longer to get through my weekly pile. It’s frustrating and I need to make changes – summer will certainly help with that, I’m sure, what with me being Irish and sun being harmful to my skin and whatnot.

    And six hours of sleep? I don’t think I’ve gotten that much sleep on a weeknight in about 8 years — which really does explain a lot, now that I think about it.

  15. Oh, great piece, by the way. Sorry, you steered me into a rant.

  16. Great Article, I recently started re-reading Ultimate Spider-man from Vol. 1 and man is that stuff good. It’s great to sometimes go back to something you loved and just let it soak over you. I think I’ve read Bone at least 3 times now and everytime I just get a warm feeling.

  17. Bendis doesn’t get the recognition he deserves today.  Some say he gets plenty, but he deserves more.  His writing is consistently better than pretty much everyone. 

    Re-read his entire Avengers run including Disassembled, House of M, Secret War, Civil War: Confession, etc.  You will be blown away! 

  18. I just moved.  The second that I packed up all of my comics, I wanted to re-read like half of them.  I’d just sititng around and think, "Oh man, I really want to read that third trade of Gotham Central.  Damn, why did I pack that up?"  I love going back and re-reading stuff.  This does two things.  It satisfies my need for a stack (it’s a requirement of comic fandom) and it keeps me from buying too much new stuff, which I don’t really have the space and money for anyways.

  19. great article

  20. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I try to multi-task, especially when it comes to prose novels.  Just get the audiobook version.  It’s how I read Meltzer’s last two books, along with a recent Star Wars novel.  I listen to them pretty much all the time: when I’m walking during my lunch hour, when I’m grocery store shopping, when I’m commuting, even when I’m playing the occasional video game.  The only problem with it is that not every book has been given an audio version.

    And where do I get my audiobooks, one might ask.  Well, I just get them from the local library, where I also happen to work.  I know of people who use audible.com as well for their audiobooks needs.  But, the library’s cheaper.

    Just a way to help take on just one part of your stack.

  21. i reread all my deadpool books every wensday  🙂

  22. @JeffR – don’t you get distracted and miss portions of it? Also not being able to control the way (pacing, emphasis, etc) it is read doesn’t sound good to me.

  23. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    @chlop: Well, distractions do happen.  That is annoying at times.  You may have to go back and rehear a portion every now and again, but you learn where the pause button is real quick.  Being a good listener is something that takes some getting used to.  While the control isn’t as fully your own as you might like, I realize that there’s little chance of me having the time to read most of this stuff the normal way, so I’ll take the book however I can get it.

    When it comes to pacing and emphasis, I’ve found that most audiobook readers are professionals.  These men and women get paid to read you stories, and if they’re no good, they wouldn’t be doing the job.  There have been a handful of times that I couldn’t get into a story because the reader was awful, but there have even more times that I’ve loved books more because of the character the reader is able to help create using the author’s words and their voices.  I’m thinking specifically of Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter series or Richard Ferrone reading John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport series of police stories.

    Give one a chance and see what you think.

  24. I’m reading Q&C for the first time through the definitive editions. Had to special order vol 4 which just came in yesterday week; yet, I’ve already almost finished it. I had this adorable conversation with one of my CBGs [good dude] to remind me I’m in mormon country.

    "So are you liking Queen & Country?"

    "Oh I love it."

    "That’s what people have told me, and I like Rucka… I just haven’t tried it yet."

    "Duuuuude. If you like Rucka you have to read this. It’s his bread and butter, you can tell he loves it.  Spys man! Shooting! Intrigue! Awesome."

    "I’ve heard it’s kind of…. adult?"

    "oh. um. Yeah. I mean. Spys kill things, there’s violence…"

    "Well not so much violence…. um…"

    "Sex."

    "Yeah."

    "Ummmm….."

    *I open the book and it flips directly to a page with straight boobs.*

    "Yeah so the thing is. You see…. um… Sex *has* been the central feature of some of the arcs. So yeah."

    And I shrugged my shoulders sheepishly.

  25. Re-reading is great! My rule is: Buy less, read more.

  26. I often reread books. Sometimes on the weekend i’ll pull a whole arc out of my boxes and read them. Its alot of fun. I think most recently I read about 8 issues of Avengers: The Initiative and it was better than the first few times i read them.

    I have also noticed from reading old issues all together why some people prefer to read comics in the trade paperback form.

  27. According to Bendis’s twitter from about an hour ago, Powers Hardcover vol. 1 just went back in print.

  28. Pride of Baghdad and Spider-Man: Blue are the two books I re0read the most.

  29. Kind of off topic, but I just read Power Definitive Volume 1 & 2 for the first time. I was able to pick up volume 1 for 22 bucks new. I need Definitive Volume 3 now . . .

    I do a ton of rereading (mostly the trades). I just reread the New Avengers in oversized hardcover, as well as Invincible hardcover 1-4.

    I got the Absolute Watchmen next.

  30. Im actually re-reading 52 and countdown to final crisis. But Powers is always fun, because Bendis is awesome. And if you dont believe that you should check out the Alias Omnibus.

  31. Since I teach inner-city kids, de-escalation in the evening is important.  So I read a lot of comics nightly.  I’ve been doing a lot of catch up recently since I’ve been exposed to Freshink and ifanboy.  Every recommendation from the trinity or Blair Butler, I’ve read.  I’d say about 95% was excellent material.  Luckily, I’ve found a majority of the recommends at my local library and have saved a shit-load of money as a result. Once I’m done watching the video podcasts on this site and reading what’s suggested, I’ll be going back to read some older books.  There’s just so much good stuff to read out there!!! 

    Currently, I’m switching back and forth from Queen and Country and Gotham Central trades.  Both are highly engaging and enjoyable. 

    My only struggle is reading old X-Men stuff from the 90’s.  One of my friends has entire collections dating back to just before X-Tinction agenda of Uncanny, X-Men vol. 2, X-Factor and X-Force that he graciously has leant me.  The writing is so tedious at times.  But, I will endure!!! 

    This article strikes at the heart of the comic reader and the desire to be able to find enough freaking time to enjoy previous reads.  Well done!

  32. Going from Q&C and Gotham Central to almost any other comics is bound to result in disappointment.  They just don’t get any better!

  33. Gotham Central has been one of my favorite re-reading experiences, because it was one of the first things I read when I got into comics — and my first DCU book, period.  I read it knowing very little about Gotham City, and pretty much nothing about comic-book craft.  I just enjoyed it because it was a good story.  When I went back through it about a year later, I got a more of the DCU references AND I was able to say "Wow, this is extremely well done."  Then I read the first few arcs again when the hardcover came out and saw even more in it. 

  34. I’m in perpetual re-reading!

  35. Had a BLAST rereading Infinite Crisis–

    Next up rereading Cassaday’s and Whedon’s Astonishing X-men straight through vol1-4 comic BLISS

  36. I finally sat down and reread House of M last night, after having set it aside for that purpose more than a year ago. The experience brought home another one of the joys of rereading certain things like "event" books, namely that they come without baggage the second time around. You’re not hung up on the lateness of the next chapter; you’re not hung up on the spoilers or which tie-ins to buy. You aren’t worrying about how the book will or won’t Change The Status Quo Forever. You just take it on its own terms.

    I enjoyed House of M much less when I was reading it "in the moment" than I did the second time around. Removed from its original cultural context and all that talk of breaking the internet in half, it was a brisk, involving, occasionally even moving book that read like the most spectacular Annual ever written. The contrast between the first experience and the second made an excellent case for letting go of Event Fever and waiting for the trade.

  37. @Jimski: Those are all excelltn points. I had a very similar experience when I reread INFINITE CRISIS in trade.

  38. Wow, what a timely article.  I’ve been struggling with wanting to dive back into my 30+ longboxes and reread stuff, 90% of which has been unread since the first initial readthrough…but have been scared to commit.  Where to start…what to read…

    My wife has been urging me to start a blog, but who needs another blog about comics?

    Then it hit me, I’ll just chronicle my trip through the longboxes on a blog and commit to reviewing one or two random comics a week.  Kill two birds with one stone, all the while being held up to a public shaming if I drop the ball.

    I just started it up this week.  It’s good to know I’m not the only one wrestling with trying to fit the joy of comics reading into a real life.

    Pop in from time to time to see what’s up if you’re so inclined at randomlongbox.blogspot.com.

    p.s.  I didn’t see anything in the forum rules about posting links to personal blogs, so if it’s frowned upon…feel free to delete this post.  I was just marveling at the synchronicity of things and had to speak up.

  39. Been re-reading Paul Jenkins run on Spidey and Bendis Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil.  Good stuff.  Nice article.

  40. You’re cool, TomO.  It was in context, and not spamming.  Don’t worry about it.

  41. Wait, you can do that? Okay, who wants furry porn links!?

    I kid, I kid. I’ll definetly be making some time for re-reading old stuff. I find you guys occasionally seem to come across cool stuff you didn’t necesarily like the first time on the video show, so it seems like a good idea.

    I want to re-read Watchmen. Maybe I’ll like it better this time.

  42. Watchmen gets better on every re read.

    This year I’ve gone back and re read Bone in its entirety, Bendis’ run on Daredevil, and Arkham Asylum.

    I also regularly go back and re read John’s Flash trades (which made me start picking up his GL run), and every time a new trade came out from Morrison’s Batman run I would re read everything from Batman and Son straight through the latest trade.

     The first time I read a book I typically remember more of the story.  The second time I really slow down and appreciate the art more.   After that I’m still enjoying the story but I’m starting to pick up more on the craft behind the book and things like that.

    Re reading is a huge part of my comic book experience, good comics are like good music.  You get new stuff out of them the more times you immerse yourself in that world.

  43. I’ve always been more of a reader than a collector.  I’m also very picky with what I have in my collection.  So if I’m not impressed with a book, it goes into a seperate box until those books pile up enough to trade ’em for stuff I like.  Storage is limited in an apartment, so I have to keep it down to at least nine boxes. I re-read every chance I get.  Future plans include re-reading DMZ, Scalped, New Avengers, Ennis Punisher run, and the Sword…god I fucking love the Luna Brothers!!!

  44. You don’t meant this Powers HC, do you? (Instocktrade’s listing for the hardcover, issues 1-11 if the link doesn’t work)
    I’m about to order it and I don’t want to face the same thing I’m dealing w/ on All Star Superman (ordered vol 2 on Instocktrades when it was 47% off, hunted vol 1 in HC down to another site who listed it as CA, "currently available" but I was much later informed that this only meant that it was available for the company to order; I’ve been waiting for over a month to get it).
    Usually Instocktrades doesn’t put up books they don’t have or list it as not being in stock.

  45. Places have it, but it’s out of print on most sites, including amazon.  But yeah, InStockTrades has them in stock it seems (fittingly).

  46. In that case… yoink!

    Bad economy be damned!

  47. great piece. the line that really struck me was "if i only had a few minutes to read while i ate lunch." the fact that we have to sneak in pleasurable reading whenever we can. most of my reading is professional reading about autism (my job is autism therapy). pretty intellectually, emotionally heavy shit.

    my ‘for myself’ reading is wednesday reading. but that still has some obligation attached to it. "gotta read ’em in time to see what the internet thinks." i feel a pressure from that, and i, unlike podcasters, don’t have any physical, artistic obligation to produce work from that reading.

    this piece really helped me look for stuff to re-read just for me. not to re-read to compose a post in my head while i’m reading it. just to read it. i think i’m gonna do mark waid’s flash.  

  48. jumped onto queen and country