Take a Vacation From Comics

No one understands Hepzibah like I do! Grrrnaaagh!

The local comic book marketplace has had an absolutely catastrophic summer. Although national trends remain generally positive, over the course of the last six to eight weeks readership has plummeted 100% among consumers living in my house.

When I said “local,” I wasn’t screwing around.

For the first time since 2000 when I rejoined the “comic book community” (and no term has ever been used more loosely than I use that one; my current belief is that there is a “comic book community” online in the same sense that raccoons clawing each other to death for the same trash bag full of spoiled hot dogs can be described as “the dumpster beef community,” and the sooner we all realize that the better off we’ll be) I have not even tried to buy comics for the last two Wednesdays. When New Comics Day arrived, I looked over at the 30+ issue stack in my ever-heavier backpack and said, “Nah. I haven’t even finished the ones I’ve got.”

That’s not a bold stance or anything in 2012. It would have been, not so long ago. There was a time, especially circa Civil War, when I’d hit the shop at 11:02 every Wednesday whether I’d read everything last week or not because getting there at 11:31 meant missing several of the books I wanted. They’d just be gone. I hadn’t preordered Heroes for Hire, or whatever, so Heroes for Hire wouldn’t be there.

Sold Out. 

Back then, turning my back on New Comics Day would have been some kind of statement. Now? Hell, I’ll just download it when I get around to it if I want to.

There are probably people who lament this as a tragedy. You are incorrect, Granddad. This is awesome. I can’t believe I finally live in this world.

Since at least four years ago, I have been saying, “When will I just be able to download mah damn comix?” and that time has been here for the last six months or so. It is everything I wanted it to be back then– when I did not know the iPad would exist, or that my wife would demand an iPad, or that the decision to name it the “iPad” would stop being hilarious after the first six months or so– and more. If I can get to the shop on Wednesday and talk to my peeps in the dumpster beef community, that’s great; otherwise, I’ll just click through and grab it as needed.


The break/trial separation/respite of the last several weeks has shown me something worth repeating: It is okay to take a vacation. Better than okay, in fact. It’s practically mandatory.

Recently, I’d gotten to the point where I was ready to chuck all this out a window, put on a fake mustache, and start a new life for myself in Costa Rica as “Pasquale.” I was seeing headlines like, “The Bendis/Kirkman Debate: Who’s Winning Now?” and thinking, “Ugh, Christ, wouldn’t it be nice to just read for fun without debating which author was ‘winning’? Where else do we do this? ‘30 Rock or Game of Thrones: Who’s Winning?’ Someone please kill me with a brick to the skull.”

"...and then, Bruce, when I was 11, blah blah blah blah zzzZZZzzz."

“I see the indie publisher is really excited about what’s coming up… except they don’t want to talk about how great their books are as much as they want to talk shit about the bigger publishers, apparently. Awesome. I base most of my reading decisions on strangers demanding that I take sides in business deals that have nothing to do with me, not to mention making me feel like an idiot for reading what I’m already reading. My, what rosy feelings for your brand you have cultivated. It reminds me of that old NBC campaign, ‘ABC Shows Are For Wife-Beaters.’ Good luck with your books about such blindingly original topics as superheroes and zombies.”

Such was my state of mind when I deleted half my RSS feeds, put my unread books in a backpack, and walked away for a while.

But a funny thing happened this weekend. After a month or two off, I took a chance and whipped through thirteen or fourteen books in a sitting… and it felt amazing. Liberating, even. I didn’t consult the web to see what I was supposed to think about them; I took my own time and formed my own opinions. (New Mutants has been amazing;  Batman #11 was an appalling death-by-bloviation.) Free of context and baggage and history, I read my comics and, of all things, enjoyed them.

If the Libyans from Back to the Future burst into my home at this very moment, pointed their AK-47s at my head, and said, “Western devil: tell us what is going on with this whole Marvel NOW! situation,” I would not be able to do it. In the coming months, I have not the foggiest clue who is doing what for which or where at what point when. I am sure Bendis is up to something, and Fraction is elsewhere, and Romita is doing his thing while Stegman remains the sexy bad boy of comics. It is a total mystery to me, and that is fine. Better than fine, in fact. It’s ideal. I need a break from being jaded by my passion. It’s about time I closed my eyes and let my joy wash over me.


Jim Mroczkowski would love to believe there’s a place where auto-correct accepts his name.


  1. Sounds like an argument for all of us to stop trolling around IFanboy. 🙂

  2. I feel the same way. I’ve been enjoying AVX since the beginning, but most of the reviews about it are negative (making me feel stupid for liking it).

    • Just for the record, that shouldn’t make you feel stupid. Everybody has different taste, I dig lots of things that have low scores. The common consensus isn’t always right, plus there’s no common consensus for what you like.

  3. I’ve actually stopped reading a lot of peoples comments about comics on the internet. it’s all just so negative. And it’s not even GOOD negative criticism, it’s just stuff like “Ugh, that guy blows,” or “everything he does is horrible” or the ever popular “meh.” I just don’t have the patience. I think that a lot of people read comics just to bitch about them. I don’t want that. i LOVE comics. Love them with all of my heart. I want to hear what other people love. I don’t want to hear what comic somebody hated, unless they have an interesting and well thought out reason for hating it. I want to know what comics people love and why I should be reading them.

    I have been reading comics for over 30 years now, and at no other point in my life have so many GOOD comics been coming out every month. Yet, to listen to the internet, you would think nothing good is coming out. it makes me sad.

    • Yeah, that’s why I pretty much stopped talking on the forums. At least on here if somebody comments on a certain issue they obviously bought it so they usually like the title. On the forums I got so sick and tired of the mud slinging it just wasn’t worth my time.

    • Well said! I think this is a new golden age for the industry. DC and Marvel have a solid core group of writers and artists that rarely fail to entertain me, Image is hitting home runs all the time, the indie field is fantastic, Vertigo is still putting out really cool stuff. Yet the Internet community is way more negative than positive in its tone and opinions.

  4. Very interesting take on the online community. For me part of the fun is being able to talk about my comics with others that share the same passion about them. Lord news I don’t get that at home with my wife. Nice to know there are others out there just like me. And I don’t buy things just because others say they are good. The top 2 pulls on here last week were Animal Man and Swamp Thing and I have no interest in either book. I’m dropping Catwoman even though most people like it.

    As far as downloading comics vs going to the comic shop there is no comparison for me. I LOVE going to the comic shop and talking to the people who work there. I don’t have to worry about things getting sold out because I have a pull list. I’ve tried reading comics digitally and I just can’t get into it. Something about actually opening and reading a comic book that appeals to me. Plus they will retain some of their value. I don’t foresee them auctioning off a digital download of Amazing Spider-Man #700 for Thousands of Dollars in 100 years. But ya never know I guess. 😉

    • Should say ‘Lord knows’ not ‘Lord news’ LOL

    • I get the community part here. As a digital reader, there is no LCS to check in with so online forums are the best substitute.

      On the other hand, I wouldn’t put much stock in any comic published today holding any value. I could be wrong but I don’t think so.

  5. “Dumpster beef community.” I love it.

  6. Don’t take a vacation from comics. My recommendation is to take a vacation from TV, and Movies., and even the Internet. I rarely watch TV anymore (I cancelled my Cable subscription), I don’t go to the movies as much anymore (I think I saw 4 films in the last 4 months), and I’ve (tried) to keep away from the internet (I cancelled my Facebook).

    I never feel the Comic Book Malaise that is so often written about on this site. I love comics, I like them more than the other entertainment options I listed above. I usually finish reading my weekly pile by the time next Wednesday rolls around.

    • I dnt have a huge list of TV shows that I “have” to watch. Hell right now it’s only Breaking Bad. And with films I don’t stray from the few biggies that I gotta see, ie Batman, Spiderman and Avengers this summer.

      I think the “Internet malaise” is more a cause of the cycle of promotion that the industry hammers away at to promote its upcoming schedule of product. Hearing about, reading pages, with or without dialogue, getting creators in every site pushing product …all that, in my mind, makes the actual 22 pages I finally get to read like an after thought at times.

      Something I started doing a while back…stop reading reviews. Seems sites really do skew to the negative in their style of writing. I stopped reading the snarky “buy pile” column on comic book resources, stopped reading bleeding cool because I got tired of feeding the rumor mill with my viewership.

      IFanboy is fine by me! Been the backbone of the past nine years for me.

  7. I got back into reading comics about 18 months ago and while my pull list over time resembles a bell curve, I have to say I enjoy being super picky with my comics as a blessing. There are a ton of things out that are great but I can get them later or via trade. Some weeks its one or two comics, other weeks its eight. That’s what’s so great about digital, it’s always there and there’s always more stuff to check out if the newest titles aren’t doing it for you.

  8. Interesting article.
    I’m at a very similar point, although a very different one at the same time.
    I’ve only been reading comics in issues for about a year (started with Daredevil then jumped on the New52) and trying to find the ‘comic book community’ for a lot of that time.
    It’s hard living in the middle of nowhere in England, where no one for miles even reads comics (it’s slightly better back at university).
    I used to think there wasn’t any point keeping up with the latest titles if you weren’t discussing them with anyone.
    Not when I could go back and read better, classic books in trades for less money. So I went looking (and lurking) on different comic book forums, but (like you said) all of them just seemed so damn negative.
    For a while I stopped buying issues (except Saga) partly due to my budget, partly because I just felt I needed a break. Anyway last week, on a whim I brought the first issue of the new Hawkeye series (digitally no less) and thoroughly enjoyed it.
    This article is well timed because I reached the conclusion; the ‘comic book community’ I was expecting to find when I jumped on this crazy bandwagon over a year ago doesn’t exist, and there’s no point keeping up with books you don’t love just for the sake of talking about them (that’s what leads to most of this online bitching in the first place), there’s nothing wrong with reading books on your own at your own pace and enjoying them for what they are.
    P.S. If you think online negativity and fighting is something specific to comics you’re deluded, I’m a media student (Television Production at Bournemouth University – BOOYAH!) and spend a lot of time on film and TV sites and they’re exactly the same, if not worse. I may not have specifically seen “30 Rock or Game of Thrones: Who’s Winning?” but headlines like that are everywhere.
    We as a culture love comparing, competing and arguing. Just look at sports, no sports fan watches any sport for the entertainment value of the game without picking a side and arguing with fans of ‘the opposition’ or gloating when “‘”their”‘” team is doing better. So you can’t really be surprised when fans of “indie comics” have the same mentality against “mainstream” comics

    • I can sympathise with you,as i also live in England(Norfolk,go wymondham high) and i am one of 2 people i know who is remotely interested in comics although lots of the people in my school love the new marvel films.At my LCS their friendly enough but theres no way i could have a conversation with them as i dont go there very often. I know what your talking about when it comes to the divides as my friend is starting to get into more alternative books such as chew whilst i like more mainstream comics.I first got into comics with the new 52 and since then the only website i have found with a good community is ifanboy. Also an example of negativity for the sake of negativty is my frinds and the new batman films.One friend loves them and says they are his favourite movies but i think a big part of this is so that he fis in,whilst another friend trashes the movies simply to impress me and to be “different” without looking at the good and bad aspects of the film and judging it off that.

  9. Digital has certainly been a boon to my comics enjoyment. Jumping on and off books without worrying about “subscriptions,” missing a few weeks, and even forgetting what happened last time are all easily solvable problems with digital books.

    Though the number of comics readers is ever smaller and smaller, the “comic book community” still feels like too wide a net to cast, because it ranges from the “Deadpool only” people to the “black and white books or gtfo” people to the “I remember to get my books once a month” people. Any group that diverse is going to start looking like the dumpster beef community eventually. I’d rather look at an LCS community, or a particular site’s community. Not saying everything has to be homogeneous, but more common interest than “words with pictures” is probably needed to form a true community.

  10. I can’t stand this guy’s columns. I can always tell which ones he wrote based on the headings. So one sided about everything. Especially his passive agressiveness towards DC.

  11. In every group there be haters.

  12. This article could not have come at a better time. I’ve slowly been loosing interest in the weekly comics.

    At the weekend I downloaded the first few issues of Wolverine and the X-men, and thought wow, this is great. What else have I missed.

    I went to buy some trades, but there’s only one out, and I thought maybe I’d get something else. Grant Morrisons X-men or BKV”s not Y work. I realised how much I have not read – and reading finished stories is a lot more fun.

    There are some titles I want regularly, but most I’m happy to wait for. Taking a break from CBR and the like should help to avoid the major spoilers.

  13. I haven’t really been on iFanboy for anything other than the fun articles for a while. I used the new 52 as an excuse to jump off of all comics until just recently, and I’ve been having a ball catching up on things like Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts, and Hulk. Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy. I love reading these things in big chunks rather than getting online and being frustrated that some of the best comics seem to go unnoticed by everyone else. It’s like when I got back into comics the first time and I’m just voraciously reading good stories because they’re good stories. Not because it’s what’s being talked about.

  14. Marvel Now has gotten me to think about this. I’m thinking of making a clean break from Marvel and catching up on books and runs from the past that I haven’t yet read. Conversely, I’m afraid that I am going to miss out on some good new stuff.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Like I alluded to earlier, I have no idea who’s doing what for NOW!, and I’ve always been a writer-follower. There is definitely a part of me thinking about jumping-off points more than jumping-on points.

      What cruel irony that would be, if an initiative to bring readers back caused them to disappear.

      (I doubt that will happen. Permit an old man his idle daydreams.)

    • The best way I’ve found to keep up with new stuff that’s coming out to keep talking to your friends who are into comics whether it’s on Twitter or here. They’ll be talking about the good stuff, but most of the time they don’t get to spoilery at least in my experience.

      Though to be honest all that gets talked about in the DC relaunch for me is the stuff to stay away from. (Other than Swamp Thing and Animal Man.)

    • When the new 52 happened I was very angry. I liked the current DC universe timeline and really didn’t like that they did away with Stephanie Brown/Batgirl and Tim Drake’s Red Robin book. I considered jumping off all the titles. But I gave them a try anyway. Scott Snyder’s run on Batman has been truly awesome, just like his run on Detective Comics was in the old DCU. I tried some new titles like Suicide Squad which I love. When it comes down to it I realized timelines don’t matter that much. What really matters is the stories and if they are told well or not. If the art is done well or not. So I got over it pretty quick. I don’t read a lot of Marvel titles at the moment but I will be trying a few new titles like All New X Men and Iron Man when Marvel Now! happens.

      There are a lot of good stories in the past that are available in trade format that I haven’t read yet too. So I’m sure someone could just read trades and be totally happy. But I love to read the new stuff too.

  15. I’m not at the point where I want to stop reading completely for a bit, but in the last couple weeks I’ve realized, sometimes halfway through an issue, that I hadn’t been enjoying a couple series for a while and should just stop. So I have. And it’s made me enjoy what’s left even more.

    • Same here. I’ve been dropping books like crazy and then adding books I never used to pick up based on people’s reccomendations

    • Me too! I have been cleaning house on my pull list. If it really isn’t doing it for me it is gone. Plus I like to try new stuff once in a while and change it up instead of just reading the same titles only because I feel like I need to get every issue.

  16. Not sure if it’s intentional or not, but this article does get at an important truth about the disintegration of communities in contemporary society. These days “communities” as defined by location or interest (to say nothing of ethnicity or sexual preference) are . . . tentative at best. Few of us actually know the people around us, and the lines communication of every niche are dominated by a relatively small number of media-savvy people (who may or may not be good representatives).

    What has driven the disintegration of genuine communities? Technology, period, or better or worse (in this case, usually worse). And while the internet does allow us to have “communities”, these are clearly groups that need the scare-quotes around them. It’s not really like a true community, folks; to suggest that it is, well . . . maybe we just don’t have anything more genuine to use as comparison anymore. But being over the age of 30 and having grown up in a small town, I can tell you that communities like that were “realer” . . . and they don’t really exist much anymore.

    Considering all of this in terms of comics is interesting. The LCS experience has been a nice little bit of “community” for a lot of people. But often we run from those places in horror — to say nothing of how unappealing the comics online “community” can be (iFanboy usually being an exception). On the one hand I can see how many view digital comics as “the answer” to negative LCS experiences — and yet digital comics obviously reduce the sense of comics community down to its bare minimum, because you don’t even have to interact with anyone to get your comics. Even when getting comics sent to you through the mail from online comic shops — there tends to be a touch of personal interaction there, in my experience, once you become a regular, email them a note of thanks, or have to contact them due to an order change, etc.

    • Very good point.

    • I wouldn’t be so quick to define what is or isn’t a “genuine community”.
      I think that, thanks to the Internet, communities have changed, people now don’t have to hang around with people geographically near that they have nothing in common with just so they can get a sense of “community”.
      I’d argue the old kind of community can bw even more fake, especially for people without mainstream interests and can lead to them feeling even more alienated.
      It’s also the reason I think less and less people are going to church or other organized religions, I know a lot of people in older generations talk about going to church more as an excuse for community than actually following a religion, now people don’t have to do that.
      Personally I prefer where we are now:
      People who want an old fashioned physical community meeting people geographically close to you, so usually the same nationality and social strata can still have that.
      And people who want to be part of a newer digital community meeting people with similar interests that could be from a totally different countries and social class can have that too.
      And of course some people will choose both.
      It just seems like you’re upset because not everyone wants a the same type community as you, that doesn’t make the community they choose less “genuine” or “real”.
      I also think there’s an element of looking at the past with rose-tinted-glasses here: “These days”, “communities like that were” and “they don’t really exist much anymore” are you sure they ever did???

  17. I have completely lost whatever urgency I used to feel about reading the latest issue of any given comic. I still prefer reading comics in print versus digital but instead of getting pissed when something isn’t available or sold out, I just wait until the second print or go to a different store. It’s great that there is a digital option and I’ve definitely downloaded issues and books in the past and will continue to do so in the future. That said, the books I enjoy I do so because of the quality of the art and writing (“Daredevil,” “Batman,” and “Saga”) and don’t really care about “spoilers.” In the end, if something’s really good, it isn’t ruined by knowing a key plot twist. The initial enjoyment might be diminished but if knowing that Haley Joel Osment is a ghost ruins “The Sixth Sense,” well, then maybe there’s a larger problem with the work as a whole.

  18. I like this article, especially the last line as its how i feel as well or rather felt and have done for quite awhile now, I prefer print over digital but there are only a cpl books I really don’t wanna miss cause I genuinely enjoy them but if I do miss them I can go to my other lcs or go digital if I have to, I have a pull with my favorite lcs and my books get pulled whether I show up on wed or not which gives me the freedom to show up on thurs or whenever which is great. Digital is a great option and expands but the message here is to relax and enjoy our hobby not scramble and clamor to keep up with an unread stack of what looks (but shouldn’t) like homework. Hobbies are meant to enjoy not stress over……but I do enjoy”trolling” ifanboy as my only resource for whats going on in the comic world and find it relaxing and an outlet to talk about one of my passions. Lets work on not stampeding to not miss out and maybe the publishers won’t keep increasingly shove more content than necessary on us.

    • Yeah, having a pull list is truly awesome. I didn’t have one until just a few months ago. Can’t believe I waited so long to sign up for one.

  19. I usually take a “Comics Sabbatical” every few years and just don’t buy anything for a few months. I have always enjoyed hunting for missing issues and this allows me the chance to have to hunt down some comics. Sadly (for me at least), the transition to digital and having less and less space in my apartment will make this something that I can’t do anymore pretty soon.

    iFanboy is literally the only website where I bother to check the comments. I swore off reading comments on other sites because most conversations are so confrontational and juvenile, but this site tends to have well thought out responses from people whose opinions actually make me think (what I’m saying is that I appreciate you all and you completely me).

  20. I have to say I agree about the online ‘community’ there are only two sites I ever bother to read comments on or have any discussion and one of them is this site the other is not comics related. I agree to a point about the reviews as well if I have read a negative review about a comic it effects my reading of it, now I never read reviews of comics before I read them it’s kind of interesting on what I agree with and what I don’t. Although I never feel stupid for liking something that others don’t.