The Chopping Block

It is time that I was candid with you.

This summer, I have written this column about any number of topics, from the state of the comic book industry to the state of the comic book movie to the state of befuddlement I was in when I heard that song from the Spider-Man musical. Keen-eyed, hypercritical site watchers (do we have any of those?) may have noticed, however, that what I most diligently did not write about were all those great books I was reading, and what I thought of those books, which by the way I totally read.

That is because I have been living a lie, patient reader. While my employers have been assiduously devouring every book in their piles and forming articulate opinions about all of them on the very day those books were released, I have gone weeks without getting to a goddamned thing.

Oh, I’ve bought the books. The August dip was not my fault, Suffering Niche Industry. I’ve dutifully grabbed up my full pull list every Wednesday afternoon. I’ve just then taken it home and crammed it under the throw rug in the entry hall in a feeble attempt to look like I was caught up. Each week, I’ve read my one or two drop-dead, don’t-spoil-this-for-me-o-indifferent-world favorites on Wednesday and then whatever I needed to read to listen to our own podcast, and that has been it. The rest have been shoveled onto a wobbling tower that threatened to swallow my coffee table at any moment.

This week, the guilt finally got to be too much. Essentially, I eyeballed my comics with an Eastwood squint, growled, “This ends now,” put on a pot of coffee and didn’t do anything else with a free moment until that pile was spent. Needless to say, tackling this chore like it was an overdue homework assignment truly enriched my love of comics and left me with a renewed fervor for the medium. Or, wait, no; it made me want to commit arson on my own house. That’s what it was.

This is not the way a pastime should work. I’m not living right.

The problem isn’t that I’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’. If anything, I’ve been sunk by own enthusiasm. I’ve gotten in too deep again. This happened to me the first time I got into comics as a little kid. At first it was just Transformers and G.I. Joe. Then I added Spider-Man. Then I hit the X-Men mother lode, and the crossovers started. Next thing I knew, I was getting every issue of The Avengers during the effing Gilgamesh era. I can remember thinking, “Ugh, Avengers again,” and then picking up the issue and taking it to the counter. And this was when I was making ten dollars a week for mowing the lawn.

That’s where I am again now. I like to participate in the discussion and stay up on fictional current events, but the bottom line is that in September, I have bought 87 issues. And September ain’t over yet. In the last twelve weeks, on average, I’ve had 20 issues to read a week. And by “had,” I of course mean “given myself like someone who has no job or children.” Even when I wasn’t resenting the books for piling up and becoming an endurance test, I did not exactly love all of them. Lots of three-star and two-star books in there.

It’s time to take a look at the weekly ritual and make some harsh cuts. The last time I consciously exiled a book was Secret Warriors about six months ago, when I saw the issue number on the cover and realized I still didn’t know any of the characters’ names after more than a year. There are obvious, glaring, blinding, music-playing signs like that sometimes, but it’s not always that simple: while I was rating my old books this week, I got to G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds #3 and realized that, no matter how hard I tried, I could not conjure up a memory of whether or not I ever read it. That doesn’t mean I should drop it, though, because even if that issue was forgettable it’s been one of the best books IDW is putting out for four months running.

That having been said, I am going to have to insist that IDW go on a Joe diet and limit themselves to putting out eleven or fewer G.I. Joe books a week from now on. I mean, for crying out loud. The most popular character in the book doesn’t even talk. In my house, I think it’s going to have to be Cobra, Hearts and Minds, and maybe Origins, and that’s it. Just for the sake of my well-being.

From now on, I think I’m also going to have to institute the popular “wait for the trade for all miniseries” policy. If nothing else, it gives me time to see some reviews come in and discern the book’s forgettability factor. Shadowland: Power Man, yes; Shadowland: Elektra, probably not. (Shadowland: Shadowland…? Magic Eight Ball says, “Outlook Not So Good.” Who’da thought?)

It’s also time to stop buying the clever indie book I don’t care about just because I have the nagging sense that I am supposed to like it. No one cares how well-rounded I am.

Mostly, I am just going to have to stop being such a creature of habit. I should at least put a finite limit on how many months I will wait for a book to get better. I need to say, “Yes, I have all the issues so far, and Neal Adams is great, but I willfully stopped reading the captions on page 3. That is not a ‘money’s worth’ situation.” I need to admit to myself that, while Geoff Johns has earned his rep, this Green Lantern business is just not for me; I like Larfleeze (whose name I totally remember!) and have a handle on the relationship dynamics between the characters, but for the life of me I cannot tell you what any of them have been doing for the last three months. That’s not Johns’ problem; it’s mine. Some books and readers just aren’t compatible and need to break up. At least that’s what my wife tells me when the bank statement comes.


Jim Mroczkowski will work for food. He is accepting offers to be a professional Twitterer.


  1. I broke up with Green Lantern Corps this week. It just wasn’t a fitting ending to the whole Cyborg Superman arc. I also broke up with Secret Warriors but not because I couldn’t remember the names but I just got so tired of this Hydra mess. I don’t know what any of these artifacts are and I can barely follow all the backstabbing the bad guys are doing. Just got fed up with not understanding what the stakes were.

  2. Hear hear Jim! Great article, I dropped Secret Warriors after issue 3 myself.

  3. I dumped the main Green Lantern book when I realized I didn’t care about Hal Jordan or knew what was going on in the story following Blackest Night. I love Doug Manke whcih made it difficult, but what can you do? I switched to DCBS to try and save some money. If the books I’m reading can perform in a serialzied format and keep me coming back, they’re gone.

  4. As a longtime LSH fan, it pained me to give up on Adventure Comics, but I really haven’t liked Levitz’s past Legion stories. And I’m loving the new regular LSH series, so it’s strange. It’s like reading two completely different LSH series for me and not in a good way. I’ve stuck with Adventure through Superboy and the filler run and finally just had to admit it wasn’t working for me.

  5. I’m getting ready to do a major chop this week – still not sure what books will be going, but the two main criteria are: 1) can I remember (or more to the point, do I care) what happened last issue, and 2) do I still enjoy this book. It’s time to stop buying stuff out of habit and keep buying stuff I’m still enjoying. That being said, I’ll also be adding some books that I’ve picked up on a whim – the hope is to cut the number (and hence, the amount spent) down, but it could also just be a wash.

    Guess I just found my task for the afternoon.

  6. Jimski,

    I wrestle with this same conundrum. On our show, we have deemed it the "Regina Pile" meaning the massive to read pile. I am not exaggerating when I say I own more than 5,000 comics (in single issues and/or collected editions) that I haven’t read. That’s obscene. And I buy 100+ issues a month and MAYBE get through 30-40 of them usually.

    It’s the push/pull of the collector bug and wanting to consume all this stuff we expect to be of high quality versus the sheer reality of not having time as an adult to consume that much of anything.


  7. Secret Warriors has been my favorite Marvel book for a while now.  The only characters that you need to know are Nick Fury, Dum Dum, and the Howling Commandos.  I can’t even remember the last time Fury’s team of Super kids were a significant part of the story.  It’s mostly just the story of the PMC Howling Commandos and their war against 2 competing terrorist organizations.

  8. Dude I know how ya feel. I’ve been so behind it ridiculous,plus it’s ’bout that time to drop some books as well. I already dropped JLA and I’m real close to dropping Captain America. If anything else Hawkeye & Mockingbird might drop but everytime that book comes back around it seems to hook me back in.

  9. welcome to growing up.  Lx

  10. I have struggled to keep my pull lists relatively trim.  I have adopted a policy of instantly dropping anything that gets a 2 or lower twice in a row.  It has been working reasonably well, but my list is still slowly growing. 

    I shudder to think what will happen when day and date digital releases become common.  I’ll be buying piles of books that I wasn’t able to get my hands on at my local (tiny) shop. 

  11. Want VS Need. Granted we don’t NEED any comics, but its a hobby and with that its important to have a weekly budget and some limitations. Plus…how much can you enjoy when you are consuming in Roman style gluttony?

    Every time we babysit my 4 yr old niece, my comics/DVDs/entertainment purchasing habits learn a lesson. She always try to get us to buy her new toys because she "needs them". When she comes over, she has a bag full of toys, but she wants NEW stuff because its so easy and fun. The desperation, the pleading, the justifying, the con-ing. She has more toys than Santa….she just wants more STUFF.

    With comics i have the temptation to be the same way. Every week I could pull 20+ books but i don’t…i can’t. My wife would murder me. There are a lot of things that I want…but they’ll just become STUFF that i’ll never get to. I’m much happier and richer as a reader getting a select few titles a week, and then keeping up with my trades that i’ve bought and haven gotten to yet. Yes i can’t keep up with everything and be as up to date as others, but i’m also not a slave to my hobby which is great.

  12. I don’t buy a lot of issues a month; i did a count the other day, as I am dbating dropping a number of books that i am not caring for and adding new ones I may. I maybe get about 15-20 a month, depending on what bi monthly comics are coming out. I have been trying to give myself a kind of guideline or timeframe that i will drop a book because i am not liking it. Anyone here have a particular set of these? I think i am going to drop GL; Crops for the same reasons @roivampire did. I want to like the book, but after this arc i wonder how long i have to wait until it gets to a level of quality that is for me?

  13. This is a fine article in general. However, the author uses the pronoun "I" Nearly 50 times, and therefore renders the article nearly worthless, when one applies the Bendis Principle.

    Jes’ kidden, of course.

    My Reginia Pile is pretty big, especially with trades. I’ve resorted to cutting all but five or six regular series  and a half-dozen minis at any given time. It’s a difficult decision but has to be done.

  14. You’ll pull Green Lantern out of my cold dead hands…

  15. @roivampire I dropped Green lantern Corps for the exact same reason. I dropped JSA and JLA recently because they were just bad. Detective Comics is up on the block right now, it just fails to entertain right now and i’ve bought it since 1986, scary. I make it a point not to buy tie in issues to any mini going on. I drop books for different reasons, some for being boring, some for artwork, some for creative team changes and some for money issues.

  16. My weekly amount has also grown.  A culling is definitely in the works because I seem to have money for nothing else.  And I like other things…

  17. I’ve been considering dropping wildcats, but DC did that for me. Next to go is JLA, and Superman / Batman. I haven’t really cared about JLA for sometime, but I’ll hold out till issue 50. And it looks like I can finally drop Superman / Batman after issue 76.

  18. I just crumpled up the half an article I was writing for the site called "It’s not you, It’s me… How to break up with a comic".

    Jim, you and I are in roughly the same place.

  19. I recently shocked myself by dropping Avengers & New Avengers…I realized I couldn’t tell which book was which, and what did it matter when they both had the same cast of characters, and it had been a while since I could honestly tell one character’s dialogue from the next…I just didn’t care anymore about those books.  It’s a freeing feeling to admit that and let go.

  20. I honestly don’t know how you guys do it.  I read one may two trades a week, I can’t imagine pulling 15 or more books every Wednesday.  With football season gearing up, reading time has also gone down leaving many a book on the stack…

  21. Captain America gets the chop this week. I dropped Captain America 3 or 4 months ago and then it was pick of the week, so I got back on board. If they get Eaglesham to be the full time artist, I’d be back in a flash.

  22. I think that this is why many people are either a Marvel Zombie or a DC Nationalist. It’s easier to stick with one. Occasionally, I wonder if I’d like SHADOWLAND or Vampire X-Men but then I realize that I’ve tossed my lot in with Batman, so there I shall stay. Getting out of my rut would cost too much in time and money so I’m mostly staying where I am. I’ll read the rest when it comes available through my library.

  23. Drop every book that’s not written by "Bendis" "Millar" or titled "Amazing Spider-Man."

  24. I just recently dumped Amazing Spider-Man (I just really, REALLY don’t care anymore), Green Lantern Corps (same deal) and switched a lot of books to reading in trade… my wallet is much happier now

  25. I have a multi level process before dropping a book.  I might drop it, but keep an eye out for it later in the dollar boxedsor on, or look for a cheap trade.

  26. I recently had to drop several Batman related books, I love Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown but I could care less what they are up to these days, and even the main Batman title has sucked hard lately.

    As for the piling up, I think whenever a new issue of a book comes out and I realize that I still have not read the last issue even though I bought it when it came out then I make a mental note to catch up. And if it happens yet again the next month, then Im clearly not interested enough in the book that I let two months slip by without wanting to know what happens next

  27. Flash was recently on my chopping block. The art was fantastic but the story was just so freaking dull. I could care less about Barry, Iris, and anyone else in the book. Even with the Rogues an issue away I couldn’t see myself pulling another issue.

    Green Lantern Corps is also getting really close. It didn’t help that the last issue, last week, was shockingly poor. Bedard is a good writer but he totally rushed that ending. That and we have Kirkham coming up and I don’t see myself caring to see a new artist change so quickly. 

  28. Good article.

    "That’s not Johns’ problem; it’s mine."

    Well, yeah, techinically it isn’t Johns’ "problem", because why would it be a problem for him for another copy of GL to get sold, whether or not the customer actually likes the series. But I think it kinda can be the creators’ "problem" if you aren’t liking a title anymore. In other words, despite happy-happy relativistic thinking, sometimes formerly great titles just aren’t so great anymore because the creators aren’t doing as good a job anymore.

    At first I think the natural instinct is for some readers to blame themselves with the "it’s not you, it’s me" apology. That’s especially prevalent if you’re dealing with a title that’s been critically acclaimed. But then, six months or a year later, when you get more perspective on things, usually you can see that, yeah, the last year of Brubaker’s Cap has definitely been the low water-mark of that series (not that it’s horrible by any means, just definitely not as good as it was a few years ago). It seems to me like this is happening with Johns’ GL now. Johns hasn’t been bringing it on that title much since Blackest Night ended, and it’s starting to show.

    Art is subjective in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t mean that over time you can’t judge whether or not a comic series is in a creative slump or not. After a while, it becomes obvious. At least, this has been my experience. A lot of readers have a hard time dropping books, and I think part of that is because we’re reluctant to actually evaluate something critically when it means that the judgment is negative. I think Josh said it on the podcast once that he’s more critical of comics sometimes because he really respects the medium and holds it to a high standard, and I’m kinda that way as well. I find that I end up buying a lot more enjoyable, re-readable, interesting, fun comics that way.

  29. This is timely and I agree on all points.  I don’t buy nearly as many comics as Jimski but every time I look at my stack of unread comics, feeling no desire to read them anytime soon, I think, "what the hell am I doing?"  Why am I wasting time, money and space on things I just set aside?  Nearly all of it will be available later, cheaper.

    I’ve been splitting between DCBS and my LCS for several months now and I’m switching to just LCS.  DCBS is great and their prices crazy but it often leads me to order stuff I don’t necessarily want for more issues than I want.  I might not save as much money but I also won’t buy more than I actually want to read.  Which leads me to my favorite part of the article:

    "It’s also time to stop buying the clever indie book I don’t care about just because I have the nagging sense that I am supposed to like it. No one cares how well-rounded I am."

    I’ve been operating on some insane quota where I think I need to buy as many non DC and Marvel books as DC and Marvel books. Enough of that.

  30. Hi, my name is Dave, and I’m a comicholic. I may have recently done a “cleanup” of my pull list but I refilled those slots with other titles. How does that help. I just this weekend forced…FORCED myself to sit down and read the first ten issues of Generation Lost. I loved it, but, that was twenty five dollars on a gamble. What drew me in? The banner, the rave reviews, the word of mouth…but why buy books I’m not reading for five months? I am an untold amount of issues behind on ASM! Not to mention the fact that I’m at least as many issues behind on back issues that I’ve purchased. Help! I need an intervention!

  31. It is humorous that this article comes out today as this is the last week for me before switching to DCBS. I started back to school so I had to take a long look at what I was reading. Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four, GLC, GI Joe: Origins were some of the books that unfortunately had to be dropped (plan on getting the Hickman stuff in trade at a later date.)

  32. Knocking these outta the park Jimski.  Keep up the good work!