To Drop or Not To Drop

“I’m just waiting for the book to get good again.”

How many times have I heard that? How many times have you heard that? You’ve probably said it yourself once or twice. Hell, I’ve said it myself many times.
Comic book fans are funny that way. We’ll keep buying a book in that hopes that one day it will get better. We do it for all kinds of reasons too. We do it because it’s a book we’ve “always” bought or because it features a character or characters we really like. Any number of reasons, really. Comic book fans can rationalize away anything.

But it’s not something we do for every comic book we buy. If I never dropped a book I would be buying almost every title that Marvel and DC put out. So at some point something’s gotta give and books need to get dropped. The question that I was pondering today in one of my rare peaceful moments (ideal for reflection) was when do I drop books and why?

There’s some who say that if a book is bad, if you don’t enjoy an issue, you should drop it. It’s a point of view that has merit, but I think it’s too limiting. It doesn’t allow for a writer or an artist to have a bad month, or even an ill-conceived storyline. Not every creator is perfect every single time and even the greats have the occasional clunker. If I dropped a book every time a great writer had an off issue I wouldn’t be reading Batman, X-Factor, Daredevil, or Ultimate Spider-Man.

But unless you’ve got an unlimited budget for comic books, you can’t just keep buying everything, right? So at some point a decision has to be made.

For me the first consideration is how attached I am to the characters in the book and the story that is being told. I have spent many years with the various Batman books. From the highest highs (Rucka & Brubaker; Cataclysm) to the lowest lows (Larry Hama, AzBats). By all objective rights I should have dropped any or all of the Batbooks years ago. But these are the characters and the stories that got me into comic books when I was 4 or 5 years old and in my mind you leave the dance with the one that brought you. Many (but not all) comic book readers have books like that, books they will never drop no matter what happens in them. So let’s put those books aside and focus on the rest of them.

How did I decide to drop books like, most recently, Moon Knight, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, or Action Comics and Superman?

A lot of my comic book dropping decisions come from the gut. That’s how I lost Moon Knight. After the first issue I had my doubts about my continued patronage, despite my inexplicable love of Moon Knight (Okay, not so inexplicable, he’s the Marvel version of Batman). The story was entirely incomprehensible — characters and plot points went unexplained, in the first issue! And some people are fans of David Finch’s art. I am not one of those people. I managed to hang onto Moon Knight for three issues hoping something would come out of that book that could hook me or that I could enjoy, but nothing ever did so I gave up.

I bought The Incredible Hulk as part of the World War Hulk crossover. It was my one concession to the tie-in books for that event — I figured if there was one book to get, it would be this one. Also, I love Gary Frank. The Incredible Hulk┬ájust turned out to be incredibly (!) boring, not necessary to World War Hulk and, again, it took me three months to figure that out. The kicker came when the third issue had a fill-in artist. Since the art was one of the major draws for me, I was able to drop this book with impunity.

Wonder Woman was a pretty easy decision — I am not a big fan of the new writer Gail Simone so off it went.

Action Comics and Superman were heartbreakers because I love Superman, but over the last few years his solo books tend to be creative failures in my eyes. Every time there’s a big, new creative team announced I gleefully jump back on only to jump off a few months to a year later. This time was no exception, but since the new writers were Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns (with Richard Donner) it was all the more disappointing that the stories didn’t work for me, for various reasons.

As I was thinking these books that I’ve recently dropped it has become clear to me that there are a core group of books that I buy and that I continue to buy, and then there are the other books that exist out on the fringe. They orbit around the core books and get picked up and dropped depending on many different factors. It’s a Ring of Experimental Books, if you will. Occasionally, those books drop out of orbit and make it into the core group and stay on my buy list for years and years. It’s rare for a book to exit the core group and leave orbit entirely, but it has happened, most recently with the pre-Guggenheim, pre-Waid The Flash, which at the time it was dropped I had been buying for 15 years.

I don’t drop as many books as you might imagine. I think it’s because I do my homework. I tend to know what I’m getting into before I pick up new books, or if not know, I at least have a good idea. I’m much more conservative about my new book experiments, especially since I know that if I miss anything really, really good (Fear Agent, DMZ), I can always pick it up in trade paperback later on.

So as summer winds down and we move into fall, don’t be afraid to cleanse a few of your fringe books. You’ll feel better and you can use that extra cash to pick up something new, something to take up the empty slot in orbit.

Comments

  1. Last time I dropped Superman it was becoming a crazy superman world. They had at least 4 books going (maybe 5 – man of tomorrow anyone?). The superman blue and red storyline was in the past. He had become the king of the world with his robots and then tumbled back into realty. And this new Domminex (or something weird like that) storyline was coming to an end. The last four issues had superman as different superheroes (martian the manhunter, hawkman) in each issue. And then I dropped it. I couldn’t take the lack luster storylines that were coming out. It all seemed so random

    About two months later they totally revamped the line and brought in loeb and some other new writers and some great artists. I’ve since then started superman titles again (probably a few years later…I think during Our World at War). But I went back and bought all those old issues that I missed and they were great! I can’t believe I had missed Emperor Joker. Plus they started interweaving in long lasting story points and many side characters.

    Anyway…I guess my point is, I’m always afraid to drop a book right before it gets good again. But I agree that the Superman books have sucked lately. Get Busiek off that book (too many isolated stories that lead to nothing) and bring in some good storylines that cross both books.

    Final thought: I agree that its time to drop some books. When the previews for November came out, there were way too many new series or minis that looked too good to pass up.

  2. I basically have two titles that I absolutely will NOT drop come hell or high water: Green Lantern and Checkmate. Everything else, it basically comes down to whether or not:
    a) I can still afford it (having just started college, I’ve had to seriously cut down on what I buy) or
    b) I can still have fun with it (I honestly don’t care if it’s good or not, if I enjoy reading it I’ll justify it forever)

    For mini-series, it’s much easier. I’ve made a list of rules regarding minis:
    -buy only event books (Civil War, INfinite Crisis, etc.) and only tie-ins that I’m already reading
    -any other minis, wait until they come out in trade (unless they seem too good to pass up, like The Escapists)

    I’m also just a cheapskate, so if my wallet starts yelling at me, I can drop stuff. I’m currently down to 10 books I buy monthly (5 from DC, 5 from Marvel) and 2 I buy only in trades (Fables and Walking Dead). Hey, it’s gotten me this far

  3. good advice conor, i think you’ve inspired me to go to my LCS and cull the list a bit…

  4. It’s a tough decision to make. I absolutely cannot ever drop Teen Titans (or any book with the word Titan) or Batman.

    The other book I never thought I would drop was Amazing Spider-Man. It was the flagship Marvel book. I started buying it regularly 6 years ago, at #30, the first of JMS. Now, you can say what you will about JMS of late, but when he first started oh man it was awsome! Now that he is leaving, I’m dropping, which is weird since I haven’t really enjoyed his work for at least 2 years or so, but with them bumping it up to 3 times a month, I’m just not ready to get another two books a month.

    Also dropped Lately Supergirl, Aquaman:Sword of Atlantis; She Hulk (Loved Slott’s run and I like Peter David, but it’s just not going to be the same KIND of book so…)

  5. I have no problem dopping a book after one bad issue. They cost way too much to mindlessly buy month after month.

    I’m dropping Hulk, Wonder Woman, Mighty Avengers, Supergirl, Fantastic Four and Astonishng X-Men all for reasons of extreme boredom.

  6. I just pulled out a huge stack of FF issues from my childhood, during which I slowly escalated from Transformers and G.I. Joe to almost every title Marvel was publishing. As I looked at them, I remembered, “At no point during this run did I enjoy this book. Why do I have it? Why did I keep buying it?” It may be the earliest example of this behavior I have.

    You know what can be an illuminating exercise? Try to list all of the books you’re buying just off the top of your head. Then look at the previous 4-6 weeks of the “What’s On Your Pull List?” thread and see how many you missed. Why didn’t you think of those? It’s worth a moment’s consideration.

  7. I’ve been droppin stuff left and right lately. Astonishing X men, Ultimate FF, Ultimate X men, Shadowpact…it’s been a pretty easy decision, based purely on financial reasons. I’m trying to spend less than 20 bucks/week on books.

  8. I started the process of dropping books last month, when Amazing Spider-Man hit the chopping block. This month, Punisher War Journal and Thor are off my pull list.

    Fantastic Four gets cut the minute Black Panther is off of it. Avengers Classic goes away after the next issue.

  9. I seem to be one of the lucky ones – I can usually afford $80 or so a week on comics (f’n insane, right? Imagine the cars I could drive and the drugs I could do).

    That being said, it’s more of a problem of me not picking up anything new than it is culling the list. I don’t need every new series that comes out every week. If the creative team has done something to impress me before (last week’s Sorrow, for example), I’ll pick it up. If it’s a continuation of a story I enjoyed (Countdown to Adventure from 52), I’ll give it a read.

    I’m also going to start jettisoning the anthology books like Superman Confidential and JLA Classified (didn’t pick up this week’s – yay, me) until there’s a creative team or story idea that grabs me. DC just has way too much stuff that looks interesting coming up that I want to try to continue reading books that either I can’t remember what happened last issue or I just don’t care what happened.

    One trick to find out which books may be dropped, and I use this at least two weeks a month, is when (if?) you put your books into reading order, put the ones you’re least looking forward to first, and the most anticipated ones last. If you read those least anticipated books first, and they don’t impress you, consider them for droppage. I’ve gotten my list down to the point where I have maybe one book on that “least anticipated” list every week, and sometimes that position changes depending on story arc or fill in or whatever mood I’m in that day.

  10. As a starving college student, if anything even starts to get kinda boring I’ll drop it like it’s hot. With the new semester starting I’ve taken a machete to my pull list. Everything DC is gone, except JSA, JLA and GL. It honestly feels like if I don’t read a dozen books a month I won’t know what’s going on. What’s worse though is that I feel like if I leave DC now, I won’t be able to pick back up with the universe until 2009…and that really doesn’t bug me. Also, I’m done with WWH. This story started great, but quickly became such a dirge. I’m certain it’s not going to end in any spectacular way.

    But the idea of dropping a book after one off issue is kind of nuts. Just because USM is a little lackluster one month doesn’t mean Bendis’s lost it. I will however drop after one issue of a new team. I gave McKeever one issue on Birds of Prey and Teen Titans and decided to drop both. The characters just felt wrong.

  11. I’ve droped more books over the last few years and the biggest reason is lateness. Im a bit older than most fans and am really used to a monthly schedule. As more and more comics ship late, I lose touch or just quit caring. As more and more writers seem to write for the trade,I no longer feel the need to hit store on Wens. Old favs like Astonishing Xmen, Batman, Mighty Avengers, Action, all dropped! And Civil War pretty much cut my ties to Marvel anyway since the Marvel U. that I grew up reading died with Cap. I still read CapAmerica, DD and Ironfist but they seem to keep on time. None of the writers and NONE of the artists can justify lateness with excuse of higher quality. the only thing better now is the paper stock!

  12. I dropped Amazing about a third of the way into the clone saga, because I just realized I didn’t care about where the story was going. I read and really enjoyed Cyberforce for about twenty issues and then lost all interest in about a single issue, but I couldn’t tell you why. When Young Justice became Teen Titans I stopped checking in on those characters. I think it was Peter David’s writing I enjoyed most. I quit the X-Men three or four issues into Grant Morrison’s run. I just didn’t get it. I dropped The Authority after Millar left. I felt that title went as far as it could with the premise and I wanted to end it strong. I dropped the Fantastic Four after Dwayne McDuffie’s first arc, because I need to cut down the amount of money I spend of comics. Dropped Thunderbolts after the last arc for the same reason I dropped FF. I also dropped the Thunderbolts when it became that Fight Club thing. I find myself waiting until the end of the current storyline before I decide whether I want to drop it. I need to be able to judge the resolution against how we got there.

    Now, I have been reading JMS’s Spider-man from the beginning, but I haven’t really enjoyed it since John Romita Jr. left it. I really liked the totem story, I thought Spidey joining the Avengers would breath some life into the title, and I did enjoy the Civil War issues. In between those points I kept telling myself, “It could get better in the next arc.”

    This past weekend I decided that Invincible just isn’t for me. I have been reading the trades through my local library. I got the seventh trade a couple of weeks ago. It has been sitting on my coffee table the whole time staring at me. Then I got an email saying it was due back soon, so I picked it up and forced myself half way through it. Then I had to put it away, because I just didn’t care about anything going on.

    I can’t explain it. I will drop some books in a second, but other times I will hang on desperately waiting for a dead book to start breathing again.

  13. “None of the writers and NONE of the artists can justify lateness with excuse of higher quality. the only thing better now is the paper stock!”

    Gotta agree with you robert creth. I’m a bit older than most here as well and agree 100% on this point. It affects my enjoyment of a book to have lateness become an issue.

    Today’s art is not a higher quality then in years past. And most artists still have the same two hands as they’ve had in the past.

    The coloring is all computerized and much more complex LOOKING, but it’s certainly easier and faster to color now than in the past.

  14. good question, Conor–I have been struggling with this as of late, as I find myself RACING through books (I read mostly before I go to bed and when I get up in the morning during the week) and going, “Well, that happened.” I wonder why I am reading the title if all I am doing is reading it to get through with it.

    Recently, I have been forcing myself to drop a few books, including Ultimate X-Men, Thunderbolts and some others, only to find myself picking up new titles. I was hoping to save money, but oh well. I think I just feel some allegiance to some titles, maybe it’s the completist in me, but in the end, I gotta let that crap go. I even dropped Batman for 3 issues during a particularly awful arc. I am trying to be honest–do I even like the book? Am I only collecting it because I don’t want to feel left out?

    But I also think part of the reason I stick with some books is because I like to know “what’s going on,” other times I think that, well, it’s only x number of issues, I’ll just go for it…but really? I just need to remember that if I do miss a good run, I can always get the trade, eventually.

    see ya,
    mike

  15. You know, I think my girlfriend would take an interest to this thread. She’s been trying to get me to drop stuff for years! Ha!

    I’d like to think I’m probably more patient than most comic readers. I will read something for at least four to five issues before I give it a rest. A lot of the time, I’ll buy an entire arc, so I can then sell it on eBay. Take Amazing Spider-man as an example. After not reading for years, I hopped back on during “Back in Black,” mainly because the premise intrigued me. While it wasn’t an earth shattering experience, it certainly did not make me interested enough to read it. So, I bought the whole arc and then just sold it on eBay.

    I probably waste money this way, but it keeps me in the game and reading comics has always been so relaxing and so fun that even when something’s bad, I still feel good.

    Lately, though, I’ve been trying to weed out the crappy books because I’m just buying too much every month. In, probably, the last six months, I’ve probably gone from $15 a week to around $30. And that doesn’t include the trades I buy here and there.

    There are a lot of titles on my “drop list” that are on final notice. Now, it’s just a matter of how it all plays out with the creative teams.

  16. I think I might have to drop Moon Knight after this week’s #12 which, for the second issue in a row, has The Initiative banner on the cover. That would be fine except for the small print on the recap page that reads “The events in this story take place before the events of Civil War #6-7” just like issue #11.

  17. I am new to iFanboy. I am enjoying the podcast a lot. Thanks.

    Green Arrow and my girlfriend’s son is what brought me back to comics. I was and still am a big fan of the Mike Grell Green Arrow and when Kevin Smith revived the character I jumped back in. I didn’t like it. It had some highlights like Onomonopeia (I probably butchered the spelling) but it didn’t live up to what I liked “back in the day”. However, I stayed with the character and the book. Through Kevin Smith to Metzler to Winick. I am glad I stayed with it because it keep me going to the comic shop and into the good stuff.

    Looking back on it, there are two reasons why I dropped Green Arrow:
    1) They started doing a crossover. I HATE crossovers.
    2) They were not doing the character justice. Their was a story arc where Superman (I hate Superman) came flying in to save the day.

    Another reason why I will drop a book is if it gets into mysticism. I held on to Amazing Spider-Man until the moment Loki appeared on the pages.

    I have regretted a few of my drops. I dropped Daredevil after Bendis completed his run. My girlfriend’s son tells me I dropped it to soon,…and I did. Good thing for me they do trades.