Why Am I Still Reading Comics?

Why am I here? What am I doing with my life? Why am I still reading comics?

I woke up, cold sweat and all, at 5:45 Monday morning with those questions ringing in my ears.

Well, okay, it was really just the first two, but I do ask myself the third one fairly often, usually after I look in my closet and the Tetris nightmare that is my comic book collection. Seeing as this is a comic book discussion site and not a support group for people going through mid-mid life crises, I’d thought I’d ruminate on how I’m doing with comics these days.

First off, asking “Why do I still read comics” is not a bad thing. If you just sort of assume, as I do, that I will always be reading comics, the question then quickly shifts to “What is it about comics that keeps you coming back?” and, maybe less quickly, “Are there books out there that sometimes make it more challenging to put up with the fact that you have 1/4 less closet space than you did a year ago?”

When someone finds out that I read comics, I invariably end up telling them why I read them but, for some reason, it often sounds more like rationalization than an actual response. (Well, there are many reasons to rationalize comics but let’s not start that right yet.) Truth be told, my reasons for “still” reading comics have really changed over the years. At first, when I was all by my lonesome, it was really just about the books. It was about the characters, the art and the story. Later, basically as I found a few good stores and started figuring out that there was a community of readers that I could share my interest with, I started enjoying discussing comics with other folks. I would get suggestions from my new friends, and yes, from the Pick of the Week Podcast, and my enjoyment started encompassing completely different aspects of comics. As I’ve written before, the community of readers has actually made me enjoy comics more than when I was just reading them on my own.

Over the past year, however, I am beginning to think about other aspects of comics. I am beginning to really enjoy the partnership between reader, artist and writer. When I read books like Criminal or Kick-Ass, I get the feeling that the creators really want to tell these stories–they have a deep-rooted need to get these books out. I have much more of a relationship with comic book writers than I when I first started out. Now, when I buy a book, I am not only happy to get the story, but I am happy to support the creators who brought it to me. I was listening to episode #9 of Talksplode with Ed Brubaker, and realized, “Hey, I’ve been reading this guy for years–his writing has been a part of my life for awhile now, and I really appreciate what his work.”

This kind of ongoing relationship, this regular transaction between audience and creator, is nothing new, of course–music fans know this very well. However, I get a book by Ed Brubaker at least once a month. At least! His characters enter my consciousness in new ways far more often than, say, a new track from a band I might like, or a novelist. This regular schedule of discovery, maintained by writers and artists that truly love doing this work, is a major reason why I celebrate comics.

My relationship with comics seems to me like a fine wine–most of the time, it just improves with age. When I look back at all of my New Avengers books, I am kind of amazed at just how much we’ve been through together, you know? When I think about Batman, like, I read Batman when I was a kid–I have a strong bond with that character. It’s not like reading a favorite childhood book as an adult. That book stayed still in time, the characters long frozen in its binding. Comic book characters continue to grow and mature as time goes by–if I tried to get my dad to read Batman or Superman, he would be pretty confused, you know? (I mean, he would be really confused, Batman‘s dead, Superman‘s in the new Kryptonian miltary?! How do you explain this stuff?? Makes me chuckle.) Keeping up with these changes makes me enjoy the present state of affairs–because I know how things got the way they were.

Another aspect of comics that has struck me recently is how incredible the writers and artists are at taking over characters, especially the writers. Like, when Bendis handed over Daredevil to Brubaker, it was kind of amazingly smooth, you know? Matt sounded like Matt even though it was a totally different person writing the story. Anytime a team takes on a character, I am struck at how consistent the speech patterns are, the way the character looks at others, how the art and writing maintain the essential tenor of the book. (Yes, I know there are many examples when this doesn’t work so well, but I think overall, the editors do an amazing job of keeping things constant.)

There are, of course, aspects of being a comic book fan that have kind of vexed me. I know that everyone is tired of the rants about books being late, but, honesty, when I picked up Astonishing X-Men last night, I had to think, hard, about what happened before. I know, poor me, but seriously, how many times have you opened a book, looked at the first few pages, and just put it down so you could grab the previous issue to figure out what happened? And while, yes, I find it annoying, I also think it does a terrific disservice to the creators, this disruption. Sadly, I just think it is going to get worse. When so many books just straight up read better as trade, other than getting the trade out earlier, what’s the real…issue? Sure, you tick off a bunch of geeks that want to read the books monthly, but for everyone else, they get a nice trade a year later and they can just print that trade forever. It would be a shame that one of the basic elements of comic books–the monthly interaction between creator and audience we’ve been discussing–is shrugged away by the convenience and economy of the trade release. Nothing we can do about it.

While I could complain that comics are expensive, it’s not a major problem for me. No, it’s not because I just booked a series and now I am loaded–though I am working on it–it’s because the reader can make adjustments to his or her reading habits to make comics more economical. Like, I honestly think there are some titles that I will just “go trade” on. Echo. The aforementioned Astonishing X-Men. Other titles that just…don’t need to be read monthly–and yes, that’s a personal decision. Like, I can read DMZ in trades (though I don’t) but I I wouldn’t do the same with New Avengers i. That’s just me. I know quite a few “trade only” folks and they are quite happy. I wonder, honestly, when I will just be picking up a few issues a week (3-4) and either just not care about new stuff and/or get everything else in trades. It could happen, I guess, but it wouldn’t be for awhile–I’m having way too much fun.

And, suddenly it all boils down to that–it’s always boiled down to that. Why am I still reading comics? Because it’s fun.

‘Nuff said.

How about you? Why are you still reading comics?

Mike Romo reads his comics, but not his Absolute Editions. Why is that? mike@ifanboy, romotweet, faceromo. By the way, this was accidentally posted earlier and, during the re-posting, I lost the three comments that were posted (you guys were quick!)–I apologize for the error.


  1. Cause it’s the only thing I look forward to in life….Seriously.

    I know I go on this site all the time but it’s all really just waitin for Wednesday. Cause I get to read either great or terrible comics; review them; and read other reviews and get into discussions. Money is tight but I still get the comics I want. It’s just fun for me getting into discussions about books and try and write great reviews for every week.

  2. I’m with TNC on that one. Although I’m new to the monthly format, I’m loving it. Trades are fine, but I love that weekly buzz. I like having little bits to chew every week. If that goes away forever, I’m not so sure I would have as easy a time getting into comics. I would still read them, but I’m in comics because it’s a blend of hobby and art. Trades destroy the collecting/hobby aspect for me.

  3. To me it seems to hard to follow the marvel and DC proper in trades.

    I pick up a lot of indie in trade ’cause I don’t have to pick up 4 trades to 

    understand what actully happened. 

  4. Because I still love fantansy and because sometimes we have remove ourselves from this world to navigate through it.


    Also they’re cool

  5. I don’t really understand the question to be honest. Why do I still listen to music, play guitar, watch movies, watch tv, play video games…. read comics? S’all the same answer.

  6. I’m still reading comics because I seem to have an addictive personality…oh well.

  7. I’ve been asking myself the same question, especially as May 2 will mark the 3-year anniversary of my headlong dive back into the weekly ritual. The social aspect is definitely a part of why I’m still reading comics. Including this website. And the books are great. I really enjoy reading comics from week-to-week, month-to-month.

    But as I’ve watched my pull list grow and grow, and as I’ve gotten sucked further into this literary Pleasure Island, there has been another nagging voice in the back of my head saying, Aw just chuck it all. Make some more time for your family! Read a real book. Take a walk for pete’s sake! Or, for that matter, If these comics are so good, then why not stop buying new ones and just enjoy the ones you have?

    But I keep getting pulled back each week and the best I seem to be able to manage is to balance it out with other activities in my life.

  8. I’m still reading because I simply love the medium. It’s one of the most unique storytelling media in existence.

  9. i just read comics for the ladies

  10. Asking why we still read comics to me is like asking a lifelong Mets fan "why?"or a General Hospital fan "why?", or a Rolling Stones fan "why?".  The answer is complex in its simplicity, just becasue it is who we are and it is what we do.  For me comics have been a part of my life since second grade, through junior high school where I was the weird kid who read them during lunch, into high school when I would read them on bus trips to an away football game, into college when I had them in my dorm, and into law school where on the very fits day of class before any reading assignments were made, I sat in the library re-reading the Dark Pheonix trade, and of course people thought I was crazy.  But so what? It’s my thing, I don’t have to explain or justify it to anyone.  Just like the lifelong Mets fan or GH fan or Stones fan, the answer is probably the same in all the examples, because we enjoy it.  I like watching how a certain charatcer is interpreted my a certain team, and love it when a writer really has a firm grasp of a character, and I still get frustrated when some writer takes a character in "a bold new direction" but is really hiding behind the fact that they don’t know that character at all.  From reading things here I enjoy giving new things a look, Ron has opeded my eyes to Phonogram: The Singles Club, and I was first exposed to Scalped here as well.  It is always fun to find something new in a medium that I have been immersed in for so many years, but it is all part of the same journey that I have been on for 35 years and see no end in sight.  I love comics and always will.

  11. It hooks us when we’re young and impressionable! After we get an attachment to these characters, we’re always wanting to see their next adventures, even if we read the books up through our 20’s and 30’s. These are characters we grew up with, and share a special bond with. Hell, Superman’s origins was one of the first things I’ve ever learned to read! So because of this stong attachment, thats why we line up at the comic store EVERY SINGLE WEDNESDAY! We want to know what happens next!!

  12. I find comics to be a little mini present to myself every week.  It’s a fun reward for all of the hard work I do.  I love the art and the stories that are told.  And I also really love discussing comics with my friends, family, and the iFanbase.  I think too that I read comics because it’s a way for me to continue to connect with my childhood, particularly as I get older and have to become more responsible.  

  13. I partly still read comics because I love hand drawn art but don’t support the idea of art as fetish object for the elite that can afford original works.

     I think at its best comics are a medium where an artist can make their work available to a large audience for a relatively small price, often while telling an entertaining story too.

  14. @Mike – what series can we look for you in?  Pilot or existing show?

  15. @roadcrew1 — nothing yet….just auditioning as much as I can. It’s been slow but hopefully you’ll see me in something soon.


    good discussion, guys. I know on the face of it, it’s kind of a ridiculous question–why does anyone like anything? I probaby should have phrased it more like "What do I appreciate about comics?"…but that just wasn’t as dramatic.

    the "it’s my treat for the week" is a point the resonates with me as well. I was talking to a guy at my shop, we were laughing about how much money we were spending, then he said, "But look, I don’t really have other habits…this is my thing, you know? I don’t ask for much–I work hard and I think I deserve at least a bunch of comics every week…" — made a lot of sense to me!

  16. I’m totally addicted and can’t let go.

    I’ve recently been making the transition to more trades.  I use to pick up 10-15 issues a week, but now with a baby on the way, I’ve had to cut back to the must have issues and wait for the rest in trades, but the waiting for trades kills me.

  17. A lot of what you said, Mike, resonates with me. I love the fact that I’ve been with characters and creators for a long time. I love the writers and artists that I’ve been reading for a long time, and I love the way my heart can flutter when I discover someone new and fall in love.


    The other thing, maybe the more important thing, is that I love the immersion in a particular culture and community. I love indie rock, so for the five years I spent in Glasgow, Scotland, I was in heaven. I was seeing bands in tiny rooms with twenty-five people two years before I was seeing them on TV or hearing them on the radio. We were all friends, we all knew each other, we all went out dancing together, drinking together, etc. Then I had to leave. I was heartbroken, and there is just no way to approximate my involvement in that scene without being physically there. 

    My point, I suppose, is that this is a micro-culture that I can be involved in anywhere that I can find an LCS and an internet connection. It is no coincidence that while I had been a trade-dabbler through my teenage years, I fell fully into single issue, weekly ritual culture as sites like this and shows like the Pick of the Week came out. My favorite creators working now are the ones I got to watch come up. I know he’s not the best writer ever in comics, but I would rather read a new Matt Fraction issue of anything than a new Alan Moore issue of anything because I heard him on Around Comics and Word Balloon before he was even at Marvel. He’s my new indie band made big. 

     I guess I just crave that belonging, and comics are a place I can find that. 

  18. I think as adults the question "why am I still reading comics?" was more pertinent 20-30 years ago (or before) when the majority of comics were written for elementary school kids.

    Fortunately comics have grown with us, have become more mature, more intelligent, sometimes even challenging (e.g. Morrison’s).  Today, as a form of enterteinment, reading comics is as "reputable" as reading novels or watching movies.

    I don’t feel we need to justify our hobby to anybody anymore.

  19. I read comics because I just love the medium. I mean its pictures and words, comics can, in many many ways, convey things much better than other mediums such as prose novels or film. Plus, the superhero genre is just fascinating that exists best when done in comics. Sure Dark Knight was an amazing film but Batman still works best in comics, plus lets face it a lot of adaptations are crap or are simply distilled of what we like about comics)

    and of course, they’re simply fun to read. I simply dont want to live without reading the next chapter in fictional life of Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne (though apparently we’re headed that way soon), Matt Murdock or Hal Jordan every month

  20. To be honest, I can’t think of much to add that is not already include in the peice. Your words are thoughtful and well chosen. If someone were to ask me why I still read comics, I would simply hand them a copy of this article and say, "The same goes for me."

  21. Oh, just so many reasons.  I just can’t shake the excitement for a new week’s books, especially when something new starts up or one of the true greats is due to ship (right now that would be books like Scalped or Fables – no matter which week it is you can always count on at least something of excellence).  The ifanboy new release pull list is an irresistable habit.  Also, I have to admit, in my tiny corner of England, it is still kind of a unique way of life (I was really shocked to discover my new supervisor at work last year was a fellow addict).

    There are other reasons, variety for one.  There are books that are just plain fun, total escapism from the rigors of the everyday, those that are just gorgeous to behold from a graphic point of view and there are those with the equal complexity of great novels, movies or tv shows.  They’re an art form on a par with all those others, despite society at large’s resistance to that fact.

    Then there’s nostalgia.  I’ve read Batman comics since picking up # 387 on a summer holiday in the mid 80s (not every single issue sadly).  I have comics in my collection for which I can pinpoint the exact newsagent or LCS I was at, at which time in my life when I bought them.  They are a constant in the past 1/4 of a century of my life.

    And now I truly feel old….

  22. I love comics because they are books and pictures, and I find that indescribably awesome.

  23. When I was 15, skinny, nerdy and queer I read superhero comics because it helped me escape into a wonderful world of fantasy.  Now that I’m 43, fat, nerdy and queer the reason isn’t all that much different.  The major difference is that now I am part of a fantastic online community here at iFanboy and over at Comic Book Queers and its the best "support group" I could ever need or desire.   It has made my comic book experience SO much more rewarding – why would I ever want to stop reading?

  24. I often find myself wondering why.  Sometimes, in sane moments, comics even feels a little silly.

    But then I read one that makes me feel something and I remember why.

    There is a phenomenon that occurs when I read comics that doesn’t happen so much with other storytelling mediums.  Novels limit the speed at which the story flows because it’s prose and you can only read so fast.  TV and film is passive; you are pulled along at a pace dictated by the director.  But comics are something in between.  Something happens with a comic because of it’s design.  The sparce text and the visuals race me through the story sequence, under my steam but similtaneously pulled along in a way that doesn’t happen in other mediums.  

    Not sure that makes any sense at all.

    I also have a tendency to fall in love with characters, which can make me as loyal to a specific character as Ron.  Sometimes I wish I could be like Josh and leave when things go south.

    In the end, it’s fun and thrilling to read a beautifully drawn story with well-written fictional conversations.

  25. It’s pure escapism for me, and saying that in this thread is a little redundant. I just recently moved from NYC to TX and I left behind an excellent store, where I was very close with the owner and staff. I enjoyed the wednesday event every week, especially all the speculation with the comic store clerks. The thing is, I find in general, that in comic stores, you either have peoplle that are trying to sell you every book on the shelves, or socially awkward people who won’t engage you in conversation. I would hate to say this, but the only enjoyment I get out of the communal aspect of comics, is having others bring me up to speed on backstorys that I might be unaware of, when fellow comic fans act as human wikipedias.

     In that case, it is all about the escapism. The Marvel universe exists, the DC universe exists. Hal Jordan is real. Sometimes these characters have more depth to them then the people I interact with on a daily basis. They are getting more realistic as well. I feel with all these company wide crossovers, the editors are getting more consistant. I have read pretty much every book that has the Dark Reign logo on it, and it no longer seems like Marvel is made up of random stories put together by various creators, now it just seems as if the books are little mini-documentaries of what is going on in the Marvel U. so, after that long winded response, I think the reason why I read comics is because the creators are getting better and better at performing magic, making you forget that you are just looking at ink on paper.

  26. It’s purely sexual.

  27. I’d really like to say that I read comics for other reasons, but the truth is that everything in comics is way better than real life could ever be. It’s pure escapism for me, and I’d jump into the world of Marvel or Image in a heartbeat if I had the choice.