Q & A 2: Why Do We Keep Reading Comics We Don’t Like?

In Q & A, a semi-regular feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.

Have you ever kept reading a comics series when you no longer liked it? Why?

Anika

I should preface this with: I’m a Marvel Girl. The vast majority of my comic book collection are Marvel titles. But my husband prefers DC and he got me to read Identity Crisis by pointing out that Batman (my one DC love) played a pivotal role. And using that as the jumping off point I tried (I really tried!) to follow the recent (in the way the last four years or so is recent) and seemingly endless stream of weekly DC titles. You know what I mean. 52. Countdown. After 52. Count up. Count backwards. Count until you run out of numbers and then start over. Okay, I’m being facetious (I’m being a brat) but seriously, I hate those comics. We have a good long-box-full of issues neither I nor my husband has even read. But we kept buying them because “We have so many already, how can we give up now? We almost have them all.” Well, we did finally give up. So now I have a truly useless collection of almost all of the recent and seemingly endless stream of weekly DC titles which started out okay but looking back read as Gimmick(!) and are pretty much why I am not currently subscribed to ANY comics and only go out of my way to get one title the week it comes out. And yes, it’s Marvel (Invincible Iron Man).

Caroline:

I got into the habit of buying comics every week in the fall of 2006. I had been interested in the X-Men for a while, and I had burned through pretty much all of the back canon that I could find in trade paperback: in the bookstore, or the library, or on my friends’ shelves. Based on the older comics I’d read, I had already decided that Jean Grey (along with Cyclops) was my favorite character. The problem with reading new comics in 2006, as a Jean Grey fan, is that — in the main Marvel universe — she was dead. Had been for a while, in fact. So, when I was looking for a new comic to start buying, I immediately glommed onto two series where Jean was around: X-Men: First Class and Ultimate X-Men.

First Class turned out to be a good choice, and is still one of my favorite books. Ultimate (written by Robert Kirkman at the time) was more problematic. I jumped on with the arc that introduced Cable to the Ultimate Universe, and. . .well, it’s not exactly a secret that I grade on a curve when it comes to books that involve Cable. Sure, the storyline was a bit of a mess. But it had some of my favorite characters, including not!dead Jean, and I thought I’d give the story a chance. So I gave it a chance, and I gave it a chance. This book was not good. After a while, even the characters I liked in the story stopped showing up; the art got really bad. It was a train wreck. But I kept telling myself I wanted to see what happened to Jean.

Well. I read to the end of that arc and I still don’t know what happened to Jean. I kind of thought I understood it, but then I found out that the next writer (after I dropped it) did something that completely contradicted what I thought I’d just read. I vowed at that point that I was never again going to keep reading a comic that wasn’t doing anything for me. I’m not shy about dropping titles, and I’ve probably missed out on some good things because of that. But life’s too short, and too crowded, for me to keep reading something I don’t love.

Jennifer

I can’t quit a comic. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m constitutionally incapable of quitting a comic. If a comic starts to take a nosedive in quality, I do look at it critically. “Can I drop this?” I wonder. “Is it too bad to continue?” But every time, a little voice inside of me fills my mind with excuses: “But what if it gets better?” “What if something happens in the next issue that’s important to a character you love, or the (Marvel) universe you adore?” “How will you handle never knowing how this ends?” And in every case, I keep reading.

The fact is, I don’t read comics for quality. I love quality comics, of course, but my primary devotion is to the Marvel Universe and the characters I love within it. So I’ll keep reading X-Force to find out what happens to Warren Worthington III. I’ll keep reading crossover tie-ins to find out the impact of the crossover on all the corners of the Marvel U. I’ll keep reading Wolverine: Origins because it’s (unfortunately) going to tie into X-Men books I do care about. And even when none of those things apply, I’ll often continue reading bad or uninteresting comics (like, for instance, Trinity) simply because I’ve already started, and I can’t imagine not following the story to its conclusion (or as close to a conclusion as anything can have, the medium being what it is). I need to know what happens next, even if it’s a trainwreck.

I am getting better, though. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I’ve finally dropped the insipid characterization mess that is New Warriors. And with my current schedule, which is far busier than my former lazy lifestyle as a college student, other books may soon hit the chopping block out of necessity.

But I’m sure I’ll still be reading some bad comics.

Sigrid:

“Read” might be the wrong word. I’ve bought comics long after I stopped actually reading them. Most recently I was buying DC’s Countdown and putting it directly into the file-pile. I bought and read the first three issues of The Exterminators before realizing I was too grossed out to actually look at the art. (Though, oddly, I count both Hellblazer and Transmetropolitan among my favorite titles, so I’m not sure why The Exterminators hit me wrong.) I think, though, the title I bought and read the longest while not enjoying it has got to be X-Factor (vol 1.) I read X-Factor from issue 1, loved it for about the first twenty-five issues, and then bought it up through issue ninety or so. That’s around sixty issues, five years or so, of buying and reading the comic and not really liking it. I didn’t care for the stories, I didn’t like the art much, I disagreed with the characterizations. When Peter David took over with the new team, I was resentful of these B-stringers taking the place of the real X-Men. (I got over that.) So why did I keep getting the comic?

Because I needed to know how my X-Men were doing. Simple as that.

*****

What about you? Have you ever kept reading a comic you didn’t like? Why? (Name names or not, as you choose).

  • I’ll keep reading a book if either the writing or art is good, but the other is not. For example, X-Factor has great writing but terrible art right now. If both are bad, I have to start thinking about not reading it.

    On the other hand, like many of you, I can’t stop something I have started. Like Jennifer said, I always think “what if this gets better?” In comics, it seems that the middle of an arc CAN get a little lame, but the end ties it together and you are left with a sudden “OH, that is why they did that” moment. So, I usually complete an arc if I start it, if not more.

  • lilacsigil

    I’m hopeless. I am reading so many X-Men titles. My real problem is that when I started university, I moved to a city with an actual comic book shop (previously I had got tattered comics from second hand bookshops, newsagent bargain bins and the occasional trip to the city) and then I learned to browse the shelves at high speed. Now I live four hours away from the comic shop, don’t really like reading comics online, and have disposable income. BAD combination – and the size of the fortnightly comics box I receive in the mail attests to this. I’ve only just managed to cancel all the stupid Wolverine titles and spin-offs. And this from someone who quit Batman in 1993 with an angry letter because of the comic’s treatment of Dr Shondra Kinsolving (anyone remember her?)

  • Margot

    If there’s a word count thing here, I’m about to hit it. Like Jen, I have issues with dropping a book. That is the only explanation for why I’m still reading Titans. Or Teen Titans. Or Green Arrow/Black Canary. Or… well, the list goes on. It’s no secret that I’m not too happy with the current direction of a lot of books, but I have a strict loyalty to the characters. I love them. I want to know what is going on with their lives. I want to know what is affecting them. I want to know if things are getting better. And I want to know how badly they are being screwed up so I can try to figure out a way for things to be *better* for them.

    I also have a completist thing. Once I start something, I feel like I have to finish it. (This is also the reason why I’m reading Brisingr. And why I’ve read all the Twilight books.) I feel like I need to get to the end and see how it all ends up. Because I’ve started it and I’ve invested all this time in the characters lives and I just want to know.

    And you know, in some cases its the only place where I’m seeing the characters at all. I really wish Jubilee was in a different book! Or that there were better writers on the Titans books! And sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised. If I’d stopped reading Decisions I would have missed the Hal/Ollie punch fest. Which makes it totally worth it. And there’s always a chance that the book will get better. I mean, Teen Titans can’t get any worse.

    But… I did stop once. Four years ago I got so fed up with everything (Graduation Day, Nightwing 93, Identity Crisis) that I just *stopped* I didn’t pick up a comic for slightly over two years. And I was very busy being bitter about comics that I ended up missing out on a lot of good things. Reading comics I dislike is still better than reading no comics at all.

    I hope this made sense. I haven’t had any coffee yet.

  • Twyst

    I tend to pick up trades instead of issues and i am very, very leary of bad titles. I will hmmm and haw over books for ages before getting them.
    I grill the comic store people on wether th books are good or not, where it happens in continuity, and what the ramifications are on the universe. they love it when i come in.
    I have read 3 trades total that i -did-not-like-.
    The first was Ultimates, vol 1. I could not stand this book for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the only female character, Wasp, who i couldnt care less about was awful, and was in an abusive relationship, etc. I think mostly the book tried to be too REAL. I dont read superhero comics for real.
    The second was Uncanny X-Men, End of History. The comic book store guy told me it had great strong female characters, that it was a good story, yadda yadda. Against my better judgement, i bought it. I had no idea what was going on, who the character were, or why i should care. (I hadn’t been following the X-Men at that point).
    The third is beloved by many, but i couldnt take it. I was given Sandman vol 1. I didnt care for the story, the art, none of it.
    And i feel incredibly guilty about having these books in my collection and not following up on them. Maybe i can sell them. or give them away. Or lose them on the street somewhere.

  • Celebrating an illness!

    Stop buying bad comics. Save your clams and try out new things, yeah?

  • Caia

    Inertia, mostly. Hell, with my old shop, I’d feel vaguely guilty asking them to take out the pull list to axe things. (It’s not really a problem anymore, and I’ve a dropped a bunch more things, which is good, my finances being what they are now that I’m a poor grad student.)

    And, yes, I get way attached to characters–I still can’t really imagine dropping Green Arrow/Black Canary or Green Lantern, even though they’re the two titles that I buy and rant about every month. (But GA/BC is getting a new writer soon! It’s be a shame to drop now! Which is another reason–completeism. Even if it means picking up two more issues I pretty much know will suck rather than just coming back when there’s a chance it won’t again.)

    And then there’s the universe-related stuff–I really sort of *miss* having any clue as to what’s going on in the DCU as a whole (or, hell, with Marvel’s current Skrull event, which I’m reading somewhat more of, but not all of). That was what got me through Infinite Crisis, definitely, but I got fed up early with Countdown, and I guess it’s not really relevant to why I’m reading titles that are bad *now*.

  • Sometimes, it’s just nice to have something constant in your life. You might go through times of good and bad on the title, but you grow to like the characters enough to just want to know what happens next to them. Having a regular title is kind of like having your go-to comfort food.

    Not to say that it’s wrong to cut titles left and right if you aren’t enjoying them. I’m definitely going through that phase.

  • xenokattz

    I’ve had a pullout box since I was twelve and I’d hate to break such a wonderful, long relationship with my dealer. 😉

    Like many others above, I buy comics that sometimes I don’t even start reading until my summer break from school. I’m a legacy comicbook reader though– my dad collected Superman & Batman, older cousins on both sides collected comics, I had JLA along with Grimm’s Fairy Tales as bedtime stories. So when I buy comics, it’s not just for pure enjoyment, it’s a family thing. We geeks gather ’round the Sunday dinner table and discuss comics over beer and cocktails.

    Also, I feel a sort of fan loyalty towards certain characters. Finances willing, I will buy any title that has my favourite characters. Even if the art and/or story sucks, at least I’m supporting him or her.

  • Wombat

    I work very hard at not buying comics I don’t want to read. I don’t buy a whole lot of comics every week, and if I end up buying an issue I don’t like (especially if I bought it instead of something else that I might have liked more), it makes me cranky. And I really don’t want to be one of those people who spends all their time complaining about the comics I buy.

    I think my caution is more a matter of space in my house and income than time. I own about six of those “40 Years of Character X” on DVD-ROM, and those I read obsessively: The good, the bad, and all the letters pages. In my mind, reading only the good storylines (and maybe getting through them faster, and enjoying them more) defeats the whole purpose of having all those comics easily available.

  • Wired

    Oh, She-Hulk! When they switched writers, and She-Hulk was no longer written by Dan Slott, I was angry. She went from being a kick-ass lawyer to being a thuggish bounty-hunter. If I had been the only one reading the pull, I would have dropped it after two issues of the new writer. But I wasn’t, and as long as I wasn’t the one picking up the comics, it kept coming and I kept reading. Around the time of the start of Secret Invasion, we at least found out WHY she wasn’t practicing law anymore, and things have improved slightly, but she’s still not the woman she was in Time Trials.

    The real question is why I’m not reading comics that we own and everyone has recommended to me. Like say, Buffy Season 8. Or Runaways.

  • But it had some of my favorite characters, including not!dead Jean, and I thought I’d give the story a chance.

    There is that weird extra exclamation point again. What does that mean? Is that the mark for a rolled eyes? I have yet to figure it out.

    I haven’t been at comics long enough to drop any titles. Astonishing X-men might get dropped, in light of the rather dramatic change of set from previous. Birds of Prey might get dropped if they don’t get a new writer soon. I fell in love with the Black Canary character while Gail Simone was writing BoP, and that’s why I followed her to Black Canary/Green Arrow.

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