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?
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).
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.
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.
“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).