This may be a continuing column where multiple THN contributors argue about nothing or Joe and Matt may kill it because they feel threatened. I wanted to call it Gleek to You Two-Headed Nerd, but Baum calls the shots so we go with the less esoteric (and more the unimaginative) Nerd Fight. Begin!
How many issues do you read before you stop reading a series?
Keith Silva: This being THN, I should probably start with a few dick jokes (after all, I did write this) so here goes: Aaron, you are endowed with one of the biggest … pull lists I have ever seen. I mean, good God man(!), that thing is massive and week-to-week it only gets bigger. Your endowments aside, some of us keep shorter, shall we say tidier, pull lists — it’s the motion of the ocean not the size of the vessel or whatever guys with small pull lists say to feel better. Now, the one thing you can say about a guy with a big pull-list is that he reads a lot of ‘on-goings,’ i.e. his ‘monthlies’ are (ahem) many and epic.
Yes, we live in tough economic times (blah, blah, blah) and one must pick and choose, discern if you will, which comics one reads and which he does not especially when one does not have the power and the glory (and a sponsorship) from a hip comic book cum coffee shop behind them. Every series I buy is on notice. I don’t understand buying an on-going monthly comic for the sake of buying that comic because you’ve been buying that comic since Superman was in short pants. Why? I don’t get it. Tastes change, stories ebb and flow, go in and out of fashion, nothing is forever. I can understand loyalty and even brand loyalty, but how does that jive when that first flush of love begins to fade? Is there some kind of ‘No Prize’ up for grabs for having a complete run of a certain comic, some nerd-badge-of-courage — ‘I read all these crappy comics and all I got was this t-shirt’ t-shirt? What gives?
Now, I’m no quitter, no ‘hate-watcher,’ and I’m not a ‘bitter-ender’ either. I’m willing to give a new series a probationary period of maybe three to four issues to develop, after that, you gotta’ earn it every month. In the last year, the furthest I’ve followed a series is up to and including issue nine, Spaceman which was a limited series. As for on-goings, I’ve gotten as far as issue eight with Swamp Thing and Conan the Barbarian. I plan on continuing to read Conan because 1. I enjoy it and 2. I’ve made it a project to write about every issue for my blog. As for Swamp Thing, I was going to see Swamp Thing become Swamp Thing come hell or a high water and that was dumb. Dumb because what/why does it matter? Why continue to buy something that irritates you or you no longer enjoy? There are so many great comic books out there that I would rather try than to prop up something that’s no longer gettin’ the juices and the gray matter to do the horizontal mambo.
O.K. Meyers, you whip out that pull list of yours and tell me why you have to have Morning Glories or Journey into Mystery each month?
Aaron Meyers: Oh Silva, whatever happened to loyalty? Is everything in your life on notice? I guess some men just want to see the world burn. Well, I have a little more faith in the creators I follow than you do. What we are really talking about is creative teams. If you look at my pull list you’ll see a lot of miniseries or ongoing series on it, sure, but the reason every title is on there is because I like the creators behind the project. I’m a sucker for Iron Man, but I won’t keep getting Iron Man because its Iron Man, I’ll keep getting it because Matt Fraction writing Iron Man is awesome. You ask why I get Journey into Mystery each month? I get it because Kieron Gillen has been writing a great run of that book for a long time. Sure there have been 2 or 3 issues at a stretch where I didn’t love the story, but I knew that he is a creator I like, writing a story I like, and that would pick back up eventually. Same goes for Morning Glories. There have been long chunks of that book where I felt like nothing was happening. That book, in particular, is a slooooooooow burn, BUT when the fuse runs out the explosions are great.
Ok so that part of my rant out of the way, let me take a step back. When do I drop a book? Easy, when the creative team changes. When the editorial from up on high forces so many story changes the creator can’t do their job. When what was promised to me in the solicit fails to pay off after 8 issues. Believe it or not I’m pretty selective on my pull list subscriptions. In all honesty if money wasn’t an issue, I’d buy all the comics, why not? But I’ve built a subs list that I think is very judicious, reflecting the creators I like to read, and the artists I like to see. They have earned my trust and loyalty so I will often stick with them through the good and the bad, to get the full rich experience of the stories they tell. You are limiting your experience with your Randian (is that a word?) attitude towards these books Silva! But tell me, why should I be more cutthroat in my reading?
Silva: ‘Randian’ like Ayn Rand? Sweet Aaron, my personal politics could not be further from Ms. Rand or her ideology. When I write that ‘every series is on notice,’ it has less to do with being fickle and faithless and more to do with not wanting to waste my money or my time. Then again, who does? Full disclosure, for those not up on their ‘Silva,’ I’ve only been back in the comic’s game for about a year after a twenty-five year hiatus. So, having this conversation with you is very helpful to me because I’m in the process of establishing loyalties like those you’ve cultivated for Fraction or Gillen. One year on, I would be hard pressed NOT to buy something by artists like Brandon Graham, Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, and Ryan Kelly. As for writers, I’m a bit more ambivalent. Brian Wood is a safe bet, ditto David Hine. I haven’t read any of the titles Matt Fraction has written for Marvel, but after having read Casanova: Luxuria I am very interested to read Fraction’s new series FF; it doesn’t hurt that Mike Allred (an artist I’m currently crushing on) is the artist for that series either. I find I’m much more inclined to appreciate a writer after having read their creative-owned work. I can tell you with absolute certainty that after Punk Rock Jesus wraps, I will buy anything with Sean Murphy’s name on it. Now, I don’t know if I’ll stay on for every issue, but Murphy’s got me … for now.
Is ‘for now’ too harsh for your delicate sensibilities, my friend? I’m not a completest by any stretch and I’ve never been someone who would follow an artist or writer purely on merit. The best example I can give you is not from comics, but music. Confession time: I love Led Zeppelin, specifically Jimmy Page; not as much as when I was a teenager or in my twenties and I’ve got the scars to prove it. The Firm (the band Page founded post-Zeppelin) was defunct by the time I was writing in all my schoolbooks, but when I saw The Firm in a bargain bin I had to have it. I was the one who bought ‘Walking Into Clarksdale‘ a terrible Jimmy Page and Robert Plant album from the late nineties after they had reunited for No Quarter; I still have my No Quarter tour t-shirt by the way. I also bought another nineties Page project Coverdale/Page. By the new millennium I had wised up and did not get any the live album Page recorded with the Black Crowes in 2000, but if that album had come out in say 1992(?), I would have run over 100 grandmothers, a bus full of nuns and kindergarteners to get my hands on it. So, basically, I loved, I lost, I learned and I’ve come out on the other side. My best guess is that my loyalty for comic book creators will follow a similar arc; however, this time I will avoid the Coverdale/Page equivalent vis-à-vis Messrs. Wood, Graham and Murphy.
More cutthroat, no, and that’s where this discussion runs aground a bit. The decision to add, drop or read a series or one-shot is entirely idiosyncratic. Any set of rules we apply is arbitrary once one defers to one’s taste and personal choices. What I find curious is your choice to follow creators and not characters. I think of this as the choice of an (shall we say) seasoned comic book buyer. I don’t think the garden-variety twelve-year-old picks up their first comic because of Fraction, Wood, or Jack Kirby for that matter. I’d like to imagine a scenario when a prepubescent Joe Patrick walks in off the street and into his local comic book purveyor and asks for the latest by Mark Waid, but I doubt it happened that way. Would you agree that superheroes are comic book gatekeepers? What about those readers that read a character or team regardless of the creative team, are their tastes more primitive, less evolved? For me, it was G.I. JOE and Transformers, but I quickly gravitated to ‘what everyone else was reading’ (X-Men, Dark Knight and Daredevil) and only then did I begin to follow creators like Frank Miller, Dave Sim and Howard Chaykin. So, is it idiosyncrasy all the way down? Does a ‘Buy It’ have degrees? And do you have regrets? Any Walking Into Clarksdale(s) that you wish you could have walked away from?
Meyers: I’m going to put the creator owned work aside for now, since what we are really talking about is ”The Big Two” superhero books. This is my feeling about supes: I have my favorites. I will buy pretty much anything that has Zatanna or Iron Man as the main character, almost always. That being the case, it’s because comics are fun. It’s fun to be loyal to your team. I’ll use the sports example, since it applies. My Dad is a San Francisco Giants Fan. He raised me to be a Giants fan. I haven’t watched a baseball game in 10 years, but if someone asks me what team I root for, you better believe I’m going to say right back, Go Giants! Why is this? Because I have loyalty to my team. Because it’s fun to pick your guys, root for your guys, follow your guys and enjoy every heartbreak, triumph and bad run of issues. That’s what makes being a fan of comic’s fun. Get off the fence Silva! Pick your team, love them and stick with them because it’s what we do, it’s who we are.
Silva: I guess this is where we part ways, Meyers. I guess I’m too Chaotic Neutral — an individualist, first and last — for your tastes. I’m loyal, but not to a comic book character or his or her on-going series. When I stopped buying monthly Marvel and DC titles it gave me an insight into what those characters mean outside of the multiverse and the 616, they are brands, plain and simple. Batman was the superhero I first wanted to be, but the world moves on, problem is Batman doesn’t, Batman can’t, he’s been branded. Cynical as it may sound, following Batman is like rooting for IBM or any other corporation or wholly owned subsidiary of some corporation. What Batman means to me — my childhood memories — is much different from the product, the trademark. Now this is going to come off as pretentious, as if I am above it all, I am not. If not for the New 52, I probably would not have gotten back into comics; I own that. A year later, I don’t buy any DC or Marvel titles and I find a lot of the hand-wringing and grousing about the New 52, funny, one big circle jerk that gets nobody nowhere, worked up, but in the same place they started — and worse, nothing (pardon the pun) comes of it., Has anything really been created or only rearranged or is it Malibu Stacey with a new hat? And we’re back to idiosyncrasy. Of course, there are a lot of great creators and writers working in mainstream comics today that have more talent than me and, you know what, there are hundreds of more talented creators behind them who would kill to write Batman or Batroc for that matter. How did we get to creator-owned properties from when you stop reading an on-going series! Must be something in the water. Funny thing is for all the ‘haterade’ I’m serving up for Marvel and DC, Batman will still be there for me when I want him, he’s not going anywhere. When you pull out that gorgeous and enviable pull list of yours Meyers, you have only nine ‘Big 2′ titles on there, nine out of fifty. You love comics, you love your superheroes, God bless, you’re the romantic, the loyal one, but see the thing is, Meyers, I’m all those things too, only I’m not walking back to Clarksdale, not for Batman or Brian Wood, or Matt Fraction. I’m you, Meyers, just with a different hat.
Aaron Meyers and Keith Silva are both much smarter than the co-hosts of The Two-Headed Nerd Comicast. However, they are TERRIBLE at marketing. “Gleek to You?” Seriously…that’s just the worst.