The GeeksverseBack Issue Fun

Back Issue Fun
Published on Saturday, June 30, 2012 by

I read more from the back issue bins than I do the current issue racks. I’ve been rediscovering my collection recently and digging in dollar bins and fifty cent bins.

Part of this renewal has been a result of a move that isn’t going as planned. I keep telling my wife that I’m moving my collection from my closet to the spare office closet. I have yet to build the necessary shelves. Instead my boxes are ringing the living room. Having them in the living room has made it easier to dig into my back issues. I’ve been re-reading the comics that made me fall in love with comics in the first place. I’ve read all sorts of back issue oddities including Nomad, The Legend of the Shield, Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Woman and some Marvel Zombies among others.

Now I want to read more by Bob Harras and Fabian Nicieza. When I was younger I was not very aware of creators. Now I want to read New Warriors and Night Thrasher to see if they are as good as Nicieza’s too brief run on Nomad.  Strangely I just read an interview with Nicieza that ran in a 1993 Marvel Age issue to tell fans about the Marvel happenings.

Completing runs of less popular titles has been fun too. I have reasonable tastes. Why buy expensive comics when I can hit a dollar bin, fifty cent bin, or cheaper and find runs of good comics?

I’m thinking of re-reading the entire Marvel 2099 run.

I do pick up some new comics every week but most of my week is spent reading back issues. Before my boxes took over the living room when I was only reading new issues I started pacing myself to one book a night. As a reader that mixes the best of my child hood in with the new issues I find myself reading more a night. I’m enjoying reading for hours on end.

At least I was until the exhaustion of parenthood sat in. Now I’m reading as much as I can but I am still mixing the old and new.

My wife has remarked several times that I seem to enjoy the older comics more than the new comics. That is not completely true although it does touch on a germ of truth. I think I’m less critical of my older comics than I am of the newer comics. The enjoyment isn’t any different because I am enamored with this form. Somehow I find that comics that cost a buck or less make me gripe less than the comics I spend $3.99 on. The same thing happens when I’m watching a movie I picked up cheap versus one I spent $10.00 a ticket on. Surely some law of economics explains the relationship in a commodity between perceived value, expended value, and perceived returns. EV  ÷ PV = PR Was that the law of Diminished Value? Economics isn’t my strength.

In part the enjoyment comes from being able to read complete runs together. Sure, new trades will allow me to do the same thing. Somehow picking up floppy after floppy in order with the occasional hole is just a different experience. The tactile sensation is different. The weight is different.

A reader knows where they are in a book because the weight shifts from the right hand to the left.

-To paraphrase Jane Austen

I’ve toyed with the idea of giving up more of the new titles every month. I have re-prioritized and cut back my pull bag list. I’m picking up fewer new comics every month. Some are enough fun that I’m willing to spend the money month to month like Young Justice, Batman Beyond Unlimited, G.I. Joe, TMNT, and others that I am holding onto month by month. I like the waiting period occasionally coupled with the frustration that is joyous when reading a good monthly series. Reading floppies is just a different experience. Green Mile by S. King was the same way. I pity people that have only read the collected novel or watched the movie. Reading the book as a serial was an entirely different experience. The movie was excellent but neglected nearly half of the story. Perception of the pacing changed reading that book in proper installments versus reading it as a whole. No, I won’t completely give up the new titles but I do spend more and more time in my back issue fun.

3 Responses
    • I’m somewhat less critical of older comics myself. Some of it, I’m sure, is nostalgic bias for past eras (I’ve got a soft spot for 1980s stuff myself), but I’m also more critical of current comics because we are at the point in the medium’s development where we should now expect, at the very least, more refined technique, craft, and formatting. 

      •  Does it ever seem like people hand drawing comics for scale wages were churning out more pages a day,  and arguably at the same or better quality, than computer assisted creators of today? I’m currently re-reading Jim Strenko’s run on Nick Fury. It is a comic page full of great vocabulary words and endless text boxes. It also has great art with an amazing amount of detail.

        Some days I think I just like text heavy, endless exposition of comics gone by. I hear a lot of “fans” busting the Chuck Dixon run of IDW Joes for being too talky but to me it  seems fine. Then again, I’m reading Dixon along side Fabien Nicieza and Mark Waid’s early !mpact dialogue work and not beside of some starkly minimalist modern scripting.

        • There’s no question that the common perception is that a lot of the artists working back in the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s could work prodigiously fast without sacrificing detail.

          Part of this is, as you hint at, a side-effect of the economic pressures of the day. There were more artists working in comics back then, and they were in fierce competition against each other for jobs that paid relatively low page rates. So not only did they have to produce more pages per week to make ends meet, those pages had to be able to stand up to what the other guys were making.

          But part of it too was the training. A lot of the Silver and Bronze Age artists generally regarded as the giants of the comics industry weren’t originally “trained” as comics artists. Guys like Steranko, Eisner, Wood, Redondo, Alcala, the elder Kubert, etc. had at least some degree of training in fine art illustration, so they had this store of knowledge of classical techniques and principles that they applied to their comics work. It may not have always been readily apparent in some of the more fantastical stuff, but it was there nonetheless. 

          By contrast, many of the comics artists today only learned to draw “from comics” and the weakness in their knowledge of the fundamentals of illustration and design becomes readily apparent when they’re asked to draw something that you don’t typically see in superhero comics or they’re asked to draw something that doesn’t involve people flying, punching, or blasting. I think it was former Marvel editor Jim Salicrup (don’t quote me on this, though, as my memory of the anecdote is spotty) who used to do this test whenever some hotshot young kid would come up to him with a portfolio full of musclebound superheroes and buxom women spilling out of their costumes and whatnot: He’d ask them to draw a baby in a pram. Or he’d ask them to draw a kitchen scene. Or some other everyday object or scenario. If they could draw those things decently enough, he’d take the kid’s portfolio and at the very least, review its contents and provide constructive criticism.  

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