I was putting away my copy of Uncanny X-Men 472 last night before bed and I thought to myself, “Why am I still reading this garbage?” It’s not that the story was particularly terrible, it’s just that I didn’t care about anything that happened. So yeah, maybe it was terrible. (I’ll admit that I bought the issue because I love Chris Bachalo’s art, and believe me, he didn’t disappoint, but comics are so much more than the art. Well, they should be anyway.)
So naturally I began to wonder, “Am I still reading comics because of the collector’s mentality, or am I actually getting something out of my monthly habit?” Don’t get me wrong, there are some great monthlies out there. Anything Ed Brubaker or Gail Simone or Brian K. Vaughan write is sure to be fantastic. But a lot of the other stuff I buy makes me feel like I’m just going through the motions. Reading the solicitations in Previews and placing an order is more fun than actually reading the books. Hell, putting ‘em in mylar bags and organizing them in my comic boxes is more fun half the time.
I can’t remember the last time I messed myself because a comic was so powerful I couldn’t contain myself. Novels and nonfiction manage to knock my socks off from time to time, but should I expect a similar experience from comics? There are gems out there; I know because I’ve read plenty. So whenever I read a comic that isn’t at that level, a small part of me screams out in pain. I know I can’t expect every issue to be top of the line, but when you’re reading 20 comics a month, a few of them should attain perfection, right?
If I search myself for the truth about why I’m still buying these things, I find two interesting answers hidden under the surface. First, there’s the natural worry that the issue I don’t get is the one that everyone loves. It’s the perfect comic. Not only is it a great read, but its values go through the roof on the secondary market.
In comparison, the second answer I give myself seems to be less important, but the more I evaluate, the more I see that it’s the real motivating factor for why I continue to collect modern comics: I can’t stand the thought of having an incomplete run of any series. The moment I start buying a series, I have to keep buying because once I stop, I’ll no longer have a full, complete set.
Those non-collectors out there might question my sanity. “Let me get this straight. You’re reading comics you don’t particularly enjoy just because you’re worried that if you don’t read it, it’ll be a good story. Or that you won’t have a complete set anymore. Is that right?”
Yep. Crazy, huh? Writing that down makes me realize just how idiotic it all sounds. But it’s true. And when you combine these two aspects of my thought process, they become so overpowering it’s almost crippling. As a matter of fact, my brain is shutting down right now. It’s almost as if thinking on this as much as I have actually triggered a safety mechanism that shuts down my mind so I can’t discover the truth.
Unfortunately, I’ve been here before, and obviously, since I’m still having this inner dialog, I didn’t do anything about it. Maybe now’s time to change that.