Sunday, January 1, 2017

The challenges of collecting comics in 2017

The challenges of collecting comics in 2017
by rick olivares

Two days before the end of 2015, I purchased my last comic books for 2016 – a trade paperback of the Marvel Mangaverse (that came out years ago), Supergirl: Being Super, the Mercenary Sea #1 (second print), GI Joe #1, and Optimus Prime #1.

I loved the work Marvel did with its Manga-inspired line and getting the trade was an enjoyable experience all over again. I love manga having read it since I was a kid (Ultraman and Mazinger Z were the first ones I followed) and it was great seeing Marvel characters get the same treatment. I also loved the manga versions of Spider-Man and Batman so anything to do with this genre is something I’m greatly interested in.

I like Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones’ Supergirl. They focus on the girl and not the “super”. Love the book one. Let’s see how it fares from here on.

The Mercenary Sea was a short-lived series from Image Comics that I loved. They canceled it after a few issues. The issue I got was the second printing of the debut issue.

And lastly, the GI Joe and Optimus Prime first issues following the Revolution event. Interesting stories but the art was terrible. Made it hard for me to appreciate. Striking that off my pull list.

Now that last line’s interesting because it brings me to the state of my comic book collecting.

In the last five years, I have grown more and more disenchanted with how Marvel and DC publish their comics. I dislike their preponderance for event-driven stories that are done more for shock value and sales. They have harmed whatever great stories that were done before. This wave of diversity for the sake of diversity has been off-putting for me. Of course, there are still wondrous runs and darn good books in this day and age. However, here’s how I have coped and will continue to do so.

Collecting not because of the title but because of the creative team.
Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s Moon Knight. Yes, love it!

The moment they left? Dropped it. Came back when Jeff Lemire came on board. But should the Canadian wunderkind also move on then that’s it for me for this title.

That has been the case for me in the last five or six years. The days of picking up the title through thick or thin are long over. Now, I follow writers or certain artists where they go… well, most of the time.

Here are few…

After I first read Kurt Busiek on Marvels, I followed him to the Avengers, Astro City, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Shockrockets, and now, The Autumnlands.

When Jason Aaron began writing Thor: God of Thunder, I followed him to Doctor Strange, Southern Bastards, and The Goddamned.

Anything Alan Moore writes, I pick up. There was a time that anything Frank Miller wrote, I also picked up.

Anything Alex Ross co-plots and draws long term, I’m in.

More open to indies more than ever.
I think even when I first got into comic book collecting in the late 1970s, I have always tried out the independents. When I was in grade school, I got into the Elementals, Nexus, and the Rocketeer. So very early on, I had an appreciation for what Comico, Pacific Comics, Capital Comics, and First Comics were putting out. Image, particularly under the stewardship of Eric Stephenson and Robert Kirkman, kicked my love for indie fare into overdrive.

Indies provide more than alternative fare. They are usually produced by the creators for long-running sagas. Since Erik Larsen first published Savage Dragon in 1993, he’s kept at it. That’s what – 24 years running? Incredible. Although the title isn’t as popular as it once was.

The cosmic assassin Nexus was first published in 1981 by writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude. There have been a few issues where Rude didn’t illustrate the sci-fi character but they’re still at it (although to date they have published only slightly over a 100 issues with mini-series here and there).

Many titles have crossed over into pop culture consciousness. In fact, you might not even know that some of your fave films or television shows can trace their origins to comics.

The Walking Dead is probably the biggest one. However, people tend to rave more about the television series than the comics. And it’s the same with Hellboy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sin City and 300 have been massive hits in film and have also been critically lauded comic books. But 300 was a one-shot while Sin City was only good after two limited series.

Other popular titles that have been adapted include Judge Dredd, 30 Days of Night, Aliens vs. Predator, Ghost World, Road to Perdition, Persepolis, From Hell, The Crow, Timecop, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Heavy Metal, Kick Ass, The Mask, The Spirit, Tank Girl, V for Vendetta, and Wanted to name but a few.

There is no shortage of good indie comics books that are being optioned for screen adaptation. Look out for Saga and Descender to cite a pair of recent indie hits that are purportedly up for adaptation.

And lastly, just read what I love.
In the past three years, I have gotten back, purchased is the apt word, old comics. Stuff I read, collected, and loved as a kid and my early adult life.

I have lost much of my collection over time to various reasons – moving houses, my mom throwing them out, theft, my selling my collection when I thought that I was done with comics, flooding and fire (yes, talk about that double whammy), my moving abroad, and to improper care.

With my recent unhappiness surrounding the direction and storylines of titles I loved growing up, I decided to get the back issues and re-collect them.

Part of the thrill my younger days was “the hunt”. In the days before the comic specialty shop, one hunted down their fave titles by going to PX stores where they sold American items including magazines and comics sold by GIs. Or one went to the magazine stands that sold comics but rather infrequently. Even the rise of the specialty shops did not make it easier. It made it harder because everyone now went to them and many titles were in limited supply.

Now it’s hunting down those old titles. And it has made collecting fun for me. More so when I land them, the feeling I get when I hold them and read them is priceless. Some I get in trade or hardcover form. But not all. The maintenance of these huge volumes is a problem. For one, the glossy pages tend to stick together if they haven’t been opened for a long time. That destroys the book. So I also like having the originals. As for downloading, am not into that. I like my collections old school where I can took them, hold them, marvel at them, and display them.

I don’t have to like everything now so for my peace of mind and a healthier wallet, I just go with that basic tenet of comic book collecting – getting what you like.

Happy collecting in 2017!

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