How to Become a Better Comic Book Reader

I often tend to go overboard when something peaks my interest. My first instinct is usually to go out and find as much reading material as possible on the subject. For instance, when I started toying with the idea of learning about photography, I purchased over 20 books on the subject, from technical manuals to authorial collections. And all this before I had even bought a decent camera to shoot with! In the end, most of them just sat on my shelves, unread, taking up space and gathering dust.

I had the same instinct in 1986 when I rediscovered the joys of reading comics. I got it in my head that I had to purchase everything the very “helpful” comic book guy at my LCBS suggested. His arguments for acquiring these books always seemed reasonable to me. The two main justifications were that it was required reading if I was to completely follow a storyline (i.e. fear), or that a single issue was going to drastically increase in value in the near future (i.e. greed). Consequently, I bought a lot of stuff I have never taken out of its polybag and needlessly purchased copious amounts of (worthless) variant covers. A fool and his money are soon parted and I was a willing dupe.

I like to think that I have acquired a modicum of wisdom with the passing years. I am still as passionate about this medium as I ever was, but I’ve had to become a lot more discriminating in selecting my reading material. So here are some of the main guidelines I have adopted to help me determine which comics I will read :

1.  Find out what you like : this might seem to be obvious at first, but there are nuances. For instance, I might like Batman as a character, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to read every issue that showcases this beloved character. I would rather  pore over outstanding story lines or, better yet, delve into original standalone adventures by remarkable creative teams (ex. Batman : Year One and The Killing Joke come to mind, as well as the Batman : Black and White anthologies).

2. It’s OK to change your mind : pretty straight forward. If you don’t like what you read, stop reading it. Stop buying a title if it doesn’t do it for you any more. Just dump it and try something else.

3. Don’t be foolishly loyal to a title : by this, I mean that titles I once relished might fall out of favour with the passage of time. For instance, I have fond memories of reading Captain America as a kid, but that doesn’t mean I have to keep reading this title till my dying days if I am no longer interested in the character or have any affection for the genre. Tastes evolve and new ones are discovered. Variety is the spice of life!

Remember that these are my guidelines and that they work for me. So find out what works for you sot that you may utilize your limited time and budget wisely. But most importantly, keep reading!

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