Written by Joel T. Lewis
There are a lot of comics out there and honestly there’s a lot of quality storytelling going on between the pages of comic books these days. But with influx of Marvel Legacy titles (which will include the return of Moon Knight! Yay!), DC’s Dark Nights: Metal event, and the upcoming holiday season, the price of your pull-list can become too expensive to be sustainable. So as I try to reign in my Comic Budget I thought I might offer some tips to help make your own elimination process a little more bearable.
1. How quickly are you reading the comics you buy?
A good gauge for the value of a comic series is how long you take to read the newest issue once you’ve bought it. Chances are if you rush home from the shop and immediately read 2 or 3 of your comics because you physically cannot wait any longer, those are the titles that should stay on your pull-list. If you find that it's been a week and you haven’t gotten around to the bulk of your titles for the week, those are the ones to cut. Also, take note of the order that you read the titles on your pull-list in. I know that when I sit down with my stack of comics I stack the beginning and end of my reading order with the titles I like the most and the middle of the road ones end up in the middle. If you’re like me and end up reading your whole pull-list the second you make it home from the Bookshop, thinking about how long it takes you to read your comics might not help much, but your reading order might.
2. Which publishers do you want to support?
When I think about the comics that are important to me, the ones that I buy every month because I want to make sure they continue to be written, chances are those are not Marvel or DC titles. I try to remember that nobody’s ever going to stop putting out Batman, Iron Man, or Spider-Man titles. That is to say that for the more popular heroes and publishers, the revenue from my pull-list isn’t going to be the difference between the next arc and cancellation. When I look at the smaller publishers like Boom Studios, IDW, and Dynamite Comics those are the titles that hurt when you drop a series. That’s not to say that you should continue reading a series you don’t like just because it’s from a smaller publisher, but I like supporting the underdogs, especially when they produce quality stories.
3. Do you like the whole creative team?
While I think that good writing can overcome a visual art style that doesn’t appeal to you and that good artwork can make a bland story bearable, it can be helpful to think about things you might be powering through with a certain book. Don’t feel like you have to endure a story you’re not enjoying to support an artist you like and vice versa.
4. How long is the series and how long is the current arc?
Usually when I’m deciding whether or not to continue a series these factors play a huge part in my final decision. Using finite benchmarks like an individual story arc to establish a good stopping point is a great way to give a series a last chance to convince you to continue without breaking the bank with an endless commitment. Also, giving yourself till the end of the arc to decide allows you to leave the series with a bit of closure (at least narratively speaking). When you’re on the fence about continuing a mini-series (which has happened to me at least 4 times this last year) remember that because of the limited number of issues, a mini-series is easier on the wallet if you want to endure till the end but also they are usually pretty self-contained and won’t have a huge impact on the greater comic book universe if you decide to give them a miss. I’ve found that 2 issues into a mini-series you get a pretty good indication of whether you’re going to enjoy the rest of the run.
5. There’s no shame in waiting for the trade.
While there is something to be said for following a series month to month and running out to get the new issue, $2.99 twice a month, or $3.99 - $4.99 a month can add up when you’re reading a lot of different series. I will always be pro-Trade Paperback. Even at full cover price, Trades are a frugal option for the avid comic book reader, that group multiple issues together at a price that works out far cheaper per issue than following monthly. Trades are great! They give you a full arc all at once, they don’t have any ads, they’re perfect for lending out to a friend, and they look great on a shelf. Waiting for Trades to be released also allows you to get a sense of the popularity of series, reading reviews and steering clear of spoilers as best you can, before picking up a series if that’s the way you buy comics. I sometimes get hung up on the cover price of Trades because they make your trips to the comic shop more expensive, but I have to remind myself that buying comics this way reduces how often I visit the comic shop. Also, Image Comics in particular are very good at making the first volume of most of their trades really reasonable, usually $9.99, which works out to less than two bucks an issue (depending on the length of the run)!
6. Marvel Unlimited
Honestly, I can’t really find a way to justify buying any Marvel series month to month when Marvel Unlimited will let you read any comic they publish for ten bucks a month. But when considering Marvel Unlimited the name of the game is patience. Marvel Unlimited will allow you to read every issue that hits the shelves digitally, provided you can wait six months after they’ve been released. Now half a year is a long time to wait to start a series you know you want to read, but the value of being able to pick and choose among every series that Marvel released on that day 6 months ago, and having a huge chunk of the Marvel back-catalogue at your disposal in the meantime is a pretty compelling argument for sucking it up and waiting. Marvel Unlimited is a really cost-effective way to read comics especially when it comes to Marvel titles that you’re on the fence about.
Remember, comics are awesome and collecting them is a great hobby but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Are there any titles you’re on the fence about? Do you have any elimination strategies that I didn’t mention? Please comment below or tweet me @JoelT18 on Twitter. I’d love to hear your input! Until next time, Geek On!