On Top of the World

Well behaved women rarely make history.

The Sociology of Comic Books?

Twitter discussion has me curious. If you consider yourself a comic book fan and/or reader, please take a moment to answer the following questions for me. Say as much or as little as you’d like, in comments or by email (anika.milik@gmail.com). This is unscientific, there are no right or wrong answers or ways to interpret the questions.

Why do you read comics, generally? For the characters, the creators, the brand, the genre? Escapism? Fantasy? Boredom? Habit?

How do you read comics, generally? Do you get titles the day they are out? Do you prefer trades? Do you read digitally? Do you have a pull list? Do you get subscriptions delivered? If you buy them all Wednesday, when are you done reading them?

Why do you read comics, specifically? Do you follow a certain character, team, author, artist, brand, genre, what, anything?

What do you want in your favorite comic(s)? Action, drama, suspense, intelligence, romance, pretty art, a individual story arc, a main event, character growth, characterization, escapism, fantasy, someone to relate to, heroes being heroes, political statements, psychosocial impact, what?

What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)?

Any and all welcome. Thank you!

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10 Comments»

  Allen (HoukiBoshiTachi) wrote @

Hmm…

1. I read comics because I love living in someone else’s world for a while (so, escapism!). This is one of the major factors of why I read ANYTHING at all for that matter, though separate from literature because comics stimulate my imagination much more than they stimulate me intellectually. I’ve always been a fan of the Big Two, and when I have the money, I figure, “Why the hell not?”. Comics read like history books to me. Reading a new issue is like seeing history in action (so to speak).

2. I pick up favorite titles from comic book stores every Wednesday and read them in my room. Though it doesn’t take long to read them, this is part of my down time. If I’m particularly invested or interested in TPB’s, I buy them.

3. Specifically, I like seeing the heroes (I pretty much only read superhero comics) in action and what they’re up to, but also their humanity and frailty. Yea, I consider most heroes to be 30 and 40 somethings so I can’t always relate, but I like knowing that they’re human. Reading Young Avengers helps, too.

4. To be completely honest, I would not mind minimal backstory and dialogue in order to make room for badass fight scenes. War of the Marvels last year really had me going because of more action in a couple of issues. Yet, for any story I’ve read and loved, I admired the storytelling. Comics are very visual to me, but I know and believe that the storytelling is key. Also, I want diversity. Real diversity. I’m black and gay; who do I have? I have Black Lightning, Black Panther, and Vixen on one hand and Northstar and Wiccan (I do love them) on another. I’d like to see a real change in the faces of superheroes and comics alike. I don’t want to have a superhero representative of a minority, but one who is one part of a greater whole (if that isn’t confusing…)

5. I don’t want lame-ass excuses or overly complicated and drawn out plot devices. I’m happy Steve Rogers is back and I can’t wait for Jean Grey and Bruce Wayne to return, but in the case of Steve, and probably Bruce and Jean in the future, I feel like we as readers have to accept a bullshit story in a character’s resurrection. Comic readers aren’t stupid, and I, as one, don’t like to be treated as such.

  Jason wrote @

Why do you read comics? Mostly these days I read comics for the creators. I’ll generally follow writers whose work I enjoy to just about any book they go to. Artists, not so much, except for a rare few, but those artists generally pair with writers who I enjoy, or are writer/artists. Overall, though, I can’t really explain why I like comics. Part of it is habit, I’m sure. I’ve been reading them regularly since I was 12 (gah! 23 years ago), and I can’t imagine a week going by without a trip to the shop.

How do you read comics? Usually I get trades, however, I have a few titles on my pull list, mostly ones that are low-readership so they need every purchase they can get and also ones that come out so rarely that I’ll be old and gray before the collection hits. I order both on-line and make weekly visits to my shop, partly because I like both the staff and the clientele and enjoy stopping in for an hour of conversation every week.

Why do you read comics, specifically? I really don”t know why, I mean, I enjoy the crime genre in general, so the work of Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker are right up my alley. But I still enjoy reading things I remember enjoying from childhood, I mean, 12 year-old me would have been over the moon with a Guardians of the galaxy book featuring Rocket freaking Raccoon.

What do you want in your favorite comics? Obviously I want a good story and good-looking art, but mostly I want the comic to mean something. That’s not to say I was BIG CHANGES every issue, but I want it to make me feel something, be it happiness, sadness, or just make me remember the days of my youth. I want to feel like the creators are trying and that they actually care about the work they are putting out.

What do you not want in your favorite comics? For the characters to be written out of character. I don’t want Batman to be approving for torture or Reed Richards to be arguing for a superhuman registration law that he so eloquently argued against back in my youth (thank you Walt Simonson). I don’t want human anatomy to look like the fever dreams of a 14 year-old boy who has only had a woman described to him before. I don’t want “events”, I want stories with a beginning, a middle and an end that leaves me feeling like I actually spent my money wisely. I don’t want to feel like the creator is laughing at his audience or simply not caring at all about the work he or she is doing.

Thanks for this, these are things I don’t usually take the time to think about and it was an interesting exercise.

  Wally East wrote @

1. I read comics because they’re fun. It’s escapist.

2. I have a monthly subscription service, so I get them on the first Monday or Tuesday after the last Wednesday of the month. (Very occasionally, I’ll deem a comic so important that I have to read it the day it comes out so I can talk about it online.) I then read a couple books every day or so and spread the shipment out over the month.

3. I read comics because I love The Flash and Superman and Wonder Woman and Batman and the Green Lanterns. I like seeing them use their various powers and defeat evil. I like watching them interact and grow.

4. I want well-told stories with great art. I’m open to a well-told story including humor, but it doesn’t have to. I like it to be intelligent and dramatic. I enjoy stories that develop characterization but I understand this can’t happen in every issue. I enjoy longer, multi-issue story arcs also enjoy single-issue stories, too.

5. What I don’t want in my comics:

* gratuitous use of the female anatomy in the art
* gratuitous violence against women
* writing that insults the reader
* lazy writing
* ignoring well-known continuity
* mistakes in the art (wrong coloring for a costume, for example)
* ignoring previous characterization development without explanation
* my favorite characters just shuffled aside as a new/old character is moved front and center (such as with Wally West and Barry Allen’s return)

  Tamar bat Avraham wrote @

–Why do you read comics, generally?
For the same reason I read books: I like the stories and the characters and new worlds. So, escapism I guess.

–How do you read comics, generally?
I prefer trades because they’re more durable and cost effective. I also hate waiting for the next part of a story. I’d rather wait till something is done/near done before I start it so I don’t have to wait on sequels/issues to come out. I got a subscription to Marvel Online so that I could read older stuff in a more cost effective manner than buying each trade. That said, there are certain comics that I really love and still want to own a hard copy of.

–Why do you read comics, specifically?
I have certain characters who I will read anything to read about them (X-23!!), as well as certain writers or artists who will definitely get me to read something I might not otherwise (Choi/Oback, Gail Simone). I will give just about anything a chance, though, if someone recommends it or it catches my eye.

–What do you want in your favorite comic(s)?
I want a good solid story. It doesn’t have to be any TYPE of story in particular (Action, Romance, Sci-fi) as long as it’s believable within the constraints of its universe. For me a good story includes things like character development and heroics (large and small) and whatnot that you mentioned.

–What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)?
All those nasty -isms. Sexism, Racism, Ableism… both in the story and the art, characters acting in ways that are entirely counter to the established character history (unless there’s a darn good reason for it), bad art.

(For the record I’m a white, lower middle-class, straightish, cis female, living in the US)

  xenokattz wrote @

Why do you read comics, generally?
— Tradition. 😀 I’m 3rd generation comicbook reader one my dad’s side & almost all my boy cousins (I have very many cousins) read comics so growing up in an environment that encouraged any and all reading, comics were just one section of the bookshelves. I also grew up with a lot of artists/art lovers so the actual pretty, pretty pictures appealed to me growing up. Now as a “grown-up” *cough* I read them because I love the characters, the storylines and the art. They’re one of the best types of fiction. Relatedly, I use the art as a way to further my own illustrative practice.

How do you read comics, generally?
— I’ve had saver files since I started my personal collection at age 12. I try to empty that out at least once a month. I used to designate that day New-Comicbook-Reading day but now due to school, work & the sheer number of titles I’ve found I’ve had to designate 1 weekend every 2 months to catch up. I… am never caught up.
I also have some digital files for titles that I think I might like. Because I’ve put myself on a budget, I want to make sure I really want a new title/character/artist/writer before I commit myself to replacing something in my list or adding to it (and thus spending more)

Why do you read comics, specifically?
— I may have answered this in the first question. *L* I follow primarily characters. I will buy anything that heavily features Gambit, Rogue, Cyclops, Superman, Superboy II and Blue Beetle III. If I have anything leftover in the budget, I start pulling things from the shelves written or drawn by my favourite authors or artists.

What do you want in your favorite comic(s)?
I’m pretty easy to please. As long as it has my favourite characters and/or I like the drawing style, I’m going to like the issue. If a character I like is written in a way I dislike, my philosophy is “It’ll get retconned eventually.” That said, I LOVE kick-ass women (Rogue, Lois Lane) and non-stereotypical portrayals of characters of colour (Blue Beetle III) or BOTH. Probably due to the fact that I’m a non-Caucasian woman. I get all excited when my reality is portrayed in fiction.
Artistically, I love detail & distinctive styles: Jim Lee (who was so awesome everyone started drawing like him. ;)), Bill Sienkiewicz, Francis Manapul, JH Williams III, Colleen Coover, Ming Doyle, & Skottie Young just to name a few.

What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)?
Women with 48DDD busts, 18″ waists & 40″ hips. Female characters who are “the girlfriend.”

  Ashley Lynch wrote @

1. As a writer, I love soaking up new story ideas and styles, and every time I find something really good, it only inspires me to create more. Comics are just one artform that fuels me.

2. I haven’t gone on a weekly comics buy in a long, long time. Mostly I think there was a lack of quality around the late 90s and too high of a cover price. Now I find myself going back for some titles and I like trades. I also like having them digitally as I’m trying to use up as little paper as possible

3. These days I look for recommendations. The books that interest me most are for the writing first, and the artwork second. But I’m always looking for a comic to show me something new.

4. I want it to give me a reason to read it. Hook me and keep me hooked. This comes through interesting characters and situations. I also like comics to take advantage of the medium like other artforms can’t. If there’s nothing happening in a comic that wouldn’t see in a one hour drama on television, I end up wondering why I’m reading it in a comic. The still panel nature of comics is a great arena to have implied action and still develop story without breaking that flow.

5. Unoriginality. I think the same is true for every artform. Either show me something I’ve never seen or do something familiar but do it better than I’ve seen it before.

  handyhunter wrote @

Why do you read comics, generally? For the characters, the creators, the brand, the genre? Escapism? Fantasy? Boredom? Habit?

All of the above!

How do you read comics, generally?

I read comics the same way I watch TV. Some of it – especially older stories – I read in trades, like watching DVDs. If I don’t want to wait for the next collected volume to come out (or forget to cancel a subscription), I read the single issues.

Why do you read comics, specifically? Do you follow a certain character, team, author, artist, brand, genre, what, anything?

I think I mostly follow certain comics fans’ conversations/recommendations. Which has led to me discovering writers and stories and artwork I really like, but even then, I don’t often venture into their other work unless I see it discussed or recommended somewhere first. Sometimes it’s because I wouldn’t have known the story existed or the creators have a lot of stories to choose from.

What do you want in your favorite comic(s)?

A story I fall in love with and that holds up to critical analysis. I’ll take characterization over plot, but if I can have both, that’s even better. Women. Men of colour. In leading roles, with awesome character development. Real diversity. Artwork I can follow. Scott Summers being a good leader. Accessible to new readers, if there is an extensive and convoluted backstory. Continuity. Basically the same things I want in other stories, plus pictures!

What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)?

Tokenism, stereotypes, lack of women or men of colour, faily creators, Scott Summers being a bad leader, ugly or incomprehensible art, cancellations of stories I like, “*see [issue of a series I’m not reading]”.

  Jo wrote @

1. Why do you read comics, generally? – The characters. Plus, my Dad introduced me to comics when I was 5 years old and I’ve never really stopped reading them.

2. How do you read comics, generally? – I’ve got a small pull list, but I’ll buy a couple issues here and there if I’ve heard good stuff about it.

3. Why do you read comics, specifically? – I follow certain writers or artists and stay away from certain writers or artists – example? I am not collecting “Batman & Robin” because of who is writing it. I don’t care what people say about it; I read a few issues and only like the Dick Grayson parts. Sometimes. I also tend to prefer DC over Marvel — the only exception is an X-Men title that involves Scott/Emma.

4. What do you want in your favorite comic(s)? – I like star-crossed lovers who are also superheroes. I like characters who are heroes, but have ordinary lives (see Peter & MJ as a married couple, with him as Spidey and with her as a non-powered person, struggling to have a normal marriage)… or see Roy, the ladies man, struggling to be a single dad. I like humor and angst, which is probably why Nightwing is one of my favorite characters. And I like powerful female characters who are also hot – why can’t they be both?

5. What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)? – RETCONS. Changing the characterization of one of my favorites so much that I barely recognize them anymore, or it doesn’t make sense. BAD ART — I can put up with bad writing as long as the art is pretty, but not vice-versa. Bringing Jean Grey back from the dead (or any other recently killed character like Kitty Pryde, simply because it’s too soon and it makes her sacrifice seem insignificant). I don’t want Claremont writing, because it seems like he forgot how. Breaking up my favorite couples just because the writing is lazy.

  Esther wrote @

Why do you read comics, generally?
Escapism, good characterization, and a good story.

How do you read comics, generally? I actually skim them when there in the comic book store. If there’s any ditially that I can pull off from online then I read them that way.

Why do you read comics, specifically? Do you follow a certain character, team, author, artist, brand, genre, what, anything?

I read them to relate to the characters,story etc.. I’ve read Peter David’s stuff . Sterling Gate’s work.Ron Friends, Brian Micheal Bendis, too.

What do you want in your favorite comic(s)? Action, drama, suspense, intelligence, romance, pretty art, a individual story arc, a main event, character growth, characterization, escapism, fantasy, someone to relate to, heroes being heroes, political statements, psychosocial impact, what? All of the above!

What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)?

For women to expolioted.

  Esther wrote @

Needed to edit. ^_^

Why do you read comics, generally?
Escapism, good characterization, and a good story.

How do you read comics, generally? I actually skim them when they’re in the comic book store. If there’s any digitially that I can pull off from online then I read them that way.

Why do you read comics, specifically? Do you follow a certain character, team, author, artist, brand, genre, what, anything?

I read them to relate to the characters,story etc.. I’ve read Peter David’s stuff . Sterling Gate’s work.Ron Friends, Brian Micheal Bendis, too.

What do you want in your favorite comic(s)? Action, drama, suspense, intelligence, romance, pretty art, a individual story arc, a main event, character growth, characterization, escapism, fantasy, someone to relate to, heroes being heroes, political statements, psychosocial impact, what? All of the above!

What do you not want in your favorite comic(s)?

For women to expolioted.


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