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The Re-Reader’s Conundrum

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
The Re-Reader’s Conundrum

Get pumped! Get psyched! Get ready and get showered, because San Diego Comic-Con is almost here! Aw, yeah! If you’re the type of FACE JAMMER that reads these entries right as they’re posted, then know that — barring some unexpected turn of events — I’m currently on a flight from New York City to Atlanta to catch a connecting flight to San Diego. I guess I could also plug my Twitter right now, where you’ll be able to find out if any unexpected plan-altering things have occurred, or — knowing every airport’s preferred choice of TV channel — you’ll get my thoughts on the comparative hotness of CNN’s news anchors to MSNBC’s. No one comes close to touching MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, a crush I actually think I discovered during my flight to SDCC last year. Okay, I’m really getting off the vaguely defined track I have in mind for this piece, but that’s what happens when I start thinking about bespectacled news anchors!

To prep for my cross country flight, I’ve loaded up my iPad with a lot of TV shows and a lot of comics. I’m also going to grab one of those ridiculous neck pillow cushion things, because I’m not messing around this time. Potential neck pain aside, I really do think I enjoy traveling more than a lot of my peers. If you think I’m lying, please know that my boyfriend and I make annual trips to St. Louis from NYC by car and I look forward to it every year. Yeah, that’s 20-ish hours in a car in one day, and that’s a lifetime highlight for me. I just love being in transit; I love that I will not be expected to do anything but read comics and watch TV for over a dozen hours in the next few days. I like the peace of it.

This time around, I have a mission. I’m going to re-read Chris Claremont’s “Uncanny X-Men” run — at least as much of it as I can. I’ve got a decent stretch of issues on Graymalkin (that’s what my iPad is named, in case you were wondering how deep my love of X-Force ran) and I plan on plowing through them starting with “Giant-Size X-Men” #1. I’m doing this because I recently realized that I have not read big, big chunks of Claremont’s X-Men run since 2006. Yeah, it was eight years ago when I received the “Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 1” and set about reading the entire X-Men saga — spinoff titles and all — from 1975 to the present day. In the past eight years I’ve made it all the way up to 1993. I’ve moved across the country, gone through nearly a dozen jobs, and lived in a half dozen different places since I started that massive re-read. When I last read “Uncanny X-Men” #94 — the rebirth of the franchise in 1975 — George W. Bush was president, Marvel Studios had yet to make a single film, and Beyonce topped the charts. Okay, that last one just illustrates Queen Bey’s staying power. The biggest change since 2006: all the comics in that massive hardcover now fit on a device called an “iPad.”

How often do you re-read comics? Do you re-read them with the same frequency that you re-watch TV shows or movies? I just finished watching the entirety of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” for the second time in as many years, and I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I don’t like that show more than “Uncanny X-Men.” I return to television shows on the reg, but I have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for the new when it comes to comics. I don’t re-read; I read.

Perhaps that’s because I can effortlessly put a TV show on in the background. I re-watched “Seinfeld” episodes last night, but I did so while focusing my attention on ironing my new Bonobos shorts for San Diego Comic Con. I now realize that if anyone ever wants to boil me down into one sentence, it’s the one I just put in this article. Thank you, Comic Book Resources, good night!

You can’t passively read a comic. You have to focus. You can’t read a comic and do chores. You can’t read a comic and prepare dinner. You can’t read a comic while getting into Twitter fights over pedantic semantics. I have done all of those things while watching the “Bob’s Burgers” episode “Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks.” When I sit down to read comics, lately a thing that happens only once a week, I tend to focus on the new stuff and forget revisiting the comics that I love.

This hasn’t always been the case. In simpler times (I’m 30 now, so I get to legitimately use phrases like “in simpler times”!) I would re-read my favorite runs on a yearly basis. My “Uncanny X-Men: From the Ashes” trade paperback has considerable wear because, at least once a year, I would lug it around with me as I re-read it. If you want to know why I love 90s “X-Force” so much, it’s because I would re-read my entire stack of back issues as I filled in holes in my run. I would read the entire thing — from Liefeld to (at the time) Loeb — in long, uninterrupted sittings. My affection for both of those storylines and for all of those characters no doubt stems from the amount of time I spent re-reading them as a kid and teenager.

I wonder now — is re-reading an essential part of how I relate to comics? If so, am I doing myself a massive disservice by reading all of these comics once and then either filing them away on my shelf or sending them off into The Cloud? The older I get, the harder it is for me to retain all the information contained within all the ongoing series I try to keep up with week-to-week. I used to never read recap pages, and now I find myself leaning on them so much that I wish DC would start using them. I wonder if re-reading newer issues would help me form attachments to series that are currently unfolding? Can I discover a new run that I love as much as “From the Ashes”?

I don’t think I’m going to find answers to those questions any time soon. I’m firmly entrenched in my comic book buying habits, even if I wouldn’t mind prioritizing falling back in love with older comics a little above the “gotta read ’em all” mentality of the weekly comic game. Something to keep in mind, and I also would love to know how other people handle a re-read to read ratio. Are there comics you re-read regularly? Do you even have time to re-read comics? Have you given up new things entirely and only focus on re-reading? What’s going on? Let me know what you think on Twitter. I’m most likely waiting in an airport right now, and I’m sure I’ll be checking my phone a lot in between getting reacquainted with my old friends Storm and Nightcrawler.

Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts Matt & Brett Love Comics, writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio, and makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).

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