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Comic Book Reader Fatigue Is Real, But Reversible

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Comic Book Reader Fatigue Is Real, But Reversible

If someone took a picture of my bedroom right now, they’d probably think I was either some tragic hoarder or that I was stockpiling materials to start a comic-based scrapbooking business. There are currently at least 4 piles of singles, all bagged and boarded, and a tiny mountain of paperbacks and hardcovers strewn across my floor, waiting to be read. And I can’t bring myself to read any of them.

I’ve been collecting comics regularly for about six years now, and the act of buying books every week is basically muscle memory at this point. In this six-year span, I’ve read a ton of books; some good, some great, and some throw-across-the-room terrible. Like clockwork, I always get my books on Wednesday or Thursday, give them a read, seal them up, and pack them away to be dealt with later. Unfortunately, I’ve hit a serious problem in the latter half of 2016: The books are starting to overpower me. Lately, I just can’t seem to find the energy to keep up with all of my pulls, and it makes me sad.

What makes this all the more frustrating is the fact that I currently sell them for a living, so I literally can’t escape them. Let me tell you, nothing will make you feel like more of a garbage comics fan than seeing Kamala Khan’s smiling face beaming up at you on a new issue of “Ms. Marvel” at your LCS when you’ve literally got a trade’s worth of singles at home.

I’ve been trying to suss out the reason for my comics fatigue, and after speaking with friends and customers alike, I have a few theories. First, and saddest, I’m probably burnt out. It’s a fair assessment. It’s like people that work in ice cream shops and end up hating ice cream; I love comics, but being around them almost every day can be a sensory overload.

Second, I’m bored with certain series. This might be the most realistic, since there are so many comics jockeying weekly to be Your New Fave, and 2016 was packed to the gills with amazing new books.

Third, my tastes have changed. I started out with indie books and gradually shifted to the supers, but this year has definitely brought me back to my roots. As someone that hates event titles with a passion, the endless parade of SUPER SPECIAL GROUNDBREAKING AMAZING TOTES UNIQUE events from the Big Two gave the superhero books on my pull list hell, so indie titles from publishers like Black Mask were an excellent palate cleanser.

Lastly, I just don’t have time. I know that attempting to read every single floppy that hits the rack each week is a Faustian dream, but even if I skipped that and just focused on the series I personally choose to follow, I feel like I would still need an entire weekend at least to read everything that I currently have. This just doesn’t work when you sling comics for a living and customers have questions about XYZ book. Simply put, if my knowledge is out of date, I can’t do my job.

So what do I do? How do I scale this mountain while avoiding dying in an avalanche of books? Much like with mountain climbing, you have to work from the ground up. The first thing to do is see exactly what the hell you’re subscribed to: Make a list, or a spreadsheet, check comiXology, talk to your friendly neighborhood comics bartender, or just dig into the pile and start sorting those suckers. Are they mostly ongoing titles, or miniseries? Superhero or indie titles? Be specific. This will give you a better idea of your taste trends and what you’re currently interested in. Once you know what you’re actually subscribed to, then comes the tricky part: Being real with yourself.

Y’know the saying “kill your darlings”? Get ready to figure out which comics get the axe and which get a stay of execution. Be ruthless, but above all, be honest: Does this book bring me joy like it used to, or do I keep putting it off while I read other titles? Has the book changed creative teams, and the new style/story just isn’t my jam? Do I love the main character, but not their current adventures? How many issues of this series have I purchased but haven’t read yet? When was the last time I was really excited to get a new issue of this title? What is my current budget for comics, and have I met or exceeded it with my last 3 purchases? Am I reading/buying this book because I love it, or so it won’t get cancelled like XYZ? Is there any chance that I will want to read this issue later, or will it go into storage? Do I have the space currently to hold all of my books? If I get rid of my books after I read them, do I usually give them away, or just chuck ‘em in the trash?

Once you’ve answered these kinds of questions, you can make notes on which ones are truly your current favorites. For all the rest, well, you have a few options.

If you’re like me and prefer to get single issues for some books and trades/hardcovers for others, the easiest option might be to just switch formats. I know for a fact that I have at least a trade’s worth of singles for three of my superhero books in my possession right now. This is dumb, and a potential fire trap, so I could easily switch over to trades going forward. Depending on how popular a book is, or if it’s ongoing, chances are good that a nice collected edition won’t be hard to find. As for the all the singles that you’ve collected so far, you can always give them away to countless literacy programs, school groups, children’s hospitals (as long as the books are all-ages friendly, of course), or just your friends and family. Some people have even taken to making their own personalized paperbacks and hardcovers by having their single issues professionally bound! Or, you can take all of the ones that you loved but know that you won’t read again and decorate a long box with eye-catching panels that will make you look forward to reading and storing your new streamlined pull list.

Ultimately, the thing to remember is that collecting comics is like tending to a garden: There are endless interesting types of flowers that you can plant in your flower (pull) box, but if you don’t keep tabs on them or prune them occasionally, they can grow too big and take over your whole house. My goal for 2017 is to clean out the comic clutter and get back to what made me start collecting in the first place: a good story that I can’t imagine skipping a single issue of.

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