The Internal Conflict of a Print Comic Fan

I have a confession to make. It’s one that may surprise you.

I often think about not reading comics anymore.

It isn’t all comics, though. Just print, single-issue ones.

I’ve spent a lifetime as a fan of that format, with my days as a Wednesday Warrior starting at the age of 10 or so. Some of my favorite storytelling moments in any medium are rooted in single issues, all thanks to the expertise of the brilliant talents who create rhythms, command cadences, and control our emotions as readers within it.

Whether it was Fabian Nicieza and Andy Kubert using a page turn to tear Wolverine’s adamantium (and my heart) out in X-Men #25, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples destroying me with the closing pages of Saga #54, or any number of gut punches Zander Cannon delivered within Kaijumax’s run, my life is dotted with staggering moments of brilliance in that form. Ones where I cannot believe what I read thanks to how these fine folks delivered stories in that specific reading experience. For me as a reader, the single-issue format is the most powerful version of comics — if used correctly.

And yet, I regularly think about not reading single issues anymore.

To be honest, my internal conflict has very little to do with that format’s merits or even how it reads. 10 It’s everything that surrounds it and, more specifically, what happens after I close that final page. To demonstrate, here’s the process that follows the completion of reading a single issue.

  1. I put the just completed comic on a giant bookcase/nightstand next to my bed 11
  2. This happens every time I read an issue, and they continue to collect for a while, sometimes for months at a time
  3. Once they’ve reached a perilous, Jenga-like height that haunts me, I bag and board all of them
  4. Because of their number, this is an exhausting, unenjoyable process that takes hours
  5. Each gets put in a long box, with said long box then being put away on a bookcase

Once that process is complete, that’s the last I see of an average comic for a while, if not effectively forever. If I want to read something again, odds are I’m not going to drag out a long box to find those individual issues. I’m going to buy the collection or read it on Marvel Unlimited or DC Universe Infinite if said comic belongs to one of those universes. It’s just easier to do that and requires less searching and physical labor.

As much as I love the single-issue form, basically all I have for my decades of admiration is a massive collection of boxes that never ceases to swell. I’ve reached the point that I am legitimately out of room. So far, my best solution has been to create a more curated collection, one where I save my favorite titles — ones I’m trying to collect all of, like Uncanny X-Men (Vol. 1), or favorite titles I already have the entirety of, whether that’s something like Saga or Tom Peyer and Rags Morales’ terribly underrated Hourman run from the early 2000s — and then host deeply discounted garage sales to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The sole goal of those sales is to clear out the comics I don’t hold a strong affinity for so I can replace them with the new ones I’m buying. While a fair amount of the ones I’m willing to move on from are relics from my youth, including assorted issues of DP7 and Action Comics I feel little for, a shocking number have cover dates that range within the past few years as well. 12 The circle of comic book life can be a short one, and one that would drive your average financial advisor up the wall.

This endless loop brings up an important question, one that I often contemplate the answer to: What’s the value of something you store but don’t engage with, save for the desperate hope to get rid of it so you can free space for more of its brethren?

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  1. Although it’s a little of the latter.

  2. I almost exclusively read comics in bed.

  3. I’ve even had people at my garage sales find newer issues and ask, “Why are you selling this?” because they’re shocked to find it.

  4. Although it’s a little of the latter.

  5. I almost exclusively read comics in bed.

  6. I’ve even had people at my garage sales find newer issues and ask, “Why are you selling this?” because they’re shocked to find it.

  7. Both in terms of how stories are told within them and the physical production value, namely the paper quality.

  8. And if anything, I’m trying to reduce my screen time, not add to it.

  9. I could do a mix of both, but that’s sort of what I’m doing already, except with single issues included.

  10. Although it’s a little of the latter.

  11. I almost exclusively read comics in bed.

  12. I’ve even had people at my garage sales find newer issues and ask, “Why are you selling this?” because they’re shocked to find it.