The Safety Purchase

By | Monday, April 16, 2012 Leave a Comment
If you buy Batman every month, you generally have a decent idea of what to expect. That's not intended as a slam against the writers and artists of the book, by any means, but as a reader, you know that some crime will be committed and Batman will have to hunt down the perpetrator and bring him/her/it to justice. Batman looks a certain way, moves a certain way, talks a certain way... You may not know any of the specifics when you start reading, but you have an expectation of what you'll find in any given book based on its history. The creators' job is to make that as interesting as possible within the confines of the "rules" of a Batman story.

The same is true at a company level as well. Even if you've never read Iron Man, but you have read Captain America and Fantastic Four, you can make some reasonable assumptions of what Iron Man will be like. You might not know all the "rules" right off the bat, but your familiarity with other books from the same publisher will have set up the basic "rules" of the universe all of those characters inhabit.

Even a publisher that doesn't have a bunch of interconnected titles. Say, Dark Horse. You can expect a certain overall style or level of expertise based on their overall output. You could might well be able to give Umbrella Academy a shot because it's from the same people who gave the go-ahead for Hellboy and The Goon.

In that sense, a purchase made in that manner is relatively safe. Even if it's not the best issue of Green Lantern in a while, it's still probably going to meet most of your expectations. You might decide to try a few more issues to see if that particular one you bought was perfectly typical or not.

But go up and down the Artists' Alley at your next comic book convention. Many, if not most, of those comic creators are folks doing stuff you've never heard of. And aren't connected to anything you've ever heard of. And aren't even from a publisher you've ever heard of. In fact, there's a good chance that all you have to go on is whatever promotional material they've got sitting on their table and the quality of their sales pitch. Neither of which are necessarily good indicators of the quality of their comics.

So the question is: is it worth gambling your money on a book that might not be any good? Even if you did read a review of one the creators' works online before-hand, what about the dozens of other creators at the show? The illustrations might be good, and the guy standing behind the table might have a golden tongue, but what if the dialogue is crap? Or the storytelling is illegible? Or it's got a great premise and set-up, but a terrible ending? Those are things you often can't know unless you read the whole book, and the creator isn't likely to let you do that without buying it first! Is it worth gambling you money on that?


Let me reiterate that. Yes, it is worth gambling your money on a book you don't know much about at a comic convention.

Don't get me wrong. Some of what you buy will turn out to be garbage, and some will be mediocre. Some might be done well, but don't really grab you. There'll probably be only a handful that you'll wind up really happy to have discovered. But it's absolutely still worth that gamble.

Why? Because there's never been a comic so absolutely horrible that you couldn't get SOMEthing out of it. Even the ones that were just really poorly done all over provide the opportunity to study them to see what not to do or how things could've been done better. I have bought plenty of comics that I didn't like or thought were bad -- but I'm able to look at them and figure WHY they weren't done well, and what to look for the next time I'm in an Artists' Alley. Did I buy it expressly because of the person's sales pitch without really looking at the art? Did the illustrations remind me of another artist that I like? Did I purchase it based on the genre alone and, if so, what is it about the genre that I especially like and didn't find here?

And some of the books you find that way are real gems and make up for the other crap ones you had to sort through. It's such an incredible treat to find those, and I really cherish every one I discovered that way!
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