There Are Too Many Comics

By | Tuesday, May 22, 2012 6 comments
I like comics. A lot. I read comics. A lot of them. But I've officially come to the conclusion that there are too many of them.

The conference I attended this past week (and I'll get to a more formal review/summary of that later) was attended by many notable comics luminaries. Very talented people who have been making comics for years -- at 40, Chris Ware was the youngest participant -- and have been lauded by any number of groups over the years. All of them had names that were easily recognizable, from Robert Crumb to Art Spiegelman to Lynda Barry to Joe Sacco to Alison Bechdel. And, geez, even the audience members who were NOT on stage included the likes of Jessica Abel and Gary Groth!

While the general works that these exceptionally talented folks have done was known to me, I have to admit that the vast majority of it I have not read. Maus? Sure. Zap Comix? Yeah. Palestine? Yes. But the vast majority of their collective work? No. Jimmy Corrigan? No. Fun Home. Missed it. David Boring? Sounds good, but no. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary? Don't think I've even seen it before this weekend. Nothing against the creators by any means; I just haven't gotten to everything I'd like to read.

While the creators were on stage talking, there were pages and panels from their various works displaying on a large screen behind them. It was immediately obvious that the works were very well done -- even the snippets of things I hadn't seen before were clearly well done and worth reading in their entirety. And, if that weren't enough, there was plenty of cross-referencing done by the various creators, talking about how each others' works inspired them to do more or challenged them to push their own limits.

And, to really hammer the point home, there were a couple tables set up with copies of many of these works on them. Just flipping through them was an amazing experience to see all of that skill on display in such a small area. I quickly racked up a good sized wish list of books that I want to really look at now.

But we're talking about the works of exactly seventeen people. They don't have the market on good comics cornered. They don't have the market on good comics published in America cornered. They don't even have the market on good independent comics published in America in the past few decades cornered.

I try not to waste my time with bad comics. I accidentally pick up some stinkers from time to time, but I like to think that most of what I read is good. But that has yet to include many almost-universally-hailed-as-great comics. In large part because I don't have the money to buy all the books I want or the time to read them all even if I could afford to. Before heading to this conference, I had over $100 of comics in my cart over at Amazon, plus another $50 worth in my "save for later" category. Plus another $100-$150 or so on my wishlist. That was before this weekend; it didn't include any works by any of the creators I saw. And I'm barely even scratching the surface on American comics!

Anyone want to provide me a fellowship where I could sit and read comics all day without having to pay for them all?
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Tyler James said...

How's your local library?

Mine has an OUTSTANDING graphic novel section.

While I get your broader point, I feel like this is a good thing.

And I don't think you'd every say, there are too many songs, or too many movies, or too many novels out there.

This is probably the comic collector mentality creeping in for you...we, by nature, are completists. We want the whole story...and the realization that there are hundreds or thousands of great works we haven't read, and likely will never get around to reading...well, that's probably one of the things that keeps us going back to the comic shops and conventions.

And now you can get emails from people saying you don't have any right to talk about comics because you haven't read Book X. I LOVE getting those emails. Heck, I got one once when I mentioned I was in the middle of reading such a work -- I was still automatically discredited for not having read it twenty years ago, I guess.

But, yeah, there are too many comics. And I bet you have a couple boxes' worth of books you've bought already and still haven't read, don't you? Comics are a sickness, though quite a beautiful one. ;-)

@Tyler - Obtaining them isn't nearly as much a problem as having the time to read them all. Much of what I don't buy is because I know I won't have time to read them, not that I can't afford them. To Augie's point, I have a number of books stacked up already (some of them for a few years) that I haven't read yet.

@Augie - Oh, and let's not forget that I can't judge superhero books because I'm an indie guy. Or that I can't judge print comics because I'm a webcomic guy. Or whatever. *sigh * But your bet would be a good one -- I have at least a couple boxes of unread material! It's a beautiful sickness, indeed! :)

Matt K said...

I will take all this as at least some partial corroboration of my "Golden Age" proposition. :-)

@Chris_DFS said...

Ha-Ha-Ha! Try going to TCAF! I came with a couple hundred bucks and was still discovering new tables after the well had run dry. An embarrassment of riches is what we have. And just look at that list you have on the right!
The reaL SHAME is that comics are viewed as guys in tights hitting each other.

I agree, when I tell people about what I'm writing or trying to promote my comic. I always get people comparing pieces of my stuff to things I've never heard of before. But that's not going to stop me from getting the story told. Aceblade: Vigilante Complex is original to me, I've never read anything exactly like it but it does include a lot of popular conflicts.