The comics industry has always recognized that they need new readers to keep the business going. After all, those of us who have been reading comics for decades aren’t always going to be here to make our weekly jaunts to the local comics shop, as sad as it is to point that out.
It wasn’t all that long ago that DC launched the New 52 and Marvel began Marvel NOW in order to create places where fans who haven’t been reading their books for a long time could find a “jumping on” point and give comics a shot.
The bad news is that every “jumping on” point can also be a “jumping off” point as well. As one person unhappy with the New 52 wrote online, “I’ve invested in DC comics for 30 years, and now they’re completely scrapping all that continuity. I’m so mad that I’m not going to buy DC’s New 52 at all!”
It used to be a staple that the majority of comics fans left and a new group came on every 6 years or so. I don’t think that applies any longer since many of us have been reading for decades and younger people are more into video games.
While both the New 52 and Marvel NOW were successful in attracting many new readers, what about us “old” readers who have been faithful to comics for so many years? What happens to us?
HERE A CRISIS, THERE A CRISIS, EVERYWHERE A CRISIS CRISIS
There are two things to remember if you’re a long-term comics fan. First, every so often, DC has shaken up their continuity with a “Crisis.” This harkens back to the early days of the Justice League of America, who used to crossover with the Justice Society of America on Earth-2 once a year, and it would be called “Crisis on Earth One,” “Crisis on Earth Two” and so on. Crisis on Infinite Earths was an attempt to compress the multiple universes in DC to make it streamlined enough for new readers. It was somewhat successful, but every so often, DC has made changes to its product. I’m used to it by now. (After Infinite Crisis, I don’t think we’ll see this again – at least, not for a while.)
Also, all comics fans should realize that many times new creative teams go in a very different direction from their predecessors, often disregarding or even contradicting continuity that existed before.
A lot of fans have told me that with Marvel, if you don’t know the X-Men continuity for the last 30 or 40 years, you won’t “get” what’s going on now. Sometimes real life gets in the way of comics, so if you have to take a break for a while, it can be really confusing when you try to pick up X-Men again.
For me, what matters is a good story. I often think continuity impedes rather than helps a comic, but I do understand the desire to build on what’s gone before. Marvel faced this problem with their Ultimate line and had to reboot it not too long ago. Rumor has it that it may be going away at the end of the Infinity event, but we’ll see.
SO, WHAT ABOUT US “SEASONED” READERS?
There are several things those of us who have enjoyed comics for long periods of our lives can do.
- Reminisce about the stories we loved so much!This can involve pulling out old issues and re-reading them. After time, we tend to forget some of the details, so refreshing our memories can be fun. For example, I often pull out the hardcover of Grant Morrison’s first JLA storyline to read how Batman outsmarted the White Martians.
- Buy recently released collected editions that have issues we’ve lost over time. It never fails – families love to clean out the closets, and often the first things to go are comics! I’ve also thrown out books by mistake, then grieved when I realized it later on. Hardcovers or even trades can help restore those memories.
- Purchase comics that still are true to that continuity.I know it’s hard to believe, but some books weren’t affected by recent reboots. For instance, an online friend of mine has been talking about how glad he was that Astro City by Kurt Busiek came back with new content.
Also, DC produces digital-first comics that appear on store shelves a short period of time after they arrive at comiXology. There are daily releases these days, and they feature Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and many others. That’s new reading every day
But the granddaddy of them all was Batman ’66, which told new stories from the Bright Knight Adam West’s days. I used to buy the digital first version that came out on Wednesdays because there were lots of interesting effects that happened when you slid your finger across the screen that you didn’t see in the paper copy that came out later.
Apparently, there are enough of us long-time fans (as well as newer readers) buying these books that they’re making money for DC.
WHAT ABOUT GIVING THE NEW BOOKS A TRY?
As much as I love to look back to previous incarnations, I am enjoying the new versions as well. Of the DC books, Batman and the upcoming Joker War are hot as molten lava right now. I still think The Flash is the hidden gem in that company’s offerings, although we’re going to be without Joshua Williamson’s writing there before too long.
There are a LOT of what are called “Indie” comics that really have told great stories in recent years! Personally, I love Mouse Guard, Rust, the aforementioned Astro City, Day Men, The Owl, Captain Midnight, Ghosted, and several others. I also think you should visit MonkeyBrainComics.com, where you only spend 99 cents per issue to check something out. Many of them later appear in collected print editions as well. It’s hard for me to pick out favorites there because I enjoy so many of them, but I’d suggest Anti-Hero, Captain Ultimate, Masks vs. Mobsters, Edison Rex, and Mask of the Red Panda for the longjohns fans among us. If you like other kinds of stories as well, go to their site to discover the other books out.
I honestly think this is a wonderful time to be into comics! There’s so much variety in storytelling that I often love to try out something new. Not every book’s a winner, but the ratio is higher than it used to be, I think. Don’t give up on comics! Instead, take a look at something new and see what tickles your fancy in today’s releases!