Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

When is it time to break up with a comic book?

Sometimes, the decision is obvious: The comic’s quality plunges or goes in a direction you don’t like. Maybe the writer and/or artist changes and their work doesn’t move you.

But let’s say you’re reading a book that you’ve enjoyed for a long time, one that is still solidly good and has had its moments of genius. It’s still better than many comics you could be wasting your money on and you’ve made it this far. However, you’ve had the sneaking suspicion lately that something’s missing. Whereas you once couldn’t wait to fetch it from your LCS and dive right in, you’re now putting it aside and thinking, “I’ll get to it eventually.” Then when you do, your attention drifts. It’s not that the book is bad or even mediocre, but it just doesn’t excite you anymore.

A variation on this theme is character loyalty. Sometimes you’re so invested in a particular character that you’ll buy their title regardless of quality. I’m like that with Wonder Woman and doubt I’d ever drop that book unless something truly dreadful happened. But unless you’ve got money to burn, is it better to spend that $2.99 or $3.99 elsewhere — perhaps on that up-and-coming series that you’ve left on the shelf week after week?

The first scenario illustrates where I stand with Fables. I don’t say that lightly, because this is a series that I have been buying in trade and enthusiastically recommending to friends for a long time. Who can forget the classic 1000 Nights of Snowfall? The excellent concept, well-written characters and knock-your-socks-off storytelling enthralled me for years. Fables is still a fine series, but somewhere around Vol. 13, The Great Fables Crossover, the fire began to dim. I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly why, because it’s not like there hasn’t been some exciting stuff since then: the entrapment and subsequent escape of the deeply scary Mr. Dark, Frau Totenkinder’s transformation and rock star heroism, and Rose Red’s recovery from her deep, pitch-black depression come to mind. Maybe it’s because the bar was set so high early on, but when I picked up Vol. 16 two weeks ago, I wasn’t dying to read it. I still haven’t. That makes me a little sad.

Tim does not have time for your drama.

As for character loyalty, it also pains me to say that I’m thinking about chucking the relaunched Teen Titans. Tim Drake is still the man. Unfortunately, this is the only book in which he’s playing a lead role, and it isn’t grabbing me. I had a tiny glimmer of hope after reading the second issue, but with the exception of a few panels like the one above, Teen Titans #4 was a letdown. A big fistfight between Wonder Girl and Superboy, complete with silly inner monologues? An epic argument between Tim and Bart over (and I am not making this up) a borrowed sweatshirt? What would make it even more difficult to drop this book is that I so appreciate the diversity of the characters. Plus, it’s the Teen Titans! I just don’t have much confidence that I’m going to fall in deep like with this book, even with Red Robin starring.

And then there’s my dear Nightwing. This comic book is actually entertaining, but not so entertaining that I’d buy it if it were about any other hero, aside from Wondy. The story is solid and Eddie Barrows’ art is very appealing. Still, I have yet to finish an issue and think, “I can’t wait to see what happens next.” Meanwhile, I am all about the excellent Daredevil, despite never having even a passing interest in the character. I want to be just as enthusiastic about the Nightwing comic, but how much time and money do I really want to spend while waiting for that to happen?

Have you guys ever reached a similar crossroads with a once-beloved comic book or ditched a favorite character’s title? What did you do?

28 thoughts on “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

  1. I’ve had similar feelings towards Nightwing and unfortunately, Batgirl. I was first introduced to Barbara Gordon rather late in the game, after she had already become Oracle. And I loved her! So when they announced her solo title in the New 52, I was excited to be able to really learn about this amazing woman, even as Batgirl. Unfortunately, the current Barbara Gordon isn’t really clicking with me the same way Oracle did. With the Batgirl title, I’m not getting that inherent maturity and vast wisdom Barbara had as Oracle, and it’s rather disappointing, since Batgirl was one of my most anticipated titles. I might wait for it to pick up, but it’s becoming difficult to get excited when I receive each issue.

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    • I have to agree, and even then some of the creators are flat out tough to follow. Maybe it’s just my taste in visual artists, I left over 18 years ago buying any regular series due to none of the artists I was following would keep on a book more than a few issues. I just go in to a store about twice a year and see the same thing. Maybe I’m just too old.

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      • I would disagree with that Lan Pitts and Doug.
        I follow characters rather than creators (writers or artists), because sometimes I do not care for the new characters that the creators have “created”.
        I did not start reading comics because of who wrote or drew the books but because of the characters, so that remains my rasion d’ etre for what I read.
        I am loyal to WW, ALWAYS, even despite this new 52 revamp of which I am not a big fan of.
        But I have stopped reading Batgirl because they made Barbra Gordon Batgirl again and to be honest I really did not care for her as she was not my favourite BG, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown were in that order. She was far more interesting to me as Oracle.
        I stopped paying attention to the Teen Titans because they lost Rose and she made the book fun. Now it just seems like Gossip Girl in tights,capes and plumage. :P

        I am so sorry to hear about you lack of love fore Fables E for it is because of your suggestion that I started to read it. I am still loving it! So thanks for that.

        Maybe you will come back to your former loves someday? : )

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        • I’ve done both. I picked up JSA a while ago because Willingham was writing an arc, and I wasn’t disappointed. Creators drew me to Cap and Bucky, and Daredevil, and there are certain writers and artists I’ll follow anywhere. But it’s always a leap of faith.

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  2. Going to go with Batgirl as well. There doesn’t seem to be any real enthusiasm behind the writing, not like there was with Stephanie Brown in the role (and don’t get me started on how she got the short shrift in this reboot).

    As for Fables… I’m honestly not sure why I still pick it up. It really bugged me early on when they tossed Trusty John down the well for… doing something his character *couldn’t help doing*. No mercy, no understanding, just Mad Max-ian “You have violated the rules and have to die!” Willingham’s occasional hackneyed nod to his own far-right politics in the pages of the book was generally painful to read. And last, but certainly not least…Snow White’s recent lecture to Ms. Sprat about how if “you aren’t attractive, you should at least be nice” about made me throw the book away. The portrayal of women in this book has always been problematic to me in some ways, but you can’t help but wonder about Willingham’s psychology when the only non-conventionally-attractive women, outside of 2 of the witches, have been irredeemable pyschopaths.

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    • Mishyana, that line from Snow White got on my last nerve! I’m so glad someone else said it. If Willingham wanted to make a point about how society gives beautiful people the benefit of the doubt, he did so clumsily. It was the first time something in Fables pissed me off.

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      • I still love Fables and will continue to read but that speech still urks me. It doesn’t even really seem like something she would say and it made me like her less which is a shame because she was my favorite character. I was mostly pissed at the writers because there was no reason for that to go down.

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  3. To tell you the truth I’ve done this alot recently as fundage has been getting scarce. The only books I have been buying with any regularity is “Knights of the Dinner Table” and i am waiting with baited breath for the next book of “Gladstone’s School for World Domination”. I gave up all of DC after the reboot and before that the only ones I was rereading were “Teen Titans” & “Batman INC.”

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  4. I’m giving all of my New 52 titles one more issue to pull something special out of their collective hats, then I’m thinking about dropping everything except Demon Knights and just picking up trades later if I hear the stories get better. The new Batgirl series has been a special offender in terms of boredom, but most of the new DC books I tried started strong then have just… meandered. I already dropped Supergirl. Not enough happens in each issue for me to feel excited about, plus, I only have so much to spend on comics.

    Last summer I dropped Avengers Academy after the Fear Itself crossover. Those issues were good, the series was overall fine, but the spark for me was gone.

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  5. NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO DROP ANY TITLE EVER!!!!!!

    Seriously though, the 2 “rules” I suggest to customers are:

    1. Read everything that you buy.
    Don’t let those books stack up unread. Eventually, you’ll just resent that pile. I know Life will sometimes get in the way of your reading. As long as you still look at that pile longingly, and not resentfully, you’ll be all right. Don’t buy stuff because “It might be worth something someday.” The obvious exceptions are vintage comics already worth a bunch. Except for those, comics are a TERRIBLE investment. You’d be better off buying stocks and bonds if you’re looking to make money. One other exception to the rule is comics you are buying for someone else, but even then, taking a peek won’t hurt…

    2. Buy only what you like.
    I read a lot of comics. My average is around 180 per month. Some of them are TERRIBLE, but I read them because they’re important to the overall company narrative. I sometimes dread opening the cover of some of the “important to continuity” comics. I read them to stay current enough to discuss them with my customers. YOU DON’T HAVE TO. If you don’t enjoy something anymore, drop it from your list, and try something new. If Wonder Walnut is no longer giving you reading pleasure, drop it, and buy 1 new comic each month until you find something that does.

    Life is too short to read bad comics.

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  6. You have to read Frank Millers Daredevil. You can actually witness him growing as a an artist.writer. I LOVE Daredevil, and then it sucked for while and now he’s back, on da real. Also Elektra, Black Widow and Echo are the baddest bitches, I am sorry but Matt Murdock has swag on a hundred million.

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  7. The most recent issue of Nightwing will likely be my last. The story hasn’t been doing it for me as much as I thought/hoped it would, and the typecasting in the last (surprise! A black person is a voodoo practitioner! And it’s a woman, so she is obsessed with a man and crazy!!!). Ugh.

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  8. This immediately brought back memories of the Spiderman clone saga; the last Spidey comics I will ever read. That was a terrible and tortured breakup, to say the least.

    I’ve had better luck with the new 52 than it seems many replying. The new Superboy? Holy crap! in terms of art and writing. Batwoman? I can’t wait to see her at odds with Batman, Inc. And Catwoman has been nothing but hilarious fun since the first issue.

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  9. Thoughtful article. Looking back on my collection I see piles of books that I stuck with, year after year, thanks to misplaced loyalty. You should never be afraid to drop a book. If you make a mistake you can remedy that later … but in most cases, you should respect your instincts and drop a book sooner rather than later. If more of us voted with our wallets this way, creators and publishers might be on a shorter leash and respond more rapidly when quality begins to decline. Anyone can have a bad issue or two, but if you’ve spotted a trend, get out. The sooner sales bottom out the sooner things will improve. Every time you buy a book you are asking for more of the same, so make sure that you are getting what you want!

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    • Yikes. I just read your very good review, and the Lego reference regarding Bunker was hilarious! Like you, I’m way over the NOWHERE storyline and the fistfight of the week. I also see no place for this version of Superboy on the Titans. Sigh.

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      • On the bright side, I’m so old that having a member of the Superman Family on the Teen Titans always seemed weird, so if this new guy weren’t to stick around, fine. But we know he will.

        Shame … I’d take Lilith or Aqualad over Superboy any day.

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  10. Hi E,
    I haven’t touched Fables in awhile too.. the characters still fascinate me, but somehow something’s missing.. it hasn’t grab me as much as I’d liked, and I’m talking about storylines before the war in issue 75.
    A big reason I found personally is because the superhero line has really picked up their game, the afore mentioned Daredevil is amazing, along with Batman family stories before and after the relaunch and currently DC’s new horror range.
    Though I have dropped the current Batgirl after #4 cos it just didn’t click with me, haven’t read much of Cassandra Cain, but Stephanie Brown as the star was such a treat every month.
    I’m content with collecting Fables in trade form still, as their reviews still come in good, I think when I find the time one day where I’m not as distracted by work or other comics, it should provide a satisfying weekend read :)

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    • I doubt Fables will ever be a bad book. It has had a consistently good run, and as long as you are enjoying it that’s all that matters! Are you going to read the spin-off, “Fairest?”

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      • Yepz, definitely checking it out when it releases, it would be interesting to see different writers on the future arcs (albeit they will be of Bill’s choosing). Thanks for the piece! I’m feeling inspired to delve back again into it, attempt to finish The Good Prince soon :)

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  13. Fables is a book that works best with great art and I am sick to death of Mark Buckingham. Plus the book just isn’t as sexy as it used to be. Not in a garish, pornographic way but in a ribauld, tense, or funny way. We need Jack.

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