Breaking the Wednesday habit

June 25th, 2012 by | Tags:

How I consume comics today is markedly different from how I consumed comics a year ago. Around this time last year, I was probably buying around twenty floppies per month. I don’t remember the exact number, but twenty feels right. A big week would run me around twenty bucks, maybe six comics, and I hit the shop every week. There weren’t a lot of DC comics on my list, I don’t think, but I did buy a gang of Marvels. I didn’t have a huge stack every week, but I got by. I read a lot.

Time passed and a lot of series I liked got canceled. Around the same time, I decided that I was spending too much time on bad comics. Comics have two components — writing and art — and if one side is lacking, the entire product suffers. So I decided to do a better job of only buying comics that clicked on both levels. I’d read Morrison’s Batman-related stuff based on who was drawing it, but I wasn’t applying the rule evenly. Last year, I made the conscious decision to look at everything I was buying and make sure I wasn’t wasting my money on things that would make me grimace. More comics got cut.

Late last year, I made another decision. I wanted to buy more digital comics because I want to use the space in my apartment for something other than stacks of paper. Luckily, Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse were ramping up their day & date digital comics releases. Pow: more floppies gone. I just checked my emails and by January 2012, I was just buying Hulk, Thunderbolts, and Hellblazer in floppy form, with all the other comics going directly to my iPad.

Somewhere around the border between February and March, I quit Marvel and DC and started buying 2000 AD in print. I had the option of going digital with it, but something about reading it in print seemed attractive. There’s a 2000 AD experience, I think, that I wanted to get a taste of. As of this moment, 2000 AD is the only comic on my pull list. Everything else I’m interested in is either available digitally or the sort of book you buy from Amazon on a whim, rather than subscribe to.

On top of all that, and I hope you’re sticking with me through all this preamble, I recently realized that I hate paying 3 and 4 dollars for digital comics. I don’t own them, I don’t get to keep them, and if I’m paying as much as an entire print comic, and two dollars less than an album on Amazon MP3, then I need something more than a permission slip to read a comic in exchange. So I made the decision to stop buying new digital comics. I buy them a month behind now, when the price drops to $1.99. $1.99 is still a bit much for ~20 pages of funnybooks, but it feels better. Easier on the wallet, too. There are a few exceptions — Prophet, and honestly I’m probably going to break on Saga soon because issue 3 was so good and I hear 4 is better — but for the most part, I’m reading new comics a month late.

So, the funny thing about buying 2000 AD in print is that Diamond, the biggest comics distributor in the country, is borderline worthless when it comes to 2000 AD. I started with prog 1765 (they call them progs, roll with me here, it’s not that weird) and picked up prog 2012, an anniversary issue, and progs 1766 and 1767 around the same time or a week later. Cool, right? It’s a solid start. But I’m looking at my stack now and I’ve got 1765-1767, 1768-1772, 1774, 1775, 1777, and 1778. See the gaps? I picked up 1775 before I got 1774, too, and a few other issues came out of order. According to an email I got this week, progs 1779-1781 all came out this week.

2000 AD is a weekly serial anthology. Diamond makes it very hard to read it in order, and you can’t even rely on the shipping lists. I bought 1778 three weeks ago, and 1779 came out this week? Really? As a result, I go to the comics shop around once a month now, hoping against hope that 1776 and the other missing issues have shown up in the interim. Sound aggravating? You have no idea. I’ve been looking forward to reading Al Ewing & Brendan McCarthy’s Zaucer of Zilk for months, and then I couldn’t even do that because the issues progs don’t show up.

The Wednesday comics experience is pretty well broken for me. 2000 AD‘s slipshod schedule got me out of the habit of going to get comics and immediately reading them every week. I stockpile them now, and read them when I have two or three I can pore over. I buy digital comics on Wednesday still, usually while I’m having breakfast, and I’ll read one or two of them at lunch if I’m excited. But usually, I’ll wait until I’m ready to read them over the weekend or the next week. I bought Chaykin’s American Flagg last week, and Xander and Kevin Cannon’s Double Barrel and haven’t touched either, even though I’m really into them. It took me a couple weeks to read Brubaker & Phillips Fatale 5. The only comic I reliably read on release day any more is Viz’s Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, and that’s because it’s uploaded immediately before lunch on Mondays and has Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece in it.

It’s sorta weird not being plugged into the Wednesday cycle. I was part of that crowd for a long time, and without weekly mainstream comix blogging, 4thletter! definitely wouldn’t be what it is today without being plugged into that cycle. I already watch TV on a delay — which means that Legend of Korra was thoroughly spoiled for me before I got within spitting distance of the finale, thanks Tumblr — and now I read comics on a delay, too.

It’s weird, but it’s also less stressful. I don’t feel compelled to chime in on things. I’ll still throw out a joke if I see some dumb-looking news, but I don’t have to chime in on the latest story about Wonder Woman’s stupid pants any more. I relapsed like an idiot a little bit ago, but for the foreseeable future? That side of reading and talking about comics is dead to me. I just get to read what I like, write about it if the spirit moves me, and enjoy things at my own speed.

There’s this feeling, an impulse, that part of being a good writer about comics means that you have to be timely. I find myself pushing away from that impulse lately, if only because snap judgments are growing increasingly unsatisfying. I want to let something marinate before I try to dig into it. I need that time to sit and just let my mind wander over the folds of a book, rather than reading it and immediately cranking out how I feel about it. I know my writing well enough that I can do either/or, but I vastly prefer the stuff I’ve written that leaves me at the back of the pack, but with a stronger argument than the front-runner.

I’m curious to see where the evolution of how I read comics goes next. I like where I am now, but a significant part of me bristles at the fact that my friends are a book ahead of me. I hate the idea of being behind, even if behind is a fake idea in this situation. I may loosen the $1.99 digital rule at some point, but I’m enjoying my newfound freedom. I don’t miss the Wednesday grind.

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16 comments to “Breaking the Wednesday habit”

  1. “There’s this feeling, an impulse, that part of being a good writer about comics means that you have to be timely. I find myself pushing away from that impulse lately, if only because snap judgments are growing increasingly unsatisfying.”

    You make a great point here. The comics internet relies too much on reflex. We jump on continuity issues or plot holes, only to have those “problems” settled by the time the arc is wrapped up. It leads to a lot of unnecessary debate and ultimately empty writing.

  2. I recently realized that I hate paying 3 and 4 dollars for digital comics. I don’t own them, I don’t get to keep them, and if I’m paying as much as an entire print comic, and two dollars less than an album on Amazon MP3, then I need something more than a permission slip to read a comic in exchange.

    You get to keep 2000AD! Their digital comics are DRM-free. I’m in the UK but I always buy my 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine digitally: it’s cheaper than the print version, comes out only two days later, and you get to download it as .pdf or .cbz that’s yours to keep with no annoying copy-protection. Other companies could stand to learn.

  3. Dropping the Wednesday thing in favor of digital comics was easier because…
    1) the com.. comrade…friendshipping and “fellowshipping” decreased in quality and quantity,
    2) too many comics were late, in short supply, or damaged,
    3) I didn’t want to have to bring a copy of Previews or a Diamond printout to know which comics to expect or which ones were already gone,
    4) the shop-owners didn’t seem as concerned about staying relevant,
    5) back issues were often poorly-organized and thus too hard to find,
    6) dust and allergy concerns,
    7) all the freebies Marvel (used to) put out digitally,
    8) no more hearing that comics weren’t in because of a holiday that I forgot about or because UPS was late or misdelivered,
    9) going out-of-town no longer meant having to find a local comic shop so I could see what stuff showed up,
    10) 99 cent digital sales, baby.

  4. @West:
    11) Getting to read comics in more than 22 (or 20 depending on company…ugh) page spurts.
    12) More price effective to trade wait (digital or otherwise).
    13) Love having more space in my place.
    14) Ebay, Amazon, other…huge discounts than if I buy it the day it comes out.
    15) Not supporting floppies every wednesday will hopefully aid in the removal of floppies altogether and we can go manga/trade/GN exclusive.

  5. I know what you mean about the late reading feeling, I moved City about 7 months ago but left my pull list behind out of loyalty – as a result I’ve found myself in a latezone. There is a displacement that comes with that too though. It’s nice been out of those impulse judgments as you suggest but it can create a change of pace with certain stories. I’ve definitely chilled out about comics though and have found myself reading more trades etc, its a pretty nice feeling.

    Also, yeah break it on Saga, its well good.

  6. Funny thing, picking up paper comics, Prophet’s still the only one I get really excited for when it’s coming out (like this week!)

  7. I fought with Diamond getting 2000 AD in regularly for almost twenty years, David. Oddly, in the 1980s, it showed up like clockwork and I never, ever missed an issue. When I actually started a pull list at Bizarro Wuxtry – America’s finest comic shop – in 1992, it was reliable for several months, and then it started going out of control. I finally ended my print subscription last year, by which time those meatheads at Diamond couldn’t even get the four-issues-polybagged-together packages shipped to stores in the correct order. Reading your account was like a bad flashback. Imagine what my stupid-order list must have looked like, from prog ~780 to prog 1740!

    But yes, 2000 AD digital is yours to keep, DRM-free, and you won’t miss a glorious page of The Zaucer of Zilk or anything else. New issue every Friday, for only $3.

  8. Yep, pretty much matches my arc, right down to the timeframe. I’m fine being a month behind. I buy more comics and there’s nothing really timely about these. (Well, I guess aside from the conversation, but I mainly talk about series as a whole with my friends, not specific issues.)

    I do still like the regular store visit, though. I use it to just hang out and browse for new things, picking up stuff that is actually designed for print, as an art object. These days that’s mainly Fatale, Mondo, and Bongo one-shots, plus Clint Magazine for its big, beautiful pages. And GNs, of course. Nothing beats a stop at the comic store after a really long work day.

  9. props to you for getting 2000AD despite Diamond’s sheer shittiness.

    I’ve just switched off of floppies completely after a move from the UK to NZ, and I can safely say that it’s very freeing. any sort of obligation or loyalty I felt to certain series or whatnot is loosened, and Judge Dredd Megazine aside I’m set on only getting things when they’re cheap on comixology (though really, I’d love a service that wasn’t noticably screwed up).

    Trades are still gonna be a necessity for things like Prophet, Glory and anything by Mahmud Asrar (paper’s still the best thing for art, especially as my only way i’ve been reading digitally is a teeny android).

    Anyway, my point is cool story and I empathise with the moving away from floppies. The wednesday grind is one of those relics of that strict exclusive way of consuming comics that i’ve seen push people away. there’s something nice and casual about… well, consuming casually.

  10. @Jesse Post: Oh, and mini-comics.

  11. @jonod, I had a similar experience when I started a job with a 40-mile commute through Los Angeles’ infamous traffic in the opposite direction from my usual comic store. I picked up my comics on Saturdays for several months until I moved and found a new store. Now that I think about it, this is also around the time that I stopped reviewing The Flash every month.

    The funny thing is that now that I’m back on the Wednesday schedule for *buying* comics, I usually don’t have time to read them until the weekend anyway.

    I’ve experienced a similar mix of disconnection and relief, though I still make an effort to keep up with Flash news as well as I can, even if I never quite got back into the habit of reviewing the books on any sort of timely basis.

  12. I’m glad! You are a mean, lean critic of stuff you hate but your best and most entertaining writing comes from when you talk about your passions.

    Personally I was never a Wednesday victim! Although my dad used to buy me the occasional comic when I was little, I started regularly reading comics through borrowing Vertigo stuff, Elfquest and Cerebus trades from the library when I was like 13. I’m from Toronto, even in the early 2000s the libraries had pretty good comic collections. Anyway I got used to that and even though I picked up interesting floppies from quarter bins or got them as presents, the great majority of my purchases were trades.

  13. […] the other side of the coin, David Brothers writes about how he has gradually given up his Wednesday visits to the comics shop for reasons of both quality and […]

  14. If you don’t mind to wait and you are paying 1.99 for each issue, you might as well order your comics monthly through diamond at one of the stores that offer 35% discount or more.
    That’s the only way I can buy them at a resonable price (I live in Chile, comic shops overcharge comics by almost a 100%), I don’t have free shipping but you do, so if you spend 50 dollars, you’ll be buying at least 80 dollars worth of product (if not more).

  15. @Esteban Pedreros: I’d rather not have more floppies taking up space in my place, is the thing.

  16. @david brothers: I understand, but you d’ get all the 2000 AD books, besides you don’t have to order everything for yourself.

    I order with 3 more friends, we share costs and it makes sense for us, is just an idea. I’ve bought comics at Comixology, but after what happened with Graphicly I tend to imagine the day when it’ll cease to exist and my comics (and money) will be gone… it’s an uncomfortable uncertainty. But of course, there are plenty of comics that I only read once, and for all practical purposes they are gone 😀