Robot 6

How’s your comics diet?

A little bit of this...little bit of that

A little bit of this…little bit of that

Remember when all there was to read was Marvel and DC Comics? OK, those days never really existed, but I would bet a significant majority of us at one time read comics exclusively, or almost exclusively, published by the so-called “Big Two.” Some of you may even do so now. If recent studies are any indication, that’s changing. A growing percentage of people have been buying more titles from Image Comics and other publishers.

How about you? How is your comics diet? Going by direct sales numbers, many of us still live off a primarily Marvel/DC superhero diet. But we all know there’s more out there. Maybe we read The Walking Dead or Saga too. Those are good reads, no doubt about it, and there’s more where those came from. Lots more. Just a casual look on this site or any comics site will reveal a growing number of books from other publishers are receiving more attention, more positive buzz from readers, more good reviews from critics, and more exciting announcements. So how to jump in?

We can’t buy everything because none of us is made of money. And why stop buying the comics we are enjoying just to try something we may or may not like? That would be silly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get a side dish now and again, a sampler.

If you’ve always been curious to check out the rest of the comics world but have been overwhelmed how to do it, here’s one solution. I’ve been trying this out myself, and it’s a fun way to discover new favorites: If you’re like me, you’re on a strict comics budget. All it takes is one extra purchase at whatever frequency you choose — it can be weekly, monthly or even quarterly, if you really want to take it slow. Think of it as a shopping game. You just pick a track and pick one comic book or graphic novel from the publisher that catches your eye, and hopefully my mapped journey below of material to sample will lead to some new discoveries.

I’m not going to select specific titles, because everyone’s tastes vary, but I will narrow it down to a publisher or some kind of sub-group that you can focus on. When that publisher comes up, take a look at what it has put out recently. Flip through itsnewest releases at your local store. If your store doesn’t carry them, tip off the staff to what you’re doing and maybe they’ll recommend something and have it ordered by the time it comes up on your list. Or check out the publisher’s website or comiXology listing. Why am I breaking things up by publisher? This is somewhat arbitrary, but the simple fact is that most comic shops organize their store by publisher, and most of us still divide comics along those lines. It doesn’t really matter so much, the point is just to create a manageable subgroup of comics that you can peruse, and then pick one to try.

Earlier I mentioned a mapped journey. This is going to be structured for Marvel and DC readers, but if you only read shōnen manga or gag-a-day webcomics or some other narrow genre or format, the idea is similar and you could customize it for you. The idea is to start from your comfort zone and slowly expand out, while still reading the same comics you normally read and enjoy.

Quarterly

We’ll start with the most leisurely track. This means four times a year, you pick up an extra comic book or graphic novel. The exact dates don’t really matter, as long as you remember to do it every three months. Might want to put this in a calendar that will send you an auto-reminder because this will be real easy to forget once you re-enter real life.

If you picked this frequency, you either have a really tight budget or you are very hesitant about trying new things. Or both. Fair enough. Because of that, this will be as easy as possible. If you survive or even like it, think about upgrading to Monthly. Or you can go through it again with the next four from the Monthly track.

If you like Marvel and DC, you probably enjoy action/adventure stories of heroes set in a single universe. These four publishers offer that. Some titles cross over with each other, and some mostly do their own thing. They all read like superhero comics, or straight-up are superhero comics. In fact, you’ll recognize some of creators from superhero comics. Creators like Mark Waid, Chris Roberson, Matt Kindt, Peter Milligan, Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente are frequently doing what you love about their Marvel and DC work, and sometimes getting away with even more. As we progress, the publishers have more than one universe to choose from. Dynamite has its Gold Key characters, which make for a nice supplement to the Valiant Universe, or you can go with the Golden Age heroes line Project Superpowers, or the pulp heroes like The Shadow, Flash Gordon and Zorro. Dark Horse has the Hellboy universe, which is a nice sidestep from Dynamite’s pulp heroes, or you can stick with superheroes with their Project Black Sky line that includes Ghost and Captain Midnight. Then top it off with Image Comics, either with the Top Cow universe, or go more self-contained with Savage Dragon, Invincible or any number of others. Don’t feel restricted to the hero titles though. Anything by each publisher is fair game.

First Quarter: Valiant
Second Quarter: Dynamite
Third Quarter: Dark Horse
Fourth Quarter: Image

Monthly

This track is for those of you a little more committed but without breaking the bank. Once a month, you’ll look for one extra book to add to your purchase. It might be a good idea to pick where in the month you’ll do it, like every first week of the month, but ultimately it’s up to you.

With 12 months to work with, there’s a chance to be a little more adventurous. If you really want to stick with the superhero genre, you could probably pull it off and find some really entertaining and unique takes on the capes and cowl concepts. Or you can wander off into thrillers, horror, drama, comedy. Perhaps you might want to go after specific creators you’ve always heard about. Yes, you’ll see I start with Marvel and DC. This is a nice toe-dipping exercise and also reinforces that this isn’t about dumping Marvel and DC. They have great stuff too. Here’s your chance to try a Marvel and DC title that you’ve heard is supposed to be good, but you’ve never gotten around to checking it out. Or check out that lower tier book you’ve always been curious about. Then we continue on like the Quarterly track and adding BOOM! Studios, IDW Publishing and Oni Press. We return to DC for its Vertigo imprint before getting a little advanced for the final two months with some manga.

Month 1: Marvel
Month 2: DC
Month 3: Valiant
Month 4: Dynamite
Month 5: Dark Horse
Month 6: Image
Month 7: BOOM!
Month 8: IDW
Month 9: Oni
Month 10: Vertigo
Month 11: Viz Media
Month 12: Kodansha

Weekly

Welcome to expert level. You are ready to become a well-rounded comics reader in 52 weeks. Getting into the habit of picking up an extra book will be easy this way, but we are going to get to some decidedly small press publishers. So this might take some coordination with your comics shop, if they don’t stock them, or you can buy direct from the publisher.

With more time, we get to split off some imprints, letting us get even more focused. We start off more or less following the monthly track, adding in some bonus publishers along the way, like Top Cow and Aspen. Then we cross the pond for a couple weeks of Titan and Humanoids before circling back to Vertigo and Image for some more familiar comfort food. Manga is expanded and spread throughout the year as we make our way deep into more alternative and indie comix, where some real innovation is happening. But don’t be scared off, you’ll be eased into them by stops along the way with some kids and humor comics, graphic novels, and even online-only material. We finish it all off for some lighter material: minicomics and some free webcomics, and then a stop at the comics category at Kickstarter to buy yourself a surprise that will show up later.

Week 1: Marvel
Week 2: DC
Week 3: Valiant
Week 4: Dynamite
Week 5: Dark Horse
Week 6: Top Cow
Week 7: BOOM!
Week 8: Aspen
Week 9: IDW
Week 10: Oni
Week 11: Titan
Week 12: Humanoids
Week 13: Vertigo
Week 14: Image
Week 15: Viz Media
Week 16: Red 5
Week 17: Action Lab
Week 18: Monkeybrain
Week 19: Thrillbent
Week 20: Kodansha
Week 21: First Second
Week 22: Archaia
Week 23: Graphix
Week 24: Bongo
Week 25: Archie
Week 26: Papercutz
Week 27: Graphic Universe
Week 28: Vertical
Week 29: Pantheon
Week 30: Abrams ComicArts
Week 31: Hill and Wang
Week 32: NBM
Week 33: Drawn and Quarterly
Week 34: Top Shelf
Week 35: Fantagraphics
Week 36: Knockabout
Week 37: Alternative
Week 38: Selfmadehero
Week 39: AdHouse
Week 40: Blank Slate
Week 41: Conundrum
Week 42: Uncivilized
Week 43: Yen Press
Week 44: Koyama
Week 45: Nobrow
Week 46: Tinto
Week 47: Oily
Week 48: Sparkplug
Week 49: GEN
Week 50: Paper Rocket
Week 51: The Nib
Week 52: Kickstarter

There are probably hundreds of ways you could mix things up for yourself. If you want to spend more time exploring the catalog of a handful of publishers, you could rotate through them all year long. There are also a number of publishers, plus all of the self-publishing creators, that could easily be put in place instead. However you do it, you’re getting to read new comics you might not have ever gotten around to trying while adding some spice to your pull list.

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17 Comments

My comics diet is pretty diverse, if robust. I started with Richie Riches back in the 1970s and have always read titles from a variety of publishers – Harvey, Archie, Gold Key, DC and so on. I’ve also enjoyed DC much more than Marvel over the years, but do get a number of Marvels as well.

I tabulated my purchases based on comics released in April (a 5 Wednesday month) and came up with the following, including trade paperbacks and hardcovers

DC – 70 titles (including Vertigo and Johnny DC titles)
Marvel – 12 titles
Archie – 8 titles
Bongo – 2 titles
Dark Horse – 26 titles
Dynamite – 13 titles
IDW – 7 titles
Image – 18 titles
Oni – 2 titles
Red 5 – 2 titles
Valiant – 11 titles
Other companies – 3 titles (2 issues of Rachel Rising and Skyward)

Manga – 17 titles (though some of these are still on order and titles like Gantz were included with Dark Horse)
Other Trades – 5 titles (including 3 from Boom)

While DC makes up the largest individual company, it is still only around 40% of my total number of titles for the month.

Marvel: 12 books
DC: 4 books (6 if you include Vertigo)
Image: 11 books
Avatar: 1 book

Honestly, as far as the quarterly model, I’d put in IDW over Valiant, if only because I’m not really interested in investing in a third universe. That’s the big obstacle, for me, in getting into Valiant, especially now that there’s Unity and it seems like they’re having events now.

I mostly buy DC comics but I have delved into other companies. I get Empowered from Dark Horse, Walking Dead from Image and will get Doctor Who from Titan when it comes out this summer. Ms. Marvel and Deadpool got me slumming over at Marvel as well.

I “cheat”. I only read on Marvel Unlimited now and pick up a few collections every so often. If there is something omnibus related I buy it from IST at 50% off. With a mortgage, the ever inflating prices and knowing I will have to move them again at some point I made the cut.
I still follow the titles by review and blogs but I can wait the time for them to come to digital or go on sale.
Obviously, with that said I get my protein from Marvel (85%), my fiber from Image (10%), and my teeth rotting candy from DC trades, normally when a pre-boot trade comes out I am waiting for (5%).
Before the drop my monthly buys were Marvel 50%, DC 30%, Image 15%, Indie 5% and roughly $200-$250 a month in all.

Well I read trades; so I generally just buy what I’m interested in. However I recently read trades from Dark Horse, Image and Vertigo. I haven’t brought anything superhero in a while apart the third volume of Ed Brubaker’s run on Catwoman.

Marvel: 5
DC: 2
Dark Horse: 1
Image: 1

Marvel is the definite winner at four monthlies, with Avengers, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight as definites and Hulk and Iron Patriot as maybes while their first arcs go on. I’ll also catch up to Daredevil at some point, likely after this first relaunch arc is over.

Close behind is IDW with three: Transformers RID, MTMTE and Windblade. Right after that is Valiant with Archer and Armstrong, Quantum and Woody and Unity (and I’ll likely get back on the X-O Manowar train in time for Armor Hunters).

I’ve basically ignored DC for the past year with the exception of Vertigo’s Astro City. Currently I don’t get anything monthly from Image, although I get the Invincible and Elephantmen trades regularly. Dynamite’s Gold Key titles are on the horizon for me too.

I use the Marvel Unlimited app, so Iread a lot of Marvel titles. Like some of the other posters I have a comics budget and I buy via direct subscription and my local comic shop: 3 Marvel, 2 DC, 1 Dark Horse, and 9 Image. About a year ago I listened to a podcast with Dan Jurgens and he suggested once a month just picking up something new and different from what you currently buy. I have tried that and sometimes I get an extra Image, sometimes Boom, Dark Horse, or Bongo.

@Doug Glassman: Oh, cool! A fellow Transformers comics fan! High five!

I’ve pretty much pared that to just MTMTE, though. RID was just moving way too glacially before Dark Cybertron.

My comic book diet is fine, but my eyes are waaaaaay bigger than my wallet, and I’ve got to slow down a touch if I’m going to buy Winter Soldier, Her and True Detective on blu-ray. Also, pay my rent. I just need a place to store my comics, dig?

Doug Glassman

May 1, 2014 at 4:03 am

@Larry Cruz–You should go back and pick up the newest issues of RID and Windblade, though. There’s been some really cool cast shuffling, with a lot of the Cybertronian political stuff shifted over to Windblade and RID now about Prime and a team on Earth.

Simon DelMonte

May 1, 2014 at 6:57 am

My diet in terms of purchases is mainly DC, and will probably stay that way for a while. DC is home, and even with the reboot I know what to expect. I probably get about 15 DC books a month.

I only buy Marvel when a writer I like is doing something new that won’t make me buy six other books to enjoy. But at the moment, that means just She-Hulk.

And there are my JossVerse books. Currently, that’s three with the Serenity miniseries.

Otherwise, I have routinely been disappointed by comics from other companies when taken in a monthly dose. Sometimes, it’s because I just don’t like the comics. Sometimes, it’s other factors. The last Image series I followed for a while was Infinite Vacation, and that too so long to complete that I more or less swore off Image in monthly form. (Seriously, Image makes it easy to wait. The trades come out fast, and are often cheap. First book of Morning Glories was $10!)

All that said, if there is something interesting from any publisher in my library, I will try it for free. And the libraries in NY have tons of Image, Marvel, and DC, and drips and drabs of the others. I can find Saga (which I don’t like) and Locke and Key (which I adore) everywhere, but Hellboy (which I like) and Fatale (which is just okay to me) are much harder to find without searching. It is fun, though, to find libraries I rarely visit and see what gems are on the shelves.

So my overall diet? Yes, it’s the empty calories of a good Batman comic. Or maybe the flavor of a Charles Soule series. But it’s not entirely without some diversity.

None. I no longer buy comics. And it has not been easy. But do I still read comics? Of course :)

I have found that my city’s libraries keeps a healthy stack of floppies and they seem to be almost current to maybe two months behind the current issue. They also have a large amount of current trades on the shelves if I want to try out a collected storyline.

Why did I stop buying monthlies? A few factors over time. I have collected and bought monthlies for close to thirty years. My collection is roughly 36 long boxes which makes my wife roll her eyes once in a while. New 52 was when I stopped buying DC titles. I am not the audience they want and good luck to them stopping the slow bleeding of any titles without Bat or Green in the title. I continued to buy roughly 7-10 Marvel titles, 3-4 Image titles and a small assortment of IDW and Dark Horse (and had also picked up the always entertaining Afterlife With Archie). In 2014 a couple of things happened I realized made this no longer a hobby I was no longer willing to continue supporting.

The Canadian dollar fell quickly and that increased the cost of my stack just as quickly. My LCBS does not offer any discounts so this tipped over what was fun to become this costs too much. The kicker was reading two reports quoting Marvel staff as basically saying our books are worth the increased cover price because fans are willing to pay it. Well, no, I am not. So I have stopped. I have shed my collectors mentality (which was also pretty easy to shake having collected Marvel through the 90’s).

I am also not a fan of the tail wagging the dog attitude Marvel seems to have adopted with the success of the Marvel movies. Congrats to them but it stings a little. I supported this company through some pretty crappy years of publishing and now you want me to accept changes because the movies are bringing in a new audience? Um, no thank you. Again, your toys and all and thank you for years of entertainment but I am tired of Nick Fury Jr. and no-costume for a costume Hawkeye and Cap’s Howling Commandos et al. Marvel seems to underestimate the new reader’s intelligence with the ‘every comic book is someone’s first comic book’ unwritten rule. I have had many first comics and was able to find out who Nick Fury (the original) was and I even did it without the internet! My god how lost I was (not).

This sort of turned into a Marvel rant but that was the publisher I have the most of in my stacks. At the end of the day it feels like with their low page counts and ever-increasing cover prices they are saying ‘so you bought a comic last week but what have you bought from me lately?’

Thanks. maggog

I grew up with Marvel so have been reading DC the past decade because it’s all newish it me. Lately, I’ve been into a lot of the great titles Image is putting out and titles here and there from IDW, Dark Horse and Dynamite, but in the end, I’m looking for good stories. I don’t care where they come from.

I’ve cut down on my comics since moving to Bali (not making enough to buy everything I want), but I still get the main stuff I want.
I get a few Humanoid books a year.
A handful of Image tpbs a year, like Prophet, Saga, East of West, and Manhattan Projects
I usually get what I can of new Morrison, Ellis, or Casey.
Some new manga, like One Piece, Gantz, Berzerk, Yotsuba&!, Ooku, Battle Angel Alita…
That’s about it.

Great stories here.

I got back into comics a few years ago when I was confident I was financially secure enough to do so. No real budget, but I keep everything measured in a spreadsheet to stay within a decent range.

DC + Marvel combined doesn’t total more than seven or eight books, for me. I used to read more DC, but the writer/artist combos change too frequently, so I bail. From my youth, Cap has been the only constant.

Image Comics totals roughly three or four titles (monthly). It depends on which title is on break that month. Image is kind enough to stagger their breaks; otherwise I’d be buying around eight or nine of their titles each month.

The remainder, perhaps a dozen, are indies: Oni, Dynamite, Dark Horse, BOOM!, Aspen, Big Dog, IDW, and more. I purchase more indie, small press books than I do from the Big Two + Image, and it keeps things interesting and really diverse. I think a lot of people would be surprised how consistent a lot of indie publishers are. There’s a hiccup in delivery every once in a while, but for the most part, it’s really admirable.

Also important!

Certain retailers are better for certain subscription models than others. Purchasing comics online gives you several options, but shipping prices, taxes, and routine discounts should all be taken into consideration. As for me, I get free shipping on my comics and save between 25% and 33% off the total monthly cover price. The only caveat is that I read my comics about 6 weeks after the street date. Small sacrifice, in my book.

I subscribe to Marvel Unlimited and read a little over half of what they release on a weekly basis.

Almost everything i buy individually is Image, mostly digitally.

I have a friend who buys a lot of Batman books and I catch up on them now and then. I’m tepidly interested in the Future’s End weekly, but don’t think I’ll be buying it day-and-date.

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