Robot 6

The completist age is over

I'll take one of everything

I’ll take one of everything

Is there just too much to ever buy and read?

I remember when the CBR forums were young and spry in the late ’90s and early 2000s: People would share which comics the plan to pick up every month or every week, and a good number would have massive lists. Today, I see what people post in their replies to the solicitations, and most are more selective. It’s obviously a very narrow sampling, but I can’t help feel that it reflects a general shift in comics culture.

When I first got into comics, part of what fascinated me was the unknown history told in back issues I didn’t have yet, and I became obsessed with hunting them down. In those days, maybe 25 to 30 years ago, comic shops were on the rise and most stores had a healthy selection of back issues because that was really the only way to read those stories. As such, they tended to be pricy, but it didn’t matter when you could spend nearly your entire allowance on comics alone.

Part of the joy was the the thrill of the hunt: Trying to fill a hole in my collection, I’d get my father to drive me to a store I tracked down in the Yellow Pages, and there it was — some weird issue of Bill Everett’s 1970’s run of Sub-Mariner that I just had to have. On the drive home, I would have to flip through and maybe read a few pages. I also had a tendency to get terribly car sick if I didn’t watch the road, so that was a real challenge: Keep looking at the awesome comic and not get sick, or stare at the boring road. When I finally got home, I would have to re-read the issues I had before and after the new addition to my collection, to fill in the missing pieces. I didn’t simply read comics, this was a full-on career in archeology; I was discovering lost history. I eventually got so absorbed by comics that, for a time, I was getting virtually the entire X-Men and Superman lines. If I didn’t buy them as they came out, my only other option was to pick them up later as back issues, almost guaranteed to be marked up from the original cover price. Getting single issues as they were released and buying back issues were basically the only way to learn what was happening, and had happened, in comics. There were very few reprints then, either as single issues or graphic novels, no Wikipedia entries, and certainly no digital comics.

About halfway between those days and today, just as the millennial clock was switching over, I briefly worked at a comic store that for good reason no longer exists. I remember it had a few customers that obsessively bought what must have been every comic listed in Diamond’s gigantic Previews catalog; every Wednesday, they received several boxes of new comics. I don’t know how those guys afforded them, much less how they imagined they could read everything. Did they have no jobs? No human interactions to distract them? And that was at one of the all-time nadirs of the comic industry. Marvel was still trying to recover from bankruptcy, and the entire industry was only starting to drag itself out of the crash of the ’90s. Trade paperbacks and graphic novels were still tiny sections in bookstores; Diamond didn’t even provide numbers on how they sold to the direct market,  they were so inconsequential. And digital comics were still about a decade away.

Today, the industry is in much better shape, and as such, there are more comics than ever from an expanding pool of publishers and creators on an ever-increasing selection of platforms, both in print and digital. At one time, you could buy 200 to 300 comics a month, and have about the entire industry’s output. Now, that much arrives in comic stores every week. Plus all of the webcomics updating every day and digital exclusive comics and … basically just throw your eyeballs away now. They’re never going to absorb it all.

The rebound of comics is awesome, but there’s still that obsessive completist kid inside me who wants to get his hands on everything. Even if I focused on just one of the five Diamond premier publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse and IDW), I would still burn through a lot of money each week, and basically have to spend every spare moment reading comics. That would actually be a pretty awesome way to spend time, but I think my wife might have an issue with that. Heck, my cat yells at me if I’m on the computer too long. It’s just not going to happen.

Being an adult with responsibilities and a life is lame, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining getting every Marvel Masterwork and every DC Chronicles. Or how about everything Valiant releases? That company is still kind of small and manageable. I hear people talk about an awesome new run, like when Mark Waid and Marcos Martin took over Daredevil with a shiny new #1, but that’s not good enough for me. I instead first want to fill in all my gaps from Brian Michael Bendis’ Daredevil run, and then get everything from then until now. That’s ridiculous! I’m just reading stories about Daredevil, I’m not living with him. I don’t need to be staring at him when he wakes up in the morning so I don’t miss him brushing his teeth.

It’s such a weird compulsion when I think about it, and I’m sure there’s some perfectly good psychological theory about emptiness or loneliness that would make me cry. But I know I’m not the only one. That kind of mentality was the driving force of comics for a long time. It’s still lingering, but comics have gotten so big that the pure volume of releases makes it easier to draw lines, and once you start drawing lines, it’s easier to cut back more. I find that I definitely enjoy what I choose to read more today than I did when I was just reading everything out of habit and compulsion, even if that pang of nostalgia is still there.

News From Our Partners

Comments

56 Comments

I used to be a comic completist all through the eighties. Anything that featured Captain America was a must-buy for me back then. Of course when Marvel Comics raised their prices and expanded the universe significantly that was no longer possible. Plus, I grew up and other responsibilities took over.

However I am still a completist at heart and inaction. Sometimes I’ll pick up a new book (say like a Jack Reacher title) and will need to gradually buy every book written featuring the character – eventhough it may take me years to get around to reading them. I did the same thing when I bought 7 Judge Dredd chronicles trades a while back – still sitting on the shelf (although I did read one – I’ll get to them someday.)

Not sure why I do it – I’m a happy, well-balanced guy. I think I just like to collect things, and may have a smidge of OCD-like behaviour.

Still, at the end of the day I’m smart with my $, and I think the benefits of the hobby outweigh the negatives

there are three things that have prevented my previous completist behavior from continuing: time, money and product flooding.

When I first started collecting comics they cost 60 cents. Yes, that was 30 years ago and I have a lot more money now than then, but back then, for 60 cents to a dollar you could afford to buy Uncanny X-men, X-factor and New Mutants to get the whole Xavier school experience. Now, at 3.99 a pop, I can’t afford to get Astonishing X-men, Amazing X-men, X-Force, Ultimate X-men, etc. The only hero with more than one title at Marvel when I started was Spider-man, and it was easy to decide to cut out Marvel Team-up if you didn’t like the guest star and Marvel Tales if you didn’t like the old Ditko work. Each issue also felt more meaningful, each issue seemed to matter more–it was more precious to me because I couldn’t afford a whole lot, but also because there wasn’t so much of Wolverine to be gorged on.

I am with you…I don’t know how someone buying boxes and boxes of comics each week could have the time to read them all, which to me is the actual enjoyment. Yes, I like to have the full series, but I have read every single comic I have ever bought. Once I started getting bogged down with the inability to keep up, they stopped being as meaningful to me and I had to wonder why I kept collecting–at that point it just becomes stuff. I used to have time to read more, but with family, work, school and other pursuits, I ran out of the discretionary time that I would need to read them.

I feel that current marketing practices prevent the completist from existing in a practical sense. You can want to be a completist, but the current market climate prevents it from being a reasonable exercise.

Jake Earlewine

June 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm

That was a great column, Corey. Very nostalgic.

I began my addiction, my obsession, with Green Lantern 58. I remember my second, third, and fourth purchases were Thor 147, The Atom 34, and Thor 148. Once I was exposed to the super-hero universes, I was hooked, and I had to know WHAT WENT BEFORE.

I have fond memories of riding my bicycle all the way across town to the only store that sold 25 cent giants, like Fantasy Masterpieces, Marvel Super-Heroes, Marvel Tales, and Marvel Collectors Item Classics, plus all those DC 80-page giants. This was how I discovered WHAT WENT BEFORE.

Over the years I have spent an enormous amount of money on back issues, Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase Presents, Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives, and other reprint books, because of my undying desire to know WHAT WENT BEFORE.

I believe reboots are the death-knell of the comics industry, because new readers with their brand new super-hero universes have no reason to obsess over WHAT WENT BEFORE. They have no reason to spend gobs of money on WHAT WENT BEFORE, because it no longer matters. The new Superman, the new Batman, the new Captain America, are not remotely the same characters that are in all those old comics.

The plethora of publications featuring diluted and distorted variations of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Avengers, etc. makes it impossible at be a completist on those titles now. And insane to try.

I don’t buy DC comics any more. They drove me away. I buy very few Marvels for the same reason. I don’t recognize these versions of Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, etc. I don’t need to buy any more Iron Man comic books. I already have all the great ones.

I have remained a completist on manageable series that retain their quality, like the recently cancelled Dynamite runs of The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Spider, etc. Another company which is sensible and rewarding for a completist is the new Valiant. Astro City is rewarding for a completist, as is the Love and Rockets catalog and any series by Terry Moore.

Boy, some of this brings back memories — especially the hunt for back issues. I realize now I was lucky since my mother was also into some of the same comics I was, so I was able to acquire a fairly complete run of things such as Avengers (which my mother insisted on keeping custody of when I left home). But I think I’m a bit older than you (I started reading/collecting back in the early ’70s), so it really was a smaller footprint then.

I’m a completist at heart myself, but beyond those early days, I’ve never had the cash to indulge myself in everything I wanted to — and you’re right about the industry being so much more broad than it used to be. There’s also very much the space issue; the husband and I moved last year and we had to cut down a large number of items as part of that because there just wasn’t room.

For us, the solution is Marvel Unlimited for our Marvel fix. for less than what I’d shell out for one month’s worth of comics if I could get everything I wanted, I’ve got access to a back catalog that makes my heart go pit-a-pat, including back issues I could never afford. Yes, there’s a six-month delay on new issues, but accepting that means what I can spend monthly goes toward some of the Non-Marvel comics I’ve discovered. That’s where I’m focusing the completist urge at this point.

I’ve been reading through Marvel Unlimited too and when I get to a run or story I really like, I put the TPB on my Amazon wish list. Getting to read stuff before I commit to buying it is extremely helpful and helps to temper the completist impulse.

I used to love getting a new chapter of Superman every week and four other comics with my $10 allowance. Simpler times. Pretty much don’t read any of it anymore. Needed to grow beyond it anyway.

Thank you, Blake. Now I’m letting this “completist” nonsense go.

Going to third the love for Marvel Unlimited. It really is a great way to (sort of) keep up with the plethora of titles I can’t afford to buy each month. And double-shipping has only made it worse. I love what I’ve (belatedly) read of Hickman’s Avengers, but to keep up, I have to buy three books a month at $4 a pop. Instead, I tend to spend my money on the titles I’m more worried about being cancelled—Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, X-Factor, and (haven’t checked the sales figures on this one, but just assuming based on recent history) Silver Surfer. I figure my dollars go further there than with something like Avengers or the main X-Men titles, which are unlikely to be cancelled.

Yep, I’m there. I’ve been reading the Hulk since the early 1980s and almost consistently got every issue up until the Bruce Jones run. I fell out for a bit, then got back in with Greg Pak’s run. With the maddening advent of collected editions, I tried to get every Hulk hardcover and TPB released. I finally gave up and actually sold off a number of my trades a few years ago.

I just couldn’t do it any more. Part of it was always trying to keep up and realizing it was an exercise in futility. (And this is for Hulk. If I were a Spider-Man or Batman completionist, I’d be insane.) The bigger part was that I wasn’t enjoying it. Looking back, I found that I really didn’t enjoy reading the old Herb Trimpe or Len Wein Hulks. I’m not knocking them–it’s just that I didn’t grow up with them and they didn’t appeal to me. I really just wanted nice reprints of what I grew up with: the Bill Mantlo stuff, or Peter David’s, or whatever else I liked.

…I really wish they’d finish reprinting Peter David’s stuff.

@Jake Earlwine

You make a good point about reboots making WHAT WENT BEFORE less relevant. But I think that is probably more than cancelled out by the increased availability of back issues. In the old days you could only hope your old comic store had all the back issues. Now you can buy huge lots of them on eBay for less than 50 cents a book. And then there are the trade paperpacks. You can get massive doorstopping trades and omnibuses. They might not be as relevant to the new stories as before. But they more than make up for it by being super-duper cheap.

This has been my experience. I didn’t start subscribing to comics until a couple years ago, and I’m not terribly completist for the new stuff. I read every Green Lantern title, but I pick and choose most of the other books fairly selectively. But when it comes to back issues where I’m super completist. I buy tons of back issues and trades at ridiculously low prices on eBay, Amazon, and the cheap bins at local comic stores. I have a ton of full or very long runs of comics, sometimes in trade, sometimes original issues, I don’t really care which.

I recently started rereading my back issues in chronological order, starting in 1959. I’m very excited about this, as I will finally be able to understand the viewpoint of people who have followed comics for decades. It’s really fun to see Green Lantern and the Fantastic Four develop from the start. I need to draw lines of course. I have certain titles I favor because I love their modern incarnations (GL and JSA), some that I want to get into (X-Men), and some that were just on sale (Doom Patrol).

In terms of finding time to read comics, I don’t have that much difficulty. I find that if I discipline myself I can read 5-10 a night without interfering with my work or personal life. With modern decompressed comics I can sometimes knock out 20. And I write a few thoughts down about them afterwards so that I remember them better. I do have a huge backlog, but I’m slowly making my way through it.

For me it’s totally and completely limited by cost. If i could afford it, i would read all Marvel, all DC, all Dark Horse, all Dynamite, a good deal of Image, and a goodly portion of some indie stuff. But at $2.99+ an issue, that cuts deep into the pocketbook and limits to no more than 10 books a week. I spend most of my time reading old books from my collection.

If I could afford, i would be totally and completely a completest. Moreso than an individual title, I now follow the epic stories that tickle my fancy. I’m really into Original Sin but have zero interest in most of the Final Crisis or new 52 stuff. I cherish my Civil War series as well as the Annihilation Conquest and War of Kings storylines. THOSE were worth my dollar and i devoured anything related to them. By contrast, Age of Ultron was a big miss, seeming to end before it really got going.

As for titular series, the start-stop nature can get very confusing. There’s a new number one every couple of years, or a series ends just as I’m getting familiar with the characters or storyline.. Why invest in a series when it’s only going to last 20-odd issues? That’s just long enough to get seriously invested in a story or character as it’s shut down.

Titles seem all about that initial sale surge. It’s not as drastic as it was in the mid-90s, when every 3rd issue was a die-cut, embossed, glow-in-the-dark super-sized anniversary issue with a much larger price-tag. Now it’s reboot, reboot, reboot. I don’t know how new collectors are able to catch up with the myriad of chop-and-go titles.

Most notably would be the huge changes in Hulk from 1999-2012 where they each started, stopped, added Hulks all over the place, and even shifted to the Incredible Herc for a while before coming back. Hulk had me stymied for about a year after coming back to them after time away. It was hair-pulling frustration just trying to figure out numbering and sequence and eventually finding out there were whole runs i had missed.

I all but stopped reading 52 and new 52 because it just all was too tough to follow with a couple of issues a month. For me, too much shifted with this impending (and eventual) event that would change it all again (i can see it looming with Futures End and Infinite Crisis both leading to some singularity). I’ll just stick to Vertigo when i choose to read DC books, thank you very much.

Oh my…I remember those days well. Hunting down that elusive back issue in some obscure comic book store…back when comic book stores were rare and hard to find. It’s a whole lot easier nowadays with the collections and trades and stuff…but somehow a lot of the thrill is gone.

This is one of the reason why I miss the old DC Universe. I spent a LOT of time gathering that knowledge of continuity and I resent that it’s all gone.

Being a completionist is kind of hard and not necessary these days.

It’s hard because a lot of stores have eliminated their back issue stock so that avenue isn’t viable for collecting. And the necessity of completing a run is reduced by robust collections departments of the Big Two. A great run of Avengers 200 to 300 can now be had in TPB. To say nothing of Essentials, Showcases, Archives, etc.
There’s still a lot to do in this regard- DC’s utter lack of a cohesive policy with regards to their classic stuff is an area of particular sorrow- but for a lot of crucial runs, they’re a click away on Amazon or right on the shelf at your LCS.

Michael Scheu

June 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm

My completist tendencies are dying as I get older. Many of the books I really adored as a kid (Justice League as an example) don’t have the same pull on me in retrospect. That makes it much easier to trim down my collection to the books I still care about. TPB reprints also help!

I use to try and buy all things Batman until the 90s came along and i found so many titles were just pure crap, either the art or the story (or both) were not worth the money to me, i had about given up on all things Batman until the New 52, overall a lot of good art and stories from several titles. I can say the same for the Avengers which was (is) another title i collect, now with so many coming i just go back and work on what i need from the Original run, maybe a few others since then. but most the newer Avengers titles are crap.

I hear you man!

I’m one of those completists…..over 50 000 comics in the collection.
Been in and out of comics a few times. Nowadays I’m trade only, never thought it would happen, but I’m done with that monthly/weekly thing.
And I’m kind of ignoring the big 2….done with all the interconnected titles too and the rehash of stories, deaths/returns of characters….pointless, seen it, read it, I don’t bother with it anymore.

Trades only and preferrably stories with beginning, middle and end…..not titles that just go on forever. And of course European comics….most of the time a book in a year.
That way it’s all manageable. The big 2 have cool characters, the attraction is still there, but it’s just too much and there’s lots and lots of cool other stuff to be found.

I can completely relate with the hunt for elusive back issues when I was a kid. I completed all of the back runs of my favorite characters and then moved on to other books, just to have the challenge of filling stuff in left and right.

Now I just buy the titles with my core characters and everything else has pretty much fallen away. I still have the completion bug, but it manifests in the most hated of ways…”variant covers”. The worst was Amazing Spider-man #1 with 50+ variants. Ridiculous. Again I agree, you have to draw the line somewhere. I still buy my weekly books but I’ve narrowed down my variants to only one character instead of keeping up with multiple books. At the prices some of these variants are right off the press, who can afford to buy every single one?

Things like comixology made filling the gaps far cheaper. Instead of back issues getting more expensive, they got cheaper.

I try to read everything of certain series but the process takes ages and often it is stop and start. I’ve been trying to read Hellblazer from the start since last year and I’m still only about halfway through the Delano run.

I was also playing catch up with Spider-Man a couple years back so I could read the Superior Spider-man story but I wandered off when I hit issue 603 or something.

You’re right when you say there is so much good stuff coming out. But there is also a lot of cool old stuff that you hadn’t discovered or actively sat down and read. The temptation to be a completist remains but the amount of distractions inside and outside of comics means we have to be more selective.

I personally think we are all the better for it. Especially since comics have to compete far more with each other as well as other exciting media for our financially constrained and time limited attentions.

What kind of dribble is this? apparently you haven’t been out of your shell and seen the attendance at cons and people tearing through back issue bins to fill their collections. Every shop i go to i see tons of people buying back issues. Open your eyes first before you write stuff like this…maybe you would figure out that comics are the second biggest thing sold on ebay….Bad article for someone who doesnt understand that the 60’s 70’s and 80’s guys are still out slinging comics….

TheManFromACRONYM

June 21, 2014 at 9:39 am

You know, Ive pretty much got every comic I care to collect. Every Captain America, Moonknight and Punisher comic (which are my favourite characters), and pretty much everything else for any character or team I like since I started collecting about 20 years ago.

Sure, theres lots of comics I’d take off your hands if you offered them to me, but theres nothing left out there that I feel the need to go out and buy anymore. Its kind of liberating not to want for anything other than your weekly standing order!

As someone who started reading just before flashpoint (but read sporadically during my childhood) I can relate to the overwhelming desire to have everything. Right now I’ve come to love Indie books and my image/idw/etc list outweighs the big two. Still, I wonder if I should cut my pull list down so I can fill more of my backlog, namely ASM

I started reading comics in the mid to early eighties as a teen. While mom went shopping in the grocery store I would go next door to the drug store and stare at the comic racks picking out 2-3 if I was allowed that many. There were some comics I really wanted to have the entire storyline of and others I took as they were. Mostly I would pick up Classic X-Men and anything else related to them. I never felt the urge to collect any comics (as in storing them in bags and keeping them in the best condition) because all I wanted was the story. Nowadays I prefer to just pick up the graphic novel versions so that the story is all in one place. Nice and neat.

This was a good read.
I started reading and collecting/reading comics back 20yrs ago. My titles were only X-men and Spiderman.. and anything with a cool cover (embossed,die cut, anything shiny or with a hologram). It was a good little ploy that comic publishers had back then and it worked especially for someone like me.
Gradually i drifted away and got distracted with reading Manga’s instead and watching anime. Got back into collecting/reading again when i started earning money and i was buying comics here and there. They started releasing variants and i wanted to get them and even get the 2nd prints and so on. It took some serious toll in my wallet but i was happy for some reason. i was happy because i didn’t miss a different cover for the comics i read and collect. After time, i got tired of it because it was left and right.
The sad part about collecting comics nowadays is that everyone (including non-comic lovers/readers) collects em. A lot of people making profit, buying multiple copies so they can sell on eBay or somewhere else. I guess that’s “fun” for them. I feel bad for the real comic lovers out there who are being taken advantage of but i guess thats just how the world has turned into. and you have those 3rd party grading companies grading/slabbing your comics. A lot of people love that but i’m not really a fan. I love reading my comics again and again. see it age but not to the point where it deteriorates… i’d still like my kids to get to read them when they grow a bit older (when they fully understand that what theyre holding is a treasure). That’s if they like that kinda stuff.
Now its all about speculations of this comic being turned to a movie or a tv show and prices sky rocket. Oh yeah… i sometimes do get sucked in especially if i wanted to know what’s so special about it. I’ve learned my lesson and have not fallen victim to this. I think it was my completist side kicking in that time and after acquiring that expensive “so called to be a movie/tv show” comic book then i go and get the rest. Some are good read but most are not into my taste. I’ve still got a fair few numbers of comics i read every month… and yes… Xmen and Spiderman are still part of those.

Just my opinion… hopefully i dont offend anyone and if i did, i apologize. Whatever makes us happy!

The joy of the 50c and #1 bins at cons – even today you can get recent stuff cheep – the plus side of the non-returnable ordering system, new and recent stuff cheep in top shape! I’ve not paid full price for anything in years!

I am so much lucky that I was able to gather everything I wanted. Here in Poland I started from the purchase of the legendary clashes X-Men vs. the Hellfire Club [Uncanny X-Men # 132], which has been translated into Polish. I was hooked for good. I collected everything that was given in my language of the X-Men, and tihis title was completed at the wedding of Jean and Scott in Poland. It took me two years to collect the whole of it. Then in 1997 I switched to comics imported from the USA. Over the past 17 years I collected all the key stories from the X-Men, Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Avengers. I have the entire run of Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men [comic books and albums], all run by Bob Harras in the The Avengers [comic books and albums], all run by Larry Hama in theWolverine [comic books and albums], all run Peter David in X-Factor [comic books and albums], all run by David Michelinie in Amazing Spider-Man [comic books and albums]. I am most proud of the entire collection of Spider-Man Clone Saga. Starting from the album Spider-Man Clone Genesis, through the Clone Saga 11 albums and comic books of Aunt May return in “the Gathering of Five/Final Chapter”, which for me are the actual end of the story, plus 6 comic books “Spider-Man Clone Saga” about how the story was supposed to look primarily by Tom DeFalco. A lot of reading is before me, but I already have what I wanted :-)

Very nostalgic. I’ll use the seventies as a starting point. Back them my parents would give me a buck and I’d just pick some issues off the rack – this is like age 4-8 or so. I remember buying House of Secrets, Dial H for Hero, Devil Dinosaur, X-Men, Swamp Thing, Superman, Weird War Stories, The Defenders and of course The Incredible Hulk. Those were my favorite or what I specifically remember and on a meager buck or two a month I actually could have completed maybe half of those as a child, but it didn’t really work that way for me as it was more of a monthly or every other month thing I think, more of a treat really. By the time the eighties came back around, same story pre/early teens – I had an allowance and I did near complete runs of titles from Marvel and DC, a lot of great classic stuff from Teen Titans to Frank Miller’s run on Batman, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Claremont’s -Men, Byrne on FF but was still relying on the kwik way or supermarket racks so I would sometimes miss stuff.

It wasn’t til years late we got a local comic book store and there was a way to go back and get some of those, this being the mid to late eighties I’m talking. Before the internet, before the TPB. Before the ‘Big 3′. The difference now and then couldn’t be more in contrast.

In the late eighties/early nineties I was able to have a pull-list, and a steady supply from a business just bringing in comics that was more than happy to get me anything monthly I asked for. This is still before the internet and a little before the TPB It was doable to complete titles. Marvel and DC had maybe 2 monthlies per character. A crossover once or twice a year. New series would spring up and end just as quickly. Multiple limited series. It wasn’t a whole lot different than the eighties in term of volume, early on. It was really easy to get everything I wanted almost, not quite because cost and time. Although there was some interesting stuff coming about by Vertigo and from overseas even competing for my money and some of that stuff was hard to collect really.

But by the mid-nineties, the gimmick covers/bagged with collectible cards/ the Image and Dark Horse really had opened the flood gates for a new/or just accelerated bunch of publishers (Malibu, Valiant, Defiant, Triumphant – any of these sound familiar :D) by this time. More crossovers and tie ins, popularity was at a high maybe, retro was getting big, TPBs started showing up and then it all crashed. There was no way to keep up then, to be collecting from all this then even marginally was stacks of books weekly. Some guys I knew did it. For a period I probably did 30 plus books a month – I don’t know how even.

This post is getting long so I’ll skip ahead and make my point. Retconning, renumbering, digital, TPB prevalence, overpricing (Marvel being the worst) oversaturating (Marvel again comes to mind) too many crossover/tie-ins, return of gimmicks and way too many monthlies per character have basically destroyed any chance or need of completing titles really. I find myself passing on titles to download and read on a tablet too much these days. Before that I found myself passing monthly titles (and trying to complete, not hard really at all – Amazon!) TPB collections and still do for many titles. Monthly I collect, many I am behind on about 5 titles in a stack 16″ high and growing (Batman, Wonder Woman, Prophet, New, New, New(?) X-men, Uncanny X-Men, Asylum, Clone, Crossed ) so that I pick a title maybe once a month and read 3 or 4 in a row but still stay behind on most if not all of those. maybe 3 times what I collect (20 titles a month maybe) that I download and don’t get to so they sit on a hard drive unread and the stacks re growing digitally – some I’ve never read but keep adding. But it’s funny, I find time to stay caught up with for example, Saga, East of West, Alex + Ada, Sex Criminals, Velvet, Lazarus, Stray Bullets (Image in the in a new renaissance and keeps the industry at least my interest afloat, and still enthusiastic these days it seems) and if I miss one, I just download it. The only thing making me a completionist these days is a pull list to be honest. The big 2, aren’t that big to me and I pass over so much Marvel stuff I might pull or grab off the shelf because of cost and renumbering and the lack of continuity. Dark Horse is a shell. Boom and Dynamite are up and down but not for me. And there’s more I am not familiar with I’ll be honest. It would be impossible now to read even a quarter of what comes out and there is a ton of good stuff to chose rom, not enough time – like everything else really.

And, lastly (sorry, longer than I intended – honestly) I’m rediscovering issues from the past and tracking that stuff down, everything from Steranko, Ditko, Kirby, Los Hernadez Bros, Don Rosa/Carl Banks, Wallace Wood – pre comics code, etc etc and re-reading the stuff I love that has come out over the last thirty plus years I’ve read time and time again or just long overdue to be to be read again, for example Simonson’s run on Thor, Stray Bullets 1- 41 (is it) – The Goon, Powell’s not making new ones might as well start over, I could read Preacher for like the third or fourth time, 100 bullets needs read again, sorry I could go on and on :D

So, how can anyone complete anything these days? Even if they’re a kid just getting started like I was once.

I think the most important statement is in the conclusion:

“the pure volume of releases makes it easier to draw lines, and once you start drawing lines, it’s easier to cut back more.”

And I think that’s what is, in some ways, hurting the Big Two.

When the New 52 came out, I had originally planned to jump on board, having been primarily a Marvel reader. So I choose a few characters – Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Justice League. But then, that completionist inside reminds me about Detective, Action, Corps, etc. Before I knew it, my list was close to a dozen comics, which ends up being $40 a month on JUST DC books.

I couldn’t make that work, so I started cutting the fluff. And as I cut more, I realized that I didn’t really care THAT much about any of the books. So I ended up eliminating all but one or two, which eventually fell to zero by the end of the year. It was just too expensive to get it all, and getting only pieces wasn’t cutting it.

Oddly enough, the idea of being able to achieve a complete checklist of some kind – reading ALL the Batbooks, for instance – somehow adds to the enjoyment of the books, adding some value to otherwise subpar comics. Without that, the flaws in the individual books stands out more.

Unfortunately, Marvel and DC have pushed towards even bigger franchises, despite the price increases, making it tougher than ever to be a completionist. So I’ve started buying more Image and indie books, where there’s no completionist itch to scratch, and the books end up being a lot better most of the time.

I used to get whatever comics I could as a kid and had a collection of hundreds of books. but most of them are incomplete story arcs and mismatched. I took a break for years from the time I was 18 until my late 20’s and when I started collecting again I decided to focus on one book. now I only buy amazing spider-man back issues and keep up a subscription. I read others digitally, but its too expensive otherwise.

I used to be the same way in the 80’s and 90’s. I wanted to make sure I had everything associated with my favorite hero. Comic companies took advantage of that by making cross-overs galore. I went after these crossovers for a bit but it cost a lot and I was just a kid then. Comic companies have never looked back and use these tactics to get the mighty $ out of our pockets as much as they can.

When I was a teenager working in a comic shop in the late 90s, we had a couple of customers who bought every Marvel & DC comic every month. A doctor and a lawyer, guys who could afford it. It was they craziest thing. Corey wonders in the article if those kind of buyers read them all, I don’t think these guys read any of them. They just went in storage somewhere.

For years, my comic shop missions were filling in the Nocenti/Romita, Jr. DD and the Stern/Romita, Jr. Spider-Man. I do kind of miss the hunt for back issues. It was always exciting to find that key issue. But I’ll take being able to just get them and read them, whether in print from an online retailer or digitally, any day. The wealth of material can be daunting now, but the ease of access is awesome.

I had a discussion with a marriage counselor a few years ago about the same thing. She told me that I probably like looking at the art and it was perfectly normal, especially if I had been collecting them since I was 11 and I was now a professional graphic designer.

In my teens and early twenties it would drive me nuts if I was missing a book in my collection. Now I just don’t care anymore. I still read a lot of books…sometimes I’ll skip an issue of something one month just to save the money. I can’t be bothered to hunt back issues anymore either.

Too many books out there (many of them forgettable) and they are very expensive nowadays. When the average price of a single issue goes beyond 3.99, I think I’ll be done with comics.

Maharlika I.S.

June 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I can still remember the old days of mapping missing issues, plotting trips and saving lunch money to complete arcs and runs. Marking calendars and making absences at classes to attend cons to get cheap and “rare” back issues.

Those were the days.

Thanks to New 52 and Marvel’s price increase (and financial responsibilities), I didn’t look back and I’m free from my crazy habits. I just don’t have the time and money to spend on comics (and even other hobbies: Magic: The Gathering; toy collecting; video games. After all, we only have 24 hours a day.)

Now, I’m just reading Uncanny X-Men, All New X-Men, Mark Millar books and Ron Marz’s Witchblade.

The money you make is yours to spend, yes. But it is also yours to SAVE.

I was 10 years old in ’63, just the perfect age for the Marvel revolution. Then I could buy all the Marvel super hero books and some DC’s. There were 9 Marvels – 3 team books FF, X-men & Avengers; 3 solos Spider-Man, DD & Thor (JIM); and the three split books TOS, TTA & Strange Tales. A kids pocket money could cover everything you needed in a month. Even after the expansion in the late 60′ s I could buy all the superhero line. Gradually I had to let some titles go and the completist in me had to reluctantly give up. This bothered me for a very long time.
But a few years ago I had a sudden realisation that even though I have a full run of FF from vol 1 #50 to present day I will never have a complete run because unless something serious happens to Marvel FF will continue after I’m not here !! ( I’ve got 1to 49 in Masterworks, if I live for another 100 years I’ll never be able to afford a no. 1)
This realisation wasn’t depressing it just made it easier to just buy the books I enjoy and drop the stuff I was only really buying because I had the previous 100+ issues.

I’m still in the collecting of every marvel comic put out. Right now I’m 90 % done it’s been a long road but I can see the end of the road.

This brought up so many feels! My two favorite character are Chamber (Generation X) and Iron Man. Obviously, with Iron Man I’d have to choose between keeping my house and being a completist, and he’s got so many ups and downs that I don’t really WANT it all. But with Chamber… I just can’t help myself. It helps that he’s a pretty obscure character, so owning everything isn’t that hard or expensive. I tell myself I don’t need an issue where he and his team just appear as a non-speaking flashback (seems to happen a lot!) but god it’s like my brain floods with dopamine at the thought of just having a little more on the character. I always cave, but I can’t really regret it.

Funny though… I like Larsbars am also a graphic designer and illustrator. I collect original comic art too (including my prized Chamber defeating Omega Red and Tony dying before he gets Extremis pages) so it’s hard to regret ever owning art regardless if it’s mass produced or one of a kind.

Ollie by Golly

June 21, 2014 at 3:14 pm

It was a matter of what made more sense to me economically. I can buy a LOT more 70’s and 80’s back issue comics with $50.00 each month online than new comics at a shop.

Scoundrel Ben

June 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Can’t help it, I still try and collect all of marvel it may take a long time but every year I get closer! Xmen down avengers and spidey next!

What sickens me the most is finding a back issue for $1 in the discount bin that I paid $30 for in 1995 when the artist was still hot. I’m talking about Hulk #330 featuring the first Todd McFarlane drawn issue of that title. Man, I was stupid back then.

The thing about back issues from pre-decompressed era is that they were often worth paying a little more to fill in a gap here and there. I wouldn’t pay more than $1 for anything published after 1998 or so, mainly due to lack of story content per issue and per storyline.

iamtobiasjames

June 21, 2014 at 3:45 pm

There’s something about putting together a run of issues or a complete series that gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. I will even use the Marvel Chronology Project to throw in some extra appearances of a favorite character. Part of me knows it’s ultimately ridiculous. But can I just claim a bit of literary high road and call it the fanboy equivalent of worldbuilding? Bringing order to something, even a collection of magazines featuring characters from a fictional universe, can offer respite often denied by the lives we lead.

I try to be a completist but it doesn’t haunt me if I don’t get that significant issue(s).
It also have to be issues or books that I really really want to read or want to collect.
Overtime sometimes I forget about those books because of other books peeking my interest.
But…..it’s so much fun when you go to a sale or whatever, and everything comes flooding back and you pick up those fill ins and books you’ve dreamed of getting.

Working at one of the major comic retailers in my area in the 90’s allowed me a discount better than the 20% offered to hold box members. Because of this i was able to fill in a back log of FF, Hulk and DD classics. December of 2000 saw the end of my comic reading. The glut of comics and mediocre writing and college had left me unsatisfied with reading comics. fast forward 14 years and here i am filling in the missed time of my favorite titles, xmen and uncanny and hulk. the only current title i am itching to fill is clone.

WOW, glad i found this article. It brings back memories. Never thought there was a term but i was also a completist collector. I used to live in Brooklyn and part of it was the experience of the “hunt” so to speak, I had my regular shop in Brooklyn, plus the fun of finding new places in Manhattan was always a good time, Having no financial responsibilities back then besides a pager bill, (lol) i had my job money and other misc cash to spend on what I wanted. At one point i had a, at the time, complete collection of Alpha Flight, most acquired from a kid who did not know what he really had…..
Today there are way to many to even consider collecting again, (my own budgetary limitations) but with all there is to offer today it would be a fun trip down memory lane again

Im pretty new to comics, been collecting for about 3 years now. I love X-Men, but i have found at first that i needed to buy every X-Men comic ever made. So, now have a huge collection and not a lot of cash in my pocket!
Its getting to be a problem because of the amount of different stories and books out there, im struggling to keep up. x-men, amazing x-men, uncanny x-men, wolverine & the x-men, astonishing x-men, x-men legacy, all new x-men.. aghhh it just too much and i need to stop.

Good news is im enjoying The Walking Dead more 1 title, 1 story, easy :)

I’m a completist about stuff I like. Alas, due mainly to finances, it will take me some time (if ever) to get all of the back issues I don’t have; with each new round of solicits I have to put some on my “get when I can” list. Mainly I follow writers, and even then there’s a whole lot more to get than I can presently afford.

I think me being a that kind of person that has to have everything is why I started to follow characters, not titles. That way sometimes there is a break from me buying every title I like. If I just follow a character I only have to worry about what issues they are in. But thats getting harder and harder to do as well.

I think being a completist is hard nowadays because there are always going to be what the reader considers “bad runs” on a book. I got out of comics in the early 90’s because I didn’t like how Marvel and DC were trying to become Image (at least visually). Being a hardcore Marvel guy going back to the late 70’s when I first starting reading, I hated giving up the X-Men. I eventually got rid of most of my collection but I kept certain books and when I got back into comics around 2002, I wanted to fill in the gaps. While I was doing it, I remembered why I dropped comics around ’94 and stayed away for 8 years. I still thought they were bad and I realized that having gaps in what I liked to read isn’t a bad thing. I still love buying back issues but I have to have a reason outside of completing a run.

I’ve realised recently that there are some books I’m buying “just because” they’re already on my pull list… for one reason or another, if I get to the shop early on a Wednesday, before the pull boxes are ready, and forget to pick one of these up, or if I leave it in my “to read” stack for too long… I just don’t care enough to keep collecting them; hi has been the case for Batman And…, Justice League, a couple of X-Men titles.

It’s freed me up to go back and fill out my Wolverine collection a bit at a time (any before ’97), and pick up some older key issues of Union Jack, Moon Knight and the odd X-Men comic. I’ve also been able to delve into stuff like The Black Bat, the Spider and Starlight with the freed up funds.

I’ve learned to steer my completionist tendencies to older runs that I can (and will) pick up the old fashioned way; through back issue bins.

in 1997 I stopped buying comics, after a year, news broke out that Waid would write Capt. America, i jumped in for 24 issues, i left the title when Waid did.

Ah memories of collecting nearly all the Marvels and half of DC’s output back in the early 70’s . Of course with the Marvel UK weeklies at the time as well we were very lucky over here.

@Mel, the finest piece of Captain America I’ve read. Still got only about 5 or 6 Cap comics tho, only 2 from Waid’s run.

I like collecting all of my favored character’s stories. I don’t see it as a negative or as an obsession or as something that should “End” its just fun. Its a hobby this collecting comics thing and the fun in something like that is collecting. I know i wont be able to read every single story ever published for a character i love but its not really about that. Its about having fun with the thing i love you know reading comics. I never new it had a name I just thought i was a fan who enjoys a certain character.

I’ve followed comics for most of my life but there were two characters who bred in me the completionist mentality: Darkhawk and Kyle Rayner. I made it my mission to own every single comic book appearance of Darkhawk, regardless of how small and insignificant, and every piece of merchandise produced featuring Kyle Rayner (because, in his early days, that was easier than the masses of comics in which he was appearing). I had to give up on Darkhawk around the time of the black-and-white “US War Machine” mini-series because I disliked the story; more recent titles like “Avengers Arena” made me glad I did. As for Kyle, well, I think part of my completionist mentality was driven by a belief that if I helped keep the character profitable he’d never be replaced by Hal Jordan, and we all know now that was (a) not feasible; and (b) nothing to fear given the way both characters have been prominently used in the time since “Rebirth”.

I’ve found it best to establish personal cut-off points for comic runs or toy collections, in order to maintain sanity and financial security. My GL issues are ongoing, my Transformers toy collection stops at the end of G1 (and to warrant purchase, characters must have featured in the UK title’s storylines), and my run of “Amazing Spider-Man” finishes at #500. ASM and the Grant/Breyfogle run on “Batman” and “Detective” are my collecting focus now… I’ve made it back to ASM #145 so far and continue chipping away at that glacier. But doing such is far, far easier than trying to keep up with the avalanche of new material each month.

I used to be a completist. It started with a few titles, expanded into publishers (early 90’s Marvel/Image) and it got completely out of hand. My “box” at the local comic store ballooned with a huge burst of mini-series and one-shots. I slowly backed away to just wanting to complete the X back titles (X-Factor, X-Men etc) and moved to collecting graphic novels.

Now im floating the same boat again of being a completist of graphic novels because they have been around enough that there are is so many good series out of print its hard to get your hands on them. Since then ive stayed away from the insanely overpriced “premire hardcovers” and wait for the trade. I like watching a whole season of a tv show at once, reading a whole story at once so i usually lag behind the universe by a 3-4 months.

My first comic was Uncanny X-Men #211 bought off the stand, 1986. The lady (yes lady) at the store then told me about back issues and showed me to the boxes with the Ucanny X-men. Man from that moment on I was all out trying to complete my set. I am laughing now thinking how I would groan about a book being $5 and how I would have to save up for those books.

Anyway great article, but you are correct completist is dead. There is no reason to look back because they just retcon anything that doesn’t work for them now. Also the trade market makes it easy to “find” older expensive issues.

I didn’t know from the title that I’d be reading this and 100% agreeing, but that’s what happened. However, unlike most people, who saw the overwhelming amount of comics starting to flood out, and simply cut back, I ended up giving up comics entirely.

Now hear me out.

I know myself, and I know I’d be unhappy knowing what’s happening to one set of X-Men, but arbitrarily not knowing what’s happening to another. I’d know in the back of my mind that those other stories are still going on, and I’d want to know what was happening there. That’s just one example, but there are dozens just like it. I simply couldn’t decide what was cut-able, and what wasn’t, because I was enjoying all of it about the same.

I guess you could say that Marvel found my point of over-saturation and burn-out.

Leave a Comment

 


Browse the Robot 6 Archives