Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why I Rarely Buy Comic Books Anymore

I love comic books.   I loved them as a kid and I love them now.  But I rarely buy them anymore.   Before I continue, please know that this will not be a diatribe about how the stories or art were so much better when I was a kid.  To be honest, some of the stuff that came out when I was a kid was awful and much of what comes out today is pretty good.  I’m not glorifying the “good old days,” though I recognize that I will always have a certain fondness for most things that came out during my formative years, whether it was comic books, movies or music.  There’s a lot of good stuff out today.  Yet, I rarely buy comic books any more.  This is because two things have changed:
1.     Comic books have changed
2.     I have changed.
First, I’m going to discuss the changes in comic books.
One reason is that I can no longer justify spending the amount of money necessary.  A single comic costs at least $2.99 and some cost more.  When I was a kid, we knew a price increase was coming because a comic might say, “Still .25 cents!”  In fact, I remember the day they went from being 12 cents to 15, from 15 cents to 20, and from 20 cent to 25.  I was pretty upset on the day I found out they went to 25 cents.  It was all I could think about the whole day.  Still, I could buy four comics for a dollar.  Today four comic books would cost at least $12.  Shopping carefully I could buy a night or two worth of groceries for the same amount.   Would I rather read or eat?   Hmmmm…  Money concerns, however, was not the only thing that overwhelmed me.
Today, there are literally hundreds of comic books being published.  There was a time when I could keep up with most of what was going on in most comic books.  Today, there are just too many titles.  In addition, every two to three years there are major overhauls of characters or even the complete line of characters.  The day when there was a linear progression to the stories was over.  What happened even two or three years ago was not longer relevant because of the constant “rebooting.”   The comic universes had become too large, too numerous and too unwieldy.  And they had changed too often.  In simpler terms, I couldn’t keep up.  And I no longer wanted to.  I found other things to occupy my time.
Time was another reason I stopped buying them.  The time I spent going to the comic book stores, reading, storing and keeping them became more than I wanted to spend.  Perhaps it was my age.  Perhaps it was because I found something that was, for me at least, more meaningful.  This is meant in no way to disparage the amount of time, talent and energy that writers and artists put into their work.  As I said, this is not a diatribe against modern times.  I just want to use my own time differently.  I’ve never heard anyone say it, but the truth, as I see it, is this:
Comic books are, for the most part, entertainment.  And entertainment is a form of escape from and avoidance of real life.
They’re the same as television, movies, gossip (public or private), sports, online games, and sometimes even politics, things I also enjoy.  Yes, I can be inspired and encouraged.  I can learn life lessons from them.  I can have fun, which is a necessary part of an emotionally balanced life.  But the main reason I read comics was and is to escape the difficulties of the real world or in my own life.  There’s nothing wrong with entertainment or even the occasional escape.  We all need it.  I found, however, that I was putting far too much of my time, energy, money and even my identity into being entertained.   There was absolutely nothing to show for any of the time or money I put into my hobby, my obsession.  What was bad was that while they were still providing a form of escape, they were becoming less and less fun.  Worst of all, the time I was spending on my comics was time I was not investing in writing, exercise, relationships or my spiritual life.  And why would I?  Comic books could keep me “comfortably numb” as the Pink Floyd song went.
One day I no longer wanted to be numb, comfortably or otherwise.  It wasn’t just comic books that had changed.  I had changed.  I found a different passion, one that did not allow me to escape life, but to face it directly.  My passion was Purpose, the reason for being on this planet.  I most often express my Purpose through writing, which takes time, energy and commitment.  I misuse enough time as it is.  Time becomes more precious each year as I realize I probably have more behind me than ahead of me.  I don’t want to waste any more of it by not facing life directly.  I may still use some of that time to make a big bowl of popcorn and read a stack of comic books, but this will be by choice, not by default and not from fear.
I’m here for a reason.  I’m not here to be afraid or constantly entertained.  I have to Get Started and Keep Going…and read a comic book once in a while.