Thursday, January 30, 2014

Replacing items on the pull list

For anyone who has been following my blog, you may have noticed some changes to the pull list.  Many of the titles that were listed on my list half a year ago, are now gone from it, and new titles have been added.  The general pattern has been for me to drop a DC title and pick up a non-DC title by an independent company.  I'm going to summarize the last year in comic-book collecting and pull list modification below.

The beginning: 100% DC

When I started off collecting comics again, I began with my old stand-by company, DC Comics. Marvel had earned my ire in about 1989, and I had no desire to return to them. But DC, they were my guys... I had enjoyed DC comics exclusively for 10 years (1989-1999) and I had been collecting a few DC comics for years before that.  So when I began, my initial pull list, after a few months of sampling and trying things out, looked something like this:

  1. Supergirl
  2. Superman
  3. Action Comics
  4. Batgirl
  5. Worlds' Finest
  6. Earth-2
  7. Wonder Woman
  8. Justice League
  9. Justice League of America
  10. Astro City

That is a 100% lineup of DC comics.  I sampled Captain America, but after 6 issues, and without ever really putting it on my pull list, I decided I didn't like the direction of it and gave up.

The middle: 60% DC

However, DC's New 52 comics were really not doing it for me in many cases.  Action Comics, for example, was simply unreadable -- I detest Morrison's stream-of-consciousness style.  So I dropped it.  Not long after, I dropped Superman, as a result of the H'el on Earth arc and the awful writing by Scott Lobdell.

Then there were the incessant events. By summer I had gotten so fed up with the Trinity War and the other mega-events to which JL and JLA were prone, that I dropped those titles as well.  Rather than replace those titles with other DC comics, I had gotten so annoyed over the Forever Evil tripe, that I replaced all four titles with comics from other companies.  Thor, God of Thunder took the place of Superman. Lazarus took the place of Action Comics.  And I started sampling other books to see what I would like. Eventually Ghosted and Red Sonja made the line-up, at least on a trial basis.  My pull list then looked like this:

  1. Supergirl
  2. Batgirl
  3. Worlds' Finest
  4. Earth-2
  5. Wonder Woman
  6. Astro City
  7. Lazarus
  8. Red Sonja
  9. Thor, God of Thunder
  10. Ghosted

Thus, I had gone from 10/10 comics by DC to 6/10.

Further culling

Two titles that had been teetering for a while finally got the axe as my first year back in the comic-book collecting game drew to a close (in December): Worlds' Finest and Earth-2.  Worlds' Finest had been floundering for a long time. It started out well enough, but in the last 6 months or so had started wandering aimlessly.  It certainly was not helped by not being published at all during Forever Evil month, and being knocked off-story by all the events and crossover garbage.  But mostly, Paul Levitz, who was an old favorite writer of mine, seems to have lost his touch. The stories had no bite to them, and I found myself not caring what happened to Helena or Karen. Considering that these had been two of my top DC female characters years ago, that's saying something. So I took WF off the list.

Earth-2 was an easier trigger to pull. It had been well written by Robinson, but he was fired from the book right in the middle of the story arc about the new war with Apokolips.  I have no idea how much of what was written in the issue or two after he left was planned by him and how much was new stuff, but I absolutely hated it.  See, in the last couple of issues I read, Superman from Earth-2, long thought dead, has returned, but as a soldier of Apokolips.  He brutally murders tens of thousands of people in the span of about two issues, and by the time I finished reading that second issue, I knew I had to call it quits.  I'm not sure why DC is obsessed with turning Superman into a bad-boy killer, but I simply could not take it any longer.

I replaced Earth-2 and Worlds' Finest with two other new titles: Alex + Ada, which the comic-shop guys recommended to me (and they were right -- it's wonderful), and Suicide Risk, which the guys at the Outhouse website reviewed favorably.  And then, although I really try to keep my pull list to no more than 10 titles in the interest of fiscal sanity, I have added an 11th title, Velvet. Because it is just that damn good.

This leaves my pull list down to 36% DC, which is the lowest it has been since 1987 or so:

  1. Supergirl
  2. Batgirl
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Astro City
  5. Lazarus
  6. Red Sonja
  7. Thor, God of Thunder
  8. Ghosted
  9. Suicide Risk
  10. Alex + Ada
  11. Velvet

I don't expect the list to be culled too much more.  Supergirl will stay until it is canceled -- not because it's any good (it's been practically unreadable for months), but because I love the original Supergirl character and I have a weakness for any title about a character that could remotely remind me of her (which is about all this New 52 version does, since she is nothing like the awesome character from pre-Crisis).  Batgirl will stay as long as Gail Simone does it.  Astro City is immune to the editorial depredations of DC, so as long as Busiek does it, that title stays. However, Busiek is notorious with Astro City about not being able to stay consistent with his output for more than a year, so we will have to see.

Wonder Woman is the other one that is now teetering on the edge of the pull list. It's also one I get digitally, not on paper, so it's not a big deal to drop it. I can always get the back-issues for $1.99 months later if I want.  That book started out pretty well, but it has, like Worlds' Finest, been wandering aimlessly for many months.  The same basic story keeps getting rehashed over and over again (Zola's baby is taken, Zola is taken, or both, and Wonder Woman has to give chase... lather, rinse, repeat). If WW doesn't get significantly better by issue 30 or so, I will probably dump it.

The benefit of a fixed-size pull list

I started keeping a pull list of a fixed size when I was in college, because I could not afford to allow the list to keep ballooning.  I settled on 10 because, back then, when comics were $1, I could buy all my titles with $10.  Now it's closer to $40, but I make a lot more than I did back then.

Of course, I could afford to buy a lot more than 10 comics a month, and truth be told, I usually do (that's why keeping the regular pull list to 10 is so important).  I buy back issues. I sample books for a few months.  I buy a trade here or there. But I still keep the monthly pull list to 10 (well, 11 for the moment).

There is actually an advantage to this.  If I just allowed my pull list to expand without limit, I would probably still be reading all the crap titles that I have long since dropped.  I'd been getting them for months, so why not keep getting them? It's not like I can't afford to buy 20 or 30 titles if I want.  However, the advantage is that keeping myself to a fixed pull list size forces me to re-evaluate every month. Is Wonder Woman better than any other title on the list? Better than Alex + Ada? (No.)  Better than Velvet? (No.)  If not, then it's time to think about dropping it.  A "max 10" pull list forces me to make sure I am only buying comics that I really enjoy, because I have to forego other titles to buy the ones on my pull list.

For example,since there are 11 on the list now, I know I have to drop one. Now, the one I drop might actually be Ghosted instead of WW... that one had a great opening story arc, but this second one has not started out as well.  I'm going to have to see. And although Alex + Ada and Velvet are looking great now, lots of titles look good at issue 3 and not so good at issue 10.  And so, I will keep the list at 11 for a few months to see how things shake put. But rest assured, by April, something is going away. Maybe 2 somethings, if Supergirl ends up doing an extended stint on JLU and I end up adding that to the list as well.

My pull list has changed a lot over the last year. It will probably change more in the coming months.  This is a strange feeling for me, because years ago when I started a title I stuck with it, often for years, frequently through thick and thin.  But there are so many good titles out there now, that I no longer want to do that. Other than Supergirl, I'm not sticking with any titles through "thin" any more. Either it's thick, or it's gone.

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