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Sunday Roundtable: How Do You Find Out About Comics?

JLA Roundtable new comicsSundays are known for folks gathering around tables on television and pontificating about some of the hottest topics out there, offering their expertise. We bring that tradition to Graphic Policy as the team gathers to debate in our Sunday Roundtable.

On tap this week?

How do you find out about comics to read? And a slight twist to that, how would you actually like to find out?

Daphne: Ha. Great way to ask that question. Growing up, I found out about comics through reading comic strips – Calvin and Hobbes got me into Pogo and then I found out Jeff Smith considered Pogo to be a big inspiration, and that made me wonder who Jeff Smith was. His fantasy series, Bone, was my introduction to the world of comic books. After that the Batman/Superman animated series made me aware that superheroes were a thing, but I didn’t get into reading comics regularly until my early 20s. I started with things like Watchmen but when I began to branch out to follow series featuring characters I knew I liked, like Harley Quinn, I learned that being a girl who’s into comics means a major way you learn about new stuff is some dude telling you “that comic sucks, _____ is so much better”. That’s how I learned which comics to avoid more than anything else.

What I think I appreciate the most is when finding new comics happens organically: somebody who knows they like Harley could be reading a Harley comic and discover Power Girl, or Poison Ivy, or Etrigan, and then other plots and people referenced in those stories can also draw their interest to other franchises and characters. Seeing some background character in a movie or some cameo in an animated series is such a fun way to find new comics because then it feels like something you discovered and get to really explore for yourself.

Javier: That happened to me a lot with Batman. A lot of new/books characters ideas I read spun off batman. My favorite was Brubaker and Rucka’s Gotham Central.

Daphne: This has been your daily wall of text.

Alex: I used to use the Marvel Bulletin Board in the old Marvel comics, but I think that stopped being a thing around the early 2000’s. Around the same time I would cover browse – see what covers interested me and go from there (Maverick #4 had an awesome image of Wolverine attacking Maverick. Grabbed the comic, and Maverick swiftly became one of my favourite characters).

These days, I don’t cover browse in store as much…

Daphne: I never went to stores as a kid. I have vivid memories of finding a box of old Swamp Thing at a yard sale and being way into those until my parents took them away, but other than that everything I read came from the Internet, libraries, or trade paperbacks in bookstores. I learned not to go to comic book stores for my comics at a young age.

Alex: I’m a huge fan of visiting comic shops, especially ones I haven’t been to before, but then I think I’ve been lucky in that the shops I’ve been going too have been generally friendly (aside from one or two over the years).

Madison: When I started reading comics, it was because a friend recommended Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye to me. That was around the time Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, so I read all of Cap vol. 5 and then just read characters that interested me. I also took a class in my last semester of college that was solely about comics, where we read some of the “essential” comics like Watchmen, Black Hole, Fun Home, The Dark Knight Returns, Maus, Persepolis, etc.

Now I tend to read comics that have female characters as leads or stuff that’s written by female authors. I’m also still catching up on everything that happened before I cared about comics, so I also browse used bookstores a lot.

I wish there was an easier way to discover comics, like an app that a.) would help me to keep track of my pull list and b.) would recommend based on stuff that I read–like a genre-specific Goodreads.

Elana: I find out through Graphic Policy! (seriously that’s the point, right?) and through social media. The people at my local comics store are good too.

Madison: The guys who worked at the comic store I went to in college were awesome. It’s hard to get two words out of the people at the store I go to now. Luckily GP and Twitter keep me in the loop.

Elana: I have a few key trusted people there. Everyone is nice but only a few GET my taste.

Alex: My comic shop is pretty good for chatting about stuff, but for recommendations about series I should read that I haven’t been days I tend to listen to you guys. Phonogram is a great example of this (even if I haven’t started it yet, I will!)

Troy: I also find out via GP! Long before my stint as a contributor it was sites like GP where I got tips for what was coming out…and what was creating buzz. It’s really what got me wanting to join the discourse and write about comics. I really trust the judgement of my peers, and the model of social media. So I would really like see something akin to a Goodreads for comics. Goodreads has five star rating system, not unlike the one we use on our reviews. Hrmmm who knows how to code….lets slap something together!

Madison: Troy That’s what I’m saying! My pulls are a mix of physical and digital copies, so I tend to lose track of what’s coming out when and what I subscribe to. Goodreads for comics would be super helpful.

Alex: I have some friends that can code… but I imagine it’d be a hell of an undertaking.

Paul: When I started reading comics way back, and up to a few years ago, every Wednesday, without fail, I was at the comic shop. I would grab my go to titles and just browse the racks. Now, just like Elana *high five* Graphic Policy gives me my weekly update on what’s coming out.

Alex: I’ve noticed another thing I tend to do now is read the Dark Horse, Valiant and Archie emails we get through for reviews to see if the comics sound interesting.

Daphne: I do that too! But you don’t have to tell anybody if it’s a secret.

Logan: A few ways: talking to cool people on Twitter, talking to my various podcast co-hosts over the year, and also looking at the weekly comics listing on Midtown Comics that I use to email comics to review for the other site I run.

Basically, comics friends are the best.

Javier: Back in the day it was either the rack or the comic book shop. FPNYC in the 80s if I could make into the city, otherwise the smaller sketchy shops in Brooklyn. Nowadays it’s mainly online Twitter, Facebook, WordPress Sites, webcomics, etc… Today, even tho I have a pull list I still spend a good 15 minutes or so browsing when I pick up my books at Midtown. Old habit. Rarely happens now, but every now and then I do see something on the wall I didn’t hear about online.

Brett: I really miss spinner racks. When they started to go is when I think the comic industry started to have issues. I actually want to purchase a spinner rack when I eventually have a house.

Alex: I remember the first I went to Manhattan. I was so excited to stumble across Midtown.

Javier: Alex yeah they came much later for me, 1990s. But around that time was when I had to cut back and was buying more TPBs. I was an early adopter of Amazon because they had deep discounts on graphic novels. My email with them is still my old netzero.com account.

Ashley: I’m a more modern comics reader, so a lot of what I got into came from things I saw on social media and trusted friends. My shop is pretty great too and I sometimes pick up things I think look cool, though I’m more likely to do this when comiXology has one of their deep discount sales.

Logan: Those sales will be the death of my bank account. (Looks at full Alias collection.)

Ashley: Logan: I still have a bunch of indie comics that I haven’t read yet from one of their SXSW sales last year. It was a giant bundle for like $3.

Logan: Oh yeah. All those Marvel #1’s that I never got to

Elana: back before the internet was a thing people had at home, i read comics because friends loaned them to me.

Logan: I did that a decent amount in college. I had a big DC friend who got me into Blue Beetle and Starman.

But people also steal your signed Wonder Woman comics.

Joke’s on them because they were New 52.

Ashley: Me and all my weeabo friends in middle school basically had this unofficial manga circle where we would swap whatever we had back and forth for the others to read. This once lead to me super embarrassingly taking my copy of Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland back from my chorus teacher because Jennifer Stogner would not stop reading it in class, goddammit.

Elana: Wow what dolts! I think I only have like 1 comic that’s an ex’s. He knows what he did…. I was always super diligent about returning comics to friends. Right now one of the big reasons I buy floppies is to loan them out to friends. I actually have a list I keep on my phone of which comics I loaned to which people. At one point I had it printed it out and it was in my purse. My husband noticed it and asked what “Stuff I Leant” meant. Because I cannot spell. At all.

Oh and Brett I still do have Understanding Comics that was loaned to me by my high school friend that works with your wife. But I blame him because he totally vanished.

Ashley: I started taking pictures of friends who I loaned comics out to, though one of them isn’t allowed to borrow my comics anymore because she kept coming up with reasons of why she couldn’t give them back and didn’t get them to me until the day before I left for HeroesCon after borrowing them for five months.

Brett: Elana I totally forgot about that connection!

Madison: I do this with my friends now! I did lose my first two Saga trades this way and haven’t had the heart to replace them because I’m still hoping they’ll make their way back to me. My copy of Pretty Deadly has been been read by almost everyone I know, though.

Alex: I’ve never loaned a comic out. I’ve had one “borrowed without permission” before, and I’ve given a couple away, but never I haven’t ever willingly loaned them.

I think I’m too paranoid about condition.

Brett: Yeah, I freak out about loaning things too.

Madison: I buy a lot of trades, I don’t usually loan out individual comics out.

Ashley: I let my roommates borrow comics a lot since I know where they live. wink emoticon

Brett: Anyone “inherit” comics from older siblings or relatives?

Paul: Oh I wish. My dad tells me of all the ones he had..and dumped…and I tell him how I want to dump him…

Logan: Yeah. My dad gifted me his late Silver Age/early Bronze Age collection of comics. Actually the first ones I read. There are some great Kirby Captain Americas and Claremont Marvel Team-Ups in there (“Madbomb”), and even the first appearance of Hellcat, which made me squee hard.

Alex: A few old British war comics and anthologies from my dad, I think. Hotspur, mainly. I’m still partial to King Cobra, but finding his stories over here is like finding a diamond in a venus fly trap.

Daphne: If I’d gotten my way I would have! I read the entire Death of Superman arc on a visit to my aunt and uncle’s house as a kid, but my cousin wouldn’t let me keep them. tongue emoticon

Elana: The opposite is true of me. I started reading comics because my little brother brought them home. He’s 5 years younger then me so that means I didn’t start reading comics till junior high because when I was in Jr High he was finally old enough for comics.

Brett: I really need to go back through my collection. I remember lots of 70s and 80s Marvel and DC in the comics I got from my brothers, and remember loving them. Don’t remember what they were.

Elana: My parents weren’t comics readers and I’m female so it sort of makes sense that comics trickled UP to me via my younger brother. But I’m way more involved in comics then he is now so I tell him what to read.

Brett: Elana yeah, I should have just put sibling instead of older.

Elana: Brett no it makes sense! To this day I think I’m the only person who got in to comics from a significantly younger sibling. My origin story is interesting, dammit!

Ashley: Paul I have a very similar experience with a “friend” (aka someone in my mutual circles that I barely tolerate) of mine who lost a bunch of his comics that he was going to let me go through when he stopped paying for his storage unit. He apparently had a lot of New Mutants signed by the Simonsons, which he did not tell me before he lost them. I have never actively considered murder the way I did that day.

Paul: Oh I get ya…total siren blaring The Bride from Kill Bill moment….

Javier: Not me but my dad used to work in sanitation in NYC, and I gave him marching orders to bring home any thrown away comics. Nothing of real value, but a lot of old beat up marvel/dc

Elana: Thats so cool! also I always salute New York’s Strongest!

Logan: So cool. Sad for the folks who threw them away.

Brett: That’s actually really neat.

Javier: Logan courtesy of NYC sanitation, really bad condition so not worth much but still cool.

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Brett: A lot have said how the DO find out about comics, but how would you LIKE to. Facebook ads? Email lists? Shops doing better outreach?

Alex:  I’d rather word of mouth; I’m interested in reading Phonogram because Elana has been so passionate about the series, and it really makes me want to read it. I’m more likely to ignore an add, or a solicitation if there isn’t a personal touch to it, because it just feels like it is… pure promotion.

If somebody who’s opinion I trust and respect is telling me to pick up a book, I’m going to do it; Mr H and Batman: Europa, Elana and Phonogram… There’s a pretty extensive list I’ve got from you fine people, and the reviews and discussions we all have.

Elana: this is so true. and thank you!

Alex: No problem!

Daphne: I like finding out from my friends and peers. I think it’s a safe bet everybody here has a movie or tv show they hate that got massive praise from critics when it came out, and a movie or show they love that everybody else thinks is awful. So rather than go for only professional criticism when finding new comics, I prefer it when my friends or family – the people who know what I’m like and what I like to read – find something they really think I’d enjoy. That emotional connection to a new comic also makes me more likely to keep following it long-term.

Madison: Ads, to me, are way too annoying most of the time, and I find myself more likely to avoid the product rather than buy it. It might be nice to get an email or something with recommendations every so often, but I do like hearing about stuff from my friends because we have a good understanding of each other’s taste.

Alex: I think the word of mouth thing will always carry more weight than a publisher’s solicitations. It’s also why I tend to prefer previews that aren’t just carbon copies of the press release like some websites have been known to do.

But there’s a fine line there, too. I think that we, in the position we’re in at Graphic Policy, have to be cautious with just how enthusiastic (or not) we are when writing that kind of preview, because if we slam a book before it’s released and it’s actually good. Personally, I think we strike a good balance, but then I’m also slightly biased.

Brett: And that wraps up this week’s discussion! For those reading, sound off in the comments below!

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