Many years ago, I was an avid comics collector. Over the course of several years, I built up a collection of over 7000 comic books. I was a serious collector. I had Number 1 issues, complete series, one-shots, you name it, I probably had it or was working on getting it. I did it because it was fun. I liked reading them, and collecting them was just a part of that. Then came the day when I stopped. Not because of financial reasons, although the finances of keeping up were a consideration, but because of other things that were happening. The industry was changing. You see, when I got into collecting, the majority of people doing it were like me – fans who enjoyed the comics, and liked having a collection of their favorites. Then came the people who realized that there was money to be made from collecting. Comics weren’t the only area where this was happening. All sorts of collectibles were experiencing the same phenomenon. But that wasn’t what made me stop. After all, my collection was now valuable.
What made me stop was what happened in the industry because of that. The comic book publishers also realized that comics were now “collectibles” and took advantage of it. Suddenly, new titles were being spun out. Large numbers of limited series, special cross-overs, one-shots, and other gimmicks were the order of the day. That’s where the financial aspect started to kick in. In order to keep a collection “complete,” instead of buying 5 or 10 comics a week, it was now 20 or 30! It wasn’t that there was a drastic improvement in quality, it was just quantity. After a while, I realized I was on a treadmill that wasn’t going to stop itself – so I stopped myself. I stopped collecting, and even reading comics. A few years later, I sold off the collection for a pretty good sum of money.
Jump forward a few years. There were a lot of movies based on comic characters coming out. Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman, among others. All comics I used to collect, and remembered fondly. I’d heard that there was a big contraction in the comic market back in the mid-90’s, so maybe things had settled down. I started to get curious about comics again. Maybe, just maybe I could get back into them. A few months of looking at what was going on in the industry cured me of that.
You see, what I remembered was that each series was mostly a stand-alone. There might be an occasional guest appearance by another character, or once every now and then a cross-over between series, but those were rare – the “special events.” That apparently was no longer true. Series throughout a publisher’s lineup were intertwined. You wanted to keep up on the X-Men? You’d better be prepared to buy every single issue that has an “X” in the title. There were several, and the story lines wound through them all. It was the same across the board – name a major character or group, and almost every story crosses series. I understand why the publishers were doing this. They’re in the business to sell comic books. If they can get you to buy more than one title because you want to follow the story, that’s a sale. It’s good for their bottom line. You know what? I didn’t have to do it. So, after a brief flirtation with the idea of getting back into a hobby I used to enjoy, I decided that it wasn’t worth it. I got out because greed ruined it – and it still does.