Every Wednesday I walk into my local comic book store with twenty dollars in my pocket. (Hey times are tough and money is tight.) I look for the titles I think are going to give me the most bang for my buck and I refuse to go over my twenty dollar budget. No, I don't always get every book I want, but I do manage to acquire a good number of pretty decent books. Whatever I have left over of my twenty dollars when I leave the comic book shop comes home and goes into my petty cash box. (I use that money to buy back issues or trade paper backs.)
Having a twenty dollar a week comic book allowance has forced me to make some rules about what I will or will not consider purchasing when it comes buying time. The easy rules; no crossovers whatsoever, books costing $3.99 or higher, annuals, black and white books and no movie titles.
(1.) Crossover events rarely live up to their advance hype and half the books involved in them almost never have any major role in the story being told. Crossover events rarely manage to get the books out in chronological order. I hate that! Crossover events get none of my money.
(2.) When cigarettes reached the four dollar a pack price tag I quit smoking. I've yet to see a comic I feel is worth a consistent four dollar an issue expenditure. Have you? I'll make an exception for a really good book once in awhile, but four dollar titles hold no ongoing spots in my pull file.
(3.) Annuals, how many have you ever read that just rocked your world? How many annuals con you count on your fingers right now and truthfully say, "Man, those are classic books!"? Yeah, that's what I thought. Annuals are for suckers who don't read comics on a regular basis and think they're getting a really good book because its thick.
(I consider most Christmas books to be a mutant form of the annual.)
(4.) Black and white books are okay in very rare instances. I just don't think there are enough artists who understand how to do it right. Rendering a book in black and white is art form within the art form of comic books. Not everyone can pull it off and I hate seeing a black and white book that is nothing more than uncolored pages. (Yes, you can tell the difference.) Black and white books lack artistic consistency and I think they're best when done as a one shot only now and then. As a general rule; black and white books show a lack of confidence in a project. It's a cost cutting method that minimizes investment risk and maximizes potential profit.
(5.) I hate movie title video games and I hate movie title comic books. I've never been satisfied with either, ever. They never get the best of either genre, comics or video games. We're talking second rate artists, designers and writers at best and the only thing they ever seem interested in is capitalizing on whatever hype surrounds any given movie.
So what do I spend my money on? First off, stand alone titles. I like self contained books that don't force me into spending money on other titles just to make sense of the book I'm currently reading. Next, I like the short four and five book series. Right now they deliver bang for the buck because they get a good story up and running fast. If you're like me and buying comics on a budget the short run titles give you a wide variety of goodies to enjoy and also let you familiarize yourself with a lot of artists and writers. Yeah, if I find someone I like, I start looking at other pieces of their work. Short run titles make it easy to clean out a pull file too. They kinda do the job for you...
Good writing always wins out over fine art for me. Yes, I do enjoy a well illustrated book, but I really enjoy well written prose and well handled story elements. I look for depth to a story, cardboard characters performing cliched actions just don't cut it for me. If characters aren't fleshed out, if plot lines are predictable or completely lacking in some cases I'm just not interested in wasting my time on pretty drawings. (No matter how well rendered.)
Now, based on these and other criteria here's where my money goes.
(1.) Dark Horse gets the lion's share of my comic book dollar because their books are affordable. They also offer a large number of short series titles showcasing work by some of the best and brightest artists and writers working in the business today. They also have enough long run titles like, B.P.R.D. and Goon to give me a regular running title each month.
(2.) D.C. comics gets the next share of the pie. Between Wildstorm and Vertigo I've always got a nice short run series to read. I must say I'm growing fond of The Mighty and R.E.B.E.L.S. too. Both are proving to be keepers.
(3.) Marvel gets almost nothing from me. I just think they're doing everything wrong and apart from Criminal and Incognito they're not involved in anything I consider worth reading.
(4.) Alternative small press titles are gobbling up more and more of my comic book dollar. The books tend to push my envelope for price, but sometimes they're worth it.
Times are tough and money has go a long way. Bills, food on the table and family come first. You can still collect comics, but you need to be smart about it. This is how I do it.
(This week I purchased, The Mighty and Demon Cleaner. $13.00 went into the petty cash fund.)