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Nine years of comics I bought and the money I spent; plus the 2013 culling

I’ve been keeping track of the comics I buy and the money I spent since 2005 (actually, I did it for some years earlier than that, but I lost that list and stopped for a few years prior to 2005), but I think I’m going to skip that in 2014. So I figured I’d break down some numbers, and, as I often do at the end of the year, I have a nice think about dropping some books. It’s not pleasant, but it has to be done occasionally! So yes, this will be a dull, largely navel-gazing post. Aren’t those fun?

Let’s begin at the beginning. 2005! Back then, I didn’t keep track of the trade paperbacks and original graphic novels I bought, so I was spending a lot more than these numbers will show. These are just the new comics I got every Wednesday. I tried to keep track of the back issues I bought, but I didn’t always succeed. I know I made some errors with these, so these aren’t exact numbers, but they’re close enough. I would say my final totals aren’t off by more than $5 either way. The totals for the number of comics I got also include free comics that I received in the mail.

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The back issues in January are from a sale my comic shoppe had. The July miscellaneous is the stuff I got at the San Diego Comic-Con.

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The free issues in January and September 2011 are from credit I used at my store. In January I got every comic DC published, and in September, I got all of the “New 52″ issues. May and June 2011 were the two months I spent in Pennsylvania, so I bought all the single issues when I got back to Arizona and don’t know when they shipped. The high numbers for the TPs/OGNs and back issues reflect the fact that I had a bit too much time on my hands.

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Gosh, that’s a lot, ain’t it? If we extrapolate out for the five years I didn’t keep track of the trade paperbacks and original graphic novels I bought, I would expect those numbers to double, bringing my total for the nine years close to $40,000. Prior to that, I had bought comics for 16 years plus a few months of a 17th. Comics were cheaper then and trades weren’t as abundant, but I don’t think it’s too crazy to think that I’ve spent close to $100,000 on comics in my life, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were more.

My buying habits are remarkably consistent, though. Here are the total number of issues I bought, with no other adornment:

2005: 474
2006: 515
2007: 568
2008: 532
2009: 591
2010: 608
2011: 587
2012: 472
2013: 523

That’s not too big a deviation. Obviously, the glory days were in 2009-2011, when I got the three highest totals, but it’s still pretty consistent. In the past few years, I think the DCnU and Marvel NOW! has made it easier for me to drop single issues from the Big Two, which accounts for that drop (I didn’t count the 99 issues I got for free in 2011, you’ll note). Maybe that’s it.

Anyway, the monthly totals are also fairly consistent. Let’s check those out:

January: 334; 37.1 average
February: 393; 43.7 average
March: 372; 41.3 average
April: 401; 44.6 average
May: 358; 44.8 average (this does not count 2011, because I’m not sure what issues I bought in May or June)
June: 376; 47 average (ditto)
July: 435; 48.3 average
August: 445; 49.4 average
September: 395; 43.9 average
October: 431; 47.9 average
November: 440; 48.9 average
December: 395; 43.9 average

Some of these numbers are skewed by fifth Wednesdays, of course – in July and August of 2011 I bought over 60 issues each month, and while July was just a big month, August 2011 had five Wednesdays – but it’s interesting to compare. January is by far the smallest month, which isn’t surprising – after the big year-end spasm, without looking at data January seems to be a slower month, and my numbers, at least, back that up.

I’m also curious to see how many of each publisher I’m buying in each month. I’m limit this to DC (plus Vertigo and Wildstorm), Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse, because even though I buy a lot from other publishers, they tend not to ship as much as those four do. Plus, it’s my post, so I’ll do what I want to! Here are the numbers:

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The death of Wildstorm in August 2011 is reflected, of course. I did not, however, add the 99 DC issues I got for free in January and September 2011, so there’s that. The numbers from October 2012 to March 2013 for Marvel are slightly elevated, too, because of the Marvel NOW! thing, but as they didn’t do it all at once, it was harder to track. So if we subtract about 45-50 of the Marvel issues, it will probably be closer to the DC total. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’m a DC hater or a Marvel hater, and I think the numbers don’t really back that up. Of the issues I bought, 14.7% were DC comics, with another 8.7% from Vertigo and 4.3% from Wildstorm. If you want to count those all as DC, then 27.7% of my comics were from DC. Granted, a lot of those were Batman comics, because I dig Batman, but they’re still DC books. Meanwhile, 22.1% of my books were Marvel comics, and I didn’t consider whether those were MAX books or Icon books. So those numbers, while possibly lower than many people (I have no idea – I think I’m somewhat eclectic for a guy who still buys a lot of mainstream comics, but I don’t know that’s true), don’t really prove that I hate the Big Two.

Anyway, let’s show just the totals for each year, because it’s pretty dramatic (the numbers in parentheses are trades/graphic novels):

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DC and Marvel have given me great opportunities to switch to trades, so I’ve taken them, as you can see in 2012 and 2013. Meanwhile, I’ve been a fan of Image for years, but in the past two years, they’ve really stepped up their game – in 2013, about 37% of my single issue purchases were from Image. Even Dark Horse has picked up the pace, both in single issues and in collections.

But it’s the end of the year, and I like to cull my list a bit. Some comics just aren’t doing it for me, even though I had high hopes for them. I have to pre-order quite a bit from my retailer (he’s gotten more varied in the past couple of years, so that I can usually get issues from the “Big Four” without pre-ordering them, but it’s still not guaranteed), so it’s hard to simply drop a book because I have to be a few months ahead of time, but I’m still doing it! Let’s check out my pull list as of this moment (these are only ongoing series), with comments:

Astro City: I love AC. I will always buy it.
Batman ’66: As long as Parker writes most of these and they keep getting good artists, I’ll keep buying it.
Black Science: Only two issues in, but it’s good so far. I have mentioned that I trust Remender less the further he gets into a series, so we’ll see about this one.
The Bounce: This hasn’t really grabbed me yet, but I trust Casey. It’s on a short leash, though.
Chew: One of the best, if not the best, series right now. It’s staying.
Dark Horse Presents: Good-to-excellent every month. Even if the stories aren’t great, the art usually is.
Deadpool: I’m sure Marvel will reboot this once Duggan and Posehn leave, and that’s probably when I’ll jump ship. I don’t know how long they’re hanging around, though.
Detective Comics: I’m bailing after issue #29 (I think that’s Layman’s last issue). I’ll get the trades, probably, but DC kept the price $3.99 when they eliminated the back-up stories, and that’s just douchey.
East of West: One of the best series right now. I think I’ll keep buying it.
Elephantmen: Ditto!
Fatale: I’ve liked Fatale from the beginning, but this year it got better, so I’ll keep buying it.
Hawkguy: This is a really tough one. I like some issues, and overall, it’s a good series. I think the constant love it gets from everyone makes me think it ought to be better, but it’s not. It’s solid, though, so for now, it stays.
Lazarus: I liked the first issue, but the next few have been kind of dull. It makes me sad, but I’m done with it.
Letter 44: Only two issues have come out, but it’s pretty darned cool. So I’m keeping it.
Li’l Gotham: Ending with issue #12. I probably would have stopped getting it, but I might as well make it a complete set now.
The Manhattan Projects: Still very good, although not as good as it was last year. I’m still on board, though!
Manifest Destiny: Surprisingly excellent. It’s this year’s Witch Doctor – creators I’ve never heard of kicking ass!
The Massive: I’ve been on the fence with The Massive since it began, really, and I think I need to cut the cord. I can see myself backsliding, but I’ll try to be strong!
Mind MGMT: One of the best series coming out right now. Yeah, I’ll keep getting it.
Mind the Gap: I’m still intrigued by this, but it’s not as gripping as it was last year. It’s on a short leash.
Miss Fury: Ending with issue #11. I’ll get it until then.
Morning Glories: It’s still trucking along quite nicely, even with some bumps in the road. I’m committed for now!
Pretty Deadly: This is another tough one. After two issues, I was ready to drop it, but #3 was better, so I’m torn. I’ll probably take it one issue at a time for now.
Rocket Girl: I’m just not that interested in this.
Saga: I’m going to get issue #18, and then I’m done. I want so much to like this more, but it’s just not working for me. If you can’t get me hooked after 18 issues, that’s your problem. The only downside is that I won’t be able to argue with Kelly Thompson about it any more. So sad!
Satellite Sam: Fraction is having a bad year, in my mind.
Sex: Another one by Casey that I’m sticking with. I like it more than The Bounce, but it’s still not great. We’ll see.
Sex Criminals: Oh, Matt Fraction. So sad!
The Sixth Gun: One of my favorite comics. It might end this year (or maybe next; I think 50 issues are planned), and I’ll be there!
Think Tank: After the next issue, it’s going into limbo, but Hawkins promises that it will be back later this year. We’ll see.
Über: This is getting better with each issue, and I trust Gillen, so I’m keeping it.
Umbral: Excellent first two issues, and I’m looking forward to more!
Velvet: I’m on the fence with this. The first two issues were interesting, but it feels very familiar. It’s done very well, but still familiar. We’ll see.
Wasteland: Still a fine series, and winding down as well, possibly this year. I will be sorry to see it go.
Watson and Holmes: This is another series I want to like more, but it’s just a middling comic. I might keep buying it, but right now, I think I’m done.
Young Avengers: The next issue is the last one, so that’s that.
Zero: I really like this series, so I’m going to keep buying it!

Not too dramatic, I know, but I’m not crazy! I currently buy 37 titles, and I’m dropping 11 of them right away or in the near future. I’m sure I will pick up some new ones, but that’s why we cull – to make room for the new stuff!

So that’s the money I spent on comics over the years. Far too much, probably, but I dig the comics, man! I won’t be as complete this year, but I’m going to at least keep the receipts so I can see if my totals go down. We shall see!

14 Comments

First: go tell your wife you love her!

Thanks for being so forthcoming. Since you’re sharing (and if the big man doesn’t mind), about how much income do you get from writing about comics? I’m curious how much the hobby pays for itself.

I gave up on buying new comics about three years ago. It’s such a terrible value! The secondary market is so big & so comprehensive that it makes no sense for me not to use it. The entire history of comics is available dirt cheap–I got 500 pages of Joe Kubert Unknown Soldier for the cost of 2 new DC comics last week! I regret not being able to better support my local comics shops (which I’ve seen go out of business) & my favorite series and creators (which I see struggle), but at the end I can’t help being a rational consumer. I don’t want to see comics dry up, but I gotta eat!

What is the mid-2009 spike in Vertigo books? I did some rudimentary searching and didn’t see any new series or mini-series in that time frame.

Also, thanks for keeping and sharing these stats. I’ve always thought about something like this, especially at end-of-year when I try to remind myself what I bought and read in case I want to write a best of list or something. However, I think the numbers would have been a little scary, especially back when I was working at comic shops. Nowadays, I know the numbers are lower and I’m content to go with that.

Craig: At that time, I was buying Fables, Hellblazer, Scalped, Unknown Soldier, and Young Liars. In April, May, and June of ’09, Fables did the crossover with Jack of Fables and The Literals, so I bought those. The second Seaguy mini-series started at the same time. I also started buying Madame Xanadu for the five-issue Mike Kaluta arc at that time. That accounts for it, I think!

Interesting column Greg, thanks for sharing all of this. I probably need to start keeping track of my buying too. I don’t do end of the year pull-list cullings because I’m just dropping books all the time. The Bounce is the latest one I’ve decided to give up on. It’s intriguing on some levels but I don’t really enjoy reading it and I don’t think the concept has enough places to go.

Now if you’ll allow for my two cents, here’s why I think you should continue getting Saga: Look, I’ll be the first to agree with you that this is a very frustrating book, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as the inter webs seems to believe. It’s an above average comic with occasional moments of brilliance, but it’s certainly not a regular dose of greatness like many would have you believe. However… Saga IS (arguably) the most fascinating comic coming out to discuss with people. It’s one of those books that just about every smart reader gets, and just about everyone has a strong and passionate opinion on. It’s a book that allows for a lot of interesting conversation on the very nature of what “quality” really is, what artistic freedom means, and several other interesting subjects. Saga may not be a consistently great comic (and you and I would certainly agree that it’s not), but it is a consistently great topic of conversation, and I think that’s worth your $2.99 per month. Less, really, because it only comes out 9-10 times per year and you get your subscriber discount. As someone who writes about comics and truly values the ability to be an integral part of the conversation on the medium, this should be enough reason for you to continue getting Saga, a comic which is currently a major part of the industry discussion.

The other day I was thinking about how much I can get for my trades. I decided that each one was 10 bucks. After counting them and doing my homework, I got the amount of $9,350.

Thank you for sharing. It is interesting to see someone else’s comic life laid out like that. It’s certainly something worth doing to see where someone stands with comic collecting.

I have a strict but generous 150 euro a month budget for comics – and these days I don’t come close to hitting it as my tastes have changed and I’m a lot more selective about my books.

This year, I culled the last DC titles I was getting because none of them do it for me anymore. I was still following “Batwoman” because I really wanted to support the character and creative team, but what’s the point when it’s not even following the creators’ story anymore? I also dropped “Batgirl” and “The Movement”, which I’d been getting because of Gail Simone, and “Green Team”, which I’d given a chance because I wanted to try something that seemed new. “The Movement” and “Green Team” aren’t bad books, but they didn’t grab me enough to make me stick with them when I tired of DC and their approach to their intellectual property (they aren’t treating their IP like characters, so let’s call it like it is).

I dropped “Captain Marvel” because the art just didn’t work for me, but I might pick it up again now that it’s got a new artist. This was also the year that I gave up on “Fables” and “Fairest”. I feel it’s all been treading water since the end of the war with the Adversary, and there hasn’t been a story that really gave a new big plot to pull everything together. I kept hoping but I finally decided to say goodbye. Other titles just dropped off on their own through cancelation and I’ve probably forgotten some things I dropped myself. The main cull was last year before Avengers vs. X-men, when I dropped all of the Avengers and X-Men titles – nothing’s persuaded me to pick them up again.

Which leaves me with:
Astro City, The Bounce, Chew, Dark Horse Presents, Daredevil, East of West, Elephantmen, Federal Bureau of Physics, FF, Hawkeye, Letter 44, The Manhattan Projects, Manifest Destiny, Mind MGMT, Mind the Gap, Rachel Rising, Rocket Girl, Saga, Superior Spider-Man, Umbral, The Unwritten, Wolverine, Young Avengers, Zero

I wish I kept track of my purchases like you do. But I would be afraid to see the running totals. Maybe that will be my 2014 resolution – get a handle on my comic addiction.

Daniel: Dang, you make a good case for keeping Saga. I’m not sure if it’s convinced me, though! Luckily, they’re taking another break after issue #18, so I’ll have some time to think about it.

Derek: As you can tell, I think you have a fine pull list right now!

Dan: Yeah, it’s a bit scary. Over the past decade, every month I’d watch the totals go up and up and think, “Holy crap!” But it never affected anything else in my life, so I could keep doing it. These days, I have to be a bit more judicious, unfortunately.

Yes, Greg, the similarity between our pull lists didn’t escape me! Some of those titles I found through reading your and Kelly’s columns, I have to admit. There are titles on there that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise as my LCS only ordered them after I asked.

So: thanks for the recommendations!

When I have some time to digest this, I will. Oh, I will.

I’ve kept track of all my comics buying fairly well since the very end of 2001 (which marked exactly 10 years of me buying/collecting comics hardcore — hey, that means today is 22 years! Oy vey!), and if I had the time and inclination, I’d do a similar spreadsheet myself. Hey, I should anyway.

I tend to get more cheap back issues too, because my local shoppes have good sales and I’m so very very weak.

But in 2014, I think I’ll be moving to trades more from the big 2, DH and IDW, with more purchases of singles from Image and smaller press, and splurges for big things like the Kirby Artist Edition I’m getting. Couldn’t…pass…up…Kirby…New Gods…artbook!

I’m still pondering/trying to put together my own best of 2013, but by the time I do it’ll be time for the best of 2014, it seems…

Not much else to say, other than I know 2013 has been the year I’ve gotten the most comics/spent the most. Damn, the end of 2012, I almost had all my comics sorted and boxed all pretty like, and then I got completely disorganized again. New Year’s comics resolution is to spend the first part of the year (however long it takes) catching up on reading 2013′s stuff and sorting and boxing everything. Hopefully before one of the sales of the comic shops around. Or before 2015.

Your pull list and mine are quite similar. I don’t think there’s anything on there that I haven’t either been getting or been planning on getting in trades or otherwise.

One thing about Image is that I’m so very weak and buy the singles when the trades are usually a better deal price-wise. I’m trying to curb that in 2014.

And Detective — it did eliminate the back ups completely? For some reason I was thinking they were there, or at least that the page count is a little higher than 20, but maybe I’m wrong there. Like you say, when Layman’s gone, so go I!!!

Derek: You’re welcome! :)

Travis: Detective got rid of the back-ups a few issues ago, and they dropped the pages from 28 (in the first one without a back-up) to 22 in the second one, and I imagine next week they’ll drop it to 20. Even if they keep it at 22, that’s still too much for 4 dollars. I didn’t mind the 4 dollars for 28-30 pages, but not for 22. It’s a good jumping-off point anyway, even though I’ll probably get the Buccellato-Manapul stuff in trade.

Get sorting, sir!

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