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July 1, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to read comic books in the 21st century?

I'm an adult living in America in the year 2014. How do I comics?

I'm aware that there are people who physically go to their friendly neighborhood comic shop, where they have a "pull list" of titles they regularly buy.

And then there are also subscriptions, which, I don't know, do these come in the mail like magazines?

But the internet also exists, and I think you can sometimes also buy comics digitally now? How does that even work?

I know that trade paperbacks and other omnibus type formats exist, because I remember reading Y, The Last Man that way probably ten years ago. Is this a thing? I'm interested in not bringing a bunch of cheaply printed paper into my life, or going to the comic shop every dang week, but I would be happy to buy a more solidly published book and catch up with the story on a more monthly/semi-annual basis. Especially if it's a good way to support mom & pop businesses.

How often do the big titles even come out?

For the purposes of this question, I'm talking about mainstream/ish superhero-style comic books from traditional publishers like Marvel and DC. (Though I'm also interested in a few smaller titles, specifically Boom Studios' Lumberjanes.)
posted by Sara C. to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
If you have an iPad, there are great comic reader apps out there. You can do your shopping from right in the app in most cases.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:08 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just use Comixology. Some people are miffed about the in-app purchases thing which is what Rock Steady's link is about, so there are alternatives if you're set on being able to buy through the app, which I don't do anyway because I'd never have any money if I did.
posted by Sequence at 6:22 PM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: Comixology is the biggest marketplace for buying digital comics. It's not the only one, though, but a decent one-stop. It's good if you don't want to have paper copies or if you want back issues. You're usually not going to be saving money, although there are frequent bundles/deals.

Comic book stores will do a pull list for you -- you generally have to get a certain number of titles a month (like maybe 10) but you will often get a discount on your purchases (this is not everywhere). They will generally hold your box for a couple of weeks, especially if you let them know that's the case (most of that stuff is non-returnable -- so they've paid for it already. If you don't buy it, they're out the money).

Most big titles are monthly, but sometimes the schedules get screwed up. It's happening less and less, though, but there are a few things like Jupiter's Legacy and The Sandman: Overture that you get a new issue when you get a new issue. Other titles, like Saga, do six issues at a time and then take a break for a couple of months.

Most ongoing stories get collected after six issues -- and that may be a month or three after the sixth issue came out. Sometimes then they collect 12 issues into a nice hardcover, but not always. DC seems to be more consistent with this. I am honestly unsure if Marvel collects everything.

My recommendation is to shop around for a store -- it may not be the one in your neighborhood or the first one you try. But find a shop that's convenient that you feel comfortable in. Ask them questions (and if they're jerks, it's the wrong store) and let them know what your buying habits may be. Most comic book stores want to sell you comics and will be absolutely happy to help you get started (and also recommend things you may like).

If you decide that going the Comixology/Amazon route, there's no harm in that either. You can do a combination of the two, too (just don't be the person who is comparing prices on Amazon when you're in the store).
posted by darksong at 6:37 PM on July 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I suppose I should mention I have a Kindle, but not an iPad. I'm more inclined to buy paper copies than buy a new gadget, unless there's a substantial savings by reading digitally.
posted by Sara C. at 6:45 PM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: If you fall into a Marvel hole (like I'm in the middle of with X-Men), Marvel Unlimited is a great deal, and worth an iPad.
posted by politikitty at 7:22 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm loving my Marvel Unlimited subscription, which gives me 95% of what was already been created or more, plus many new titles. If you were buying five comics a week, it'd pay for itself in about a month.
posted by mitschlag at 7:22 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can read unlimited Marvel comics online for $10/month. IIRC, they're on about a six month delay from when a new issue is printed to when it becomes available in the unlimited archive.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:23 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To give you a better idea of what is coming out in the monthlies (and trade paperbacks) it might be worth taking a look at some comic review sites. I'd suggest Comics Alliance, Comic Book Resources, or Weekly Comic Book Review as starting places (although I'm sure somebody more current in the scene can come along and recommend other/better sites). Places like these also keep you up on the news and controversies (the latest of which is male half of the upcoming husband and wife creative team on the Wonder Woman book apparently has an issue with the word feminism).

If you want to try online publishers, there are those around too. The one I was best familiar with was Thrillbent because I was reading Insufferable (which takes a what-if type of approach to a very Batman and Robin-like team). Previously it was free to read. Recently it has moved to a subscription model. I don't know about the rest of the titles by that publisher.

And darksong is right. There are decent comic shops (although I never did find a great one) and horrible ones. Even if you decide to go the electronic route, it's helpful to be able to wander into a shop and get recommendations from the staff--assuming you do make some purchases there as well.

And seeing as we're in the online world, if you're the type of person who torrents, I'm sure you could find what you're looking for in the usual places.
posted by sardonyx at 7:44 PM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My only experience with monthly issues is Lumberjanes (yay!). I signed up for the subscription straight from Boom and it comes in the mail every month wrapped in several layers of cardboard and bubble wrap. It costs a little more than cover price for each issue, because shipping, but I don't have to deal with driving to a comic store once a month.
posted by wsquared at 8:07 PM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: One other thing you may want to consider if you are looking to read trade paperbacks and omnibuses, but not clutter yourself or buy something you're not familiar with, is the library. This really varies just as widely as local comic shops, but a lot of libraries (that I'm familiar with, in the two counties I live by at least) have a lot of things like The Sandman and Y: The Last Man, as well as the Marvel Essentials, big old phonebooks with reprints of older material. And of course much more might be accessible through interlibrary loan depending on your library's ILL capabilities. It might be worth stopping in to browse at your local library, or search their catalog online if you know what title you're looking for.
posted by branduno at 8:53 PM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It kind of depends on what you want/need out of comics. Are you looking only to read what's coming out right now, or would you like to catch up on stuff you've missed?
For shops, yes, you want a "pull list" of comics you'd like to read. This marks you as a loyal customer and may also make sure you get first printings of popular issues that may sell out. The sign of a good shop is one that knows your name and gets your pulls correct most of the time.
Digital comics are a bit of a fragmented marketplace at the moment. I usually buy through Comixology, but you'll find that a lot of "big two" comics are sold digitally with no discount (which is a ridiculous thing I won't rant about here).
As for subscription services, the only one I know about is DCBS, which gives you a significant discount over retail. (I remember when Marvel advertised subscriptions to their comics and I always wanted to sign up, but we were too poor).
"Trade-waiting" is another option of course. Most publishers will put out a trade paperback of their books every six issues or so. It's not much of a discount on the individual issues, but you won't have to go to the shop every week.
Library loans are also a really good way to go, especially if you don't care to keep the comics around long-term.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:43 PM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: If you don't have a local comic shop or don't get a good vibe from it, some of the larger shops do mail order. Midtown Comics in NYC is one. You would set up a pull list with them and they would ship weekly/monthly.

I've never used them for a pull list, because I have my own local shop. I have been happy buying back issues online from them.

This is different from the subscription directly from the publisher. I'm not even sure they still do those. What used to happen was that they would come via USPS and be pretty trashed.

Trades, I buy at Amazon because they are usually discounted and I have a Prime membership.

Most libraries as mentioned above do have some trades as well.

My advice to you is to start a list somewhere. In your travels, reading, forums, wiki searches, whatever, be ready to add new things to your "to read" pile.

I've read comics for 20 years, and have a pretty hefty pull list. I'm catching up on about a years worth of purchases (been a busy year) and my new "to read" list has at least 2 dozen new things to check out. That's just from in-comic ads, promotions, and Oh hey! I didn't know x got a new book.
posted by PlutoniumX at 8:17 AM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I have a feeling that trades via my local shop whenever I happen to stop in, supplemented with ordering on Amazon and Comixology (in my browser), is probably what I'm going to end up with.
posted by Sara C. at 11:41 AM on July 2, 2014

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