December 31, 2010

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2010: A Look At My Reading

So at the beginning of the year, I took stock of my reading habits and made some notations. I found myself to be an omnivorous reader, and liked that I enjoyed comics of all kinds. I noted that it means missing out on good books because I don't specialize, but I was okay with that. I still am, after a year's additional reading. As I mentioned at the start of 2010, I have no desire to give up reading Jeff Parker, Jeff Brown, or some guy named Jeff who has a cool $2 mini-comic at his table, to say nothing of the many great manga writers, none of whom have names that start with Jeff. Sure, I'll never be considered an expert in any one type of comic, but that's okay. I'm in this for the love of reading, not to get placed in a reviewers roundtable.

I also made five specific plans for reading in 2010, and I thought it might be interesting to look at them now and see how I did. We'll wrap up with some general notes on this year in reading comics.

My first "resolution" was to find and read more webcomics. I think I did this fairly well, though I did not do as many webcomic reviews as I wanted to this past year. I did notice that as time went on, I became pickier about what webcomics I read regularly. Certain comics that became stale, did not update often, or felt very plodding in pace ended up getting cut from my RSS feed. I still don't think I read as many webcomics as I should, but those I do read are very awesome. Look for more reviews in 2011. Score this a full 100.

Catching up on my mini-comics did not go quite as well. I read a lot before SPX this year (I could not make SPACE due to a scheduling conflict, and it looks like I won't make it again anytime soon, having moved roughly 8 hours away), but I had way too many unread minis hanging around. I would like to be in a better reading situation by the time convention season hits for me in late summer. I did read several gems, however, and am ready to get more from my favorite creators of the paper pamphlet. Score this a 75.

I think my third intention, to stop reading comics just because they had Batman or Spider-Man in them, was the one I followed the best. I purged a large portion of my single issue comics featuring these two favorites, because they comics they appeared in were just awful. I'm not against reading superhero comics, but I want them to be *good* superhero comics. It's getting a lot easier to do, now that I've gotten in the habit. Definitely a 100.

My fourth resolution, to read more new comics as they came out, did not go so well. I did make the effort to buy some comics as they came out, but then I put them on a shelf and didn't read them. D'oh! I went most of the year reading only a handful of 2010 comics, completely shooting this plan in the butt. Only a last minute concerted effort to start reading the 2010 titles I had at home and to only get 2010 titles from the library made it look like I accomplished this goal. Looks like it's one to try again for 2011. Give myself credit for the late push, but it's only a 60.

Number five is the one that still haunts me. I know logically that no one is going to look down on me if I stop reading something. But I'm so ingrained to the idea that I have to keep reading to the end that I still plod on, especially since comics are so "short." I actually did bail on some comics this year, which is more than I can say for previous years, so this one is an 80.

Overall, that's a B- grade, which isn't quite as good as I'd hoped, but the fact that I at least hit on all five points is something I can be proud of, and build on for next year.

The biggest change not reflected here is that I gave up on trying to review everything I read. I read over 300 comics (and another 50+ book books) in 2010. That was fueled by a period of unemployment, but even still, I read a lot. There's just no way to review everything. I'm much happier since I went to reviewing as the mood strikes me, and I find that I still review a lot of what I read. I think the quality of my reviews has improved a lot since taking this step, and I'm a lot less stressed about the reviewing process. I kinda wish I'd stopped trying to review everything a few years ago.

I also had some cool things happen personally, as I was given some comics to read for review purposes for the first time this year (thanks to all of you who asked!). I don't keep a review blog to get review copies, but it's always nice to see your opinion valued highly enough that someone wants you to read their book(s). I'm always open to the idea, as I like to talk about and promote good comics. That's why this blog exists in the first place--to give my thoughts on what I'm reading and hopefully get others to read books I think are pretty good (and to stay away from the odd dud that I feel is worth warning about). Feel free to contact me if you're interested in having me read something. I'm always up for it!

Despite a new schedule and a few months where I had no time to read comics, I still managed to read a lot of books here in 2010. A look at my 2010 reading list reveals that, true to my belief, I am a comic-reading omnivore. Manga topped the list, but only by a bit, coming in at roughly 33% of my reading last year. Indie comics were second at 28%, with Mini-Comics/Zines at 24% and Superhero themed books at 15%. I did not try to keep things even--it just worked out that way. I'm very comfortable with those percentages, and would be happy to have a similar breakdown in 2011. There just aren't enough good superhero comics these days to keep that percentage higher than about 15%, which is a shame. I realize that my categories are inexact (Goon is an indie comic, but Jonah Hex falls under superhero in my mind), but it confirms that my personal tastes run to all genres roughly evenly.

As a final note, I think reading so many comics over the past few years (over 500 in the past two years, and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of almost 1000 since 2006) has definitely caused me to start being more critical about what I read. Comics I might have liked in 2008 no longer pass muster in 2010 in all categories. I opted not to continue several manga series this year that probably would have been continued reads before, such as Biomega. When you start to realize that you can only read so many comics, you really only get two options: Read comics only of a certain type or try to only read good comics.

Personally, I'm opting for the latter. We'll see how 2011 plays out for that plan, as we spend the first few days of the new year looking forward and back.

See you in 2011--HAPPY NEW YEAR!